The Life and Times
of Josef Hassid
by Gerald S. Spear
“Yosi : The Life and Times of Josef Hassid” is an intimate biography of my cousin legendary violinist Josef Hassid. It is a complimentary ebook with interactive links.
The book describes early childhood in the shtetl of Suwalk, Poland; his years in Warsaw attending the State Conservatory of Music, competing at age 13 against David Oistrakh age 27 at the 1st Wieniawski International Violin Competition; life in the Warsaw ghetto; Bronislaw Huberman and the Palestine Symphony Orchestra later to become the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra; studies in Belgium and London with Carl Flesch; detailed documentation of his professional career which lasted but 11 months; his iconic recordings at Abbey Road Studios totaling less than 29 minutes; his experience in the Blitz of London during WW II; his thwarted love affair following which schizophrenia became evident notwithstanding that he continued to concertize; although afflicted, giving a commended final concert (“a magnificently assured performance" “with a fine sense of the power and stature of the work”}, a concert not mentioned in conventional biographies; and institutionalization for the last nine years of his life. Included are contemporaneous history such as Flesch’s (Flesch was Jewish) elusive flight through wartime Germany; the near concordance of Josef’s initial recordings and the British War cabinet’s consideration of whether to negotiate with Hitler or continue the war; the history of Hebrew Melody; and a description of Josef playing Hebrew Melody accompanied on the piano by its composer, Joseph Achron.
Carl Flesch is said to have called him "My most gifted pupil.” Fritz Kreisler is quoted as saying “a fiddler like Menuhin is born every 100 years, one like Hassid every 200 years.” Samuel Lipman, pianist and music critic, concluded “The violinist of the age” thus “on the overpowering evidence of his few records, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Josef Hassid was the greatest violinist of whose playing we can have any firm knowledge.”