The son of a famous and respected musician, violist Paul Doktor made an important career without the sensation of a virtuoso repertory (although his technique was certainly of the first order). With discerning and dedicated musicianship, Doktor earned his own strong measure of respect from peers and audiences alike. In addition to a distinguished performing career, the violist was a thoughtful and probing instructor, serving with several of America's most prestigious institutions. Doktor's father was Karl Doktor, violist and founder of the celebrated Busch Quartet. Initially, the elder Doktor chose to expose his son to the violin; at age five, Paul began taking lessons on that instrument from his father and soon thereafter was invited to participate in chamber music performances held at the Doktor home. Following this period of study, Doktor entered the Vienna Academy of Music, in just two years completing a regimen that usually takes a full five years. After graduating from the academy, the young man became a member of the violin section of the Adolf Busch Chamber Orchestra, an ensemble with which he toured in Europe. The switch to viola came by happenstance. For a Zurich concert, Doktor was asked to substitute for his father in the Busch Quartet. He fit so well into the ensemble that he was called upon to join the group for a performance of the Mendelssohn quintet in London, once again as a violist. Winning the 1942 International Music Competition in Geneva -- as a violist -- was the final element in his decision to concentrate on the instrument. Incidentally, it was the first time a grand prize had been awarded to a violist in the Geneva competition. Thereafter, Doktor reserved his playing of the violin for private pleasure. After leaving Vienna in 1938, the year of the Anschluss, Doktor performed with the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra from 1939 until 1947. After that engagement, the violist traveled to the United States and took up residency in 1947 (becoming an American citizen in 1952). His American debut took place in March 1948 at a Library of Congress recital in Washington, D.C. The reviews were highly complimentary, praising his mastery of the instrument and his patrician musicianship. Shortly thereafter, composer Quincy Porter chose Doktor to perform the May 16, 1948, premiere of his Concerto for viola and orchestra at the American Music Festival at Columbia University in New York. Aside from touring, Doktor was occupied with teaching chamber music and viola at the University of Michigan School of Music. He remained there for nearly three years before leaving in 1951 to devote himself more freely to performing. His tours now extended to Europe, where he performed during the summer and fall months in major cities and at several important festivals, including Salzburg. A Paris critic compared Doktor's beautiful sound and gift for molding phrases to Fritz Kreisler at his zenith. Taking up residence in New York, Doktor was engaged by the Mannes School of Music in 1953. Since then, he has served faculties at the Philadelphia Academy (beginning in 1970) and the Juilliard School of Music from 1971. Aside from solo recital work and appearances with major orchestras, Doktor performed with three smaller groups, two of his own creation. The Paul Doktor String Trio and the Rococo Ensemble both gained positive notices and Doktor's work with the New York String Sextet further enhanced his reputation as a musician's musician.
Share this page