Henry Meyer

Biography by

The life of this brilliant German violinist is more of a triumphant struggle against oppression than a series of career highs and lows, although in terms of lows, his story would rival anyone's. Both…
Read Full Biography

Artist Biography by

The life of this brilliant German violinist is more of a triumphant struggle against oppression than a series of career highs and lows, although in terms of lows, his story would rival anyone's. Both he and his brother were talented boys: his brother played the piano; Henry played violin in the Dresden Philharmonic when he was eight. His interest in music as a youth wound up running contrary to the Nazis' view of what constituted a good citizen, an opinion that was backed up by actual state suppression of music lessons in the 1930s. Meyer belonged to the Jewish Kulturbund Orchestra in Berlin until that too was dismantled by the authorities. Soon after, Meyer's family was arrested and split apart. He was held in a succession of concentration camps including Sachenhausen, Birkenau, Buchenwald, Auschwitz, and Ohrdruf. He escaped from Ohrdruf just before the Allied liberation in 1945. At this point he was able to resume a normal life and began violin lessons in Paris with the Romanian composer and violinist George Enescu.

Meyer immigrated to the United States in 1948 after receiving a Juilliard scholarship. He became known as an expert chamber music player and was one of the founding members of the LaSalle String Quartet. The accomplishments of this group were many, including prolific recordings. Winning the Grand Prix du Disque and two Grammy nominations along the way, this group adopted the attitude that no project was too ambitious. Results of this philosophy include the masterful box set of the complete chamber music of Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern issued on Deutsche Grammophon. The discography of this group literally includes everything from Beethoven to Cage.

In addition to his performing activities, Meyer became a master teacher, presenting classes throughout the world. He is professor of violin at the College-Conservatory of Music, Cincinnati, for many years having the same home base as his fellow chamber music player, violinist Walter Levin.