Michael Rosenker

Michael Rosenker

In Memoriam

Michael Rosenker (1900-1996), a Russian-American violinist, was born in Odessa and began violin studies there with Pyotr Stoliarsky.  He continued his studies with Leopold Auer at the St. Petersburg Conservatory and was mentored by Joseph Achron.  After the 1917 Russian Revolution, he toured Siberia and the Far East as second violinist of the Zimro Ensemble, which commissioned Sergei Prokofiev’s Overture on Hebrew Themes.  He subsequently performed as violinist of the Moscow Trio in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, and throughout the Dutch East Indies and gave sonata recitals with the pianists Alexander Hmelnitsky and Leo Podolsky.  He returned to Europe in 1921 and became head of the violin department of the Rotterdam Conservatory.

Arriving in New York in 1922, Rosenker became associate concertmaster at the Capitol Theatre, where he shared the first desk with Eugene Ormandy.  In addition, he was concertmaster of the orchestras at the Rialto and Rivoli Theatres, performed frequently on the Atwater Kent and Jack Frost’s Melody Moments radio programs, and made recordings for Brunswick Records as violinist of the Blackstone Trio.  As a chamber musician, he was the original first violinist of the National Broadcasting String Quartet in 1925, first violinist of the Neo-Russian String Quartet (with violinist Josef Gingold, violist Jacob Altschuler, and cellist Bernard Parronchi), and first violinist of the American String Quartet, the official quartet of the National Association of American Composers and Conductors in 1940.  He collaborated with the pianists Harry Kaufman, Milton Kaye, Menachem Bensussan, Josef Wolman, Carolyn Beebe Whitehouse, Nadia Reisenberg, and with the composer-pianists Ernst von Dohnanyi, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, and Julius Chajes.

Rosenker was concertmaster of the NBC Radio Orchestra under Walter Damrosch, the Manhattan Symphony under David Mannes (1930-36), the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra (1940-42), and the Pittsburgh Symphony under Fritz Reiner (1942-43).  In 1943, he was appointed associate concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic and served concurrently as concertmaster of the Philharmonic’s summer season at Lewisohn Stadium.  He soloed with the orchestra frequently, appearing with Monteux, Reiner, Beecham, Szell, Munch, Karajan, and Bernstein.  In 1960, he was appointed principal string coach for the National Orchestral Association.  Retiring from the Philharmonic in 1962, he became concertmaster of the Baltimore Symphony for two seasons.  He was also a faculty member at the University of Miami in 1964-65 and concertmaster of the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony of Tokyo during the 1966-67 season.

Rosenker’s principal concert instruments were a Giovanni Battista Guadagnini of c.1771-76 and a Carlo Bergonzi of c.1725-31, known as the ex-Trombetta, which he owned from 1945 until his death.  For orchestral work and practice, he favored an 1892 Pierre Joseph Hel violin made in Lille, France.