playing for life


          1925 --


Halina Neuman comes reluctantly to Leipzig -- “a very boring city”




Halina Neuman Schulsinger (1908-1999):  Leipzig had the highest level of music education -- there is no doubt about it.   [But] I didn't want to know anything about Leipzig.  I didn’t want to go. 

I came from Łodz. When the First War broke out I was 6 years old.  Then I went to Polish schools and I finished the Polish gymnasium.

I didn't want to go to Germany for no money, because since the War and the creation of Poland, you were sucking with the mother’s milk a hatred for Germany

I was very attached to Poland -- I still am.  Because [there] I had a very happy childhood.

I was very close to my parents.  And I loved my sister.   

We played on two pianos, my sister and I -- she was marvelous.

You know how we discovered that she was a genius?

When I was 10, she was 3.  I had a Russian teacher -- a drunken sailor who would come over and give me lessons at home.  I played this Sonata -- [goes to piano and plays] – this easy one that everyone plays.   My sister was always sitting in the corner, tiny, watching. And one day he left, and I was in the dining room with my mother talking.

And all of a sudden we hear, in the same key: Da - Da- Da- Do- DA DA DA. (laughter).

So my mother said, "The teacher [played] that?"

I said:  "I just let him out!"

We came into the music room -- here is the little thing, her feet are in the air, and in the same key she is playing.

My mother says: “Another? -- One is not enough?"

She was phenomenal. She was fantastic.  She could play, just like nothing. And smart was the child.   (sadly)   Oh, well. . . .

*          *          *

I had the option to go to Paris, to Vienna, or to Leipzig.

But my father, who was a very kind father, and a very easy going father, didn't want me to go to Paris or Vienna.  Because he, as a businessman, had been to the trade fairs in Leipzig, and he knew that Leipzig is a very boring city -- boring enough to be safe for a daughter.

My father said: "Either you go to Leipzig -- or you go the Warsaw Conservatory -- that is your choice."  

(ironically)  So I was sitting pretty after high school.  Then it was September, then October.   And I see that my father is really set in his way – “no way.” 

I said, "All right.”

Everybody in Łodz knew about my plight.  Everybody knew that poor Halina had to go to Leipzig and she doesn't know a human soul there.  I had all older colleagues, and one of my very, very close friends [Salamanovich] who was a student at the Export Academy in Vienna,[1] came for a holiday to Łodz – it was a long distance.    He called me.

That day I was supposed to go to the consulate for a [German] visa.  .

My friend said:  "I know you are so miserable about the Leipzig business.  But I just met a very nice fellow who came from Leipzig for family business because his parents came from Łodz.  He was born in Germany. He brought regards from my close friend, now the under-attaché to the new Polish Consulate in Leipzig, Rudolf Rathaus.”

Rudolf's brother was the founder of the music department at Queen’s College [NY], Dr. Karol Rathaus.  Rathaus was a composer – a very famous man.[2]

He said this man was going the next day [back] to Leipzig. 

My friend figured out that at least I would have someone [I knew in Leipzig].

I said I was going to the German Consulate for my visa, and we would meet at the café of the Grand Hotel later.

I came to the Consulate.  Polish students had to fill out a big certificate from the German Police.  The Secretary there was Polish, and when I saw the certificate I said:  "I am so happy -- I don't want to go there. Thank God, they have made difficulties for the students!”  I was so happy that there was an obstacle. 

[He said]:  “Oh it is only a formality. Anybody can sign that."

After I left, I remembered that I was to have a rendezvous at the café.

Here was Salamanovich, and here was [Jakob (“Kuba”)] Schulsinger.  He spoke in broken Polish.  He looked like a typical German -- blond hair, blue eyes. 

I hardly looked at him, and said:  "I don't care, they want this [huge] certificate -- I don't care.  My father can give me peace now, and I can go to Paris."

So that young man, very quiet, with his broken Polish said, "Fraulein, this is only a formality. If you will give me your address . . ."

I said to him: "But I don't want to go there!"

"Give me your address, I will send you the right certificate."

I gave him my address, had my little espresso, and went home.

I forgot it completely.

I came home and said to my father: "Now, it is finished, I need from the Police an [impossible] certificate."

My father said, "This is nothing, I can have a business friend do this. I will write to so and so; and he will [do it].”

Now it is serious -- if he writes to so and so, then he would really get it [done].  

So I said, “No, no, you don't have to really do it.   I met a man from Leipzig and I gave him our address, I am sure he will do it." 

Of course I was praying that he had thrown it away.

It came by Telegram. (laughter)  By Telegram! 

Meanwhile, [Kuba] said to my friend:  "I am going to send her that [certificate] -- and you know, I am going to marry her."

My friend said, "You are nuts! You don't know her."


Leipzig frei ist  

I went to the Conservatory from '25 to '28.  I was one year ahead of Anna.  

When we came to Leipzig, my mother said:  “Send a telegram to that man you met, at least we will have somebody to meet us.”  

We come to the platform of the [train] station in Leipzig.  It was the biggest train platform -- it had 25 tracks.  I was looking around. Nobody is there.

Along comes a young woman who said, "Are you Mrs. Neuman and daughter from Łodz?"

My mother said in German, "Yes."

"I am Felicia [“Fay”] Schulsinger.  My brother [Kuba] is a buyer of furs for a department store, and just that day he was on a trip, and he is up in arms.  He told me that I had to go and meet your train because otherwise, ‘she would never come back to me. And where would I find her again?’”

So Fay said to him: "I will not recognize them. How will I find them?"

"By the way they are dressed.   Nobody in Germany dresses like that."

At that time I was wearing red shoes, and my mother had purple shoes.  It was in Fall.  They never had seen anything like that in Germany. 

She looked at us, and we were the only ones with colored shoes on the whole platform, and she took a chance.

She put us up in the nice hotel, Four Seasons.  

She was my friend long before she became my sister-in-law.   She was older.  She already studied law.[3]

A house for Halina

(drily) My mother got me a beautiful address to stay. 

Professor Teichmüller, my professor, put that ‘aged student’ -- I was 17, you know -- in a large boarding house owned by his former student, Professor Frei.  They had a tremendous apartment, and they took boarders.

They took me and a young Japanese medical student, Shinko. His father had finished medical school in Germany, and he wanted his son to study medicine in Germany.  At that time, the Japanese young people would look at the woman and overcome all his timidity. (Laughter)

When my mother left me there, Professor Frei and his wife were in the verge of divorce.  I never heard such rows in my life.  

My room was far away, because I practiced.  Every night in their bedroom they would have such a row [even] I could hear it.   Shinko was [in a room] next to them.  

One episode I will not forget.  Someone was knocking very softly on my door.  

I opened the door and there stood poor Shinko.

“Could I stay in your room for a while?"   In his room it was so noisy -- he was so frightened.

Finally, I had it with Frei.   

I decided that I would change places.

I got a very fat check [from my father] every month. I had made friends -- Tanya Zunser and Anna.  I was richer than them all.  My father sent me like 300 marks every month. Nobody heard of such a thing -- everyone else got 100 marks. I was financing everybody.

Some would say, “How can you exploit your parents like that?”

I said, "Never mind. They have the money."

I decided that I would rent myself a private room, and I asked [another boarder] who was my friend to accept the mail at the Frei’s, because if my mother would see a different address, she would come directly and take me home.  So my mail always arrived there, and I would come to pick it up. 

Half a year I was at Frei before I moved -- that was all.

When I moved to the rooming house, I cooked and lived for myself. 

I mostly had relations with East Jews.  I also had a lot of contact with Germans.  [But] I couldn't stand the German Jews.  Because they were so impertinent -- because they were so superior.


“The best conservatory in Europe”

My mother [had] corresponded with the Conservatory. [Even before I came] I wanted to go to Teichmüller, because he was very famous. Teichmüller was like Leschetitzky was in Vienna.   

Teichmüller was very liberal.  For me, Pauer was too strict.  I didn't want that. I wouldn't have lasted with Pauer -- Uh-uh.  He was a very rigid German teacher.  He was not for me anyhow.

My freedom on the piano, and that technique that I have today, that is from Teichmüller.[4]

I met Anna during a recital.  We had Monday recitals, next door. Tanya Zunser was a Peters scholar.  Anna was a Peters scholar.

Teichmüller had a master class -- on Tuesday and Friday, were classes.   Everybody played once a week.  But you played in front of everybody. That is why I never had stage fright, because nothing worse can happen than to play for my colleagues, who were looking for what I would do wrong. [5]

He chose what we would play, always something different for each student.

Here [in America] they put such a small emphasis on Bach.  My God -- Bach is the foundation of everything. Don't forget -- we were from Leipzig. We were fed by spoon with this.  Every Friday the whole class had to go to the Thomas[kirche] to the concert.[6]   And the Thomas choir.[7]   

The program was three years or four years.  I made it in three.  But when you graduated as a piano soloist, you still had to be able to write in two voices too -- you had to be that good.  I couldn't write music for four voices.   I could hear the soprano and the bass, but [not] the middle.

I got straight A in Pedagogy -- the C was in Solfeggio. That was my only C on my diploma. 

Loving Leipzig

Oh, I had so much fun!  

There were the Russian refugees -- a whole bunch of Russian refugees. The [later] first cellist of the Israeli philharmonic, he was my boyfriend.  

Kuba Wasserman, a cellist, was there. Yasha Bernstein, a cellist, who played here [in New York] with Toscanini.  

I had something with cellists.

Klengel [at the Conservatory] was the teacher of cello in Europe – “Papa Klengel.”  All the big cellists were all his students -- Piatigorsky[8] to God-knows-what.

Besides the Russians, we had a bunch of Greek boyfriends who were students at the University.  I loved them.

One of them was a real Bluebeard.   He had three women at the same time.  One left her husband for him.  He finally went to Paris, and each one of them went to visit him in Paris, and each one came back engaged. 

I said to him once, "You know one day, a woman will kill you."  And you know what happened? One did.[9]

Now, who else was with us?  . . . Lindner.

Eileen Joyce[10] was fifteen, when she came from Australia.   She was completely boy crazy.  Her mother put her in a very strict boarding house -- she always left through the window at nights. That was something.  With every composer [‘s piece in a recital], she would change her clothes. (laughter) [11]

But the most gifted was Ofelia Demaciamenta, from Argentina.[12] Oh, was she gifted.  And she had a mother, like all those South American girls -- they were on the leash.  With her, huh, she couldn't breathe.  Like Lydia Arrau [the mother] of Claudio.[13]

So it turned out I loved Leipzig.   It was the publishing center. And all the music publishing – Peters.  Novella.

Schocken was there, the literary publisher. 

Not so many writers.  There were a lot of musicians.  Because of the Conservatory -- because of Nikisch.  It was the best conservatory [in Europe], don't forget.

Our opera was the most up to date, experimental opera.   All first performances -- the Three Penny Opera, the City of Mahagonny . . .  Everything was first performed in Leipzig.   Kurt Weill was long time in Leipzig.  He was born in Leipzig.  His father was a Leipziger.

We had a classical rep theater -- and an experimental theater -- both.[14] 

Gewandhaus blues

The Gewandhaus gave free tickets for dress rehearsals to master classes by Pauer and Teichmüller.  The dress rehearsal was on Thursday, in the morning, because in the evening was the concert, a black tie affair.   The [subscription] tickets were like today $100 or more. That event was the event of the week. 

Nikisch was not the conductor of Gewandhaus when I was there.  Nikisch already died [1922].  

And whom did they choose?  A young unknown -- Wilhelm Furtwängler.

When Furtwängler came to replace Nikisch in ’22, Nikisch had been there for 25 or 30 years.  And the musicians wouldn't change a note.

Furtwängler wanted the trumpet to sound differently.  And you know, those musicians just looked at him and said -- “This is the way we did it for Papa Nikisch.”  

Furtwängler could stand it three years, and then he had it.  And they gave him the Berlin Philharmonic, and that was that.[15]  We got somebody who was as boring as hell – Bruno Walter.[16]

I said:  "Serves them right."  They lost a good conductor.


Kuba was [hanging] around me for years.  I didn’t look at him.  My first boyfriend [in Leipzig] was a Hungarian violinist Anna knows. 

So my father came, because any Hungarian who played the violin was a [bad] business for my father. . . . Till this day, I have some feeling for La Boheme, because it was the last opera we heard together, and we were crying.  I was 18, he was 19.

Kuba was so smart -- when my father came twice a year to Leipzig for the fairs, Kuba was [always] around him.

Kuba’s whole family lived in Germany. He was three years old when they came from Łodz in 1902.  They had Russian Passports, and automatically after the War, they became Polish citizens.

[Kuba's father] had died of a heart attack during WWI, when Kuba was 17.  The father had left them money and everything, but after the inflation [it was worth] absolutely nothing -- the Polish students could live for $3 [in foreign zlotys] the whole month.

As he was the oldest, he felt that he should provide for the family, and his sister should be the one to study.  So he never went to university, he went into the fur business.  It should have been the other way around.  

He was older than I.  He was Hirsch's age.[17]  I was 18, and he was like 25.  And when we married, he was 29.[18]  Kuba was then working in the fur department of a department store. 

Papers and prejudice

I could stay in Germany after 1928, because Kuba came to Łodz and married me Christmas 1928. We went for our honeymoon to Vienna.

When I married, [we] lived [in Leipzig] with my mother-in-law.  What a pity.  Because she supported us -- it was like it wasn’t in Europe.  In Europe parents don't support the children, children support the parents. 

When I came to my mother-in-law’s house, I asked Fay and my husband: "How come you don't know any Jews -- all your friends are Gentile?” 

[It was] because they were East Juden, and the German Jews were very rude. They thought that all the problems came to Germany because of the East Jews.  They said that they were the source of all the troubles.

Sometimes when he was furious, Kuba would say that I married him because I didn't want to go back to Łodz. (laughter)

So I was a Polish Nationalist. 

But Kuba wasn't.  He was not a national at all.  He was not even a German national -- he had a Polish passport. 

He was very international.




[1] See (accessed 12-17-14): “Founded on October 1, 1898 as the Imperial Export Academy. The curriculum prepared students mainly for employment in international trade. The academy soon took on the characteristics of a university and finally became Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration in 1975.”

[2] (1895-1954). See (accessed 6-2-16); Gdal Selesky op. cit. pp. 128-129).

[3] "And later on, in London, she said about me, "I schlepped her my whole life -- since she was seventeen, I have her on my neck." (laughter)

[4]   "Anna technically was 100 times better than I. And when she couldn't do technically as perfect as she thought she should, she stopped playing.  And that was Pauer – he didn’t teach the students to love music.  The standard was too hard. . . . [But Anna was a good player.]  You know why? Because everything that she does, she has to do it right. She is very conscientious.  She was, I am sure, a much better teacher than I was.  If I had some untalented students, I let them go.  I didn’t care.  I only devoted my time to students who really were talented. . . . She has a very deep-rooted sense of obligation, and that makes good teachers.  That is also what made Pauer a good teacher.   And I am exactly the other way.  The exact opposite of Anna.  We are both opposite.  That is why we stick together, because we are such opposites.”

[5]  "You know, Vengerova used that wonderful technique [in America, too].

[6] Bach’s church.  See Chap. __ above (“Leipzig in History”);,_Leipzig.

[7] “Once an assistant organist at the Thomaskirche told me that I would never become a musician.  And after the War I saw him again in New York, and told him:  “Guess what, I am a musician. How do you like that?””

[9] “He was the son of one of the shipbuilder dynasties.  He went back to Greece, he became the governor of [one of the Greek] Islands. He came back to Leipzig. But everybody was gone already. Tania Ury was gone. I was still there.  This was ‘37 or ‘38. He wanted to recover his old girlfriend.  He said, now I am going to marry.  I said "Who? -- a Polish girl with three daughters who he took away from her husband?”  You know what happened? Of course, he carried on like he always did, and she killed him.  And in the courts of Greece, it is like in Paris, you could get a reprieve for a crime of passion.”

[11]  "I met her after the war in London. She married some film producer or somebody from the BBC, and she still played pretty good."

[12]  TBS

[13] "That is why he became a homosexual -- because she didn't let any girl near him. How he fell in love with Ruth Schneider, and he broke that, it was unbelievable. And Ruth was the daughter of the general director of Schneider. [the huge electrical conglomerate]   She didn't know A from Adam. We all knew about Claudio and Raphael Silva, whom he brought from Chile.  And Ruth didn't know."

[14] “[But] the Eastern Jews were a very poor element for theater.   The percent of intelligentsia of Eastern Jews was very small. . . . Some of them went to the Gewandhaus dress rehearsals.” 

[15] See (accessed 12-14-14):  “(1886 – 1954), German conductor and composer,.considered to be one of the greatest symphonic and operatic conductors of the 20th century. Furtwängler was principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic between 1922 and 1945, and from 1952 until 1954. He was also principal conductor of the Gewandhaus Orchestra (1922–26) , and was a guest conductor of other major orchestras including the Vienna Philharmonic.” 

[16] “Who was actually a conductor of the Berlin Opera.”   


Authors’ note:  Furtwängler left Leipzig abruptly in late spring 1926.  Bruno Walter served at the Gewandhaus first as intermittent then essentially full-time guest conductor (conducting 10 symphonic concerts in the 1928-29 season), and thereafter as gewandhauskappelmeister until he left Germany in 1933.  See, e.g., Erik Ryding & Rebecca Peshevsky, Bruno Walter:  A World Elsewhere (Yale, New Haven, 2008), pp. 200-210 ff., (accessed 4-29-16).


[17] Authors’ note: Memorial de la deportation des juifs de France (Beate et Serge Klarsfeld, Paris 1978; database on Yad Vashem site) says that Jacob (“Kuba”) Szulzinger was born 30/12/1910.  However, the IGI Individual Record for Jakub Schulsinger, submitted after 1991 by a member of the LDS Church, says he was born in 1900, Leipzig, Sachsen, consistent with Halina’s statement.

[18] The IGI Record for Halina Shulsinger (from Poland) incorrectly says they were married around 1921.