Louis Kaufman (May 10, 1905 – February 9, 1994) was an American violinist and possibly the most recorded musical artist of the 20th century. He played on the soundtrack of as many as 500 movies and made over 100 musical recordings. He is also credited with reviving the music of Antonio Vivaldi with his recording of The Four Seasons in 1947, which won the Grand Prix du Disque in 1950, was elected to the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2002, and in 2003 was selected for the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry.
Kaufman was born in Portland, Oregon. His parents were Rumanian Jews, from a remarkable beneficent culture. With the recommendation of Maud Powell and Efrem Zimbalist, he started at the age of 13 to study with Franz Kneisel in New York City at the Institute of Musical Art, now Juilliard. He played the viola with the Musical Art Quartet from 1926 to 1933. His solo recital debut at New York's Town Hall in 1928 was under the auspices of the Naumburg Award.
Subsequently, he performed chamber music with Pablo Casals, Mischa Elman, Jascha Heifetz, Fritz Kreisler, Gregor Piatigorsky, and Efrem Zimbalist.
He was an accomplished violinist, playing 15-minute radio recitals when he was asked to play the soundtrack for Ernst Lubitsch's movie The Merry Widow; this performance opened up a long career in performing soundtracks for Hollywood films, including such classics as Casablanca, Gone with the Wind, The Diary of Anne Frank, Wuthering Heights, The Grapes of Wrath, and Spartacus. It is variously estimated that he made 400 solo performances for movies and acted as the concertmaster for several hundred.
He also premiered a number of pieces by notable 20th-century composers, including works by Aaron Copland, Darius Milhaud, and Bohuslav Martinů, and made the premiere recording of Samuel Barber's violin concerto.
He and his wife, the pianist Annette Kaufman (née Leibole) often performed together. In September 2003, she published his memoir A Fiddler's Tale - How Hollywood and Vivaldi Discovered Me with the University of Wisconsin Press (ISBN 0-299-18380-7), with Louis Kaufman as principal author and Annette Kaufman as co-author. Annette Kaufman died, aged 101, in 2016 in Los Angeles, California.
The couple donated a large collection of personal papers to the Library of Congress in 2000, which included papers from such notables as Leonard Bernstein, Jascha Heifetz, and others. They also donated a large art collection to the National Gallery of Art and Syracuse University.
Kaufman died, aged 88, in Los Angeles, California.
IVES Symphony No. 2
ROBERT RUSSELL BENNETT Violin Concerto
HERRMANN Welles Raises Kane
Recorded in 1956 and 1949
Total duration: 76:44
Louis Kaufman, violin
London Symphony Orchestra
Columbia Broadcasting Symphony Orchestra
conducted by Bernard Herrmann
CHAUSSON Concerto for Violin, Piano & String Quartet
Recorded in 1950
Louis Kaufman, violin
Artur Balsam, piano
The Pascal Quartet