On November, 22, 2010, the Telegraph newspaper from the U.K. wrote:
“Suzuki received the greater part of his formal musical training in Berlin in the 1920s…Unfortunately, Suzuki’s own writings provide little information beyond a couple of famous names and a few anecdotes…
One of the few Germans Suzuki mentions in his recollections is Albert Einstein. By the time Suzuki wrote, Einstein, already famous in the 1920s, had become an icon of the twentieth century and a popular name for any person to link their own with. Suzuki’s relationship with Einstein was surely less intimate than he suggests (Suzuki, 1983, pp. 76-77, 1985a). After all Einstein had a wide circle of friends and acquaintances and spent much time travelling in the 1920s – including a trip to Japan, where he stayed from 17 November to 29 December 1922, returning to Berlin via Palestine in February 1923.
Suzuki relates that he was introduced to Einstein by a Professor Michaelis, who had met Shin’ichi’s father in Nagoya and asked Einstein to act as his “guardian” when he himself accepted an invitation to teach at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.(12) This account does not square with known facts. The Professor Michaelis in question is the biochemist Leonor Michaelis (1875-1949). After graduating as a medical doctor in Freiburg in 1897, he worked in Berlin. From 1906 to 1922 Michaelis headed the bacteriological department of the City Hospital in Berlin. In 1922 he accepted an invitation to become professor of biochemistry at the Aichi Prefectural Medical College (now the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Nagoya) where he taught until 1926, when he moved to Baltimore. From 1929 to 1940 he worked at the Rockefeller Institute of Medical Research in New York (Takeuchi, 1983, p. 437).
Although Michaelis does not usually feature in biographies of Einstein, the Einstein Archives includes a few letters from him, including one Michaelis sent from Baltimore dated 25 January 1927, in which he refers to “my young friend Suzuki-san” who visited Einstein with some of his father’s violins.(13) Einstein and Michaelis may well have known each other in Berlin and met again during Einstein’s visit to Japan shortly after Michaelis’ arrival in Nagoya.(14) A letter from Michaelis dated 1931 mentions a visit by Einstein in America where they made music together. According to his daughter Eva, Michaelis was an accomplished pianist and performed publicly during his stay in Nagoya, including in a concert together with Suzuki Shin’ichi on 30 January 1926 (Yagi, 1975, p. ix). Michaelis’ letter suggests that he gave Suzuki an introduction when they met in Nagoya, and that Suzuki subsequently visited Einstein. Einstein gave Suzuki a sketch of himself with the dedication “Herrn Shinichi Suzuki zur freundlichen Erinnerung/Albert Einstein November 1926” (Wartberg, 1999).
…Einstein, moreover, has been cited as an example of the role of music among the German-Jewish bourgeoisie, as has the “the other Einstein,” Alfred, a distant relative and the author of a book on Mozart.”
--Margaret Mehl, Dr. Phil. (Bonn), Dr. Phil. (Copenhagen) is Associate Professor in the Asian Section of the Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies at the University of Copenhagen
Mehl introduces another “Einstein” in the Suzuki story? Further research reveals a musicologist in 1920s Berlin named “Alfred Einstein” (perhaps no relation or a very distant one to the famous scientist), but someone who befriended Shinichi Suzuki during his stay in Germany. Shinichi Suzuki writes about “Albert Einstein” though, the great physicist in Suzuki’s autobiography, “Nurtured by Love” (1966). Chapter title: “The man Einstein – Dr. Einstein was my guardian”
Suzuki identifies Dr. Einstein, the person who developed the theory of relativity as his “guardian” while in Berlin.
The research of Margaret Mehl says otherwise and additional research corroborates her article.
The following letter from Albert Einstein written to Shinichi Suzuki’s father (obtained from Einstein’s archives) is only one of two documents characterizing a relationship outside of Suzuki's own account? The single letter to Masakichi Suzuki (the father and successful violin maker from Japan) merely mentions Shinichi as one of two brothers coming to see him as salesmen at their father's request. They presented Einstein with a free violin from their father’s violin factory in Japan:
2 November 1926
Dear Mr. Masakichi Suzuki,
Yesterday, your two sons visited my home and showed me four of your wonderful violins. They even invited me to keep one of my choosing as a gift! I currently have two violins made in Berlin, Germany by fine makers and I am very fond of them. I personally compared the tone and responsive qualities one by one to my own instruments.
We even experimented by listening to each instrument from another room as your sons took turns playing them. We all came to the same conclusion that your fine violins were superior to mine!
I would like to express my deep appreciation for this kind and considerate gift and want you to know that I was most surprised by their incredible tone and expert craftsmanship.
These two documents (the letter to the father and the autograph both from November of 1926) represent the totality of evidence substantiating any meeting between Albert Einstein and Shinichi Suzuki. The two documents also represent the extent of the Einstein relationship on the Suzuki Museum website in Japan (pictured here). http://kinenkan.suzukimethod.or.jp/exhibition.html - Neither the letter or autograph indicate anything other than a cordial meeting. There was nothing alluding to a long-term guardianship or any kind of relationship. For 30 years, from 1926 to the year of Einstein’s death in 1955, there was no correspondence from Einstein to Shinichi Suzuki in either the Einstein archives or those of Suzuki's.
Suzuki’s biography "Nurtured by Love" (translated to English by his wife Waltraud) is recommended reading, sometimes mandatory reading for Suzuki student’s parents in studios and schools across the United States. Millions of parents have read the following words from Shinichi Suzuki:
"Dr. Einstein becomes my guardian. ‘I [Dr. Michaelis] shall no longer be able to look after you, and so I have asked a friend of mine to keep an eye on you.' The friend turned out to be Dr. Albert Einstein, who developed the theory of relativity…I experienced the warm friendship of this world-famous scholar and the outstanding people of his circle. This was one of the most wonderful things that happened to me in my whole life. It provided in later years the conviction and basic theory behind the driving force that enabled me to carry out without the slightest doubt my Talent Education movement for small children. My contact with the greatness of Dr. Einstein as a man...Often when there was a good concert, Dr. Einstein would telephone me and say, "I have tickets, so let's go... even though I was a mere stripling, he had invited me as his guest..."
"Stripling," an adolescent? In 1926, Shinichi Suzuki was at least 28 years-old. Albert Einstein 47. Quote from the Suzuki biography: "Suzuki the Man"
“During this time when Suzuki was with Einstein, the scientist would frequently take Suzuki to concerts....it was an exhilarating experience for Suzuki to associate with people of such high intellect.”
Quote from Chapter 9, Meeting Albert Einstein - “Vehicle of Music”
“Dr. Einstein also played the violin quite well. His touch was soft, light, and smooth. Indeed Shinichi thought that Dr. Einstein played much better than he himself. Before Dr. Michaels left for the United States, he asked Dr. Einstein to take care of Shinichi for him."
Berlin Musicologist “Alfred” Einstein (not the physicist) reportedly knew Suzuki. From Alfred Einstein's bio on amazines.com
“Alfred Einstein” (Dec 30, 1880 – Feb 13, 1952) was a German-American musicologist and music editor. He was noted as one of the widest-ranging music historians in the first half of the 20th century. (Alfred) influenced Shinichi Suzuki (an amateur violinist visiting Berlin from Japan, and inventor of the Suzuki method of early learning).” --amazines.com
"At age 22, Suzuki traveled to Germany to find a violin teacher to continue his studies. While there, he studied privately with Karl Klingler, but did not receive any formal degree past his high school diploma. He met and became friends with Alfred Einstein, who encouraged him in learning classical music. He also met, courted, and married his wife, Waltraud." --Quoted from Findtarget.com
"Did not receive any formal degree past his high school diploma" raises the question of Suzuki's PhD? Why does he refer to himself as “Dr. Suzuki" in his biographies for Western audiences? An answer comes from one of his top biographers and surrogates who printed her reasoning on the Suzuki Association of the Americas website:
“Suzuki was awarded several honorary doctorates in the US as well as numerous other awards. He therefore used the title ‘Dr’ as would any recipient of an honorary degree.” –Lois Shepheard (Suzuki biographer and author of “memories of Dr. Shinichi Suzuki – Son of His Environment)
In her “History of the Suzuki Method” by Pam Werner cites “Alfred” Einstein but does not reference the great scientist:
“Dr. Shinichi Suzuki was the founder of the worldwide music education movement known as the Suzuki Method. Born in Nagoya, Japan in 1898, he was the son of Japan's first and largest violin manufacturer…at the age of 22, traveled to Berlin to study with the renowned violinist, Karl Klinger. It was here in Germany that Suzuki became a friend of Alfred Einstein and through him, associated with many of the world's leading artists and thinkers. Suzuki met and married Waltraud Prange, a concert soprano and they returned to Japan in 1928 where he began teaching and performing with the Suzuki Quartet.” http://www.soundpiper.com/mln/methods.htm
The following is excerpted from an “official Suzuki bio.” The general language and information is nearly the same as Werner’s, except for the name change from “Alfred” to “Albert Einstein.” Excerpt of Suzuki bio from:
"Born in Nagoya, Japan in 1898, Shinichi Suzuki was surrounded by the sound of violins at his father’s violin making factory. As one of seven children, Shinichi spent his childhood not learning how to play the violin, but working at the factory putting up violin soundposts. A family friend encouraged Shinichi to study Western culture, but his father felt that it was beneath his son's station in life to become a performer. It wasn’t until the age of 17 that he began to teach himself how to play the violin, after becoming inspired by a recording of Mischa Elman. Without access to professional instruction, he would listen to recordings and try to imitate what he heard.
At the age of 22, Shinichi persuaded his father to allow him to study in Germany, where Karl Klingler eventually became his private violin teacher. Shinichi never attained any formal education past his high school diploma. While in Germany, he spent several years under the guardianship of Albert Einstein. He also met, courted, and married his wife, Waltraud. Upon his return to Japan, he formed a string quartet with his brothers and began teaching at the Imperial School of Music and at the Kunitachi Music School in Tokyo. During World War II, his father’s violin factory was bombed by American war planes and Shinichi lost one of his brothers. The family was also left penniless and Shinichi decided to leave his teaching positions and move to a nearby city where he constructed parts for wooden airplanes to raise some money. Poor and hungry, at one point almost dying, he began to teach violin lessons to the orphan children in the outer cities where he lived. He adopted an orphan boy, Matsui, and started to develop teaching strategies and philosophies. Shinichi combined his new practical teaching applications with traditional Asian philosophy." http://www.istitutosuzukiitalia.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=12&lang=en
Other than what Suzuki told his biographers, there is no independent corroboration of any relationship between Albert Einstein and Shinichi Suzuki beyond that of the violin salesman for that one day in November 1926? The mentorship that the 28 year-old violin student Shinichi Suzuki received from the great scientist was singled out and utilized in selling Suzuki and his method to the U.S.A., extolling his philosophical capacity and dramatically elevating his intellectual credentials to both American academics and to the American public. He was positioned as a "great man" in those capacities, adding the title of "Doctor" to his name, bringing further distinction. He titled himself "Dr. Suzuki" in English translations, just the way he referred to the accomplished academics in Germany that he purported to associate with (ie: "Dr. Einstein"). His own violin reputation as a player was considered of mediocre quality by most and there were no feature LPs released commercially of his playing. As a teacher he was unknown to the West. American enterprises organized and marketed "Dr. Suzuki" to the U.S. as a great man, philosopher and intellectual from Japan, with his pedigree from 1920s Berlin.
Regarding some of the additional information provided here by Suzuki accounting for his time during WWII; “making wooden airplanes” and “he began to teach violin lessons to the orphan children in the outer cities where he lived." According to Japanese legend and tradition, Emperor Hirohito was directly descended from the "Sun God," and he was also a totalitarian dictator. The Emperor's Imperial Japanese Army needed about every able-bodied man they had to defend their country, suffering the loss of three million Japanese people in the war. Shinichi's father’s violin factory was turned into a factory for warplane parts. "My father had converted the violin factory to make seaplane floats." -Suzuki (Nurtured by Love). He lost one brother in the war and he accounts that his father died in 1944. According to historian David Powers of the BBC;
“They (Japanese citizens) were indoctrinated from an early age to revere the Emperor as a living deity, and to see war as an act that could purify the self, the nation, and ultimately the whole world. Within this framework, the supreme sacrifice of life itself was regarded as the purest of accomplishments.”
According 1.JMA, “The Imperial Japanese Army in the Second World War"
“In 1945 fully 87% of the total adult (both male and female) population of Japan was drafted into either industry or the military. 50% of that total made up the Reserve army on the home islands. This raised the total in the army to 5.5 million troops. Though for these new troops basic training lasted only from four to six weeks at most. And these new troops were usually only trained in rudimentary infantry skills. Japan was no longer able to effectively train replacements in the more technically skilled positions required.”
From an online forum: "In 1941, Suzuki was an able-bodied 43 year-old man when the Emperor's Imperial Japanese Army invaded the United States. Being a Japanese person, there was really no such thing as a conscience objector because of the obedience and allegiance to their Emperor. Suicide or execution was likely for those who objected to the War effort. Certainly Suzuki's description of himself hiding in the mountains for years so he could look better to the U.S., is not plausible and the veracity in unfortunate, similar to many other claims he continued to make. Suzuki's ethics of “beautiful heart” and “good citizen” developed in the WWII era as a philosophy for his Method, were likely meant only for young Japanese children and their Emperor, not for children in the West."
With all of the new research that has come to our attention, we discovered this little twist; Waltraud Suzuki’s brother was named "Albert" and the publishing company who eventually owned the Suzuki Method in the U.S. was "Alfred Publishing."