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Ivry Gitlis - A Lifetime Violinist

Agnes Laurens is a writer, wife, and mother of three daughters.

Violinist Ivry Gitlis died on the 24th of December 2020. Gitlis belonged to the previous generation of violinists. He died at the age of 98. He was one of the greatest violinists of his generation. Besides being a violinist, he was a respected teacher as well. It is a big loss in the classical music world.

Early years and private life

Gitlis was born in Haifa, Palestine Mandate, now Israel, to Jewish parents, on 25 August 1922. One year after his parents moved from Kamianets-Podilskyi, Ukraine, to Haifa.

He has been married to Sabine Glaser, a German actress. Together they had three children. From another relationship, he had one child.

Music career

Ivry Gitlis started to play the violin at the age of five and his teacher was Mme Velikovsky. At the age of ten, he gave his first concert. From then on, he studied personally with Mira Ben-Ami (she was a pupil of Joseph Szigeti). When Ivry Gitlis arrived in Paris in 1933, he started to study with the French pedagogue Marcel Chailley. At the age of 11, he studied at the Conservatoire de Paris with Jules Boucheris. Here he graduated in 1935. Between 1935 and 1940 he was a student of Carl Flesch, George Enescu, and Jacques Thibaud.

Acting career

I love it when musicians are not only doing one profession but also do activities in other professional fields. Ivry Gitlis was not only a violinist.

He also was an actor. Movies he has played in:

Trailer Sansa from 2003

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Violins Gitlis played on

Most violinists want to play on a Stradivarius. One of the worlds best luthiers (violin makers).

Ivry Gitlis played on beautiful violins during his career:

  • The 1699 Giovanni Battista Rogeri violin, which he sold to famous violin author Sidney Bowden
  • The 1737 "Chant du Cygne" Antonio Stradivari
  • The 1740 "Ysaÿe" Guarneri del Gesù
  • The 1713 "Sancy" Antonio Stradivari (owned)
  • The 1944 Émile Marcel Français

The year stands for the year when that violin has been built.

His life motto

'To be alive, to be aware, to hear, to know, to feel, to see, to love - and to be loved a little bit sometimes'

— Ivry Gitlis

Quotes from Ivry Gitlis

"... don't be so polite with the music, it's like being in love!"

— Ivry Gitlis - during a masterclass - 31 October 2011

"... rubato is the art of playing in tempo..."

— Ivry Gitlis

Notable facts



Moved to London to work in a war factory for two years


assigned to the artists branch of the British Army

Around 1945

debut with the London Philharmonic Orchestra


met violinist Jascha Heifetz


first Israeli violinist to play in the Soviet Union


took part in The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus film project


founder Festival de Vence


designated UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador


commentator on the DVD The Art of Violin


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Agnes Laurens

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