Philip Newman was born in Manchester on May 12 1904, the son of Harris Newman, cantor of Manchester's Great Synagogue. Cantor Newman, from Lodz in Poland, was considered one of the finest cantors of his day, gifted as both singer and musician. Philip's sister, Pearl, and brother Montague were also talented musicians. Philip became a pupil of Adolph Brodsky at the Royal Manchester College of Music, entering the College in 1917 aged 13 and leaving in 1920 without taking a diploma.
In 1924 Brodsky advised Newman to attend the Brussels Conservatoire to study with Albert Zimmel, Ysa;'s first assistant. After just one year, he won the 'Premier Prix de Violon' with maximum marks and distinction, playing the very difficult Violin Concerto in F sharp minor Op. 23 by H. W. Ernst. During his time in Brussels he also studied with the violinists Henri van Hecke and Cesar Thomson. At this time he became the friend of Antoine the son of Eugne Ysa;, who asked Newman to perform Ysa;'s 4th Solo Sonata for his father but Newman refused saying that he did not think himself ready to play for the man who from an early age he had considered to be the supreme violinist. Six years later Antoine was to become Newman's manager.
Newman spent the years 1928 to 1932 in Berlin studying with Willy Hess who was by then Germany's foremost violinist, and had been a pupil of the great Joseph Joachim. Here he learned a style different to that of the Belgian school of which he was by now a fine exponent. In Berlin he was exposed to the height of musical culture, and Newman planned that after studying with Hess he would move on to study in other conservatoires with Henri Marteau and then finally to Ottokar Sevcik, but these plans were not be fulfilled. In 1931 Newman went to the house as Ysa; was dying. Climbing the stairs he took out his violin and performed the master's 4th Solo Violin Sonata dedicated to Fritz Kreisler, the very work he was so reluctant to play previously. The last notes that Ysa; heard were those played by Philip Newman, and the last words that Ysa; spoke, were to Newman, 'Splendid ... but the finale... a little too fast...'. At the funeral Newman took the strings which he had previously taken from his violin and tied them around a wreath which he placed on Ysa;'s grave.
Newman's first major recital took place in his hometown of Manchester in the mid 1930's, for which his father had hired the Free Trade Hall. However his first big concert was in Ostend where he performed the Beethoven Violin Concerto. For some unaccountable reason his official British debut with orchestra did not take place until 1935, again in the Manchester Free Trade Hall. In 1937 Philip Newman began his long service as a judge of the Concours Musical International Reine Elisabeth which had replaced the Ysa; Violin Competition. For many years Newman was also a member of the panel of judges at the Tchaikovsky Violin Competition in Moscow where he represented the British Council.
Also in 1937 Philip Newman commenced his long association with Queen Elisabeth of the Belgians, becoming her personal professor of the violin. The Queen had for many years devoted much of her time to the violin and had performed privately with many distinguished musicians, she herself was a great patron of the arts and an accomplished violinist. In 1964, the Queen was involved with such outstanding musicians as Casals, Stravinsky, Schweitzer and Newman in the founding of the Symphonicum Europaea. The Queen attended most of Newman's concerts, and presented him with a gold mounted bow by Francois Tourte, one of the world's finest bow makers. The long association with Queen Elisabeth ended with her death on 23 November 1965 at the age of ninety. Newman felt deeply the loss of this close musical friend and patron of nearly thirty years during which they had shared many musical events.
In 1942 Newman took refuge in Portugal and finally arrived in Lisbon where he became the first non-national Professor of the violin at the National Academy of Music. During his long stay in that city he organised and promoted concerts for charity including many for the International Red Cross. In that same year he acquired a fine Guarnerius del Gesu dated 1741 which had been purchased for his use by his cousin Isaac Wolfson. Many years before that Ysa; had contemplated buying the same violin. The violin was the favourite instrument of the virtuoso Henri Vieuxtemps (at Vieuxtemps' funeral it was carried behind his coffin on a velvet cushion and is now known as the ex-Vieuxtemps), and is considered one of the finest violins in existence by both experts and players alike. During the remainder of the war years, Newman devoted even more time to giving concerts for refugees, later extended to concerts for under-privileged people in Africa.
In 1950 he left Portugal to tour England, Belgium, Italy, Spain and Germany, receiving excellent reviews from both critics and fellow musicians. On 22 and 23 November he appeared again in Manchester's Free Trade Hall playing the Beethoven Concerto Violin Concerto with the Halle Orchestra conducted by John Barbirolli. In 1954 Newman agreed to undertake 28 concerts in the Belgian Congo and Angola, but just before finalising the details, he received news that his father had died; nonetheless he continued the tour as planned. He met Albert Schweitzer in Lambarene, and towards the end of the tour visited Johannesburg where it is known that he recorded works by Paganini and the Beethoven Violin Concerto for the South African Broadcasting Company.
On his return to Europe, he joined his old friend Casals to play at the opening of the Prades Festival. The Festival of Pollensa, which Newman founded in 1962, became the major activity of his remaining years. A galaxy of artists appeared with him during the September Festival events. One year's programme had Ruggerio Ricci, Pierre Fournier and Friedrich Guida. Newman's last concert took place on 4th September 1966 at the Festival and the last piece of music he ever played was at the request of a journalist the same evening (it was the Recitative and Scherzo Caprice by Kreisler). A tour of the Soviet Union was planned but Newman died of a heart attack in his hotel room in Majorca on 23 November 1966, one year to the day after his beloved friend Queen Elisabeth. Ironically, he was that very evening to have taken part in a television broadcast to mark the anniversary of her death.
Throughout his career Newman received many honours and awards. In Belgium, he was an Officer of the Order of the Crown. Portugal awarded him its highest honour, Knight Commander of St. James of the Sword, and for his work during the war years the Order of St. John together with the Order of Christ. He was also awarded the Ysa; and the Queen Elisabeth of the Belgians medals and later decorated with the Order of Merit and the Order of Leopold. Yet another distinction was a commissioned oil painting which now hangs in the National Gallery, Lisbon. A bust of Newman by his friend Dr. Alfonso Jaume, made in 1966 shortly after his death, now stands at the entrance to the Festival cloisters in Majorca. There is also a plaster cast of his hand together with a death mask on exhibition at the Festival entrance and a street near by has been named after him. The sign reads PHILIP NEWMAN ADOPTED SON.