Today we’re paying our first birthday tribute of 2018 and we’ve selected someone rather special; Erika Morini.
Morini was a Jewish Austrian violinist born in Vienna on this day in 1904. She was fortunate to be born into a musical family and was initially tutored by her father, Osjer Moritz, who owned a music school. Her siblings, all of whom – like her – adopted their mother’s name were all artistically talented; Alice, pianist; Stella, violinist; Haydee, dancer; Frank, art dealer; Albert, impresario concert manager.
When Morini made her début aged just 12 years old with the Leipzig Gewandhaus and the Berlin Philharmonic orchestra the critics made no allowance for her youth, but instead spoke of her work as the equal of that of the most famous of the current younger generation of violinists. Her American début came a little later at the grand old age of seventeen in New York (January 26, 1921). It was one of the musical sensations of the year, and she subsequently frequently performed in the United States, both in recital and with many of the more famous orchestras. She made her first visit to London in 1923.
Shortly after her New York début, she was presented with the Guadagnini violin which had been previously owned by the celebrated American Violinist Maud Powell. In March 1921, Morini made her first recordings for the Victor Talking Machine Company in Camden, New Jersey, accompanied on the piano by her sister, Alice. She moved to New York after 1938, and began spelling her first name Erica. On the boat ride from Europe to New York, Erica and her cousin Louis played violin and clarinet together for the first class passengers, and were allowed to stay in first class on account of their popularity.
Along with the Guadagnini violin, Morini also played the “Davidov” Stradivarius 1727 violin, named for the Russian cellist Karl Davydov, that her father had purchased it for her in Paris in 1924 for $10,000. This violin, along with paintings, letters, and her scores (complete with fingerings and other valuable notes) were stolen from her New York City apartment shortly before her death in October 1995, at the age of 91. She had been hospitalised with heart disease and was never told of the theft. The crime remains unsolved to this day.
Morini is believed to be the last surviving recording artist who made acoustic Red Seal Records for the Victor Talking Machine Company. Four months after her death, Erica Morini was described in the journal The Strad as the “most bewitching woman violinist of this century.”
Unlike many musicians who continue to play until their deaths, when Morini retired in 1976 she reportedly never played the violin again.