The American violinist Oscar Shumsky, born in Philadelphia was regarded by many musicians as one of the greatest violinists of the 20th-century. His intensely communicative yet refined playing combined the grand romantic tradition of Russian violinists with the same dash of eloquence that characterized the playing of his idol, Fritz Kreisler. His immaculate technical command was legendary, and his lyrical playing was distinguished by a luscious warmth and highly expressive intonation. His musical memory was staggering; he could play entire passages of an orchestral score on the violin.

Born to Russian immigrant parents in Philadelphia, Shumsky began studying the violin at the age of three. His outstanding talent was recognized early, and in an era of such remarkable prodigies as Yehudi Menuhin, Ruggiero Ricci and Guila Bustabo, he held his own.

After playing for Leopold Stokowski, the conductor pronounced the young violinist,"the most astounding genius I have ever heard." In1925, Stokowski invited Oscar Shumsky to appear as soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra in Mozart's Violin Concerto No 5 in A major. Later that year, Shumsky began studying privately in New York with the renowned violin pedagogue Leopold Auer, who had taught Heifetz, Elman, Milstein and Efrem Zimbalist, father of the film star.

As a child, Shumsky performed several hundred concerts, often appearing with the pianist and conductor Ernest Schelling, the founder of a series of young people's symphony concerts. On one occasion, Schelling arranged for young Shumsky to play for Fritz Kreisler. After performing several pieces, he gave the great Austrian violinist a surprise by playing Kreisler's then unpublished solo cadenza for the first movement of the Beethoven Violin Concerto. Shumsky had heard Kreisler perform the concerto twice in concert, and had reconstructed the cadenza from memory. Deeply impressed, Kreisler predicted that the young prodigy would become one of the finest violinists of the century.

In the autumn of 1925, Shumsky enrolled at the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music in his home town, where he joined Auer's violin class. After Auer's death in 1930, he continued his studies at Curtis with  Efrem Zimbalist.

In 1939, Shumsky was personally invited by Arturo Toscanini to join the newly-formed NBC Symphony, where he remained for two years. At the same time, the great violist William Primrose asked him to lead the Primrose Quartet as first violin (with Josef Gingold as second violin and Harvey Shapiro cellist). To this day, the quartet's commercial recordings of Haydn, Schumann, Brahms and Smetana are prized by connoisseurs of chamber music.

After serving in the US navy during the second world war, Shumsky resumed his concert career as a soloist. He was also in great demand for studio work, and often led the RCA Victor Symphony and Columbia Symphony orchestras. Later, he was appointed as solo violinist for the NBC network in New York. During this golden age of American radio, he was featured weekly as soloist in radio broadcasts, often accompanied by the great American pianist, Earl Wild.

In 1959, he became co-director, with the pianist Glenn Gould, and Leondard Rose, of the Stratford festival in Ontario, Canada. Gould and Shumsky performed frequently in duo sonatas, and were often joined by the cellist Leonard Rose in trios. He also established himself as a superb teacher at the Curtis, Juilliard and Peabody conservatories, as well as at Yale University. His students included Steven Staryk, Kathleen Lenski, Elliot Chapo, Ida Kavafian, Eugene Drucker and Philip Setzer, the last two members of the Emerson Quartet.

Shumsky's primary instrument was the 1715 "Rode, ex-Duke of Cambridge" Stradivarius, but he also used a modern Italian violin by Enrico Rocca. His recorded legacy includes the unaccompanied sonatas by Bach and Ysaÿe, concertos by Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and Glazunov, the complete Mozart violin sonatas (with Artur Balsam) and sonatas by Brahms, Grieg, Dohnanyi and Leo Weiner. He also made several discs of short pieces by Kreisler and the complete Brahms Hungarian Dances. Oscar Shumsky recorded with his son Eric Shumsky the entire Duo literature for violin and for viola.

Shumsky was a phenomenal viola player as well and his solo violin/viola concerts were indeed legend.  His ability to switch  easily back and forth between violin and a very large sized viola were completely natural for the great master. He treated viola as an extension of his musical palette. In the same vein, the artist was a wonderful conductor and had several orchestras of his own and guest conducted many orchestras including the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, the Stratford Festival Orchestra, Juilliard and Curtis orchestras among other prominent groups.

Apart from music, he had a keen interest in woodworking which he inherited from his father who was a wonderful cabinet maker, originally from Odessa. Shumsky also had  a great passion for photography and his beautiful work is of museum quality.

As a musician,  Oscar Shumsky was intensely focused. He was intolerant of showmanship; for him, music was not entertainment, and he abhorred the showbiz antics that characterized many musical performances in the late 20th century. His artistic demands could sometimes intimidate colleagues and students, and his uncompromising attitude would occasionally work to his disadvantage.

Fortunately, in the autumn of his career, Shumsky was rewarded by a renewed interest in his artistry. In the early 1980s, he resumed giving concerts after an absence of over 45 years. His appearances throughout Britain and continental Europe were an overwhelming success, prompting the London-based critic Dominic Gill to proclaim the most memorable musical events of 1982 as appearances by "Horowitz, Michelangeli and Shumsky".

Although he never became a household name like Heifetz or Perlman, Oscar Shumsky was the quintessential "violinist's violinist". As Eugene Drucker remarked: "I will never forget his uncompromising personal integrity, his continual quest for musical substance rather than surface gesture, his encyclopedic knowledge of the violin repertoire and his magnificent command of the instrument. There will never be another like him."

Shumsky is survived by two sons, Noel and Eric. Noel Shumsky a well known business consultant and Eric a distinguished viola-player.
Oscar Shumsky, violinist, born March 23 1917; died July 24 2000.
                                                                                                  by Eric Wen