Russian-born US-naturalized violinist. He was made a Commandeur de la Légion d'honneur in 1957.
Born in Vilnius, Heifetz was first taught by his father, an accomplished violinist. Later he studied at the Vilnius School of Music under Elias Malkin. At the early age of eight he graduated and started performing in public. In 1910 he entered the Imperial Conservatory in St Petersburg as the youngest member of Auer's prestigious class; at twelve he started on his long virtuoso career, touring Russia, Scandinavia, and Germany. The turmoil of the revolution in Russia (1917) disrupted his career and eventually he emigrated to the USA, becoming a naturalized citizen in 1925.
Heifetz first performed in London in 1920 at the Queen's Hall. He toured Australia and the East, revisiting England in 1922 and 1925. His 1926 engagements included a visit to Palestine, where he gave a series of free concerts to large audiences of the Jewish colony. His reputation as a sensational violinist preceded him wherever he went, and he became known the world over through the large number of recordings he made. He commissioned several important works in the repertory, including Walton's violin concerto (1939), of which he gave the first performance that year with the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra under Artur Rodzinski (1892–1958). After a long performing career he became a teacher in California.