1855 – 1940
Jeanne Franko, the distinguished violinist, pianist, and music teacher, was born in New Orleans, the second oldest of at least eight children of Hamman and Helene (Bergman) Franko, German Jews who had immigrated there before their marriage. Hamman’s family name originally was Holländer—a distinguished German Jewish family of musicians that included the violinist Gustav and the composer Victor Hollander. Hamman was a successful jeweler in New Orleans. However, when the Union Army occupied the city in 1862, he was forced to flee and moved to Breslau, Germany, with his young family. He immediately provided for the musical education of his children. Franko studied violin with the greatest master of the time, Henri Vieuxtemps, who had played numerous concerts in New Orleans in the 1840s and 1850s; she also studied with Heinrich De Ahna, soon to become concertmaster of the Berlin Royal Orchestra. She made her debut in Paris before the age of fourteen. Upon returning to America in 1869, Jeanne, Selma (1853–1932), Sam (1857–1937), Rachel (b. 1860), and Nahan Franko (1861–1930) caused a sensation by performing as a family in New York’s Steinway Hall on September 17—a concert repeated on October 24 at Terrace Garden in New York and in other cities including Washington, D.C., where the child Sousa heard them and later recalled his amazement at their feat. While all five children played the violin, Jeanne, Selma, and Sam also played the piano. During the ensuing seventeen years the siblings frequently performed together, usually with Jeanne as pianist and Rachel as soprano vocalist. The biggest event for Jeanne came on March 22, 1884, when she performed a concert at Steinway Hall in which she played virtuoso piano works by Liszt and Chopin and difficult violin works by Wieniawski and Vieuxtemps. Sam was highly regarded not only as a violinist but as conductor and composer. Nahan was concertmaster and conductor of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, and he played viola in the New York String Quartet, whose other members were Sam Franko and Charles P. Schmidt, violins, and Victor Herbert, cello. Selma married David Goldman, her first cousin and a fine amateur violinist, and their second son, Edwin, was the famous American bandmaster; later Selma was Jerome Kern’s teacher. In 1888 another sister, Rose (Franko) Burden, accompanied Jeanne on the piano and in 1895 performed with Sam Franko.
After 1886 Jeanne rarely performed with her family. She appeared as violin soloist with orchestras led by Theodore Thomas, Anton Seidl, John Philip Sousa, and others, and in 1895 she founded the Jeanne Franko Trio with Celia Schiller (piano) and Hans Kronold (cello), which played many public concerts during the next few years. During her professional career she toured to California, Texas, Chicago, St. Louis, and New Orleans, as well as Baltimore and Washington, D.C. She was a member (perhaps leader) of the Woman’s String Orchestra of New York (founded in 1896 by Carl V. Lachmund), and she probably was also a member of the all-women’s orchestra of the Women’s Philharmonic Society of New York (founded in 1899 by Amy Fay’s sister). But many of Jeanne’s concerts were private musicales in homes or hotels, usually to raise money for charity, including Jewish causes. She spent the summer of 1907 in Germany, where she and Sam performed privately together for a noble family and where Sam discovered baroque music for his New York early music ensemble.
Meanwhile Jeanne was recognized as an important teacher of music in New York. As early as April 24, 1888, eleven of her pupils gave a concert in Steinway Hall, and similar events occurred during the next thirty years.
Franko was married to Hugo Kraemer, who predeceased her. They had no children. She died in New York City on December 3, 1940.
AJYB (1904–1905): 95; Ammer, Christine. Unsung: A History of Women in American Music (1980); Franko, Jeanne. Clippings file. Music Division, New York Public Library; Franko, Nahan. Clippings file. Music Division, New York Public Library; Franko, Sam. Chords and Discords (1938); Jolly, Kirby Reid. “Edwin Franko Goldman and the Goldman Band.” Ph.D. diss., New York University, 1971; Musical America 9 (July 27, 1907); 9 (October 5, 1907): 5; 13, no. 19 (March 18, 1911): 37; 13 (April 29, 1911): 26; 35, no. 13 (1940): 47; Musical Courier 24, no. 9 (March 2, 1892): 15; 24, no. 11 (March 16, 1892): 10; 24, no. 13 (March 30, 1892): 9; 30 (January 9, 1895): 34; 34 (January 13, 1897): 27; 34 (January 27, 1897): 23+; 34, no. 9 (March 3, 1897): 35; 34, no. 12 (March 24, 1897): 17; 35, no. 13 (September 29, 1897): 39; 84, no. 3 (1940): 32; Obituary. NYTimes, December 4, 1940, A27: 3.