My great uncle, Rudolph Fuchs, was a virtuoso violinist. He tragically died in a plane accident at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933 at the young age of 25. I was never fortunate enough to know him, and being a musician, I had a great curiosity about how he became interested in the violin, where he performed, and whom he performed with.
My father frequently talked about listening to Rudy while he practiced, and my grandfather would introduce me to some of Rudy’s fellow string players who were part of his quartet. As I became more proficient in piano, voice, and cello, I continued to have even a greater interest in Rudy and his life. Over the years, I collected several of Rudy’s belongings; a pen, photos, letters when he was corresponding with my grandfather during the time he was a concert master on WMNR in L.A., and a stack of Rudy’s sheet music given to me by a distant relative.
About 5 years ago, coinciding with my life as a chamber music composer, in which I wrote several violin pieces in the style of Rudy’s favorite ones, I decided to do extensive research on my own about Rudy. Although I uncovered a trove of information, there were still many unanswered questions. Was the violin with him on the plane or did his family acquire it after the crash? Did he ever record his playing or were there recordings from his various performances? What violin or violins did he own?
About 1 1/2 years ago, I received an e-mail from a young woman who played in a youth orchestra. She mentioned that she had recently purchased a small viola, and upon reading some blogs about my great uncle, decided to contact me. Her e-mail photos revealed a chin rest with the name Rudolph Fuchs etched on it and the date 1920.There was still an original receipt in the case, the viola being purchased then by Charles Fuchs, Rudy’s older brother, for $45 from a store in New York.
This was surely Rudy’s first instrument. I figured out that he must have been 12 years old when he acquired the viola, and then chose to play the violin after that. I presently own Rudy’s viola and have begun to take lessons. Most of the unanswered questions that I sought have been answered by Charles’ son. The only missing piece is a recording of Rudy playing his violin, and that will most likely remain so. I will treasure this viola which found its way to me after almost 100 years, and which will bring me a little closer to Rudy and his love of music.