Russia's favorite violinist

February 18, 2007 at 10:30 PM · An interesting vote has been posted on, Russia's most popular classical discussion site:

The blog is called "violinists of today", and very clearly shows how musical preferances differ in Russia from those in the US. The names of the violinists and number and percentage of votes given to them are following:

Itzhak Perlman : 26 votes (13.98%)

Pinchas Zukerman: 1 vote ( 0.54%)

Gidon Kremer: 29 votes (15.59%)

Anne-Sophie Mutter: 13 votes (6.99%)

Vadim Repin: 38 votes (20.43%)

Maxim Vengerov: 32 votes (17.20%)

Viktor Tretyakov: 35 votes (18.82)

Hilary Hahn: 3 votes (1.61)

Sergei Stadler: 1 vote (0.54)

Viktoria Mullova: 8 votes (4.30)

Although this vote represents opinion of a small group of people, one can notice that the number of votes in some cases is not connected with the popularity of those musicians in Russia, but rather with how people in Russia value those violinists themselfs. A clear evidence for that are examples of Sergei Stadler (who in Russia is not less popular than Repin, Tretyakov or Vengerov) and Pinchas Zukerman, who is definitely not less prominent than Perlman for people on that forum, who are mostly music students or music fans.

Replies (86)

February 19, 2007 at 01:35 AM · Спасибо zа site. Thanks.

Very interesting indeed.

You should share about your learning experience with V. Tretyakov, I am sure most here will enjoy it. I have not heard him in so many years.

Always loved his Paganini #1.

February 19, 2007 at 07:06 AM · Very interesting indeed. My vote would have to go to kremer. I always loved his sound and his sibelius!

February 19, 2007 at 08:40 AM · you know Daniel,

it is unfortunate that artists like Zukerman, Bell, Hahn and many more young artists have not played in Russia.

Leonidas Kavakos is awesome and so are many other young talents like S.Jackiw, J. Ehnes, H. Hahn, J. Fischer, F. P. Zimmerman. T. Zehetmair, C. Tetzlaaf.

I have played many concerts with Perlman and Zukerman, and to tell you the truth, Zukerman has been one of my favorite violinists growing up.

Even for many other Russians growing up in USA, Zukerman has been a complete star.

He has one of the best bow-arms in the world for sure.

His musical conceptualization has always been much broader than Perlman's in my opinion. And his technique has been more secure as well. And as much as I love Kremer and Repin, Zukerman is still in a league of his own.

February 19, 2007 at 08:49 AM · Why don't the ones you named play in Russia? That's interesting.

February 19, 2007 at 09:15 AM · Jim, this is simple,

first you have to get invited, but more important, you have to get used to the "special" fee and travel (customs) procedures for people travelling with instruments. Julia Fischer has played there many times and is going to play again. Especially with the Russian National Orchestra and the St. Petersburg Philharmonic and also in recitals.


February 19, 2007 at 09:47 AM · Can anyone just go there and rent a hall and give a recital like they could in the States? I ask because that list is so short.

February 19, 2007 at 09:41 AM · Jim, nope, unless you study the bribery text book, invest quite some money and have an inside "business" partner.


February 19, 2007 at 10:32 AM · That's depressing :)

February 19, 2007 at 01:15 PM · Jim,

Not every foreign artist can just go and play a concert/concerts in the U.S. either. The visa process and regulations has been quite complex the last few years.


February 19, 2007 at 01:44 PM · Christian, did you ever hear of anybody unable to get into the country for a competition? Surely the same rules would apply to a recital.

February 19, 2007 at 07:34 PM · Gennady, my friend,: Hilary Hahn played the Paganini d major in Moscow with Vladimir Spivakov ,conducting, and it was a huge, huge success. The public and the press went wild after the performance...

Incidently, Spivakov was ( over the past 35 years or so) and still is one of the biggest star in Russia. And I would add that he still plays wonderfully...


February 19, 2007 at 08:47 PM · Marc my friend,

Didn't know about Hahn being in Moscow and neither do the people on the Russian site which discussed the nature of this thread.

I am glad to know that she was there.

As for Spivakov, he is more of a politicians these days than a violinist/conductor.

He played really well 20 years ago.

As you can see by the rating above (taken from a Russian poll), he is not even in the consideration. These days Russians don't feel he is of the same league as Kremer or anyone else on that list.

In fact last time he came to Seattle (a year or two ago), he struggled through the Prokofieff #2. Which was quite poor.

BTW, you should read what Henry Roth ("Violin Virtuosos") said about him. Quite an honest observation.

"Of course he is a brilliant instrumentalist as are so many of his countrymen, but his playing is marked by a major shortcoming-a vibrato that is consistently too fast, at times almost approximating a whinny. And for all his finger intensity, the "on-and-off" vibrato habit is one of his hallmarks. Thus his sound is either excitedly vibrant or "white", with no intermediate tempering degrees. How this has escaped major adverse commentary from the Soviet violin establishment and foreign critics must remain a mystery."

February 19, 2007 at 08:59 PM · He played spendidly in Montreal last year and in Paris, last october, with Helene Mercier, gave a wonderful recital...he is 63...technically, perfect. Never heard him struggle with the instrument...I was at his Carnegie Hall debut many years ago, it was sensational...the press was enthousiast everywere, in Boston , Los Angeles, Chicago and all major cities...except, stangely, in New-York ??? Guess why ...and about his vibrato, there are many ways to play the violin, and not everyone is able to play in the "white" as well as he did, with natural resonance...


February 19, 2007 at 09:21 PM · Marc,

did it occur to you that perhaps he is inconsistant?

We played the concerto with him all week back then. And it got worse and worse.

I heard him many times. I know his playing and I used to admire it when I was a kid.

I have a recording (LIVE) from the Tchaikovsky competition, where he played one of my favorite pieces by Rodion Schedrin "In the Style of Albeniz". He had some major "issues" in the passage work (which he screwed up).

But he has had many fine performances too.

Nevertheless, I would say he is not in the same league as Kremer, Tretyakov, Perlman or Zukerman.

BTW, if you read the full critique by Henry Roth, he states some poor reviews from Spivakov's tours to the USA especially in California and the mid-west.

You are also missing the point of the the author of the post. The poll reflects the views of Russians in Russia.

Also it should have occured to you that perhaps the reason Spivakov did not have the major recording cotracts that Kremer, Perlman and Zukerman have had is due to the short-comings discussed by Henry Roth. Obviously he (H.Roth) was not the only one of that opinion.

February 19, 2007 at 09:40 PM · Gennady,

why do you think the Russians polled rated Zukerman so poorly?

February 19, 2007 at 11:19 PM · He has never played there.

And I believe that they are just not familiar with his recordings, since there is no distribution of his recordings in Russia.

I do know that Perlman had great success when he played in Russia.

People loved him.

Those who attended, say it was a heart wrenching experience.

Perlman had tears while playing etc.

February 19, 2007 at 11:58 PM · count up the votes - there's about 200 votes in that poll.

I would hardly consider this a representative sample of the Russian concertgoing/record-buying public.

February 20, 2007 at 02:02 AM · Gennady--

Interesting to hear your take on Zuckerman--when I was much younger I liked him much more than Perlman. He seemed so much more individual to me and I thought he reminded me more of Oistrakh than Perlman did. I also thought he did not sound as typical of Galamian as Perlman did.

February 20, 2007 at 02:16 AM · Jim,

very good point. But it's a good reflection of what the select few think.....


I feel the same.

But in Perlman's defense, when he did practice a lot, he sounded fabulous.

But for my taste, Zukerman's way of looking at music always seemed much broader.

February 20, 2007 at 02:39 AM · Last year I saw Zukerman play Mozart in Oxnard, California. I have never in my life seen someone play with such ease! That translated to making the music light, breezy, perfect! And his bow arm..beautiful.

February 20, 2007 at 04:32 AM · Aside from the Pag. 1, Tretyakov's recordings do not convey much emotional involvement to me.

February 20, 2007 at 11:28 AM · "Leonidas Kavakos is awesome and so are many other young talents like S.Jackiw, J. Ehnes, H. Hahn, J. Fischer, F. P. Zimmerman. T. Zehetmair, C. Tetzlaaf."

I did get to attend the S. Jackiw & J. Fischer concertos + H. Hahn's violin recital at Seattle, and they are all so amazing. What's also amazing is I think I recall Jackiw being a student of Harvard, as well.

February 20, 2007 at 12:32 PM · Hi,

Jim: competitions and recitals/concerts are different because you don't get paid for playing a competition. For recitals/concerts, you have to apply for visas for each one (about US$400 per concert). Wait period is 3-6 months and timing is quite regimented for the application and you have to provide details that are quite complex. You can expedite the process by paying the special fee (almost a legalized bribe) that is an extra US$1250 which can get the process done in tow weeks, but most don't because then you end up loosing money. In the past, you could just get a T-1 stamp to play as an artist (which was free) but that has changed. So, the ballgame has changed for many performing artists. Unless you are commanding already a high fee, it deters many from playing (or makes it not worthwhile). Hope this answers your question.

I have heard Zukerman many times in the last few years (easy since he lives in the same city and plays here a lot) and boy, that man has a knowledge of the instrument and control as a result that borders on the ridiculous. He is great. What else is there to say.

I know Stefan personally, and what a fantastic violinist and musician, and person too. I really hope that things will keep blossoming for him. He studies something academic at Harvard and takes lessons from Weilerstein.


February 20, 2007 at 01:41 PM · An expedite fee isn't a bribe at all:) Is the extra cost of priority mail a bribe? Getting a passport is the same way. The rest of it sounds like you're equating cops and thugs, though maybe not.

It is bad it's too expensive to be worthwhile. I doubt they'd bother you for playing on a visitors visa, unless your playing was so good it made headlines, or you were famous enough :) In which case you should be able to afford to do it the right way....

February 20, 2007 at 01:48 PM · Jim, it's getting even better:

"And thanks to our dedicated Homeland Security forces, what should have been a trio was reduced to two when cellist Danjulo Ishizaka, no doubt packing plastique in his Stradivarius, was denied a visa."

It's a kind of WTO issue: unless you have got US management performing in USA is virtually impossible.


February 20, 2007 at 01:55 PM · My dear friend Gennady,

Spivakov has a truly individual sound...I do not care about Roth opinion.I read the reviews of Mutter when she first played in Carnegie, and they were all bad.She gave the same recital in Montreal and was fabulous...When Hilary Hahn played her recital in Carnegie hall(2002 I think) in which she progammed Bloch sonata and Bach partita 3 in e major, she had bad reviews. One of them was published in the Strad, mentionning that her tone was tin and that she played out of tune...I was in Carnegie that evening and can assure you that with Spivakov's debut in 1976, it was one of the most exciting concert I have attended in my life, including the numerous performances of Oistrach I have heard...But I agree with you that Spivakov, still at the top,got discouraged with his career...He made many superb recordings , even a few years ago ( the complete Brahms sonatas)...maybe he was inconsistent, as you say, but many have the same opinion ,since a long time, about Zukerman...Now, there is a series of recordings of Spivakov I have at home he made during his teen in Russia that are quite comparable to those made by Hassid. Hopefully, they will be reedited one day with his incomparable recording of the Tschaïkovski concerto he did for Suprafon when aged 24. And also, the recordings of Vladimir Lancman, another student of Yankelevith, should be reissued...Lancman was incredible at the time. I also favoured Zukerman over Perlman when I was young. Zukerman was more individual and much more exciting to hear at the time ( I heard in concert his incomparable rendition of Vieuxtemps 5 and Wieniawski 2, Lalo symphonie espagnole ect.)


February 20, 2007 at 02:29 PM · Marco Rizzi was unable to get a Visa for a performance here in Indianapolis this evening. He applied back in November and concert managers even contacted a state senator to try to move his application through, but nope.

Igor Oistrakh was forced to withdraw from the jury of the IVCI because he was unable to get a Visa.

It's ridiculous.

February 20, 2007 at 02:49 PM · FMF, the quote is intended to be a joke. The article doesn't say why he was really denied a visa (I don't know either).

P.S. Erica - Re: Oistrakh, that's not the reason that was given at the time so I don't believe it. If he hdid have visa problems I'd guess it was because somebody on his side goofed up on the process.

February 20, 2007 at 02:43 PM · The reason: four months processing time wasn't enough plus Danjulo carries a German passport ("Old Europe", according to GWD, you know?).

After 11 years working for US companies, partially in US even, I am getting most jokes, even this one ;-)


February 20, 2007 at 02:54 PM · "I am getting most jokes,"

Yes, I follow you:)

Still it was their process error :) I used to work for a Swiss company. We never had the slightest hitch. This was only two years ago.

February 20, 2007 at 02:57 PM · Jim, check the press release. I clipped some of it below. The official reason was a "combination" of Visa complications and health problems. The Visa issues were the larger part of that combination.


INDIANAPOLIS - Jaime Laredo, Jury President of the 2006 International Violin Competition of Indianapolis (IVCI), announced today that Igor Oistrakh has been forced to resign from the jury of the Seventh Quadrennial Competition due to a combination of visa complications and health issues. {snipped some here}

Executive Director Glen Kwok added, "Regrettably, we live in a different world post 9/11. It has had resounding effects on every aspect of our lives, including the performing arts...."

February 20, 2007 at 03:00 PM · Erika, I won't check it, 'cause I know you wouldn't lie to me;) I just remember a health problem. But he could have gotten a visa if he'd done it right, right?

February 20, 2007 at 03:05 PM · Apparently not.

February 20, 2007 at 03:04 PM · After finishing a couple of projects in Russia, too, I can ensure you it is no substantial difference to get the paperwork for playing in either of the two large countries when coming from the vast majority of the world: from the other countries.

What I do not quit understand yet, how comes that US citizens have generally substantially simpler and faster processes for playing in most countries despite the fact USA is the home of the people whose rule e.g. led to casualties at a higher rate in Iraq than even evil Saddam could manage?

Shouldn't we be all concerned to let US people in without thorough and very lengthy screenings? ;-)

I have to admit this should better be posted another topic: "Protectionism in the Classical Music World"


February 20, 2007 at 03:15 PM · Dunno then.

February 20, 2007 at 03:20 PM · Hi,

Jim - legalized bribe is probably an exaggeration (actually, I was using the expression used by an agent that was trying to get me a concert, but then we realized that I would make a hole instead if I played).

Really however, it is more complex, and lying to the authorities is not something I would try. You cannot play on a visitor's visa for the following reason. As soon as the fee is paid, it goes on to the file with your name on it with U.S. customs. It will pop up as soon as they scan your passport and you run the chance of getting arrested.

Look, article or not listed up there, many individuals have encountered problems. I am not lashing out at the U.S. for its policies, but pointing out the problems involved with the difficulties of getting visas.


P.S. By the way, the process used to be much shorter for getting visas for performing artists and the expedite fee was essentially added in 2003.

February 20, 2007 at 04:03 PM · Christian, I wasn't suggesting anybody lie to anybody. I was thinking somebody comes over to visit, and decides to mow somebody's yard, not even the best bureaucrat is going to care. Thinking less professionally than you are, I guess.

But I would be willing to bet that anybody can come over and legally play wherever they want, which was what I was saying, if they do it right - specifically, apply for entry far enough in advance. The computer program does not have a "keep musicians out" subroutine :)

February 20, 2007 at 04:12 PM · Gennady--\Alright I'll ask publicly--whatever happened to Tretyakov--I remember a phenomenal Paganini1 while I was in med school 68-72 but never hearsd of him again. Was his career mainly Russian or did he start to teach? How did that much talent drop off the scene?

February 20, 2007 at 04:12 PM · Jim,

the timing of engagements is not always such that one can handle a five months processing time. It's a bit like a ten months waiting list for legal abortions. :-)


February 20, 2007 at 04:53 PM · FMF, I realize that. I suspect one would always want to be able to move quickly. Perhaps an opportunity presented that's unrealistic because of timing or other reason isn't a real opportunity though.

I know the stories of someone filling in at the last minute and being a smashing success. Maybe those stories will have to come only from Europe for awhile:)

February 20, 2007 at 06:27 PM · It doesn't just hurt the artists. It hurts everyone... audiences, local artists involved in the same performances, local arts organizations who've spent time and money planning and promoting concerts.

With Rizzi, the US visa office in Germany wouldn't grant him a visa interview. You can file your paperwork as far in advance as you want and still end up in bureaucratic limbo.

February 20, 2007 at 06:29 PM · Marc V.,

If you are familiar with Carl Flesch, he too wrote "the book" of critiques of the many great artists (including Heifetz etc.) and what he thought of them.

Henry Roth was one of the most celebrated personalities in our business and highly respected.

His observations are very much on target.

I used to love his (Spivakov's) sound as a kid. But it was at times overly-sweet and fast.

But honestly, I don't think he is in the same class (as a musician) as Hahn or Mutter.

When he was in shape, he was a tremendous instrumentalist.

And made what he played compelling. But as for his interpretations............I agree with Roth.

There are many younger players, who are much more interesting.

And about Hassid, that was a talent that comes every 200 hundred years. To me he was a mix of Kreisler & Heifetz rolled up in one. So sad that we have only a few gems of his to enjoy.

As far as great Soviet violinists who never got the respect they deserve are Miron Polyakin & Boris Goldshtein.

Both of whom who had far superior sound production and musicianship than V.S.

February 20, 2007 at 06:34 PM · Erika, nobody gets in through that office?:) Why did they single him out? People will be denied, no doubt about it. Or if it was ineptitude as you say, that's everywhere.

Anyway, I want to read talk about violin players, not red tape.

February 20, 2007 at 06:55 PM · Jay,

The author of this post, Daniel, studies with Tretyakov.

I am sure he can tell you more.

I do remeber his Carnegie Hall recital (I think in '80) which was excellent.

But (IMO) a lot had to do with the timing of Viktor's rise and the cold war etc. It was very difficult for the players of his generation to tour especially to the USA.

He also teaches and is on many juries.

February 20, 2007 at 07:00 PM · Hi,

Jim, the waiting period is not the only problem. The window is actually quite tight. Sometimes, you can apply for a visa within the requirements and still not get it in time, which means you have to cancel the engagement (that has happened to a couple of colleagues). Plus, the extra expense makes many engagements just not worthwhile. Unless you are playing a concerto with orchestra, most chamber music engagements don't pay enough to add an extra $400 expense. The expedite fee provides safety in the regard of assuring the visa is available in time, but the additional money makes it pointless for most performing engagements that most artists get.

You could play actually in the States without a visa as long as you are not paid anything. You can get an honorarium for playing up to 5 concerts as part of lectures or special projects in universities through a B visa.

I tend to play things by the book out of respect for the system and myself. Hey, I am weird. What can I say.

Christian Vachon

February 20, 2007 at 07:11 PM · Christian, doing things by the book is a recipe for success. Myself, I don't even know what the book looks like :) I just do what I can manage to do.

February 20, 2007 at 08:11 PM · ...I heard both Tretyakov and Spivakov at the same time in their debut in the States...Tretyakov was obviously inferior violinistically speaking to Spivakov who was praised by the press in U.S.A as the next violinmaster since Oistrach...Even if Kremer was his beloved student, Oistrach wrote many comments in the Russian press about Spivakov outstanding playing, praising his unique sound and "palette sonore" and considered him as one of the greatest violinist of the young generation...I read Flesh and Roth but do not consider myself as a figure of authority on this website...and do not wish to be. I agree with Flesh comments and hard views about Heifetz at times when artistic values were far more important than speed and technical feat...

Kreisler said in 1950 : ...we live in a world of power dominated by war, money and above all, speed... Hegemonia is a greek word refering to a certain certain parts of the world, unfortunately, it applies today. But in the world of music, it is misplaced

,because music is in essence a vehicule to reunite humankind. That is my point of view.( by the way,Gennady, have you listened to the dozen of recordings of Spivakov I was referring to, done in the U.S.S.R. when he was 17 to 24 years old? I know about Poliakine and Goldstein,and many other legendary violinists...but do not feel to share my views on this site anymore...)


February 20, 2007 at 08:40 PM · Marc,

I grew up listening to Spivakov, Kremer, Oistrakh, Pikaizen, Kogan etc.

Spivakov was a brilliant talent growing up no doubt, but his artistic depth never really blossomed IMO and others for that matter.

BTW, no one is stopping you from sharing your opinions.

Eventhough Carl Flesch may have had some points of criticism regarding Jasha, still Jasha and V.S. are worlds apart from their violinistic achievements as well as musical ones.

In fact Spivakov has always admired Heifetz a great deal.

I believe that Kremer has always been a much deeper musician than Spivakov. Repin too, is by far a better violinist and musician than Spivakov was and is.

February 20, 2007 at 08:56 PM · never reply to my questions Gennady...I asked you if you listened to the dozen of recordings Spivakov made when he was still under the tuition of Yankelevith? and also the recordings of Vladimir Lancman made for Melodya in 1968...Vengerov and Repin are not in the same league, I can assure you...Hats off to the next violin master were the epithets attributed to Spivakov,at the time...I heard both Lancman and Spivakov and knew them personnaly. I even studied with Lancman as a kid and played Ravel 's Tzigane for Spivakov when aged 13...I remember having heard Spivakov, Perlman and Zukerman during the same period and both Spivakov and Lancman were Kings, and also a certain Phillip Hirshorn...I have great respect for Kremer, but muss confess that he had not the magic touch of the trio above-mentionned.

It is true that the career of Spivakov seemed to fade away after a certain time...the same applies to other great talents such as Hirshon, Treyakov and few others...But what are the real reasons...this is the issue here and I do not believe the statements of Roth to be honest and valuables: they are clearly politicals ( violin esthetics and school)...Spivakov has behind him many recordings displaying his great artistic

values...His recordings of the Brahms sonatas are among the finests ( and yes, he can play with a continuous vibrato). When he played in Boston and Chicago, the audiences went wild and the critics wrote that he produced sounds never heard before him ( probably his famous and resonant blank sound which was used often by Ysaïe before him...)

I never compared , by the way Spivakov to Heifetz. I believe that the people should have a fair view of the artist, because our comments are public right now...



February 20, 2007 at 09:47 PM · .......

February 20, 2007 at 10:23 PM · Marc,

I did answer your question by saying that I grew up listening to Spivakov,Kremer, Oistrakh etc.

Anyway, let's agree to disagree.........

Spivakov came to NYC many times and I have met him through Raphael Braunstein who was very close with him.

But as I said before, last time V.S. was in Seattle and the few other times he came, it was not the same player as 20 years ago.

I still feel that he never blossomed musically as did Kremer and his American/Israeli counterparts.

And that had nothing to do with politics. He is in fact very politically savvy, and close friends with the "Politburo". It is no secret.....

I met Philip Hirshorn in Paris in 1989.

Wonderful person and great player.

I believe V. Landsman is Professor of Violin at Universite de Montreal.

I have not heard him play since I was a kid.

February 21, 2007 at 02:56 AM · Gennady,

Are you familiar with Mikhail Vaiman's playing? He was another wonderful Russian violinist my old violin teacher grew up with in Lenningrad many years ago. He used to play these old Melodya records of Vaiman for me, and I was struck by the beauty of his sound and fabulous vibrato. I guess he was overshadowed by other Soviet violinists, but I thought he was something special.


February 21, 2007 at 04:03 AM · "...because music is in essence a vehicule to reunite humankind."

Marc, why do you think this about classical music, and what is the mechanism you see for that? I think the essense of classical music is competition, and I think it always has been. A vehicle for individual achievement. That isn't something that unites. This typical thread in fact is about who's the "best" violin player. Classical might genuinely touch some people emotionally, I still wonder about that to be honest, but that isn't the same thing as "improving" people humanly, something it clearly doesn't do. Were it to disappear, there would be a void that I don't know what could fill, but I would say the same of any major establishment. In practical terms, I think it's no more valuable than say sculpture. I believe this is because classical music is an art. I believe this is what prevents it from doing what you would like it to do.

Something that pops to mind is Lech Walesa and the Polish revolution and all that, an important step toward the fall of the iron curtain, if I recall correctly. If there was any musical fuel there, it was people strumming on some kind of Polish banjo or something and singing in highly untrained voices. I know that without having to research it. I see a link between the ideological images of Woody Guthrie and the unifying polices of FDR. The symphony orchestras were busy arguing who had the best violin players, as they should have been.

February 21, 2007 at 03:28 AM · Don,

I have several friends who studied with Vaiman in St. Petersburg (then Leningrad).

I still have a wonderful recording of 4 Seasons with him playing.

February 21, 2007 at 04:16 PM · Jim,

I wrote that because something changed drastically in the world of music since the 50's .Martha Argerich made comments recently about the fact that when she was young, there were not so many pianists performing...only a very few elected with their own distinct approach.Today, there are so many, that it is difficult for the public and the profane to distinct the true genius among them.Kreisler,at the end of his career made similar statements. This is reported in Amy Biancolli's book. In an interview,he mentionned "that every musicians in his youth and through his career did help each other...there were no sens of competition like we see today...We were all friends he said, mentionning Thibeault, Ysaie, Cortot,Casals and many others..."

I think that the numerous international violin (and piano)competitions on the circuit ( the first one was held in Warsaw in 1935 ,Ginette Neveu aged 15 won the first prize,and David Oistrach came second)are quite responsible for that matter...

Also,you get fame instantly after winning a major competition. But does it mean that you are ready for an international career? In my opinion, many careers are launched to early these days and there are to many concert violinists on the circuit.During the 30s and the 40s, Kreisler,Menuhin, Heifetz ,Milstein, Neveu, Oistrach,Francescatti, Szigeti were the major names...Of course,there were other fine performers, but not that many.

Of course,the general technical level has higher standards today, which means better orchestras and better chamber musicians...but for soloists, we should be more exigeant. In a previous post, I did say,and that is my humble opinion, that the "Bach" test should be considered first, and then, the "Paganini", in second.James Ehnes, Ilya Gringolts, Julia Fisher and Hilary Hahn actually do succeed in both tests.

Finally, to quote again Kreisler, he said "when I was young, they ask who plays the best Brahms, who plays the best Beethoven? Now, they ask. who draws the most?


February 21, 2007 at 05:18 PM · Since he's part of the discussion--what kind of sound does Vengerov make in the hall? Is it large? Is it spare? Can he be heard well over the orchestra? I have only heard him on recording and while he sounds quite lovely, so does Bell and I have found him to be largely a visual experience in concert! Also I am a bit distrustful of the promotional machine that is pushing him so hard. For me that's usually a sure fire way to spot the charlatans(I know, my age is showing--lol)


February 21, 2007 at 06:13 PM · Jay,

I can only tell you that when Vengerov was around 12 years old (in 1986), he and Repin (then around 15 years old), played a special concert at the opening of the VIII International Tchaikovsky Competition. Being that they were too young to compete (and so extraodinary), they were allowed this privilege.

I know from friends who went to compete, that some of the participants felt like packing up and going home after superb virtuoso display in the most demanding situation by two kids.

The recording of this event is available from Melodiya

"VIII International Tchaikovsky Competition" The Opening 1986

I also have a recording of him when he was 8. He was an exceptional prodigy.

I can also tell you that I met Josh B. in Aspen when he was 17, we were stand-partners in orchestra together, and heard him playing Ysaye, Paganini,Ravel, Wieniawski at a special concert he put on "un-officially" along with Edgar Meyer.

It was astonishing playing for the most demanding audience including Perlman,DeLay etc.

He has always had the old fashioned approach in his concept of sound, slides, means of expression etc.

His technique (in both left and right hands) is also a very intuitive one.

In fact Leonidas Kavakos has a very similar approach to the instrument.

Which many upon looking at him, call it "old fashioned" (with the bow arm very Szigeti like" etc.

What counts is what comes out in music making and its concept.

Personally, I think Kavakos is one of the great violinists today.

February 21, 2007 at 06:26 PM · From: Skowronski: Classical Recordings

To: Mr. Jay Azneer

Your comments may have 'shown your age,' but they also most certainly revealed your sagacity.



February 21, 2007 at 07:12 PM · Jay:

I heard Vengerov on many occasions in the concert hall on 3 different Strads. The last concert he played a Mozart concerto quite well with a very fluid sound and 4 years ago ,I went to his solo recital, ( Bach,Ysaïe).He is a very impressive virtuoso, plays very fast but I felt quite exhausted myself after the performance... The Kreutzer Stradivarius sounds beautifully in his hands. I heard him in the Beethoven concerto, but maybe that night he was not quite in shape, and that was before he bought the Kreutzer, the sound did not carry much in the hall.

February 22, 2007 at 09:46 PM · Interesting Marc--

just from recording Vengerov struck me as having a very spare sound although that seems to be the style of sound that people generally like now. Oistrakh for all that he is my idol and ideal player makes a very juicy sound that no one today seems to want to make assuming that they could. Perlman who makes the juiciest sound that I know of of today's fiddlers is a whole order of size less than Perlman based on what I heard of them in Philadelphia Academy of Music. But as I said no one seems to want to make that kind of sound.

February 22, 2007 at 10:09 PM · Vengerov can pull a pretty rich, juicy sound when he wants to...

February 22, 2007 at 10:38 PM · order of sound less than Oistrakh is what I meant

February 23, 2007 at 01:39 AM · Kavakos's bow technique (not the bow hold) in a way is similar to Soviet sound production.

He has an amazing pallette of colors and dynamics.

I found Julia Fischers sound wonderful as well.

Repin's sound reminds me of younger Oistrakh.

I feel that there is no shortage of fantastic young players.

S. Jackiw's playing is stunning and is similar in approach to Milstein.

H.Hahn, in some ways resembles Szeryng in her aristocratic musical approach.

J. Bell reminds me of Gingold.

The great thing is, these players are very individual as were their predecessors.

February 23, 2007 at 01:47 AM · Hi Gennady, hi Jay.

To answer Jay's question, I would say that Gennady pretty much got the point of why Tretyakov wasn't that present in the US.


I also could add that Mr. Tretyakov told me once, that he avoids traveling long distances and that must have been a good reason why he cancelled his performances with Pittsburgh Symphony few seasons ago. But he regularly performs all over the Europe, let alone Russia. They have also formed a piano quartet together with Bashmet, Lobanov and Gutman, with which they perform quite often.

His lessons are always a great source of inspiration and energy and are very substantial. He just doesn't give you a chance not to give all of your 100%.

February 23, 2007 at 11:07 PM · "Spivakov has a truly individual sound..."

"in Paris, last october, with Helene Mercier, gave a wonderful recital...he is 63...technically, perfect. Never heard him struggle with the instrument..."

"Incidently, Spivakov was ( over the past 35 years or so) and still is one of the biggest star in Russia. And I would add that he still plays wonderfully..."

I have recorded Spivakov live a few times in the last 10 years, and watched him conduct and play in chamber music.

I don't wish to comment....

In Russia it would be true to say his wife is also a star,- she's often on Kultura.

February 28, 2007 at 06:08 AM · I can't compare Spivakov and Tretyakov. To me of course, Tretyakov is a deeper musician and a lot greater violinist with more colors. Spivakov is just " a good violinist" in 70s but not now

February 28, 2007 at 02:04 PM · >Jim: competitions and recitals/concerts are different because you don't get paid for playing a competition. For recitals/concerts, you have to apply for visas for each one (about US$400 per concert). Wait period is 3-6 months and timing is quite regimented for the application and you have to provide details that are quite complex. You can expedite the process by paying the special fee (almost a legalized bribe) that is an extra US$1250 which can get the process done in tow weeks, but most don't because then you end up loosing money. In the past, you could just get a T-1 stamp to play as an artist (which was free) but that has changed. So, the ballgame has changed for many performing artists. Unless you are commanding already a high fee, it deters many from playing (or makes it not worthwhile). Hope this answers your question.

Fascinating info. Thanks, Christian!

And I enjoyed seeing the opinion poll, Daniel. Thanks for posting it.

February 28, 2007 at 04:25 PM · As his name, Mikhail Vayman, was mentioned here, some of his recordings (going back to 1959) were reissued by Melodya. Likewise some of Victor Pikaizen and Elizaveta Gilels. Still waiting for a Fichtenholz reissue ...........


March 16, 2007 at 03:19 PM · Ronald, I have Vaiman's Beethoven no. 7 & 10 from his Melodiya set. Some consider those recordings to be the etalon recording of Beethoven Sonatas. I don't share this opinion.

March 19, 2007 at 01:21 AM · if Russians were able to hear the artists we here in the US, I am sure the list would be quite different.

Nevertheless, Repin, Vengerov and Kremer would still be in top 10.

I would rate Julia Fischer among those top 10 as well as Julian Rachlin and Ilya Gringolts.

March 19, 2007 at 02:37 PM · Gennady,

Today, recordings of Zukerman, Hahn, Zimmerman, Tetzlaf and other artists are easy to obtain in Russia and I am sure most violinists are familiar with them, especially people on that Russian forum. They are also familiar with playing of Fischer, Rachlin and Gringolts. The issue is, that this list can only consist of 10 performers. If you would rate these 3 young performers among those top 10, who would you take out from the list?

March 19, 2007 at 02:54 PM · Daniel,

are these Russian fans really familiar with the playing of these soloists or rather with their recordings? It would certainly make a difference.


March 19, 2007 at 04:08 PM · Frank-Michael,

I agree with you, that hearing a recording is different to attending a live performance. But most of us know Oistrakh and Heifetz from recordings only, and that doesn't mean we are not familiar with them. By the way, could you tell me, what version of Valse-Scherzo is Julia playing on her new CD?



March 19, 2007 at 05:17 PM · I believe it's this version:



For violin with orchestra, C major, Op. 34 (1877)

* Composed January - February 1877(?).

* Scored for violin solo + 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets (B-flat), 2 bassoons, 2 horns (F), violins I, violins II, violas, cellos, double basses.

* Also arranged for violin with piano by Tchaikovsky, January - February 1877(?).

* First performed in Paris, 8/20 September 1878, by Stanislaw Barcewicz, conducted by Nikolai Rubinstein.

* Dedicated to Iosif Kotek.

* Average duration: 7m 15s

I know there are doubts whether the orchestral part comes from Tchaikovsky himself - at least partly - but rather from Kotek. But there are no variations of the orchestral edition I am aware of. There is as you know just Tchaikovsky's own version for violin and piano.


March 20, 2007 at 11:12 AM · I was curious, because Julia plays a version I have never heard before. Is it an old Russian edition?


March 20, 2007 at 12:07 PM · Looking into the music tells me, she is playing "just" the plain original, no "Вальс-Скерцо" в обработке Безекирского. Around this Valse-Scherzo the unfortunate habit has developed where violinists keep telling late Tchaikovsky how to compose by making his music a bit more interesting, it seems ;-)


March 21, 2007 at 03:30 AM · "the unfortunate habit has developed where violinists keep telling late Tchaikovsky how to compose by making his music a bit more interesting, it seems"

Frank I do have to disagree. I do not find this progressive approach unfortunate in interpreting Tchaikovsky's violin music. I think Leopold Auer, if anything, made the Violin Concerto better with his revisions which were approved by Tchaikovsky himself! Sometimes a progressive approach to the score can actually be quite refreshing, to counteract this 'authentic movement' obsession that has gone on ever since Heifetz's departure.

March 21, 2007 at 04:03 AM · Ofcourse, approved changes are just fine or even better. In this case, however, there are no traces of approval. Bezekirsky's transcription should at least carry the word transcription in the titel, so young violinists do not take the transcription for the real Tchaikovsky thing. I see really no problem if only this frequently performed version would go under the correct title.

I am just imagining, how much more virtuosic Beethoven's romances could sound if improved by a concertmaster of

Bezekirsky's caliber, especially when still being sold under Beethoven's name. ;-)


March 25, 2007 at 01:11 PM · I don't really understand why Auer complained about Tchaikovsky's Concerto difficulty and later edited the concerto, filling in much more complicated passages.

March 25, 2007 at 02:57 PM · Maybe Piotr made him and offer he couldn't refuse.

April 25, 2007 at 11:58 PM · hmmmm, who knows...

May 10, 2007 at 07:48 AM · An unknown Russian virtuosos who studied under Boris Goldstein in Moscow is Alexander Skwortsow ( You can listen to some recordings on his website.

May 11, 2007 at 09:21 AM · Dania! great to see your thread so popular! how are you? what's new?

May 12, 2007 at 07:57 PM · I agree with G. Fillimonov re rating violinists

by Russians in Russia! That is the point of discussion.As a student of Galamian my collegues

were Perlman and Zuckerman. The are both very talented in different way. Russians rating includes violinists by perfect execution, technique,placement,sound and..consistency.

That is why Repin is so highly rated to my suprise, since I have performed with him.Vengerov

should be rated above(soul, style,imagination, etc)Repin.In today highly competitive violin playing, musicianship is becoming priority, rightfully so.By playing violin to pefection is not enough for me..

My choice is A.S. Mutter. She has it all!Extremly

accomplished,and quite a musician. Not to mention

that she is quite a violinist.

Best to all,

Magdalena Golczewska.

Magdalena Golczewska.

March 29, 2008 at 08:32 PM · so glad to read this.

seems the vote considers more the individuality of the personality of each violinist and less his skills.

-very interesting-

July 22, 2008 at 12:55 AM · Joanna:

If the vote would consider more the individuality of each violinist and less his skills, then this list would include some viola players too. )))

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