Clara, Ossip & Nina, Detroit 1927
Ossip Gabrilowitsch was born in Russia, one of three sons of a Jewish
lawyer. When the family moved into Germany the spelling of the name was Germanized.
It is correctly pronounced in four syllables: Ga-bri-lo'-witsch.
In 1898, while under the tutelage of the great pianist Leschetikzy in Vienna,
Ossip met fellow pupil Clara Clemens. He was 20. She was 24.
Although for the next 10 years they were separated by his concert tours and
continents between them, they managed to maintain their friendship and finally
married in 1909. When they married the bride was 35 and the groom 31. Her
sister Jean was maid of honor. Mark Twain wore the scarlet
ceremonial gown and hood he had worn when receiving his doctorate from Oxford.
In 1910 their only child, Nina Clemens Gabrilowitsch, was born.
1918 saw Ossip become conductor of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, a
position he held until his death in 1936. He was responsible for the building of
Orchestral Hall. The building was erected in four months and 23 days after Gabrilowitsch
threatened to quit unless he and his musicians had a permanent home. His
years with the symphony have been described as the "golden years of music in
Detroit". He also founded a youth orchestra which later became the National
Ossip and Clara and their young daughter, Nina, had a large home in Detroit with
many servants, and a summer home in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. At his invitation, the
world's greats of the music scene came to Detroit to give concerts. He had begun
the study of music at age five, and thus was a personal friend of
Rachmaninoff, Gershwin, Heifetz, Stravinsky, Casals, Rubenstein, and others,
many of them refugees fleeing from persecution of Jews in Europe. Clara was
always a gracious hostess to them in their home.
Ossip idolized his famous father-in-law, Mark Twain and they had long been close
friends, with animated conversations about anything but music, in which, of
course, the famous writer had but little more than an elementary education.
Ossip requested to be buried in the family cemetery in Elmira, New York and
there is where he was laid to rest.
touch” was an indescribable something that was the envy of
pianists. The hands that brought such beautiful tones into being, are
now silent, but the memories of his art cannot be stilled. All of the
exquisite tone pictures that those fingers recreated from the great
galleries of musical art—his superlative
Mozart, his beautiful
Chopin, his forceful
Bach, his romantic
Schumann, his splendid
Beethoven—all these were rich and noble contributions to music.
Fortunately some of his interpretations are preserved on records and are
therefore permanently available. We are permitted to present herewith a
photograph of this eminent pianist’s hands, by courtesy of the Rembrandt
Gabrilowitsch’s hands ideal, from a pianistic standpoint.