Nachstern, Arthur (1911–99), violinist, was born 16 June (29 June NS) 1911 in Odessa, Ukraine, only child of Arthur Nachstern (1881–1951), lawyer, and Janina-Alina Nachstern (née Januszewska; 1889–1966), both of whom were Polish. He himself wrote that his early years – before the Bolshevik revolution – were ‘carefree and [with] no fears’, but added: ‘In 1917, all that changed, and the world was never the same’ (Nachstern, ‘First day at school’). The family experienced much hardship in Odessa under the Bolsheviks, especially – given their nationality – during the Polish–Soviet war (1919–21). At another difficult time, Nachstern and his father sought refuge in Leningrad (1931). They eventually returned to Odessa (1932), and the family secured permission to go to Poland in 1933. They had later to endure the Nazi occupation of Poland 1939–44.
In Odessa, Nachstern studied violin under Pyotr Stolyarsky, the teacher of Milstein and Oistrakh. He continued his studies at the Warsaw Conservatory, where contemporaries included the composers Lutoslawski and Panufnik and the pianist Malcuzynski. Appointed professor at the Karlowicz Music Academy, he remained in Warsaw till 1940, also pursuing a successful solo career there and playing in the Warsaw Philharmonic. He was a member of the Cracow Symphony Orchestra 1940–44, latterly with Hans Swarowsky as conductor. In 1944, with the Soviet army advancing westward, Nachstern and his parents fled – first to Austria, then to Italy (1945). Subsequently, fearing forced repatriation from Italy, they went to England (1946). Nachstern played in the Radio Symphony Orchestra in Vienna and the Santa Cecilia Orchestra in Rome, where he also studied conducting under Franco Ferrara. In England, however, he was unable to work because the musicians' union would admit only British citizens.
In 1947 Radio Éireann – on the initiative of its director of music, Michael Bowles (qv) – established a full-time, professional symphony orchestra. Nachstern was recruited in April 1947, the first of twenty-five foreigners to join the orchestra. His parents followed him to Ireland. He played in the Radio Éireann Symphony Orchestra (RÉSO), later the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, for forty-five years – retiring formally in 1976, but still engaged as a casual player till 1992. He was deputy leader 1949–77, and was often called on to act as leader. One such occasion was when the RÉSO recorded the music of Seán Ó Riada (qv) for the film ‘Mise Éire’ (1959). He gave solo recitals on Radio Éireann in the late 1940s, and was soloist in Paganini's concerto no. 1 and Glazunov's violin concerto with the RÉSO in 1949 and 1951 respectively. He had previously played the Glazunov concerto in Odessa with the composer conducting.
Nachstern became an Irish citizen in 1952. A devout catholic, he identified fully with his adopted country – even acquiring a smattering of Irish. He was a gifted linguist, proficient in seven languages. He married (1953) Evelyn Bilton (b. 1932), a Yorkshire-born nurse; they had one daughter. He died 22 September 1999, in Dublin. His obituary in the Irish Times praised ‘his enormous technical accomplishment and playing style which came from an exotic and deeply imbued tradition’ (2 Oct. 1999). In 2001, his widow married Malcolm (‘Max’) V. Graham (1924– ), a retired ophthalmic surgeon.