Karel Halíř

Tchaikovsky Research
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Karel Halíř (1859–1909)

Czech violinist (b. 1 February 1859 [N.S.] in Hohenelbe [now Vrchlabí]; d 21 December 1909 [N.S.] in Berlin), also known as Carl or Karl Halíř

After studing with Antonín Bennewitz at the Prague Conservatory (1867–73) and with Joseph Joachim in Berlin (1874–76), Halíř served for as the concertmaster of Benjamin Bilse's orchestra in Berlin, before moving at Königsberg (1879), Mannheim (1881) and Weimar (1884–94).

Tchaikovsky and Halíř

Halíř was an early champion of Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto, and the composer was in the audience for his performance at Leipzig on 5 January 1888 [N.S.]. In his Autobiographical Account of a Tour Abroad in the Year 1888 (chapter VIII), Tchaikovsky wrote:

The concert-master of the Grand Duke of Weimar's orchestra, the young violinist Mr Haliř came specially over from there to attend this concert. I had heard a lot about him from his fervent admirer A. I. Ziloti, and it was all the more gratifying for me to get to know him, given that over the last few years Mr Haliř had been championing my Violin Concerto ... He plays this concerto everywhere, putting up with reproaches and mockery from the most authoritative music critics who taunt him for having made such a strange choice of work to specialize in. Undaunted, this brave artist tirelessly seeks to make my child of sorrow into a virtuoso repertoire piece at symphony concerts all over Germany... I think that this artist, who possesses an astonishing beauty of tone, a tremendous technique, passion, brilliance, and strength, will very soon come to occupy first place amongst the violinists of our age.

The following month, on 7/19 February 1888, Halíř performed Tchaikovsky's concerto once more in Prague, with the composer conducting.

Correspondence with Tchaikovsky

One letter from Tchaikovsky to Karel Halíř has survived, dating from 1888, and has been partly translated into English on this website:

2 letters from Halíř to the composer are preserved in the Tchaikovsky State Memorial Musical Museum-Reserve at Klin (a4, Nos. 504–505).

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