David Hochstein (1892-1918) is considered to be one of the finest violinists America ever produced. From New York to Berlin he was hailed a genius of the violin. The Hochstein School of Music and Dance is his memorial. The son of Russian Jewish immigrants, his father gifted him his first violin on his fifth birthday. At age 10 he was discovered by his benefactor Emily Sibley Watson while practicing violin at her neighbor’s home. She ensured he received the finest training available, including in Vienna, where he earned prestigious awards, and later in St. Petersburg, Russia, financed by RMHF inductee George Eastman. Hochstein made his Carnegie Hall debut in 1915 and went on to perform and compose in major U.S. and European cities. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1917 and lost his life the following year leading World War 1 soldiers into battle. Rochester musicians, along with Watson and Eastman, established a memorial music school in his name, which was first housed in the Hochstein family home on Joseph Avenue and ultimately in its current location on Plymouth Avenue.
Born in Rochester, New York to Russian, Jewish immigrants, violinist, clarinetist, composer, and award winner, David Hochstein was Rochester’s first homegrown superstar. He was considered to be one of the finest musicians ever to come from this area. In 1915 he made his Carnegie Hall debut and performed as soloist with the New York Philharmic Orchestra and the Metropolitan Opera. He went on to perform in Boston, Chicago and all throughout the U.S. and Europe including London, Berlin and Dresden receiving rave reviews.
He received his first violin on his fifth birthday from his father who became his first teacher. At the age of eight he began studying with one of the City’s most respected musicians, Herr Ludwig Schenck. From 1909 to1912 he studied under Ottakar Sevcik in Vienna, with the enthusiastic support of Emily Sibley Watson. He graduated from Meisterschule with highest honors and became the first American to win triple prizes offered by the institution. He also was the first student to win both the “One Thousand Crown” and “First State” awards.
With backing from George Eastman He continued his studies in St. Petersburg, Russia, with Leopold Auer, considered to be the finest violinist of the time. Eastman later purchased two violins for him a 1735 Carlo Landolphi and a 1715 Stradivarius.
David went on to compose his own works of music and transpose others. His performances were always a delight to his many fans.
In 1917 he decided to join the army and was assigned to the Infantry Division. He began playing the clarinet in the military band and said at the time “…a great interpreter reveals his inner-most soul through his instrument, whatever it may be…,” but having said that, he nonetheless brought along his Stradivarius and wrote special pieces that allowed him to play violin with the otherwise unorthodox accompaniment of the military band.
On March 10th 1918 David and 13 other soldiers loaded into a small bus on route to a performance. The axle broke from the weight of the men and the bus crashed into a tree. Though shaken no one was hurt, but later upon opening the soft leather case of his violin, to his shock David found his $25,000 Stradivarius in pieces. It was insured for only ten thousand dollars, but Hochstein planned on purchasing another one while in France. Unfortunately for him and the music world in Oct. of 1918 Second Lieutenant David Hochstein died in France in the Battle of Argonne.
Rochester musicians rallied together on April 5, 1919 for a Hochstein Memorial Concert, attended by thousands. Leopold Auer wrote, “In him America has lost one of her finest artists.” The Hochstein Music School was founded in his memory.