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date: 13 November 2019

Brodsky, Adolphfree

  • Geoff Thomason

(b Taganrog, Russia, 21 March/2 April 1851; d Manchester, England, 22 Jan 1929). Russian violinist and pedagogue. From 1860 to 1867 he studied with Joseph Hellmesberger at the Vienna Conservatoire, playing in Hellmesberger’s concerts, eventually becoming second violin in his quartet. In Vienna he first met Brahms and the conductor Hans Richter. In 1870 he returned to Russia, where he made the acquaintance of Tchaikovsky and in 1875 was appointed a teacher at the Moscow Conservatoire. From 1878 to 1880 he was the Director of the Kiev Symphony Society. During three years of European touring, 1880–83, he gave the first performance of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in December 1881, with the Vienna Philharmonic under Richter. Its originally dedicatee, Leopold Auer, had deemed the concerto unplayable and Tchaikovsky subsequently rededicated it to Brodsky. After his appointment as Professor of Violin at the Leipzig Conservatoire in 1883 Brodsky founded his first string quartet. In Leipzig he gave the premières of works by Grieg and Busoni, with whom he formed lasting friendships. His leadership of Walter Damrosch’s New York Symphony Orchestra, 1891–3, ended prematurely because of differences with Damrosch, and in 1895 Brodsky was invited by Charles Hallé to lead his orchestra in Manchester and teach at his new Royal Manchester College of Music. He relinquished the Hallé leadership in 1896 when, after Hallé’s death in October 1895, he was appointed his successor as the College’s Principal, which post he held until his death. Notable appointments to the College’s staff made by Brodsky include the pianists Wilhelm Backhaus, William Dayas, and Egon Petri, although his attempts to persuade Busoni and Elgar to teach there proved unsuccessful. In Manchester he founded a new quartet, revitalized the city’s chamber concerts, and promoted the music of colleagues from his earlier career. He strengthened the College’s links with Manchester University, which awarded him an honorary Mus.D in 1902. Manchester also brought a renewed professional connection with Hans Richter, through whom he was introduced to Elgar. Brodsky became the dedicatee of Elgar’s String Quartet and an early champion of his Violin Concerto, in which he made his final appearance as a soloist at the Hallé’s Elgar 70th birthday concert in 1927. He remained active as a performer and teacher almost to the end of his life; among his best-known pupils were Anton Maaskoff, Arthur Catterall, Naum Blinder, and Lena Kontorovich.


  • ‘Adolph Brodsky’, MT, vol.44 (1903), 225–7
  • A. L. Brodsky: Recollections of a Russian Home: a Musician’s Experience (Manchester, 1914)
  • C.A. Bell: ‘Adolph Brodsky’, The Strad, vol.39 (1928), 88–92
  • T.B. Pitfield: ‘Letters from Tchaikovsky to Brodsky’, The Listener (1962)
  • G. Thomason: ‘Yours Very Sincerely, Edward Elgar: the Elgar-Brodsky Correspondence at the RNCM’, Brio, vol.42/1 (2005), 32–53
  • R. de Vet: ‘Adol’f Brodskij und Modest Čaikovskij im Briefwechsel’, Tchaikovsky-Gesellschaft: Mitteilungen, vol.18 (2011), 204–15
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