Heifetz Plays "White Christmas"

Jascha Heifetz and his accompanist, Milton Kaye, having dinner with troops from the 21st General Hospital following a USO concert in Naples, Italy, June 16,1944.
Jascha Heifetz and accompanist Milton Kaye (far Left) have dinner with troops from the 21st General Hospital following a USO concert in Naples, Italy, June 16,1944.


If you’ve never heard Jascha Heifetz’s 1944 recording of Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, take a moment and listen.

White Christmas was first performed by Bing Crosby on Christmas Day, 1941. Crosby’s single sold 50 million copies and stands as the best-selling single of all time. The song resonated with soldiers stationed abroad during the Second World War.

Around the time this recording was made, Heifetz assisted the war effort by performing USO-organized concerts for troops stationed in Central and South America, Italy, and North Africa. Flying in U.S. Air Force planes, Heifetz performed 45 concerts in eight weeks. According to a New York Times account,

‘The Messrs Heifetz and Kaye played in theatres, opera houses, airplane hangers, battleships and right up at the front lines…For the front-line engagements, of which there were several, the concerts were given from an open truck which carted a small, olive-drab piano.

White Christmas ranks number two on the Songs of the Century listbehind Over the Rainbow. There’s a sense of melancholy lurking beneath the surface in both songs. In an article published yesterday at Smithsonian.com, Marissa Fessenden examines the sadness of White Christmas and personal tragedy in Irving Berlin’s life.


Irving Berlin, one of the twentieth century’s greatest song writers, couldn’t read or write music. He played the piano only in the key of F-sharp, which uses many black keys. Berlin dictated melodies to a secretary, who transcribed the musical notation. According to one story, after writing White Christmas, Berlin said,

Grab your pen and take down this song. I just wrote the best song I’ve ever written — heck, I just wrote the best song that anybody’s ever written!

Jazz miniatures arranged and recorded by Jascha Heifetz can be found on a compilation disk called, It Ain’t Necessarily So: Legendary Classic and Jazz Studio Takes.

About Timothy Judd

A native of Upstate New York, Timothy Judd has been a member of the Richmond Symphony violin section since 2001. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music where he earned the degrees Bachelor of Music and Master of Music, studying with world renowned Ukrainian-American violinist Oleh Krysa.

The son of public school music educators, Timothy Judd began violin lessons at the age of four through Eastman’s Community Education Division. He was a student of Anastasia Jempelis, one of the earliest champions of the Suzuki method in the United States.

A passionate teacher, Mr. Judd has maintained a private violin studio in the Richmond area since 2002 and has been active coaching chamber music and numerous youth orchestra sectionals.

In his free time, Timothy Judd enjoys working out with Richmond’s popular SEAL Team Physical Training program.

4 thoughts on “Heifetz Plays "White Christmas"”

  1. Dear Tim ~

    I know about Mr. Heifetz’s recording of “White Christmas” and salute you for posting this wonderful gem …
    Jascha Heifetz was an incredibly gifted “jazz” person who played many variations of various Violin Concerto’s on his
    piano at a party for our first Master Class pupils at an Easter Party at his Beverly HIlls home. He was having a marvellous time disguising famous theme’s from violin Concerti on the piano in nearly unrecognisable rhythms, asking if any of the seven of us knew what they were! HIs improvised jazz playing was remarkable! Heifetz possessed that God given sense of rhythm only felt by the Greats!

    Thank you for drawing attention to the Heifetz recording of Irvin Berlin’s “White Christmas” just 5 days before
    Christmas, 2014, 60 years after his 1944 USO tour … Long live the “Emperor” of the Violin ~

    Merry Christmas to you and yours ~

    Elisabeth Matesky

  2. P.S. for Timothy Judd ~ I erred in the number of years above. It is 70 years since 1944 to now, December 20, 2014, when Jascha Heifetz was on the USO Tour for the troops and recorded “White Christmas.” So sorry …

    As my computer is “blocked plug-in” presently, I cannot listen yet, but know Mr. Heifetz also recorded “White Christmas”
    with Bing Crosby!

    Elisabeth Matesky/Chicago


Leave a Comment