Louis Kaufman (May 10, 1905 – February 9, 1994) was an American violinist and possibly the most recorded musical artist of the 20th century. He played on the soundtrack of as many as 500 movies and made over 100 musical recordings. He is also credited with reviving the music of Antonio Vivaldi with his recording of The Four Seasons in 1947, which won the Grand Prix du Disque in 1950, was elected to the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2002, and in 2003 was selected for the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry.
Life and career
Kaufman was born in Portland, Oregon. His parents were Rumanian Jews, from a remarkable beneficent culture. With the recommendation of Maud Powell and Efrem Zimbalist, he started at the age of 13 to study with Franz Kneisel in New York City at the Institute of Musical Art, now Juilliard. He played the viola with the Musical Art Quartet from 1926 to 1933. His solo recital debut at New York's Town Hall in 1928 was under the auspices of the Naumburg Award.
Subsequently, he performed chamber music with Pablo Casals, Mischa Elman, Jascha Heifetz, Fritz Kreisler, Gregor Piatigorsky, and Efrem Zimbalist.
He was an accomplished violinist, playing 15-minute radio recitals when he was asked to play the soundtrack for Ernst Lubitsch's movie The Merry Widow; this performance opened up a long career in performing soundtracks for Hollywood films, including such classics as Casablanca, Gone with the Wind, The Diary of Anne Frank, Wuthering Heights, The Grapes of Wrath, and Spartacus. It is variously estimated that he made 400 solo performances for movies and acted as the concertmaster for several hundred.
He also premiered a number of pieces by notable 20th-century composers, including works by Aaron Copland, Darius Milhaud, and Bohuslav Martinů, and made the premiere recording of Samuel Barber's violin concerto.
He and his wife, the pianist Annette Kaufman (née Leibole) often performed together. In September 2003, she published his memoir A Fiddler's Tale - How Hollywood and Vivaldi Discovered Me with the University of Wisconsin Press (ISBN 0-299-18380-7), with Louis Kaufman as principal author and Annette Kaufman as co-author.
The couple donated a large collection of personal papers to the Library of Congress in 2000, which included papers from such notables as Leonard Bernstein, Jascha Heifetz, and others. They also donated a large art collection to the National Gallery of Art and Syracuse University.
Kaufman died, aged 88, in Los Angeles, California. His ashes are interred at Westwood Village Cemetery in Los Angeles, California.
1. Margaret Campbell (14 February 1994). "Obituary: Louis Kaufman". London: The Independent.
2. "A Fiddler's Tale: How Hollywood and Vivaldi Discovered Me". musicweb-international.com.
3. Kaufman and Kaufman 2003, p.124.
Library of Congress profile of Louis Kaufman
New York Times obituary of Louis Kaufman
Louis Kaufman and Annette Kaufman: A Fiddler's Tale: How Vivaldi and Hollywood Discovered Me: My Adventures in Music and Art. 2003. University of Wisconsin Press
Fishko Files on Louis Kaufman
Antonio Stradivari, violin 1727
Barrere Giovanni Battista Guadagnini, violin 1774
ex-Beel Guadagnini violin 1775c
ex-Zimbalist; ex-Kaufman Nicolas Lupot, violin 1809
Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume violin copy of "La Pucelle" Stradivari #1489 c.1839, and a violin by Carlo Bisiach G.B. Guadagnini model.