The Associated Press reports that violinist Roman Totenberg died of kidney failure on Tuesday at his home in Newton, Mass. Originally from Poland his nine-decade career featured concert performances before kings and presidents. He was a contemporary with giants like Rachmaninoff, Toscanini, Heifetz and Casals.
Totenberg began performing at age 7. He made his American debut in 1935 after sweeping up major prizes throughout Europe.
In 1950, he joined pianist Maxim Schapiro in a tour of Alaska. He arrived by boat with his family, including four year old Nina, later a National Public Radio reporter.
On Oct. 10, that year, they presented a recital of Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Paganini and Bartok in the Anchorage High School gym. It was the first Anchorage concert in the "Alaska Music Trails" series to be presented by the newly formed Anchorage Concert Association.
Totenberg returned to Alaska three times, both as a soloist and in a chamber ensemble.
In 1994, the then-83-year-old virtuoso told the Anchorage Daily News that he had no thought of retiring.
"I'm still playing concerts and enjoying my life," he said. "You know, there are two kinds of prodigies, child prodigies and old-man prodigies, and now I'm the latter kind."
Totenberg recalled that he signed onto the first "Music Trails" when Schapiro, whom he originally met on the East Coast, ran into him in California and invited him up. The tour took an unexpected dogleg when a polio outbreak in Fairbanks caused that date to be made up at the end of the series, following shows in Anchorage, Seward and Cordova.
"We flew everywhere in a very small bush plane," Totenberg said. "I had a wonderful time. One of the nicest experiences came the day after our Anchorage concert. A railroad worker came and said she enjoyed the concert so much that she wanted to buy me breakfast. So we had breakfast together.
"You should invite me up again. I'd love it."
The AP wrote that his passion for violin and teaching continued up to the day before he died, with him asking visiting former students to perform at his bedside, showing fingering techniques to others and whispering feedback on performances.
He was surrounded by one of his three daughters and other relatives at the time of his death.
A memorial service is planned in the fall.