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Joachim Stutschewsky

Most biographies of Jewish artists of the twentieth century are marked by frequent changes of place, flight and expulsion. The life of Joachim Stutschewsky (1891-1982) was particularly restless. In his memoirs, he compares himself to a traveling Jewish musician a klezmer who was never allowed to remain anywhere for long and was never able to find rest. Stutschewsky was quite familiar with the east European klezmer milieu from his own experience, since he was born into a well-known klezmer family in Ukraine. Like all family members for many generations, he began taking music lessons at a young age and then played in his father's klezmer ensembles.

In 1909, Stutschewsky went to Leipzig to study cello with Julius Klengel at the conservatory. After finishing his studies, Stutschewsky first returned to Russia, but soon fled abroad once again to escape having to serve in the Russian military. Then he lived in Jena, where he began to play a large number of concerts as soloist and chamber musician. When the First World War broke out, he had to flee once again because he was a Russian citizen, and moved to Switzerland, where he organized the first concerts of Jewish folk and art music.

He moved to Vienna in 1924 and together with Rudolf Kolisch founded the famous Vienna String Quartet, which won international renown with its premieres of works by composers in the New Vienna School founded by Arnold Schoenberg. In Vienna, Stutschewsky also continued his activities in the area of Jewish music as a composer, cellist, journalist and organizer. He was the spiritus rector of the Society for the Promotion of Jewish Music.

In 1938, shortly before the arrival of the German troops, he fled to Switzerland and emigrated that same year to Palestine, where at first he continued to perform concerts of new Jewish music as well as holding lectures throughout the country. From the 1950's on, he devoted himself nearly exclusively to composing. In his work, Stutschewsky unites the traditional Jewish idiom with a musical language that was often quite advanced. Elements of the folk music of Ashkenazi, Sephardic and Yemenite Jews from a wide variety of different countries who had now made their homes in Israel found their way into his compositions.

Joachim Stutschewsky. Drawing by Gregor Rabinowitsch
Joachim Stutschewsky. Drawing by Gregor Rabinowitsch

© 29.07.2016 by Jascha Nemtsov. e-mail: