Clara Rockmore , born Clara Reisenberg on March 9, 1911 in Vilnius (Russian Empire, now Lithuania) and deceased on May 10, 1998 in New York in the United States, is an American violinist of Lithuanian origin best known as one of the greatest virtuosos of theremin. His sister is pianist Nadia Reisenberg.
At the age of 5, Clara Rockmore, already a violin prodigy, entered the Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatory in St. Petersburg. However, she was forced to stop because of bone problems due to malnutrition.
Clara Rockmore has several strengths that allowed her to play theremin with so much brilliance. First, his classical training which brought him an advantage over other theremin players. Indeed, they lacked basic musical knowledge, including the inventor of this instrument: Leon Theremin. Then, his absolute ear: very useful for this instrument that can generate a continuity of sounds at any frequency, that is to say the usual notes of the harmonic tonal system, but also all the notes that can be between two conventional semitones. Finally, his very fast and precise control of his movements for this instrument whose proximity to the body (hands) of the instrumentalist determines the height and intensity (or nuance) of the sounds, without any physical contact. Clara Rockmore also had the advantage of working directly with Léon Theremin from the earliest days of the commercial development of his instrument in the United States. She submitted a large number of suggestions and proposals for modifications to improve the instrument, which he incorporated into later versions.
Clara Rockmore was an unparalleled virtuoso of this instrument from the first decades of its use. Unlike a large number of musicians who used this instrument for scary sound effects or special sound effects in fantasy or sci-fi films, Clara Rockmore used it as a classical musical instrument. Under his control, the timbre of Theremin was close to that of the violin or the human voice.