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Jascha Heifetz(February 2, 1901 – December 10, 1987) was a Jewish violin virtuoso, and is thought to be one of the greatest interpreters of the instrument.
Heifetz was born into a Jewish family in Vilna, Lithuania, then a part of the Russian Empire. There is controversy over his birth year, which is sometimes placed a year or two earlier to 1899 or 1900. His father Ruvn Heifetz was a local violin teacher and served as the concertmaster of the Vilna Theatre Orchestra for one season before the theatre closed down. Jascha took up the violin when three years old and his father was his first teacher. At five he started lessons with Ilya D. Malkin, a former pupil of Leopold Auer. He was a child prodigy, making his public debut at seven, in Kovno, now Kaunas, Lithuania playing the Violin Concerto by Mendelssohn. In 1910 he entered the St Petersburg conservatory to study under Leopold Auer. He played in Germany and Scandinavia at twelve meeting Fritz Kreisler for the first time in a Berlin private house together with other noted violinists in attendance. Kreisler, after accompanying at the piano the 12-year-old Heifetz in a performance of the Mendelssohn Concerto, said to all present, "Now we can all break our fiddles across our knees." Heifetz visited much of Europe while still in his teens.
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