Iso Briselli (1912-2005), as a 12-year old violin prodigy from Europe, came over with his teacher, Carl Flesch, in December of 1924 to study with him at the Curtis Institute of Music during the first year of the school’s existence. Through the rest of the 1920s and into the early 1930s he went to almost all the Saturday night concerts of the Philadelphia Orchestra. In a taped interview with Marc Mostovoy on December 16th, 2003, he described Tabuteau’s playing this way:
“When I ﬁrst heard Tabuteau in the Orchestra, I was amazed at the approach he had—his music—and the way he phrased things. Everything he did was towards perfection. I always had the feeling that when he had even a small solo . . . it was a kind of performance he gave. Whether it’s a single note or a phrase or a whole movement, you felt that nothing was left out—it was polished— chiseled—and a perfect kind of expression. I felt he took an attitude that he was giving a message, a very personal message, when he played. All the woodwinds looked to him to set the atmosphere they would ﬁt into. He was the leader, whether admitted or not. He was the deciding force.”
Asked about ‘tone,’ Briselli said, “It was a unique kind of tone. It was so perfect in its projection; every note ﬁt into the whole phrase. You sat there hypnotized waiting for the phrase to ﬁnish. His sound was so unique, and yet he fit in perfectly with the rest of them. The other woodwinds—Kincaid, the clarinetist [probably Bonade], were all excellent musicians, but you felt that Tabuteau set the atmosphere. He gave the direction. You were always aware of that background of his sound. Very extraordinary; it’s hard to describe.” Briselli went on to have a distinguished solo career and was the violinist for whom Samuel Barber wrote his violin concerto.
An excerpt of the audio interview follows: