Clara Rockmore studied violin in Leningrad with Leopold Auer, and both emigrated in the mid 20s to the USA.
Her violin career was stopped due to muscular problems, but due to the fact that she knew Leon Theremin, who had recently developed his Theremin, she soon became a virtuoso on this new electronic instrument, performing with the premier orchestras of the USA and enjoying many commissions and a close collaboration with Leopold Stokowski.
Born Clara Reisenberg, Rockmore was a child prodigy on the violin and entered the Imperial conservatory of Saint Petersburg at the age of five. She studied violin under the virtuoso Leopold Auer, and remains to this day the youngest student ever to be admitted to the institution. Unfortunately, bone problems due to childhood malnutrition forced her to abandon violin performance past her teen years. That however led her to discover the newborn electronic instrument and arguably become the greatest ever virtuosa of the theremin.
Rockmore had several gifts that enabled her to play the theremin so well. Her classical training gave her an advantage over the many theremin performers who lacked this background, including the instrument's inventor. She possessed absolute pitch from birth, helpful in playing an instrument that generates tones of any pitch throughout its entire range, including those that lie between the conventional notes. She had extremely precise, rapid control of her movements, important in playing an instrument that depends on the performer's motion and proximity rather than touch. She also had the advantage of working directly with Léon Theremin from the early days of the instrument's commercial development in the United States.
Rockmore, as the mature musician she was, saw the limitations of the original instrument and helped to develop the instrument to fulfill her needs, making several suggestions to improve the theremin as a performing instrument. Such suggestions, like a faster volume antenna, wider musical range, and control over the instrument's tone colour were i ncorporated by the inventor in later versions. She had a special theremin tailored by Léon Theremin himself to meet her unique requirements.
She developed a whole technique for playing the instrument, including a fingering system, which allowed her to accurately perform fast passages and large note leaps without the much known glissando on theremin.
Rockmore was without peer as a performer in the early decades of the instrument's use. While many listeners have heard the theremin played poorly or used mostly as a spooky special-effects device, Rockmore used it to perform classical works. Under her control, the theremin sounded like a blend of the cello, violin and human voice.
Theremin World - Clara Rockmore: clara-rockmore
The Art of the Theremin: The Art of the Theremin
The Nadia Reisenberg and Clara Rockmore Foundation
The Pastorale from Anis Fuleihan's Concerto for Theremin. (1942) is to be found on Clara Rockmore's Lost Theremin Album. Bridge Records 2006