ne of the finest violinists of the century Szymon Goldberg, passed away before dawn on 19th July 1993 in Toyama, Japan.
oldberg was born in 1909, into a Polish family with Jewish ancestry. He was born in the quiet town of Włocławek in the Kingdom of Poland, about 100km from Warsaw along the river Wisła. The surviving pictures of Goldberg's family show the figure of young Szymon Goldberg, the youngest of five brothers in a family of deep affection, shining with intelligence and beauty. His eyes, marking his strong character, already seem to see through truth, yet still maintain a childlike innocence. While Europe slowly approached the outbreak of the catastrophic First World War, these simple years as a young boy at home with his family may have been his happiest.
Goldberg's musical talent was discovered by Wanda Landowska, one of the most important Polish harpsichordists. Following her advice, at the age of eight, it was decided that Goldberg was to move to Berlin alone to pursue his talent and study under Carl Flesch, one of the most respected violin pedagogues of the time. This was in 1917, shortly before the defeat of Germany in World War I. A young Goldberg left his loving family, not knowing what would become of them. Inevitably, fate prevented him from returning to his parents and his four brothers.
spent time with Szymon Goldberg only in the last 6 years of his life. He hardly spoke of the past, but said there was always trouble awaiting wherever he went. His life was filled with bad timing and placing, with the insurmountable difficulty of the backdrop of two World Wars. His life as a person, as a family, and as a Polish Jew, was a constant struggle, which he didn't need to be reminded of, so I understood and never pressed him.
fter he passed away, I travelled repeatedly to follow in his footsteps to places he was based after the War: New York, Amsterdam, London. To search for the passion he felt in his youth and his deeply buried past, I travelled to Poland, witnessing the devastation brought by the Stalin-Hitler alliance; and to Berlin, then the world's largest construction site in preparation to become the capital of Germany. Last year I visited Goldberg's only surviving family member, his sister-in-law, who survived through the Holocaust and now lives in Israel.
Szymon Goldberg's life itself captures the European history of the 21st century. Through a life as such as his, one becomes aware of the weight of time.