Another string to her bow

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Rosa Fain, a prominent violinist who was born in Russia and has been living in Germany since 1980, is the distinguished guest of the Keshet Eilon International Violin and String Mastercourse.

A former student of David Oistrakh’s and later partner on stage, Fain was born in Odessa in 1929. In 1957, she won the prestigious Henryk Weniawski international competition. The victory in Poznas opened many major concert halls of the world for her. She performed with illustrious orchestras and conductors; she also became a highly respected educator. For years she has been a professor at the School of Music in Düsseldorf; she has also sat on the jury of well-known competitions.

Her first teacher was the legendary Pyotr Stoliarsky, to whom many famous musicians owe the start of their career.

“Stoliarsky searched for talented kids in the street,” Fain says. “He looked at the kids and sometimes told their parents, ‘Your child has wonderful hands. You simply must teach them music!”

Fain, who studied with Stoliarsky since the age of four, says she still remembers him vividly: “He was a very kind person, yet quite strict as a teacher. Professional music-making demands the utmost dedication from an artist. It is a sweet burden to which one devotes one’s entire life.”

Delving into her memories, she recalls how once in an ancient and well-preserved German city, she spent a night at a hotel where Paganini had once stayed.

“I was thrilled when I saw the memorial tablet that Paganini had stayed at the hotel in 1837. I thought, ‘How small after all this world is; and if music does not especially make people better, it undoubtedly brings them closer to one to another.’”

Fain continued her studies with Benjamin Mordkovich in Odessa, and then in Moscow with Oistrakh.

“I performed a lot all over the world but even more in the Soviet Union, and quite early I became rather politicized. I saw what life really was under the inhuman Soviet regime; I realized that what was written in the newspapers were sheer lies. By Soviet standards, our family was rich – I was a successful performing artist, and my husband was a linguist and translator. But at some point we felt that we’d had enough; we didn’t want to live in those lies and tolerate the state’s anti- Semitism. So we applied for emigration,” she recounts.

The couple and their son left the USSR in 1980 “with three suitcases, without my violin and bow – that was the condition. We left everything behind. When asked if I have ever been homesick, I always answer, ‘Not Russia; but its culture, its music, literature and painting are my true homeland,’” she says.

The traditional route of Soviet emigrants passed through Vienna.

“On the following day, I received a telegram from the Dusseldorf school of music. They offered me a professorial position, which I accepted. I have loved teaching all my life. Already as a student, when my teacher Benjamin Mordkovich was hospitalized with a heart attack, he asked me to replace him in our class and to teach my fellow students at the Odessa conservatory. But in the conservatory of Moscow, Jewish professors were not exactly welcome, due to the state-supported anti-Semitism,” says Fain.

“I see teaching as an obligation – I have to pass on what I was taught and what I later learned myself. Teaching is not a profession but rather a vocation. I am happy and proud that during my teaching career I have prepared more than 250 violinists. All of them have found their place in the world of music. For me, it has always been important to develop my students’ individuality, not only their technique. I was probably the only professor of our Dusseldorf conservatory who was asked to stay and keep teaching after reaching retirement age,” she says.

Fain, who has visited Israel on numerous occasions and has heard about Keshet Eilon for many years, says, “I was happy to accept the invitation to join its faculty.”

 

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