Ossip Gabrilowitsch was born in Russia, one of three sons of a Jewish lawyer. When the family moved into Germany the spelling of the name was Germanized. It is correctly pronounced in four syllables: Ga-bri-lo'-witsch. (The w is pronounced v)
In 1898, while under the tutelage of the great pianist Leschetikzy in Vienna, Ossip met fellow pupil Clara Clemens. He was 20. She was 24. Although for the next 10 years they were separated by his concert tours and continents between them, they managed to maintain their friendship and finally married in 1909. When they married the bride was 35 and the groom 31. Her sister Jean was maid of honor. Mark Twain wore the scarlet ceremonial gown and hood he had worn when receiving his doctorate from Oxford. In 1910 their only child, Nina Clemens Gabrilowitsch, was born.
1918 saw Ossip become conductor of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, a position he held until his death in 1936. He was responsible for the building of Orchestral Hall. The building was erected in four months and 23 days after Gabrilowitsch threatened to quit unless he and his musicians had a permanent home. His years with the symphony have been described as the "golden years of music in Detroit". He also founded a youth orchestra which later became the National Art Academy.
Ossip and Clara and their young daughter, Nina, had a large home in Detroit with many servants, and a summer home in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. At his invitation, the world's greats of the music scene came to Detroit to give concerts. He had begun the study of music at age five, and thus was a personal friend of Rachmaninoff, Gershwin, Heifetz, Stravinsky, Casals, Rubenstein, and others, many of them refugees fleeing from persecution of Jews in Europe. Clara was alwaysa a gracious hostess to them in their home.
Ossip idolized his famous father-in-law, Mark Twain and they had long been close friends, with animated conversations about anything but music, in which, of course, the famous writer had but little more than an elementary education. Ossip requested to be buried in the family cemetery in Elmira, New York and there is where he was laid to rest.
Etude Magazine. November, 1936
IN MID-SEPTEMBER a great pianist passed away in the city of Detroit—Ossip Gabrilowitsch.
He was born in Russia in 1878 and had been identified with American life since 1900. A pupil of Tolstoff, Liadov, Navrátil, Glazounov and Leschetizky, he won highest honors and recognition in Europe before coming to this country. His marriage to Clara Clemens, daughter of Mark Twain, one of the most distinctive figures in American literature, brought him even closer into the scene of American life and art. His innumerable appearances as a pianist and as a conductor endeared him to millions. The “Gabrilowitsch touch” was an indescribable something that was the envy of pianists. The hands that brought such beautiful tones into being, are now silent, but the memories of his art cannot be stilled. All of the exquisite tone pictures that those fingers recreated from the great galleries of musical art—his superlative Mozart, his beautiful Chopin, his forceful Bach, his romantic Schumann, his splendid Beethoven—all these were rich and noble contributions to music. Fortunately, some of his interpretations are preserved on records and are therefore permanently available. We are permitted to present herewith a photograph of this eminent pianist’s hands, by courtesy of the Rembrandt Studios. Leschetizky considered Gabrilowitsch’s hands ideal, from a pianistic standpoint.
Clara Clemens Weds Ossip Gabrilowitsch 1909
When they married the bride was 35 and the groom 31. Her sister Jean was maid of honor. That's Mark Twain on the left in his scarlet ceremonial gown and hood he had worn when receiving his doctorate from Oxford. In 1910 their only child, Nina Clemens Gabrilowitsch, was born.