Bernard Greenhouse remembers – Grand Prix Emanuel Feuermann

One of the few living cellists who can speak about personal memories of Emanuel Feuermann is the American cellist Bernard Greenhouse. He is a long time friend of Kronberg Academy and has actively participated in many chamber music projects over the years. Bernie, as his friends call him, was 22 years of age when he first encountered Emanuel Feuermann in 1938. Feuermann was then 36 years of age. Bernard Greenhouse recently recorded his memories for  the Kronberg Academy, the recording  session took place at his home in Massachusetts on Oct. 24, 2010. In anticipation of the third international Grand Prix Emanuel Feuermann that will officilally start on November 16 in Berlin we belive that Bernard Greenhouse´s remarks and reflections bring back some aspects of his personality to the current generation of cellists and music lovers.

Bernard Greenhouse:

More than 70 years have gone by since I had the great pleasure to work with Emanuel Feuermann. I was young but not so young, that I couldn´t understand his wishes as far as improving my technique on the cello. He was very definitive. In a sense his denial of anyone´s ability to reach his extreme technical prowess was one the things which made it so necessary to have some experience in working with the great cellist.

I was a much younger man looking for help in my work. I had had excellent training at the Juilliard School with Felix Salmond and I needed someone with a different approach to the instrument,  one who had a magnificent technical knowledge of the instrument – I found that in Emanuel Feuermann who could be rather sarcastic with his students and when a student did prove to have great promise, and played a passage which normally would be extremely difficult he would make light of it and play it with the greatest of ease and accuracy so the student always had this the feeling of let down because there was someone who played the Instrument better then he could – and that could be misleading
(Mr. Greenhouse laughs…).

My full admiration for this giant of the cello, a man who could do anything with the greatest of ease. It was absolutely a magnet to me. I had to learn how he did it and come as close as possible.

So I approached him and asked whether he would teach me. And he said, well, yes, I would like to help you but not on a regular basis – if you come once every 2-3 weeks for a lesson I will probably give you the time. But it turned out that that it wasn´t always that he was accessible because I was working at the time at CBS as the cellist in the orchestra there and I was constantly trying to improve my playing. One of the ways I thought of, one of the things which made me so obstinate in my approach to working with Feuermann was, that he seemed to be an easy going person and it surprised me how harsh he could be at my lessons and how much he thought about my progress as a cellist.
I sometimes in working with him I would become quite discouraged. But I had to persist if I wanted to work with him, I had to understand that he was not an easy master and demanded very much of my time. I later found out that he spoke well of my talent, I believe that he really did feel concerned with my career and my  playing because I was always invited to RCA to the recording sessions with Franz Rupp, the pianist, so I got to be part of the little circle of Emanuel Feuermann graduate students who revelled in his knowledge.

Assistant: what time period?

Bernard Greenhouse:  This was in 1938, 1939, 1940. Those were the years.

When he was teaching quite a bit in New York when I was very much devoted to working hard on the instrument, I thought it would be a wonderful thing to have a debut-recital in the town hall of New York City. I went up to Scarsdale in my beautiful sports car, a convertible!!

Assistant: What colour ?

Bernard Greenhouse: Red!! laughs……naturally!

And I parked right outside his door and he came to the door and he looked at my car and he looked at me and he said: “No lesson today, let´s go for a ride!”.

So, my lessons came rather on the irregular side but they were always done with a certain amount of integrity and help and so after my 4 years of work at Juilliard I found a different approach to playing the instrument and I settled down to really learn how to play the cello. Feuermann was the one to teach it.

Transcription:  Michael Heinz

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