What factors make a violinist worldwide known and famous?

Edited: December 12, 2017, 10:43 AM · Hi everyone, I have a question and have been wondering for long time, but cannot encounter a proper answer, the question is how to or what factors crucial to make a violinist famous and well-known worldwide rather than regional, why some violinists are more popular and some remain unknown or neglected? Some have more recordings and more cooperation while some not?
I am living in italy and since childhood I have listened a lot of recordings of Italian violinists, for example, Uto Ughi, Alfredo Campoli, Franco Gulli, Felix Ayo, Accardo, Giocconda de Vito, Giovanni Angeleri, Massimo Quarta (I admire the last one most).... also there is one who performs Paganini concertos who impressed me a lot: Alexander Dubach (but he is German-speaking Swiss, not Italian, he is former pupil of Accardo). Among above mentioned violinists only S Accardo has been well-known by people from other parts of world while the others still remain neglected and not as popular as violinists from other countries (e.g. Russia, Germany, United States... especially Jewish virtuosi). However, I do not find these less popular violinists have inferior techniques, some of them even have better skills (as some of them are laureates of premiopaganini) and better performance than those well-known versions (for example in terms of Paganini), so what is the cause of this phenomenon? Maybe it is caused by their labels? For example once signed by DG one will become more concerned by public and this circle? Thanks in advance.

Replies (49)

December 12, 2017, 9:45 AM · Charisma, management, connections, publicity, enemies, etc.

I'l be back after this morning's rehearsal.

December 12, 2017, 9:55 AM · Hi Andrew Victor:
You have reason, I agree with what you've listed, but what is "enemies"?
December 12, 2017, 10:19 AM · Not sure what he's referring to there, but I read somewhere that Aaron Rosand felt he was somehow held back by Isaac Stern.
Edited: December 12, 2017, 10:25 AM · Andrew summed it up (of course the given is that you actually have to play well).

I knew one violinist, a great up-and-coming one, who then argued with Isaac Stern, and then...

And another, who was also up-and-coming, contracts galore, TV, pushed by a lady... and then he married someone else...

December 12, 2017, 10:25 AM · Money
Edited: December 12, 2017, 10:42 AM · HI Paul Deck:
Why Issac Stern able to control destiny of others? The circle of violinists is not as fair as I once imagined, I once considered that they should help each other and foster rising stars as much as possible...

Hi Musafia:
Your violin case is amazingly fine, I once had one but is replaced by a gewa.
According to this principle, if a young violinist wants to get recognized by this circle s/he must obey to those “gurus”? If not, be held back and neglected?

Hi Bruce Berg:
Is money very important or more important than techniques? I know many violinists come from middle or upper income families of intellectual especially in United States learning violin costs a lot because one must call for private teacher, that is to say their families must support them and pour money into them in order them being recognized? However, in some countries for example Italy (particularly the south) and Eastern Europe some violinists come from ordinary families and conservatorio is rather cheap and can start from zero, if so, will they be held back?

December 12, 2017, 10:44 AM · youtube
December 12, 2017, 12:40 PM · Just like professions, it's called being successful and it's mostly luck, and how much charm the person has.
Edited: December 12, 2017, 1:03 PM · I'll tell you what -- anyone who says they got to where they are without any luck is just fooling himself. I don't know about "mostly luck" as Yinmui says, but there's luck. If you come in second in four different competitions, you won't have the same solo career as the person who got one first prize, and those competitions often hinge on a razor's-edge distinction in the minds of judges who have their own internal biases to say the least. Then too, you can win a spectacular competition and have your name in the headlines but burn yourself out getting there, I wonder if that is what happened to Lazar Berman, Olga Kern, etc. They are pianists but you can look at the laureates of the Queen Elizabeth Competition and you may see names that have you scratching your head wondering who they are and why you never hear about them. There's an incredibly handsome and gifted young man who is in one of the Vengerov masterclass videos who learned an Ysaye Sonata in three weeks and you cannot find his name anywhere now. What happened? I know great great violinists who hurt their hands in accidents. Nadia Salerno-Sonnenberg came within half a millimeter of the end of her career, for a time she had to refinger her concertos to use only three fingers. Can you imagine that?

And yes part of the dumb luck is "charisma" as Andrew Victor put it, euphemistically perhaps? And there's a double standard because men can somehow get away with looking plain but women are expected to be always glamorous, but I guess it is the same way in any area of show biz.

And Bruce is right -- young people who have family money to support the first, what, 10 years of their career, that's a big advantage. I could probably do that for my daughters, but thank goodness they're more interested in science and math. And it would be hard for both. I'd have to spend down my IRAs.

December 12, 2017, 1:06 PM · I will tell you how ridiculous it really is when it comes to fame. Sometimes it can be a person's name that gets them very far. I mean literally a name, first name and last name. Yeah, that can get you fame, because your name sounds nice.
December 12, 2017, 1:19 PM · If we talk about the same level, then Personality plays the main role, I think. And a chance for publicum to see it. It actually happens even at the local music school level. The most charming or most kind or most extraordinary children get the most support from local publicum on our concerts. And average behaviour is not catching people attention. To be honest, our children are equally bad, but some of them are really popular in our village and are kind of local stars, recognized in candy shops and getting discounts at ice cream cafe.

If you look at the most popular violinists, you can see how exceptional personality they all are.
May be your Italian masters were also, but world did not get chance to know it. Most probably, they did not do beside music something important for the whole word.

An averaged person can not destingwish between any graduates from conservatorium and high level stars in terms of technique and so on, but can see the difference between flat face and dancing eyebrows, normal family oriented person and one who spends all his salary on charity and schools for children, between calm normal person and one who lives in his/her own fantasy world....

December 12, 2017, 1:47 PM · Franco Gulli was a violin professor at Indiana when I was there and was very well respected. I realize that's still not the same as star power, but violinists in the U.S. certainly know who he was.
Edited: December 13, 2017, 5:45 AM · Paul Deck said "Not sure what he's referring to there, but I read somewhere that Aaron Rosand felt he was somehow held back by Isaac Stern." and that was the enemy situation I was recalling.

As far as charisma was concerned my father (an amateur violinist) related this story: WHen he was a Columbia University assistant professor with a lab on Welfare (now Roosevelt) Island in New York's East River, he would occasionally wander through the hospital there. One day, in the early 1930s he happened upon a TB patient who had been the concertmaster of the New York radio WOR Symphony. When this violinist was released from the hospital and his doctor said that he could resume playing the violin a few hours a week, he accepted my father's invitation to play with their quartet. Very soon this "degenerated" (or rather "elevated") to him playing violin concertos while the original quartet read from the piano accompaniment scores.

My father told me it was like playing with Heifetz. When he asked the recovering former concertmaster why he had no gone out on the soloist circuit, he replied that it was a mater of "stage presence" (what I called charisma) and you have to have it if you are going to succeed as a solo artist.

What is charisma? In this context I think it is a quality that attracts enough people to buy your tickets and your recordings for you to make a living that is worth to you the work it takes. In a general (non-theological) context it is a quality that attracts a large number of other people to you. Giant Pandas seem to have charisma!

December 12, 2017, 7:23 PM · Hi everyone, I find another factor fatal to career of a violinist: AGE.
In many countries, child starts to learn violin at a very young age as young as four to five, because it is their parents want them to learn and their parents choose their future careers. In Italy, average violinists except those from musical families, started from a rather older age, because their families do not have such awareness and there is limited access to information especially in earlier days, a kid wants to learn violin because s/he loves. For example, one of the best Italian violinists (even one of best violinists in the world today), Massimo Quarta, born in 1965 who started from 11 years old, he is not urged by his parents but he loves violin from the deep of heart and wants to become a violinist after listening another Italian violinist’ s recording, and at the age of 26 he won first prize in PremioPaganini and recorded six concertos of Paganini. There is also another amazing Italian violinist who has taught my teacher, Giovanni Guglielmo, born in 1935 and started from 12 years old, he was a good violinist as well as educator, respected by his pupils and Venetian people... And in most parts of world, children start from earlier age have greater chance to debut at an earlier age, for example, at 11 years old, some children can perform concertos of Mozart, Bruch, Tchaikovsky and Beethoven, as children are usually favored by this circle so it is a good chance to be recognized, for example, Daniel Lozakovich, who started from six and perform Mendelssohn concerto at 10 and Beethoven’s at 13, won second prize in Menuhin competition for young violinists and had debut in Italy when he was 16 with Rai, he had been signed by DG at 15, the same goes also for AS Mutter, if one started older one can rarely have chance to debut at early age thus their careers may be hindered, and when they got prize they have already missed the golden age for becoming famous...
December 12, 2017, 7:32 PM · Wow, you seem to be mixing and confusing various terms:

First, fame does NOT equal musical quality, performance level, technique level, musical skills or any of those things you're talking about. Fame is fame, and that's just about it. Fame simply means how known is one person, nothing else. Obviously a famous violinist must have some minimum technique skills cause you can't go "up there" in the classical music world without proving some skills. Now turn on the radio and listen to the famous "musicians" that are "playing". All studio produced, no talent at all, some don't even play an instrument. Well, those are more way famous than Heifetz. So, I want you to realize that fame is just how many people know you, and that's it.

Second, why do you care so much about how many people know that violinist that is less "skilled" that this other italian violinist?
If you enjoy those violinists you mentioned before, then listen to their recordings. One could say that you are not being neutral at all because you are complaining about just italian violinists, so your opinion is subjective and invalid, since there's no argument at all, just one: nationality = Italy.

Third, you claim those violinists are "better" than the famous ones. Well, I can disagree with you and tell you the opposite. So, at the end, it doesn't matter who's better or worse, just listen to what you think is the best and that's it.

I don't care classical music is not famous, I don't care talent-less wanna-be musicians that are all day long on the radio make a lot more money that the best musicians out there that work and have worked billions more hours mastering their instruments (classical, jazz, rock...). People are free to turn off the radio, or change their dial and put classical music, or jazz or rock or whatever.

What can make you famous?
Well, a simple call can make you famous. Or simply being the son of a famous person.
What can make you famous in the classical world, and specifically in the violinist world?
Well, same reasons up there. I know "many" musicians because they are sons of musicians that I admire. These sons can be just as good or worse than any random musician in the street, but having a father or a mother that is famous can open you a lot of doors. Also being a friend of an already famous musician, or being friend of the son of a famous musician, or doing a lot of little concerts/shows until you get "up there". I don't know, there are infinite factors that can make you famous, or at least that can provide you a chance or a few chances to be famous. YouTube has made famous a lot of musicians, specially singers and guitarists, that otherwise would just be a random "home" musician. Then ask yourself what makes you watch their videos and make them with that action bigger and bigger. May be it is their provocative thumbnail (click bait), may be it's the topics they choose to talk about, may be it's their skills that got your attention, may be it's a good looking musician... as I said, infinite factors.

Now, if there's one idea I hate is that rumor that talks about an "elitist" group of classical jewish musicians that order who can be or who can't be famous. Yeah, there are a lot of jewish violinists that reached the top of the mountain, so what?
Most of them are incredibly good musicians, I admire most of them, so I have no problems about it. It would bug me if these jewish musicians were talent-less. I've also experienced several times that one of these "god level" musicians were not that good in my opinion, not only jewish though.

So it's up to you to consider them good or bad musicians. I've experienced several times too that one violinist that is considered good but that's it is, in my opinion, a way better musician than one that is considered an untouchable God level musician. So what? That's my opinion, those are my musical sensibilities. Sometimes I've listened to one God level violinist, very skilled and all, but I felt almost nothing about their music. In other words, some musicians think Heifetz was not that good and lacked whatever. And it's Heifetz. So, again, at the end it's up to you. And don't worry about fame, who cares about how famous is or was one musician?

Edited: December 12, 2017, 7:50 PM · Hi Tim Ripond:
I don’t concentrate on nationality but on techniques, in circle of violinists it is glorious for one to possess better techniques, and it is fair for those with better techniques to be recognized, if not it is unfair, and standard goes upside down. Imagine a student scores lower but enrolled by a better university than you, how do you think so? There are also some non-Italian violinists with good techniques for example Rudolf Koelman, Ilya Kaler, Alexander Markov, Josef Gingold, Alexander Dubach, Florin Croitoru, Kristof Barati, they are not as known as artists of DG, even in their heydays, why?
December 12, 2017, 8:05 PM · Josef Gingold was very well known in the US, but as a concertmaster and teacher, not a soloist.
December 12, 2017, 8:18 PM · Fame is overrated (which is not to say that every very famous artist does not deserve said recognition.) It's only a pity when not being as well recognized as others prevents them from recording and/or being heard more often.

Additionally, not every famous prodigy ends up being "Heifetz level" well-known (and I don't think Maestro Heifetz was universally loved either.) Many very famous young violinists of today become "normal" famous later on, and some fade into relative "obscurity" (which does not mean said fact is fair, or that they no longer deserve our attention.)

Finally, the more famous violinists are virtual unknowns to the world at large. It doesn't matter much as long as you enjoy their artistry. What the majority may like is not necessarily right or wrong. Develop your own taste, whether it leans towards the famous or the lesser known.

Find players to love, admire, and learn from, living or from another era, from any ethnicity. Not all obscure ones may be "special", but there's plenty of "unknown" musicians (relatively, to the U.S. at least) that are incredible and worth our time exploring their recordings and live performances.

The U.S. classical market is a bit stagnant, often favoring the usual names, young or old-go beyond the usual, and listen to more great players based all over the world (not intending to smear the "bigger" names out there.)

December 12, 2017, 8:20 PM · Well, most violinists you were complaining about, if not all, were italians, so yeah, one may think that you simply want them Italian violinists to be famous because you're are Italian or live in Italy.

Second, now you're talking about recognition, not fame. OK, recognition by who?
All these terms you talk about as if they were mathematical terms are very subjective. I could also tell you that technique is just one of the many things a good violinist must have, and the ultimate technique violinist is just a machine, and there a lot more things beyond technique. It looks like the perfect violinist for you is Paganini, and you must realize there are a lot musicians that think Paganini is tasteless pathetic music.

Students with low scores entering prestigious music schools is not the topic in this thread, you were talking about famous violinists.

Edited: December 12, 2017, 8:41 PM · Hi Tim Ripond:
There are two questions: first, techniques serve for musicality, if there are not fine techniques, how musicality realized perfectly? For a student with inferior mathematic ability, how to be successful in college maths or physics? I mean techniques and musicality are connected tightly, the former is bone and base. Second, why Paganini detached from violinistic field? It is difficult and hard to handle as a result there are fewer performances and being rejected by majority of musicians?
Edited: December 12, 2017, 9:00 PM · With respect to musicians from any country, it probably helps to leave the home country and go develop connections in a country with a bigger market, like the US, UK, or Germany. Chances might improve if they study with certain teachers or win a big competition outside of their home country.
December 12, 2017, 9:55 PM · Well, technique is also subjective. You can say that someone's staccato is better than other's, but that's just your opinion. Technique is important but not the ultimate goal. One with way superior technique can totally fail at playing one piece if starts to use bow strokes that don't fit at all, or the tempo election is bad, or the sound is not chosen correctly: intensity, etc...

You can be a way better student at physics than one that knows a lot of formulas and tools, because physics is not all formulas, but being creative. Well, may be not so much physics, but in maths definitely yes, or in engineering. Maaaany problems don't require a vast knowledge of advanced maths, but creativity and mixing formulas or ideas in mathematical fields that people never mix because they seem so unrelated. Lots of complex math problems have been solved by "regular" mathematicians, or even engineers, that were not the best at maths, but tried a very unique solution that worked.

In music it's all about the final result, at least if we're talking about closing your eyes ans listening. Once you get to a certain technique level, it's not who is the most advanced technically, but who crates music using the right amount of technique, then one that creates the best sound, and sound does not depend at all only on technique. I've seen hundreds of times pieces getting totally destroyed because the violinist started to apply "advanced" techniques that only made it worse, out of place ornaments and stuff.

December 12, 2017, 10:47 PM · I'd say it's because they participated in (and won) internationally well-known competitions, are signed with big record labels, went to top conservatories etc. where they gained recognition & contacts.
Edited: December 13, 2017, 12:29 AM · @ Tutti Violino: I don't understand your comment to me, what cases have to do with gurus.

@ everyone else: I'm surprised that being good-looking hasn't popped up yet as an aid to becoming famous. In the old radio days, no one could see you, so they didn't care what you looked like.

But now... I'm old enough to remember when Sylvia Marcovici made sensations with her stunning concert gowns, and much more recently the L.A. Times gave a full page review to Yuja Wang in her little red dress. Eugene Fodor used to have pictures of himself taken shirtless on horseback, and no one can deny that a significant number of female violinists today are quite beautiful. And there must be a reason why David Garrett doesn't cut his hair!

It would seem that for at least a part of the music market, a concert has become a show which has its audio and visual aspects, perhaps more so for the latter than in the past, so what you look like counts too. Does anyone agree?

December 13, 2017, 12:42 AM · You need to be in the right place. The right places are London, NYC, Berlin. Italy is not high among those places.

Other factor has been mentioned: charisma, stage presence. And if the audience doesn't really love watching you play, that may mean that you don't really want them to watch you play. Not everybody wants to be a star, and right they are. It's very very stressful to be that one person (among sixty or or more on stage) who can make of break the night.

Here's another factor: the larger public can only handle that many famous violinsts, pianists, sopranos, conductors. Not more than three or five. That's what the big record labels did: the DG and RCA and CBS soloists were the certified great guys (very few girls among those, formerly) whom you could spend money on, buying records or concert tix. Outside those limited nrs it got very dicey, for ordinary music listeners.

December 13, 2017, 12:52 AM · As to the good-looking aspect: very few stars performers are really better looking than other people their age. Actually most performers look pretty wornout most of the time. But they do have excellent stylists.
December 13, 2017, 1:04 AM · ...and Photoshop does wonders for press images!
December 13, 2017, 5:08 AM · Excuse me Musafia:

"...YouTube has made famous a lot of musicians, specially singers and guitarists, that otherwise would just be a random "home" musician. Then ask yourself what makes you watch their videos and make them with that action bigger and bigger. May be it is their provocative thumbnail (click bait), may be it's the topics they choose to talk about, may be it's their skills that got your attention, may be it's a good looking musician... as I said, infinite factors"

Sure, I remember when Yuja chose that provocative out of place dress, she was news in every single musical news source. Being "bad" and provocative can make people talk about you, and you could go from "yeah, I think I know who she is" to "yeah, totally know her". David Garrett is a model, and also he covers rock stuff, so it's double success, hahahaha.

Edited: December 13, 2017, 8:02 AM · What I am saying is that some musicians "add" their personal visual aesthetics to music.
December 13, 2017, 8:32 AM · Yeah, and that means that some get up there partly because they are selling their image or look, that can mean going to concerts wearing provocative dresses, or clearly using your "good looking" face to catch attention. Labels also want to sell as much as possible, so they don't care what artists do to promote themselves.
December 13, 2017, 10:58 AM · I think that younger players today sound too much alike. Very high level playing, but little individuality. Many of the great players of the past had their own style and sound. Two of the most recognizable violinist of the 20th Century were Heifetz and Grappelli. Just hearing a bit of their recordings and you knew who it was that was playing.
December 13, 2017, 11:08 AM · Just last week I told the story about when Chubby Checker called me darlin. The two people I was talking to looked at me, "Who?"

Fame is fickle, and for most, it never lasts but in a few eyes.

December 13, 2017, 11:21 AM · Younger players are growing up in a system where arbiters of taste say that if you play like, oh, Kreisler, you are not respecting the wishes of the composer or the boundaries of good taste.

Players raised in that age tend to sound much more similar. I can only think of a handful of counter-examples -- for instance, Nikolaj Znaider has a much more old-fashioned approach to interpretation.

December 13, 2017, 7:22 PM · I really think it's a matter of right place, right time. Some freshman in my high school is considered the best violin player because she played the electric violin for like 1 minute in a concert, and I am not. Even though we're friends, I kinda hate that people regard a person playing in Book 4 Suzuki as better than the guy that finished Praelidium and Allegro and even 3 of the 4 seasons
December 13, 2017, 8:12 PM · I agree with Paul. Luck is very important. Obviously, luck won't make a bad player good, but luck certainly plays a role, starting with your family circumstances.

As an aside, Franco Gulli died in Bloomington during my first tenure there.

December 13, 2017, 10:04 PM · A good product doesn't guarantee sales success. I receive many entrepeneurs with a great idea of a product but a very vague strategy about how to reach and engage customers. They believe in "customer intelligence" (an oxymoron) and that clients will go to them. Those businesses always fail.

For a musician or an artist, their product is their talent and like any business, if you want to be successful the best product is not good enough. You need an strategy that usually involves prizes, recognitions, online presence, and make your name happen. And once you have all that, get lucky.

December 14, 2017, 12:00 AM · I absolutely agree that good looks is important, but it seems to unfairly affect female violinists than males. I wonder why :)
December 14, 2017, 1:07 AM · This makes illuminating, if unfortunately sad reading, on this topic:

http://www.nytimes.com/1989/08/06/arts/from-tchaikovsky-to-heroin-a-brilliant-violinist-s-decline.html?pagewanted=all

Edited: December 14, 2017, 1:48 AM · Of the Italian violinists in the OP's posts, the only one I never heard of was Giovanni Angeleri-and likely my fault, for not paying attention. You can add Vincenzo Bolognese to his list (I first heard of him as the editor of the Boccaccini & Spada editions of the Paganini Concerti, but he's great too). But my point is I know about and have heard most of them, so they are both recognized and relatively "famous".

IMO, striving to be the next "super soloist" is a fool's (or more appropriately, "lucky's") errand. Many of these ladies and gentlemen play as well as anyone; some may do so with more bravura, others are more "refined", etc., but whether they are recognized by DG, the U.S. audience, etc. should not detract from their artistry.

"Beauty" is both overrated and underrated-a double edged sword. I approach the music on its own merits. Whether I am "attracted" to an artist doesn't mean I'll love their music. It's also a pity when someone is berated for appearing "beautiful" or having an individual image as a "gimmick", because often the artist is really great, and it can attract lots of negative reaction from the more purist "connoseurs". In short, sometimes it's just an image to enhance a product that's not so (subjectively) amazing as advertised, but this is not always the case, and looking good or "attractive" must not be a negative trait, musically speaking, 100% of the time.

IMHO, there are many "famous" violinists out there we never hear about just because some markets are limited, and it's often OUR homework to explore what's out there, rather than leaving it to the "big" labels, important Concert Halls, etc. to define for us who the "great", "famous", "renowned" artists are. Shame on us (often), for not being more musically curious.

(This is also not unique to today's age. As inevitable as Heifetz's presence was, there were scores of great violinists during his era that were not as "famous" but were still great musicians. Being the "most famous" means little besides having more exposure.)

Explore, learn, enjoy. My favorite living violinists are not the most famous, but I was glad I discovered them, and they still inspire me to this day. I still enjoy and attend performances made by the "bigger" names, but these other less-known-about musicians are really transcendent artists, and I am sure they would have had a shot at musical society's "best of the best" in an alternate universe.

December 14, 2017, 1:45 AM · HI Adalberto, I also know Vincenzo Bolognese, leccese, the same as Massimo Quarta, he is violinist of former Accademia Santa Cecilia and now in Teatro Opera di Roma, now concertomaster, has several recordings like Ysaye, Tartini, Paganini. Enzo started to learn violin at 7 from his parents because his parents were both violinists, and his sorellina also plays viola. Enzo was pupil of Felix Ayo and Salvatore Accardo, and I also saw video of his performance in 1986, two students diplomata con massimo de voti from Conservatorio Santa Cecilia, one is Enzo, from class of Ayo, and another one is Massimo Quarta, from class of Bice Antonioni, at that time, people considered Enzo to be more prestigious but unfortunately Enzo only got fourth prize in PremioPaganini 1987 while Quarta won first prize in 1991. I listened several recordings of these two violinists finding in earlier days Enzo was better while in the end of 90s Quarta came better as there are more recordings of Quarta.
December 14, 2017, 5:19 AM · I would add Cristiano Rossi to this list, I heard him in Piacenza once playing the Kurt Weill concerto, superlative.
December 14, 2017, 5:54 AM · Oh, I also want to add Marco Rizzi to the list, I enjoy his Bach Partita
Edited: December 14, 2017, 6:30 AM · Of course, Marco Rizzi, excellent soloist, but he lives in Germany for some time now. He's a friend and I've heard him play live many times.
December 15, 2017, 6:03 PM · Jim, your example was simply eclipsed by the Beatles almost immediately he'd reached the top. A twist of fate, so to speak.
December 15, 2017, 8:50 PM · When I type "Leila Josefowicz" in Google search, it pops up with the following common searches:

Leila Josefowicz husband
Leila Josefowicz youtube
Leila Josefowicz partner
Leila Josefowicz violin
Leila Josefowicz married

So no, looks don't have anything to do with it -- look, there's "violin".

Edited: December 16, 2017, 6:42 AM · In the documentary 'Art of Violin' Perlman says (as I recollect) that if anyone has a career after 40 it is a miracle: 'so many things can go wrong.' Several violinists felt held back by Stern, and others felt supported. It is easy to come across soloist level musicians who had no or only a minor career for a variety of reasons.

What is so great about being a soloist? A life of hotels and flights?

The list of reasons not to want to be a soloist is long, and includes musical reasons. I regard the greatest pianist of the mid-late 20th century as Gulda. He had a minor solo career. He had one student, Agerich (who shares some of his greatness), and when he met her later is said to have asked, 'What have you done with your life?' He seems to have meant that a conventional performing career was a waste of a great musical talent. He lived by that.

Edited: December 17, 2017, 5:29 PM · Don't forget that another factor is posting on violinist.com! Whether the consequence for the individual is fame, infamy or anonymity is for history to decide :)
December 17, 2017, 1:52 PM · A good marketing combined with having something that the people like. It's pretty muchh the only thing that matter for commercial success. Look at Lindsey Stirling for example.
Edited: December 18, 2017, 1:26 PM · I think good looks is a very minor factor. Especially if you are not particularly bad looking. It is more about how good of an photograph you know and/or can afford.
The same goes for video and performance. Lindsay Stirling plays the violin at a level of an average 15 year old student. But she can dance (kind of) and knows some people, who can make decent shots of her. Especially back in the day her cooperation with a video artist made her videos so famous. Still much respect to her, since she can actually play and dance kind of at the same time.
Skill is obviously also a factor with which you can break through. Like in the case of Leonidas Kavakos or Frank Peter Zimmermann. Both not actually model type bodies, but very reliable and consistent violinists. The type you want to book!

An important thing is also to chose the right repertoire. Sometimes it is better not to touch certain pieces of the standard repertoire and go with lesser known. For technical and for musical reasons. For example Gidon Kremer held up his career with intelligent choices of repertoire. Besides that he is a wonderful violinist as well.

In the case of David Garrett it is a combination of skill and marketing... in his case the repertoire choice is made by his marketing managers and pretty much targeted to the largest audience possible. That is why he is not respected by many classical musicians. He sold his musical integrity. For a lot of money still... I don't blame him.

Youtube is of course a big platform to get a big audience. But it is very competitive nowadays and the possibility to go viral is more like hitting the jackpot. There has to be something special to the video and more and more the production-quality of the content starts to matter as well. Still there is a lot of room for exciting video ideas, especially in the classical music world.

In the end it is not important how successful you are as a violinist, but as satisfied are you with your artistic development and output. I strongly believe, that every good idea that comes from the heart and that you enjoy making, may it be a music piece, an interpretation of it, or a music video will find an audience who shares your excitement for it. Nowadays it is much more about, what can an audience relate to, than it is about the "best" music or player.
In the end you have to like what you are doing, because if you want to break through you have to work very hard at it.

I also want to leave a comment on the ongoing Aaron Rosand vs Isaac Stern discussion, that I see here:
Sure Aaron Rosand is a good violinist, but all his recordings and performances I listened to, where for me not on the level of an Isaac Stern or other old masters. If Isaac Stern overshadowed his career, it is a pretty natural thing. He is a great violinist and probably a great teacher as well, but to compete in classical music on the top of the world, I think he lacks some healthy edge to his playing. Maybe he could have succeeded much better, if he would have put more time into performing new music instead of sticking with the standard repertoire.

Regarding Age:
Age is like beauty a bubble, that will bust if you don't follow up with skill or heartfelt musicianship and/or entertainment.

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