Gresser, Emily

Emily Gresser was born on March 11, 1894 in Newark, New Jersey—and grew up there and in Brooklyn, New York—to parents who had emigrated from czarist Russia. Gresser began violin lessons at age eight, and studied with Sam Franko, who became a lifelong friend and collaborator. In 1906, at age 12, she became a member of the Children’s Orchestra at the Educational Alliance in New York City. 

Gresser’s graduation from Brooklyn Manual Training High School was marked by a recital given at Mendelssohn Hall. Many notable individuals attended the recital, including Professor Charles Eliot, future President of Harvard University, Booker T. Washington and Mark Twain. A consensus of critical acclaim encouraged her to pursue musical training in Europe.

She spent the next four years based in Germany and performing throughout Europe. Gresser continued to study with Franko, who was appointed head of the Violin Department at the Stern Conservatory in Berlin. She also studied harmony and theory with Alexis Hollaender. Well equipped with a comprehensive and vast repertory, she played with many of the leading orchestras and conductors of the time.

A 1913 article in the Yiddish periodical Di Tsukunft devoted to a discussion of Jewish or Jewish-born violinists who were already in or soon to join the pantheon of the giants of the instrument, presented her in the company of such esteemed artists as Mischa Elman, Efram Zimbalist, Joseph Joachim, Henryk [Henri] Wieniawski, Fritz Kreisler, and the young Jascha Heifetz. Gresser maintained close personal relationships with many of these artists—especially Heifetz—throughout her life.

With war raging in Europe, Gresser returned to America in the spring of 1915 and played her first recital at Aeolian Hall. She concertized throughout the United States and Canada with renowned vocalist Madame Yvette Guilbert until 1919. It was during this time that Gresser is credited as an arranger for Chassidic Dance during their performances together. Emily continued with solo recitals and concerts after Guilbert returned to Europe.

Emily Gresser married playwright and novelist David Liebovitz in 1920, and later had two children. The family lived in Europe—mainly France—from 1932 to 1936, when they returned to the U.S. and settled in New York and Connecticut. Emily Gresser Liebovitz died in 1981.





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