Altschuler, Modest, 1873-1963

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Modest Altschuler (1873-1963) was a Russian cellist, conductor, and composer. Born near Kiev in what is today Belarus, he began studying cello at the Warsaw Conservatory when he was thirteen years old. He later moved to Moscow to study composition with Anton Arensky, harmony with Sergei Taneyev, and cello with Alfred von Glehn. He also studied conducting at the Moscow Conservatory.

Altschuler immigrated to the United States in 1896, and in 1903 formed the Russian Symphony Orchestra of New York. The group was devoted to providing support and performance opportunities for recent Russian émigrés, and to promoting the music of recent Russian composers. Altschuler conducted its premiere performance at Cooper Union Hall in 1904, after which the ensemble expanded and moved uptown to Carnegie Hall.

Altschuler kept the orchestra active for about nineteen years. Its repertoire was mainly Russian, including Altschuler's friend and Moscow classmate, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov, Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky, Alexander Glazunov, Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov, and Igor Stravinsky, among others. Some performances were United States premieres, and the orchestra introduced to America such figures as the violinist Mischa Elman, pianist Josef Lhévinne, and the composers Sergei Prokofiev (performing his First Piano Concerto), and Aleksandr Scriabin (who appeared as guest conductor).

Altschuler disbanded the organization in 1922 and moved to Los Angeles, where he wrote film scores, privately taught composition and orchestration, and conducted the Glendale Symphony Orchestra and the WPA Federal Symphony No. 1 of Los Angeles. His students included Charles Haubiel and Roy Harris. Altschuler was the great-uncle of the conductor Leonard Slatkin.

Sources: Slatkin, Leonard. Conducting Business: Unveiling the Mystery Behind the Maestro. Milwaukee: Amadeus, 2012.

"Russian Symphony Orchestra of New York: A Chronological Listing." (Accessed March 22, 2013.)

From the guide to the Modest Altschuler scores, 1903]-1945, (The New York Public Library. Music Division.)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Cadman, Charles Wakefield, 1881-1946. Hollywood suite / by Charles Wakefield Cadman ; orch[estrated] by M. Altschuler. Free Library of Philadelphia, Parkway Central Library
creatorOf Modest Altschuler scores, 1903]-1945 The New York Public Library. Music Division.
referencedIn The Love Family Papers, 1850-1960 (inclusive) Irving S. Gilmore Music Library, Yale University
creatorOf Sapelnikov, Vassily, 1867-1941. Polka caprice / Wassily Sapelnikov ; arr. by Modest Altschuler. Free Library of Philadelphia, Parkway Central Library
referencedIn Nicolas Slonimsky Collection, 1873-1997, (bulk 1920-1990) Music Division Library of Congress
referencedIn Serge Koussevitzky Archive, 1920-1976, (bulk 1924-1951) Music Division Library of Congress
creatorOf Tchaikovsky, Peter Ilich, 1840-1893. Danses des cygnes : for violin solo & piano / Tshaikowsky ; [Modest] Altschuler. University of Rochester, Eastman School of Music, Sibley Music Library
creatorOf Arensky, Anton Stepanovich, 1861-1906. Suite, 2 pianos, no. 1, op. 15, F major / Anton Arensky ; transcribed for orchestra by Modest Altschuler. Free Library of Philadelphia, Parkway Central Library
referencedIn Love family. The Love family papers, 1850-1960 (inclusive). Yale University, Music Library
creatorOf Rimsky-Korsakov, Nikolay, 1844-1908. Indian song / Rimsky-Korsakov ; arr. by M.A. [i.e. Modest Altschuler]. Free Library of Philadelphia, Parkway Central Library
creatorOf Swan, Alfred J. (Alfred Julius), 1890-1970. Papers of Alfred J. Swan, 1909-1970. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Juilliard School collection of autograph letters and other documents, 1793-1985. The Juilliard School, Lila Acheson Wallace Library
creatorOf Scriabin, Aleksandr Nikolayevich, 1872-1915. Nuances / A. Scriabin ; arr. by M. Altschuler. Free Library of Philadelphia, Parkway Central Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Place Name Admin Code Country


Birth 1873-02-15

Death 1963-09-12




Ark ID: w6s75f7s

SNAC ID: 50476342