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Letters from Carl Flesch to Jean Laurent

Jean Laurent was not only Carl Flesch’s pupil; there was a very close bond of friendship between them. Some excerpts from the letters which Carl Flesch wrote to Jean Laurent during the War are included here. Initially Flesch wrote from Holland (The Hague) and at finally from Switzerland (Lucerne), where he took refuge from April 1943 on. The letters were censored in occupied Belgium. In the hope that they would be conveyed faster, Flesch sometimes wrote in German.

Click on the pictures for an enlarged view.


Carl Flesch, England 1938

Carl Flesch, England 1938

The Hague, 19.11.40

Dear friends,

... I am expecting a detailed letter from Jean about the competition and his own impressions of his playing. What has happened to Queen Elizabeth’s musical foundation? So, in the hope of seeing you again soon and with sincere greetings from one house to the other.

Yours Flesch

The Hague, 31.1.41

My dear Jean,

I waited until today to reply to your letter dated December 20th in the hope of being able to give you some definitive news regarding my business in America.

Everything you have told me in your letter about the competition and your future projects, has fascinated me enormously. What delighted me most is that according to what you tell me, once set in motion the wagon has continued to roll along the track by itself or, to put it more simply, that your artistic development has continued automatically, which I never had any doubt that it would ...

With sincere greetings to you both

Yours, Flesch

The Hague, 23.12.41

Dear Jean,

At long last I have received a sign of life from you and I must tell you right away that I was very pleased to hear that you have apparently become part of the "art scene" with such ease.

You write that you play a lot on the radio. Although one is permitted to hear Belgian Radio here, it is nevertheless difficult to do so in practice, since no programmes are published.

If you could let me know in time when and you will be playing again and on which wavelength it is to be broadcast, I would love to take the opportunity to hear you again and get a personal impression of your development. However, in my experience letters from Brussels to Holland take about three weeks. There is a possibility though that correspondence would be quicker if the letters were written in German …

Yours Flesch

The Hague, 25.1.42

Dear Jean,

At last on Friday I heard you on the radio and am rushing to tell you about it. Well, first of all I must tell you that my general impression was very favourable. The sound, recital and intonation were all excellent.

I congratulate you on your pianist [Eugène Traey]. He is first class, both as a pianist and as a musician. The violin sounded wonderful (was it your Gagliano?) The broadcast was perfect.

Now, after all these complements, which are indeed well-deserved, now I want to play the “carping critic” just a little. Show a little more expansiveness please! There is no harm in kicking over the traces once in while. Think of all the liberties Ysaye takes …

Yours Flesch

Testimony from Carl Flesch 10.3.1940

I hereby certify that Mr. Jean Laurent has worked with me for part of the year since about 1937. As well as being an excellent violinist, Mr Laurent also has a special talent for teaching. He always showed great interest in this and also took one of my teaching courses in England. I believe that in the future he will make a very valuable contribution to the Belgian Violin School.

Carl Flesch


To my dear student and friend Jean Laurent in rememberance of Carl Flesch, London, 1. 4. 1939

To my dear student and friend Jean Laurent in rememberance of Carl Flesch, London, 1. 4. 1939


Postcard dated 23.2.1942

Postcard dated 23.2.1942

Postcard dated 23.2.1942


Testimony from Carl Flesch 10.3.1940

Testimony from Carl Flesch 10.3.1940

The duo: Eugène Traey (piano) and Jean Laurent, violin, 1941

The duo: Eugène Traey (piano) and Jean Laurent, violin, 1941

Lucerne, Hotel Wilden Mann, 8.2.44

My dear Jean,

Looking at the date of your last letter again (September 5th) I have a slightly bad conscious at having made you wait so long before replying to your affectionate and interesting letter ...

Lucerne is a charming town, if a little provincial, at least in winter, since during the summer there is a most intensive musical life here. I have really had sensational success as a soloist. We have had good news from our son and our daughter is also near us with her family!

What more could one ask for in a time when the great majority is burdened with all kind of misery? And you can be sure that what we wish for most is to see mankind moving down a path where people can enjoy life and the most important necessities it entails.

Let’s hope that it will not be too long before our hopes are fulfilled. We were really happy to learn from your letter that your career is going well and I am eager to gain a personal impression of your artistic development. Are you pleased about your new position as professor? ...

Yours, with devotion
Carl Flesch


Letter from the conductor Franz André, 1942

Saturday evening

My dear Laurent,

I feel it is my duty to write to you again and tell you what a good impression you made on me in Poème by Chausson and in the Bach this afternoon.

I can assure you, dear friend, that I believe that you have all it takes to have a really great career. But throw modesty to the wind; quite simply be vain; this is the best advice I can give you …

Franz André

Letter from Georges Heynberg, November 24, 1950

Letter from Georges Heynberg, November 24, 1950

Letter from Georges Heynberg, violin-maker.
For a concert at La Haye Jean Laurent played a modern violin made by Georges Heynberg

Liège, dated November 24, 1950

Dear Mr. Laurent,

I have received your friendly letter informing me of your decision to acquire my violin as a newly adopted child.

From the bottom of my heart I thank you for the immense pleasure and great encouragement you have given me.

Indeed, I must tell you what satisfaction I experience seeing that my work is appreciated by an artist of great talent who has dared to defy a very wide-spread myth regarding ancient and modern instruments.

I was very amused at your announcement that your audience at La Haye needed a seat to "recover" from their astonishment! All the better! ...

With kind regards, yours
G. Heynberg

Karl Richter to Jean Laurent after a recital of Bach Sonatas with Hellmut Hideghéti on 6.2.1963

Karl Richter to Jean Laurent after a recital of Bach Sonatas with Hellmut Hideghéti on February 6, 1963

Letter from the composer Raymond Chevreuille

Woluwé St. Pierre, 15.12.1955


I listened with great pleasure to the very good interpretation of my sonata which you and E. Traey gave this Thursday in Hilversum. I would like to express my compliments to both of you as well as my sincere thanks for this excellent rendition …


Letter from the composer Henk Badings, May 21, 1958

After the première of his violin concerto on 16.5.1958
on Belgian radio:

...What a splendid performance Jean gave of my 3rd concerto! I was thrilled by it and this increases when I listen over and again to the recording I made of it ...


Letter from Karl Richter, February 10, 1963

Munich, 10.2.1963

Dear friend,

Thank you very much for sending me the ticket.

I have never heard the A major sonata played with such brilliance and so cantabile in the slow movements as it was in this performance.

Many, many thanks for this wonderful experience.

With warm wishes as always,
Karl Richter

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