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Louis Kaufman; Violinist Heard in 400 Films

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Louis Kaufman, internationally lauded violinist who made about 125 classical recordings over half a century and was heard on the soundtracks of 400 films, including “Gone With the Wind,” has died. He was 88.

Kaufman died Wednesday at his Los Angeles home of congestive heart failure.

From the 1920s to the 1970s, Kaufman recorded for 30 labels, earning such recognition as the French Grand Prix du Disque in 1950 for the first recording of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons,” which was little-known at the time.

Kaufman was also known for his concerts and for championing new music, including works by Aaron Copland, William Grant Still and Robert Russell Bennett.

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“He is an artist of exceptional good taste who carefully refrains from any playing which smacks of showing off,” a Times reviewer wrote of Kaufman in 1947. “And he has an ear for new compositions, which makes his concerts an evening of eager exploration among new works. . . .

“His technique, which is virtual perfection, scintillates but never blinds,” the reviewer wrote. “Always one feels that he plays with his head without ever neglecting to speak from the heart. The result is an equation which is musically perfect.”

Kaufman was born in Portland, Ore., and studied with Franz Kneisel at New York’s Institute of Musical Art. He graduated with highest honors, winning the Loeb Prize in 1927. A year later he made his U.S. debut at Town Hall in New York.

With his wife, pianist Annette Leibold, he moved in 1933 to Los Angeles, where the couple broadcast recitals over radio station KFI. Ernst Lubitsch heard them and hired Kaufman to perform the violin solos in the 1934 film “The Merry Widow.”

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Although Kaufman later joked to The Times that his edited contribution was so small he felt like “the little man who wasn’t there,” he went on to play and serve as concertmaster for hundreds of soundtrack orchestras. He provided the sound of Pinnochio sliding down the fiddle strings in the Disney animated feature and was the concertmaster for the soundtrack orchestras in “Gone With the Wind,” “Wuthering Heights,” “Cleopatra” and “Magnificent Obsession.”

The Kaufmans frequently performed concert tours, and when they were labeled one of “the happiest married couples in Hollywood” in 1945, they attributed their bliss partially to their busy dual career. Mrs. Kaufman is her husband’s only survivor.


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