Best violinist today?

May 15, 2018, 10:36 PM · I want to note a couple of things:

1. I understand this cannot really be factually answered; everyone has his or her favorites. It's not like sports in which I could look at stats and say this is the reason why X is the best. After all, some violinists may just even play better live. However, I'm interested to see if everyone here can reach a general consensus on who is currently the best violinist, perhaps based on his/her overall technique, range of pieces performed (live and recordings), general musicality, and achievements.

2. By today, I mean their playing/skills currently, in 2018. I feel like overwhelming number of people would choose Maestro Perlman otherwise.

Replies (40)

May 15, 2018, 11:19 PM · I would vote for Mr Izhak Perlman if it's a lifetime of playing. But is he still in his prime now, I wondered.

Though I would be curious to read others' opinion, rankings like this would seem a bit sensitive to some v.com members ...

May 15, 2018, 11:22 PM · There are many very fine violinists at the top and it’s not possible to determine the “best.” That being said, I really love Augustin Hadelich’s playing.

May 15, 2018, 11:46 PM · I would not have voted for Perlman at the height of his career, in 1975. There are so many other great and greater violinists.
May 15, 2018, 11:47 PM · I would not have voted for Perlman at the height of his career, in 1975. There are so many other great and greater violinists.
May 15, 2018, 11:47 PM · I would not have voted for Perlman at the height of his career, in 1975. There are so many other great and greater violinists.
May 16, 2018, 12:01 AM · Augustin Hadelich is pretty darn good. I particularly love his Zapateado.
May 16, 2018, 12:27 AM · Probably, if not she's at top 10, Lindsey Sterling. In my honest opinion, she has proven to be better overall than those "legendary" violinists such as Oistrakh, Joachim, Barenboim... just look at how many tickets she sells. I could name a few others, but Sterling will always be a step further.
May 16, 2018, 12:35 AM · There's no "best", and the best violinists in the world generally admire each other rather than boast about their abilities and status. Indeed it's for the best if we refrain from this "best violinist" discussion (no offense OP-I know you meant well, and there's nothing wrong with the thread.)

Some people needlessly hate on Perlman. I don't worship him, but even if you disagree with his interpretations, recent or old, he has imprinted his legacy in the violin world.

I like many of Bron's students, but even he (and "them" by default) gets lots of hate. Not all (no offense-subjective opinion), but many are really inspiring artists. (Of course there are other master teachers around as well!)

I also like some of Delay's students, Galamian's students, etc. Love Oistrakh, Heifetz, Milstein. And many, many others. I feel that we should be wary of trying to find "the one", as far as "best of the best" violinist is concerned, as there is much to learn by opening up our minds and ears towards different styles and interpretations. I have my favorites, but even knowing they are likely among the best, refuse to name them here, lest my subjective opinion be seem as irrefutable fact by a few.

Be aware that not every great violinist is as well-known as the bigger market names. There's lots of special talent and artistry going on that you may have never heard about-yet. Explore, and enjoy the gift of music.

May 16, 2018, 2:01 AM · I think James Ehnes, Leonidas Kavakos and Frank Peter Zimmermann are great in their way. But I haven't heard Ehnes live yet.
In case of the Perlman debate I would prefer Zukerman, because of his sound. But I wouldn't put either of them on the top, since they are not as active anymore. There are a lot of promising young players, but many of them have still to prove, that they are not one hit wonders.
May 16, 2018, 2:19 AM · Though voting for Perlman, I'm surprised Joshua Bell hasn't got a mention up to now.
Edited: May 16, 2018, 4:05 AM · I believe James Ehnes is one of the best violinists today. Not only is his technique flawless and his tone beautiful, but he plays so musically. I have seen him play live and have a couple of his recordings. He reminds me of Nathan Milstein who I saw live as well.

I have also seen L. Kavokos and he is amazing. But I have to give the edge to Ehnes.

I give an honorable mention to Hilary Hahn who is also a fabulous musician. I also like Josh Bell.

And recently, I rediscovered how great Kyung-Wa Chung was when she was in her prime. But in my view, Perlman was the greatest of his generation (that included Ms. Chung and Pinchas Zuckerman).

Edited: May 16, 2018, 4:08 AM · "Best violinist today" is actually an oxymoron because, by definition, the best violinist must be someone who is long dead.

I like Josh Bell, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Hilary Hahn, and Augustin Hadelich. I don't think he still performs but I think Aaron Rosand was just as good as Perlman and better than Stern.

May 16, 2018, 4:22 AM · Funny no one mentions the great female violinists of today, apart from big brand names Hilary Hahn and Mutter.

Viktoria Mullova, Janine Jansen, Lisa Batiashvili, Isabelle Faust come to mind.

May 16, 2018, 5:02 AM · Janine Jansen is superb. Personally I like her interpretation of Mendelssohn (at the BBC prom) wayy more than that of Hahn. Videos of both are on YouTube.

P/S Just checked out Isabelle Faust's Beethoven concerto. Her technique was superb, and she was quite brave choosing such fast playing style with this one. If you close your eyes while listening you would have imagined a male violinist playing. Very bold, cool and terse. Even most male violinists wouldn't be able to play like that.
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Hasn't seen anyone mentioning Vengerov.

May 16, 2018, 5:03 AM · I can safely say I'm the best violinist in my family - so far ;)
May 16, 2018, 5:59 AM · There are lots of very good players around, but I think the ladies have it. In addition to those mentioned above: A-A Meyers, Vilde Frang, Lara St John, Tasmin Little, Nicola Benedetti, Silvia Markovici, Chloe Hanslip, Patricia Kopatchinskaja, Arabella Steinbach etc. Maybe not all in the very top echelon, but a formidable list. (Apologies to any I've forgotten or mis-spelled). My favourite is probably still Hilary Hahn.
May 16, 2018, 6:02 AM · hilary hahn is my favorite; she makes everything look really easy to play
May 16, 2018, 6:09 AM · One notable thing about Viktoria Mullova is that she has taken the trouble to become a very good Baroque musician, performing with some of the best names in the business. This is on top of her already undoubted Classical music accomplishments.
May 16, 2018, 6:42 AM · Kavakos has great skills
May 16, 2018, 7:01 AM · Favorite is Vengerov, but I like Roman Kim a lot as well.

Hadelich is great too, so is Midori and I like Nemanja Radulovic, particularly his Paganini Fantasy CD is a blast to listen to!

Edited: May 16, 2018, 7:26 AM · Why most of you are getting shocked when after 10 posts (or as many as it can get) YOUR favorite violinists have not been mentioned?

"Why no one mentioned Vengerov?"
"What about females? Patriarchy!"

There are dozens and dozens of top violinists, it's obviously a very personal and subjective question. This thread is not here to validate your opinion so you can feel "secure" and comfortable checking how all people thinks like you.

I don't have a best or favorite, I love all of them: Hahn, Mutter, Perlman, Zuckerman, Vengerov... the list goes on and won't end. Sometimes I prefer one interpretation to another (Hahn's Mendelssohn over Perlman's), other times I enjoy two different interpretations equally, I can't say one is better than the other, they are simply different.

By the way, all of us, me included, introduce very irrelevant factors in all our choices such as country (you want your country mates to be out there because it's desirable to see your country out there with the big names), looks (how cute someone is really affects our choices), charisma (you won't be open to listen to a "star" that for you seems to be a serious person that doesn't talk much), etc...

A blind test always destroys our schemes. I'm quite positive that if you face a blind test, your top list will be very different.

May 16, 2018, 7:46 AM · Perlman, Aaron Rosand, Ilya Kaler, Boris Belkin, Ivry Gitlis, Leonidas Kavakos, Ingolf Turban, Philip Quint, Mario Hossen, Salvatore Accardo, Bruto Ughi, Massimo Quarta, Tedi Papavrami, James Ehnes, Rudolf Koelman, Alexander Dubach, Daniel Röhn, Stefan Milenkovich, Alexandru Tomescu, Liviu Prunaru, Akiko Suwanai, Kyung Wha Chung, Hilary Hahn, Erno Rozsa, Jean Jacque Kantorow, Kristóf Baráti, Gerard Poulet, Felix Ayo, Gidon Kremer, Gil Shaham

I can recall more, at this moment I can only write down 30.

May 16, 2018, 8:01 AM · Depends on the pieces , overall I prefer Max Vengerov. who is the best teachers in the world now?
Edward: I remember after you finished Cutis and thought go Colburn with Robert Lipsett, how about him?
May 16, 2018, 8:05 AM · "By today, I mean their playing/skills currently, in 2018. I feel like overwhelming number of people would choose Maestro Perlman otherwise."

Without being specific, I'll say that some of the players mentioned peaked DECADES ago.

May 16, 2018, 8:35 AM · I think the more interesting question is who is the best violinist based on playing in the last five years. So 2012-13 to now.
May 16, 2018, 8:49 AM · The two violinists that I most admire in live performance: Hilary Hahn and Maxim Vengerov.

I particularly love HH's playing, which always reminds me of Milstein (my all-time favorite violinist).

May 16, 2018, 9:07 AM · As much as I don't have a favorite, I can't pick a 'best.' Some of my favorites/bests have already been mentioned. Some of my favorites don't meet the 'best' defined by the OP (too young, narrow repertoire, etc), but they're my go-to in their realm or on specific recordings. Favorites I haven't seen mentioned and who I would make a point to see live: Alina Ibragimova, Julia Fischer, Jennifer Koh, Rachel Podger, Christian Tetzlaff, Susanna Ogata, and Tamsin Waley-Cohen.
May 16, 2018, 9:47 AM · It was never possible to pick one, but especially today with the incredible wealth of great violinists.. If forced to choose, I would choose Janine Jansen. There's such warmth and spontaneity to her playing, plus she's a first class chamber musician. (A great YouTube, if anybody's interested, is a rollicking Tchaikovsky Souvenir de Florence with Vilde Frang and Julian Rachlin.)

Of all these great virtuosos, very few are chamber musicians at heart. It's a totally different skill set from playing concertos, and I really admire people who do both at the highest level.

Another favorite for me is Isabelle Faust, whose unaccompanied Bach is so mind-bogglingly original and virtuosic.

May 16, 2018, 11:18 AM · Actually, Jansen brings her chamber music sense of cooperation to her concerto playing, too.

She's totally different from those soloists who used to stand and deliver without ever noticing what the orchestra is doing. Jansen is constantly entering into dialogue with instruments in the orchestra.

May 16, 2018, 11:43 AM · A similar topic is a very long discussion on LinkedIn --?10 best violinists?
For the previous generations, from recordings, the 3 names that are most frequently mentioned are Heifetz, Milstein, Kreisler. Before recordings, we have to go with the names that advanced the technical skill and literature for the instrument; Vivaldi, Paganini, Joachim, Sarasate, Ysaye. There are so many...
May 16, 2018, 12:40 PM · If we're throwing Vivaldi in the mix, then Bach is the greatest no question, because he wrote the greatest violin music ever=)
May 16, 2018, 1:56 PM · I have a lot of favorites, depending on the piece, but my overall favorite is probably Joshua Bell and a tie for the second place between Anne-Sophie Mutter and Shlomo Mintz.
I don't believe Mintz has been mentioned on here yet, has he? I like his recording of the Mendelssohn a lot.
May 16, 2018, 3:45 PM · Tim Ripond wrote, "There are dozens and dozens of top violinists, it's obviously a very personal and subjective question. This thread is not here to validate your opinion so you can feel "secure" and comfortable checking how all people thinks like you."

In my thinking, no one has sought any validation so far. I was only surprised as some very big brand names hadn't got a mention (like Bell and Vengerov) and also to remind everyone of such names. They're not necessarily my personal favourites.

Edited: May 16, 2018, 4:36 PM · In recent years (2013-2018) I've been leaning towards Maxim Vengerov, Julia Fischer, Gil Shaham, James Ehnes, and Hilary Hahn, with Hahn being the top as of now, in 2018. This might be different for others, but her playing is so balanced in regards to the dynamics and clarity of the notes that I put her on top of everyone right now. Granted, I can't possibly compare every piece who comes out sounding the "best", but when I look at the major works that are in a concert violinist's repertoire, such as Dvorak, Sibelius, Tchaikovsky, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Bruch, Mozart, I put her as the "best".

Again, as stated before in the post, I know making the claim who the best is probably subjective. But I'm interested if we put that aside, and think hypothetically a layman were to approach us and ask such a question, what would your answer be, if you HAVE to give ONE NAME. I'm liking some of the responses so far!

May 16, 2018, 7:08 PM · Scott I agree that many of the violinists named peaked decades ago ... but at least they're not dead!

I'd have to say that we live in a great time for listening because there are so many great violinists -- truly great -- and they do play differently. And now that you can get so much music on streaming services it's so easy to make a playlist and compare.

It's not good news for up-and-comers though. Just look at the huge list of stars they have to break through. But the fact remains, some of them will. They have to ... or the music dies.

Edited: May 16, 2018, 7:16 PM · It is impossible for me to rank the dozens of violinists I admire.
But one think for sure, not all of them have an animated movie in which they are protagonists :-)

With very good taste: Fantasia dei Gatti -Augustin Hadelich-

Edited: May 16, 2018, 8:12 PM · Still not based on fame or world reknown, I love Sayaka Shoji, Maxim Vengerov, and Vadim Repin.

From your list, I also have a soft spot for Hahn and Shaham. What I like about about Hahn is that she brings and "old school meets modern" approach that is so rare. I wouldporefer a but nore slant towards old school, but she does play things that according to "experts" ($$$), are not worth playing anymore for the "modern" audience (Vieuxtemps, Spohr, etc.) Her vibrato too. I have liked Shaham for years, and have seen him plat live at CH many times in the last few years.

Tetzlaff is an unique artist, and I like that.

Kavakos is great as well.

Some of the other famous names don't resonate as much with me, but I won't mention them, as I have no reason to be negative. We are allowed to prefer different things.

Sarah Chang is also great, despite "that" recent thread. I find that her vibrato is not as bad as many make it to be, though live she tends to make it wide for those very expressive moments. She can make it narrow and beautiful whenever she wishes, and tends to be more "tamed" in her actual recordings. I find Ms. Chang a very expressive artist, for all her (perhaps understandably) modern and "aggressive" playing approach.

The first three I mentioned I would heartily recommend were I working in a record store (do those even exist at this point?) All of them, actually, along with some others that are not well-known, but deserve to be.

(Talking about living artists. I absolutely love most of the legacy left by the older violinists most of us hold dear to our hearts.)

Edited: May 16, 2018, 7:56 PM · IMHO, the best violinists who are performing on stage today are Mutter, HH, Sayaka Shoji, Alina Ibragimova.
May 17, 2018, 12:31 AM · Clara-Jumi Kang.
May 17, 2018, 4:24 AM · Some peak, and some keep growing. I am liking Zukerman's playing more and more, even though I preferred Perlman some decades ago.


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