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Carl F. Flesch (1910 - 2008)

Carl F Flesch, son of the famous violinist, was born June 23rd 1910 in Austria and died in London February 11th 2008. He grew up in Germany. Unable to complete his law studies due to the advent of Hitler, he emigrated in 1933 and, after a short stay in Holland, settled in London. His newly chosen profession was insurance. He formed his own broking company and became "for his sins" as he says, an underwriting member of Lloyd's.

He co-edited, together with the well-known musicologist Hans Keller, his father's Memoirs, which became, when published posthumously in English and German, a valuable addition to the history of violin playing between 1890 and 1940. He also arranged for the publication of new editions of several of his father's other works.

He was instrumental in helping to establish, in 1946, the International Carl Flesch Violin Competition in London which ran for 49 years and grew into one of the most prestigious events of its kind in the world. Plans are afoot to revive it, especially as Great Britain is, surprisingly, one of the few Western countries without an international event in this class. He also advised on the Carl Flesch Akademie at Baden-Baden, an annual course for string players which attracts a large number of participants from all over the world.

In retirement he became London Correspondent of the German Insurance Magazine "Versicherungswirtschaft" contributing a regular column about the London Insurance Market. In addition he has written several books.

His first one, published by Toccata Press, London, is entitled "And do you also play the violin?" (which was usually the first question he was asked by strangers as a child). In this book he describes his personal memories of a host of famous musicians. In particular he gives intimate character sketches of his father - a useful complement to the latter's above-mentioned autobiography -, of the famous pianist Artur Schnabel with whom Carl Flesch collaborated for many years, and also of Alma Moodie, the foremost women violinist of the 1920s and 30s who, due to the fact that she left no recordings, has largely been forgotten (unforgivably, she is even no longer mentioned in "Groves"). He has a great deal to say about the pitfalls of being the son of a famous father; child prodigies (not forgetting their parents); Green Room behaviour; the "show must go on!" syndrome and very much else.

The book - also published in German under the title "... und spielst Du auch Geige?" (Schott Söhne) - was widely acclaimed:


"I am not exaggerating when I say that this book is unlike any other ever written... (After quoting a passage): Few novelists ... could have put it so neatly. Anyone interested in music and human beings (not necessarily in that order) will be fascinated by this extraordinary, delightful book."

Spectator, London

"Unique perspective...analytical ability."

Classical music, London

"A Goldmine of information."

Mensa Newsletter, Writers SIG, London

"Provocative ant thoughtful. A book worth reading."

Musicology, Australia

"A wealth of authentic new material."

Neue Bibliotheksbücher, Switzerland


Tribüne, Germany

"Illuminating from new angles..."

Motiv, Germany

"Amusingly spiced with own personal experiences."

Bild der Frau, Germany

"Never without a knowing cuckel..."

Classical music, London

"Very readable, hard to put down and good to dip into (I had a hard job to wrest it from members of my family whilst trying to review it!). In Sir Yehudi Menuhin's foreword he says that (it) will be 'of interest not only to violinists, musicologists and contemporary historians, but also to what is known as the general public.' Having read it I am certain he is absolutely correct."

ISM Journal, London

"....Compelling reading....The section dealing with Willem Mengelberg being particularly illuminating...Fascinating insight...behind the facade of such legendary figures as Kreisler, Ysaye, Elman and Hubermann. Anecdotes are liberally added."

Strad, London

"A most interesting book written from an unusual angle....I recommend it."

ESTA News and Views, London

"'The Show Must Go On' syndrome is one of a dazzling stream of backstage events..."

Ham and High, London

"...Where else can you read Schnabel's jokes?"

IAML (UK) Newsletter

"....A veritable treasure trove....Casals, Kreisler, Schnabel, Furtwaengler, all pass through these pages, in some instances with letters filled with passion, acrimony, humour or grief.... The book is lavishly illustrated with photographs and facsimiles and abounds with stories and anecdotes."

American String Teachers Association Magazine, USA

"Fascinating reading....I highly recommend this book...."

Strings (USA)

"Brilliant, stimulating......this informative fascinating book...individual, unorthodex and unbiased...A fresh and unprejudiced look at old-established viewpoints sometimes leads to conclusions as surpring as they are sound..."

Neue Zeitschrift fuer Musik, Germany

"Originality, humour and delicious anecdotes...A particularly well-written book."

Entre'Acte, Holland

"The word made Flesch."

Jerusalem Post

His second book (Management Books 2000 Ltd.), "Inside Insurance" - published in German under the title "Makler werden ist nicht schwer" deals with his experiences in, and thoughts about, his profession. Though written before the insurance industry had begun to adopt the internet, it contains much that is of great interest to his co-professionals and, in fact, anybody interested in insurance. Lloyd's of London paid him the compliment of asking for permission to reprint a chapter on their website.
A few extracts from reviews:

"In Carl Flesch we have an author whose international background gives him a uniquely objective perspective…Never stuffy or dull, (the book) is full of insight…(and) often exudes a delightfully self-deprecating wit… Whether you are a fully-fledged insurance professional, a student, a tutor or a party interested in insurance for whatever reason, I commend this book to you."

From the foreword by Tony Cassidy, Lloyd's, London

"There are very few good insurance books...This is one of them, written by someone who has been involved with the industry over many years... I was particularly struck by Mr. Flesch's 'ten commandments' in a section on the preparation of reports..."

Brokers' Monthly

"...a remarkable book....a stimulating treasure house for the professional... (but) anyone with a positive attitude towards insurance will derive a great deal of pleasure from it."


His third book, entitled "Where do you come from?" (Pen Press Publishers, London) — meanwhile also published in German under the title "Woher kommen Sie?" — deals with the question of Jewish Hitler refugees in Great Britain.

Between academic studies and autobiographical memoirs there exists a well-known gap in the literature about refugees from Nazi oppression. This book tries to fill it.
Both serious and humorous, it explores the problem of refugees' relationship with Germany after the War and their efforts to be accepted by the host country, as well as language difficulties and their often hilarious consequences.
For older Hitler refugees, it may stir a frisson of nostalgic recognition; afford their children an increased insight into what made their parents tick; and offer the general reader food for thought when comparing the situation of 1930s refugees with that of the present wave of immigrants.
Its fresh, light-hearted style, even when dealing with weightier questions and expressing frank criticism, ensures it is a fun yet thought-provoking read.

It was recently published and an up-date will follow shortly. A few reviews have already appeared:


"Enjoyable, thought provoking ... The combination of personal experiences and more distant objective reflexions gives it its special flavour... Fills the gap between individual memoirs and academic studies... It contains a wealth of material, often conveyed with an attractively dry humour ... Many readers will enjoy this book, often with a wry smile of recognition as they find their own experiences mirrored in it...a good read!"

AJR Journal

"The author's recall is sharp.... his observations on charity committees are illuminating, I; in particuiar those about helping the "undeserving poor"

Jewish Chronicle

"An extraordinary capacity to see things from a different perspective... often hilarious..."

Edinburgh Star

"Flesch is particularly interesting when he compares the anti-Semitism he knew in Germany...before the Nazis... and the soft-centered prejudice he encountered in 1930 Britain....Much gentle wisdom...and a considerable amount of wit....As far as I am aware there hasn't been a book before now charting these particular waters, and this one does it well."

Newsletter of the International Forum for Suppressed Music

"A delightful new book"

Norman Lebrecht, Jewish Chronicle

"...His reminiscences are as much about British social history as the experiences of immigrants... Sharp recall not only of incidents, but of emotions and attitudes, too... ...His observations on charity committees are illuminating, particularly his arguments about helping the 'undeserving poor' and the refusal of charities to die when their work is done..."

Jewish Chronicle

"...written in a fresh and lighthearted way...always both fun and thought provoking....most enjoyable to read"

Mensa SIG Newsletter

"Chatty, refreshing and humorous."

Badener Tageblatt, Germany

"Impressive...seasoned with Flesch's characteristic wit and humour... a pleasure to read."

ASV Mittteilungen, Germany

In his fourth book, entitled "Who's Not Who And Other Matters" (Pegasus Elliot MacKenzie Ltd Publishers, Cambridge) — published in March 2006 — Flesch sets out to show that you don't have to be famous to be interesting.

This book might, with some justification, just as well be called "How To Give A Successful Dinner Party". Discussion of its many topics - class, monarchy, adultery, punishment, psychoanalysis to name but a few - if cunningly introduced into the conversation by the host, could not fail to keep guests occupied for hours.
Why then "Who's Not Who"? The author sets out to show that you don't have to be "famous" to be interesting. In this he succeeds. The book is semi-autobiographical and describes many intriguing people he has met during his long life.
There is a host of original, sometimes highly controversial, ideas in this book. Wide-ranging, often hilarious and written in a fresh, engaging style without a trace of jargon, it cannot fail to amuse and stimulate the reader even if he does not agree with the opinions expressed.

Book Data:


  • "And do you also play the violin?"
    with a Foreword by Sir Yehudi Menuhin
    Toccata Press, London, 1990
    ISBN 0-907689-36-1
    ISBN 0-907689-37-X

    Published in German under the title:
    "... und spielst Du auch Geige?"
    B. Schott's Söhne, 1990
    ISBN 3-254-00158-3

  • "Inside insurance"
    Managemment Books 2000 Ltd., London, 1998
    ISBN 1-85252-254-2

    Published in German under the title:
    "Makler werden ist nicht schwer"
    Verlag Versicherungswirtschaft e.V., Karlsruhe, 1996.
    ISBN ISBN 3-88487-541-8

  • "Where do you come from?"
    Pen Press Publishers Ltd, London, 2001
    ISBN 1 900796 79 1

    Published in German under the title:
    "Woher kommen Sie?"
    Reinhold Krämer Verlag
    (belongs to the series of books: "Beiträge zur Europäischen und Deutschen Geschichte".

  • "Who's Not Who And Other Matters"
    Pegasus Elliot MacKenzie Ltd Publishers, Cambridge, 2006
    ISBN 1 843862 44 1



Contact: Carl F Flesch
eMail: Carl @ Flesch.fsnet.co.uk
Layout: José Sánchez-Penzo
Schumannstr. 15
D-40882 Ratingen
eMail: jsanchez @ jose-sanchez-penzo.net

[ Carl Flesch ]