bach partita 3,,,milstein and heifetz

March 5, 2007 at 03:14 AM ·

(heifetz's clip at a disadvantge because of the quality)

Replies (91)

March 5, 2007 at 06:19 AM · I liked Milstein and Heifitz, for different reasons. Milsteins was lighter and more resonant and nice. Heifitz seemed to be crisper, with heavier treatment--which was equally cool.

March 6, 2007 at 02:57 AM · Heifetz ruled over all with his supreme control of the subpoena.

March 6, 2007 at 02:54 AM · milstein's version is a classic.

March 6, 2007 at 03:56 AM · Milstein and Heifetz are two of my favorite three, but I must admit I listen to the Milstein S/P way more often than I do the Heifetz S/P.

March 6, 2007 at 04:45 AM · My 8 year old son said Heifetz is like spring and flowers and staccato. Milstein was dark and like draggy like I'm going to crash into you.

March 6, 2007 at 09:27 PM · Both play it "à la Sarasate": to fast and missing the polyphonie. wich is an essential component of the music of Bach...

March 6, 2007 at 10:36 PM · damn...

March 6, 2007 at 10:38 PM · Wish I could play as good as those guys!

March 7, 2007 at 01:09 AM · I normally get knocked out by Heifetz, but this Bach rendition really leaves me cold. It's just like a machine, a train chugging down the tracks.

Milstein brings an amount of subtlety to it that really surprises me, as I normally think of Bach in "Heifetz-esque" terms. WOW.

Marc, what is "polyphonie?" (I'm not a classical player)

March 7, 2007 at 01:27 AM · It's some other language for 'polyphony.' In the context he's using it it means multiple voices and their relation to each other rather than say voice and accompaniment throughout. --> interesting reading for you

I'm waiting for Al to say which one he likes and why ;)

March 7, 2007 at 01:31 AM · 'Polyphony' I don't believe really exists in the Preludio. It consists of a single line. When a piece is arranged in parts for several voices like a fugue - that is where it exists :) I still don't hear what you guys are saying about Heifetz. This is a fabulous landmark recording. I can think of a few 'wind up' dolls (not mentioning any names) that really play Bach like a machine.

March 7, 2007 at 01:46 AM · jim, as a simpleton, i just got blown away by milstein's take. it gives me the buzz. it's surreal, almost not music but a,,,i dunno,,,a drug that brings you to another intoxicating state... i think any human being, not just classical fans, may be able to relate and sense something very unique to the core.

heifetz's take is fine. but to me, the music, in comparison, did not take on a life of its own, at least not as much, because i was overwhelmed more by his presense than by the music.

urgent disclaimer: i do not even know how bach supposedly sounds like, hahah. so take it as a knee jerk reaction:)

to put another foot in my i going to be yelled at for being deaf by suggesting that either it was due to the recording, or i have heard couple notes by heifetz that were not truely true? you know, the sound you make when either your finger gets there a teeny bit late or leaves a teeny bit late...

i have no idea what polyphony means, but, if i were to listen to this piece played for the first time without looking at the playing, i could be misled into thinking that there were 2 violins feeding each other. so many layers, undulating in a cascade.

March 7, 2007 at 01:54 AM · Nate, you don't believe in implied counterpoint? What about implied pedal point?:)

Al, I like the H. more because it makes me sit up straighter :) It's hard to pay full attention to these pieces for any span of time. Maybe ADD.

March 7, 2007 at 04:29 AM · qote- "am i going to be yelled at for being deaf by suggesting that either it was due to the recording, or i have heard couple notes by heifetz that were not truely true? "

Al, even God made mistakes. Take the duck-billed platypus, for instance...

Jim, thanks for that link. I do know what counterpoint is, having labored through music theory courses in college. However, I still don't see how it applies to the Bach. Are we supposed to hear the notes as two separate lines, coming off of one violin? If so, I can sort of hear that with Milstein's version, but not at all with Hefeitz's. I guess maybe that was Marc's point, that neither of them really delivers this illusion properly?

-Or perhaps was "polyphonie" meant simply to describe the sort of "almost" double-stops in the middle?

March 7, 2007 at 01:52 AM · jim, when those 2 play, you need to stand up and salute:)

allan, yup, funny you mentioned those ducks. i was just reading about them somewhere. would make a cute pet:)

March 7, 2007 at 01:52 AM ·

March 7, 2007 at 01:53 AM · >to put another foot in my i going to be yelled at for being deaf by suggesting that either it was due to the recording, or i have heard couple notes by heifetz that were not truely true? you know, the sound you make when either your finger gets there a teeny bit late or leaves a teeny bit late...

Huh? What are you talking about Al?

March 7, 2007 at 02:05 AM · Somebody must have missed the first day, because that's when they tell you what polyphony is. I'm one to talk though; I was famous for showing up halfway through the semester.

March 7, 2007 at 02:04 AM · nate, like the chinese saying...picking bones in an egg,,,,

here is another hand into the mouth...there is a little something, say around 1:14 and 2:47.

btw, who is hiding milstein's violin from me? give it up:) is it being played actively in public?

March 7, 2007 at 02:58 AM · Milstein!

March 7, 2007 at 03:39 AM · "...a little something, say around 1:14 and 2:47."

At 2:46 he misses a note. It doesn't matter, but I never heard him miss a note before.

March 7, 2007 at 03:47 AM · jim, i think i see you in the audience at 00:55:)

March 7, 2007 at 03:56 AM · This 'conversation' is a huge disappointment.

March 7, 2007 at 04:02 AM · Al, while you're obsessed with this tune, you did catch Rock 'n' Roll Melissa's Ysaye, didn't you?

March 7, 2007 at 04:26 AM · nate, it is not conversation yet because we have not heard you articulating your feelings on the 2 takes:)

jim, help me with the pronounciation of Ysaye, please.

March 7, 2007 at 04:53 AM · No idea, al. I just say it like EASE-eye.

March 7, 2007 at 05:06 AM · I'm very familiar with the recording, Al. It is top class playing, anyone with ears won't dispute the precision Heifetz played at in this piece and others. There are people however (I'm not one of them) that do not like his interpretations always - that is fine. Music is apples and oranges. You can nitpick all you want and find a note you don't like. You won't find many "bad" notes in a vintage Heifetz recording.

When you make baseless remarks about Heifetz sounding like his fingers got to the notes a "tiny bit late", how can you blame anyone for not seeing this discussion anything else but a disappointment?

March 7, 2007 at 05:11 AM · Ysaÿe (ē-zä-ē') is pronounced: ee-za-ee.

March 7, 2007 at 05:27 AM · oh please nate, you know, you, as a musical intellectual, may want to get the gist of this thread and have some mercy. this is a bit of a give and take here. there is no picking on heifetz for fun or for anything. what is the point of that?:) certainly not my intention to belittle heifetz in any way or form. in fact, when i first posted this thread, i was thinking, hmm, should i say: h or m, who is better? knowing better, i thought that would be crazy. therefore, i asked: which one does more for you, on this piece of music, on that take of theirs... the built-in sensitivity... man, i tried.

having said that, i think it is my duty, fashionable or not, to question things that my ears told me that i have heard. in fact, i was not sure if it was the recording or really some minor slips. so i phrased it as a question. i asked because i wanted to know, because i want to learn. you may find it hard to imagine or believe, but most of the time when i visit this site, or post on this site, i have quite a few other things to take care of at the same time. i do not have music background so in haste or ignorance if i misspeak, i apologize. my belief is that if my kid is being subjected to the classical routine, i do not want to be a bystander. i need to do my own time. get involved. education is not a kissing party or aszkissing party. there is an obligation to challenge my mind as well as others'. i am not going to be pretentiously nice to be allowed to stand on the handout line. i need to learn from people who can see through and cut through the carp and appreciate the fact that with me, you are dealing with issues and not personal feelings.


may be it is time that you and i meet up one day in peter luger and hammer this one out before it blows up into a classical incident:)

March 7, 2007 at 06:15 AM · I criticised Heifetz over on Jay's vibrato thread. I admit it. I admit it. Here, I bare my chest for you to plunge in the weapon.


"Man, I tried...".

That reminds me of the scene with Jack Nicholson in One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest when he's trying to pick up the sink and chuck it through the window. Everyone just looks at him, dumbfounded. He stares back at them, slightly peeved, and says something like:

"I tried, didn't I? God d*** it, at least I did that!"

March 7, 2007 at 06:19 AM · jon, if there is a knock on the door in the middle of the night, don't answer it.

could be the heifetz institute.

wait for my signal; we may need to go into hiding.

March 7, 2007 at 06:24 AM · Gotcha.

P.S. What ever happened to Kevin? Remember him? Sometimes I wonder if they got him in the night.

He's probably cracking rocks in some gulag somewhere.

March 7, 2007 at 02:12 PM · Nate: there is a hidden polyphony, ALL THE WAY in the Preludio in E is not necessary to do chords or double-stops to get that effect...Now we are talking about really understanding a music score !!! The same applies to the presto in G minor of the first sonata or any similar movement written by Bach in his solos works for the violin...


March 7, 2007 at 03:00 PM · so got the slip under the door instead. whew. it reads: this time we will let you slide. but if you start a thread and no one is allowed to tear apart another for the sake of intellectual exchanges, what is the point?

--heifemilstein committee.

well, with 3 wks under her belt with this piece, ready to dash out for the school bus which was coming in any second, a piglet, the daddy's chosen object of criticism, equipped with all the iffies and misses, stepped out to save the day. her take, so shoot.

jim, i hope you like this one...:)

March 7, 2007 at 02:27 PM · I heard Milstein play Partita #2 in person when he was 80 years old, the very last time he appeared in Chicago. Not only was it note-perfect, but it was vintage Milstein, technically and musically. His sound and "voice" cut through the hall like a hot knife through butter. There were moments during the Chaccone that you literally felt you were hearing the voice of Bach. It was really startling. Whether his is the "proper" way to play Bach, I don't know, but it was great, great music-making.


March 7, 2007 at 02:46 PM · Nice point Sandy. What if you hear someone play Bach the "proper" way but you find it unappealing? That is why I have always taken the position that there is no necessary musical magic in playing something the "proper" way.

March 7, 2007 at 03:25 PM · Someone wrote a letter-to-the-editor in the most recent issue of Strings magazine about that very subject--I don't have the mag in front of me so I can't quote directly, but the writer was taking issue with some comments made in an article a few months back. The article had been rather unapologetically period-performance-partisan, in effect "Hooray! People are finally playing Bach the way it should be played, and they're finally making it interesting, instead of that stodgy, serious old-style Bach playing." (It may have been that same article or maybe a different one, I can't remember, but a period-performance violinist was quoted somewhere as describing the Chaconne as "sexy"...)

The offending comment to the letter-writer was that "Heifetz, Milstein and Menuhin played Bach as dryly as if it were etudes." To which the angry letter-writer replied:

1. Have you ever HEARD Milstein, Heifetz and Menuhin?

2. Even if you don't like them, can you deny the power of the profound personal and artistic statements made in Bach recordings by the likes of Szigeti and Enescu?

3. Is it really helpful to perpetuate the sectarian sniping between "traditionalists" and the "authentic" crowd?

4. Most importantly, is it really more important what kind of instrument someone plays on, or how exactly they break or roll the chords, or is it more important what they say with the music? Interpretations, like music in general, have been evolving and changing for the almost 300 years since Bach, why pick ONE style and declare it Absolutely Correct?

If anyone has a copy of that issue on hand, and if I've egregiously misrepresented this letter's content, by all means correct me. :) I just remember slapping the magazine down on the table and shouting "AMEN BROTHER!!!" :)

March 7, 2007 at 04:02 PM · I agree Maura, and Sandy that was very interesting to hear your comments on Milstein's performance which kind of relate to what Maura was getting at. Their's no way of knowing how Bach wanted his pieces to sound exactly. I think this whole 'Authentic' movement that is going on is very suspect.

March 7, 2007 at 04:36 PM · Nate - I would not go overboard in the opposite direction. Some of the period performance insights are good and improve the quality of the experience. I happen to like Lucy van Dael's solo Bach although not as much as Szeryng's, and I think Gardiner's recordings of the Beethoven symphonies are super. Some people regard the period performance movement as a bunch of academics trying to find some way to justify their existences (although being related to one of the most influential people historically in that area, Wanda Landowska, I would not totally agree). However, I would maintain that there is nothing magical about such performances and no reason a priori to prefer a period performance to a non-period one; it is all a matter of whether the interpretation speaks to you.

March 7, 2007 at 04:55 PM · I don't think Nate intended to completely blast "period-style" performance, just to say that the almost missionary zeal and evangelical fervor (and occasionally fundamentalist certainty) common in the current "Authentic" establishment is enough to raise doubts and questions...

March 7, 2007 at 06:08 PM · this phenom is not unique. human cultures evolve with one intellectual movement after another. when 2 clash, often we see breakthrough because of deeper understanding. it is an extension of human nature, like power in politics, greed in business, winning in sports... in music, we simply tell the other guy,,,,this is how you should play. and the other guy say, no, my way is better. this escalates and broadens and eventually, the entire level of knowledge base is elevated.

our identities are often marked by our ideas and our ideas are developed through different experiences. we disagree for the common good and each contributes to the humming engine in unique ways.

hopefully, through exchanges, those who know everything can learn just a bit more and those who know nothing at least get away with something.

the only part to watch out for is when people mix ideas with emotion and personal feelings. it is ok to love the person to death but hate his ideas to death. however, what we see often is that if we do not like the ideas, we do not like the person, or, if we like the person, we will like the ideas.

March 7, 2007 at 06:57 PM · " music, we simply tell the other guy,,,,this is how you should play. and the other guy say, no, my way is better. this escalates and broadens and eventually, the entire level of knowledge base is elevated."

Yes, I would have to agree that this happens a lot in music, as one would expect when such passion is evident. However, the only ones that really seem to get away with it and have a lasting impression on us all are the ones who stand head and shoulders above the rest and who are, for obvious reasons, esteemed by their peers. Andres Segovia literally re-shaped the world of the Spanish guitar, which is now called the classical guitar thanks to Mr. Segovia, and the powerful aftershock left in the wake of his passing continues to this day.

But, as for the original post, I have always been so very fond of Heifetz's work, and have as well grown quite fond of his recordings of the Bach Sonatas and Partitas. I have Milstein's 1950's recordings, Milstein's 1970's recordings, Hiefetz's 1950's recordings and a more recent set issued by Naxos that is prehaps more historically original as the intention for this set was that it be done in the Baroque style, period instrument and all. I am quite fond of each of these recordings of Bach's Sonatas and Partitas, and when the mood strikes I listen to whichever one I wish.

March 7, 2007 at 07:22 PM · When playing the s/p , for me anyway, the performer has to lay themselves bare and I think due to the nature of heifetz he doesn't do that, milstein however does and in doing so I ifind it much much richer. My view of period instrument/style interpretations isthat they are very accomplished but for me they aren't as personal as a more "honest" version (one not adhering to rules as it were)

Huberman played solo bach gloriously and you can hear the andante played wonderfully at (need login). He follows no conventions,in fact it is highly romantic but nevertheless it is "honest"

This post was a bit ambiguous I know and I dont mean honest in the normal meaning but it's my thought anyway!

March 7, 2007 at 08:37 PM · Greetings,

I have t confess I am progressivley mor e puzzled by descriptions like 'lay ourselves bare' as I get older (except in recalling less salubrious incidents of adolescence).

I am not convinced by the idea of a Bach that manifests all the potty training, broken hearts, traumas, post modernist pooh, and sexual neurosis we carry around.

On the whole i think it is actually the opposite. A great artist is a vessel that allows music to flow through them from somewhere with minimal interferece. We recognize and have preferences teh tool in question be it Kreilser, heifetz Van Dae or whatever, but where its at is the music.




sure heifetz and milsteins are great musicians, but they are also pain in the butt! :) they are helpful in one way, but definitely not helping in the other.

because of their nonrelenting back to present presence, any currrent talented musicians can never grow up. always judged againist them, always.

"oh, did you hear xyz last night? it was soooo good."

"yeah, i heard she had a great concert. oh, for that piece, you should hear heifetz's recording from 1735!"


March 7, 2007 at 11:53 PM · Huh?

March 8, 2007 at 01:59 AM · Pass that joint!

March 8, 2007 at 02:04 AM ·

March 8, 2007 at 02:02 AM · if it is to be a conversation, let it be.

my question earlier is very simple: false notes in heifetz's playing or not?

answer: heifetz is great.

oh. hmmmm. ahhhhh....

March 8, 2007 at 02:25 AM · I don't want to sound redundant but I'll restate what I said earlier word for word, I'm very familiar with the recording, Al. It is top class playing, anyone with ears won't dispute the precision Heifetz played at in this piece and others. There are people however (I'm not one of them) that do not like his interpretations always - that is fine. Music is apples and oranges. You can nitpick all you want and find a note you don't like. You won't find many "bad" notes in a vintage Heifetz recording.

When you make baseless remarks about Heifetz sounding like his fingers got to the notes a "tiny bit late", how can you blame anyone for not seeing this discussion anything else but a disappointment?

March 8, 2007 at 02:26 AM · amazing.

March 8, 2007 at 03:14 AM · al, you might have better luck of you talked about exactly what it is you hear, and then why that's significant to you.

March 8, 2007 at 04:28 AM · well, lol, i think on this thread, with heifetz fanatics lurking everywhere, including myself, anything said that is slightly not idolizing enough of him will be construed as having an axe to grind against humanity, or even better, having no ears, which, by the way, is an extention of the brain. so i got the pic.

this website is great with lots of learning points one of which is that after a while, one learns to appreciate that some do come here with an agenda. whatever is said will be filtered through the agenda compartment, part of the inner ear, just behind the tympanic membrane, for those with ears. for instance, if you say, how are you.. at the wrong time of the day, via the agenda filter, it may sound like: so you have a problem with me?:)

i did hear notes that i have considered as not truely true, meaning the notes are simply not right on. significane of that? because i want to know, haha! with my elementary level of understanding, my speculation was that with fast passages, it might happen, when the bowing and the fingering did not match exactly.

ideally, the answer is either yes or no. either you are hearing things or you are hearing right. to provide a lecture on the greatness of heifetz is not something that i have anticipated. certainly did not help me. and certainly did not answer the question.

knowing nate's teacher's teacher is heifetz, if i want to know about h's greatness, trust me, i won't be shy asking specifically about it. but i did not.

March 8, 2007 at 04:56 AM · Jeeezzuss, now Van Gogh has gotten in the picture--Al! Where's your ears! ;).

March 8, 2007 at 05:01 AM · i have one extra here,,,could explain why i am hearing things:)

March 8, 2007 at 05:27 AM · You didn't say what you hear. You just said "not truly true" and "simply not right on." And if the only significance is what the cause is, then why does it or the cause matter? Why single it out?

March 8, 2007 at 12:15 PM · is this the same jim miller that posted that night, who noted that in fact there was a missing note? i have yet to verify it, and i am not sure if i am qualified to verify it. is the missing note still missing? :)

i have indicated where i have heard the notes in question by providing the time sequences at 2 places. in the english language, give me an example how notes can be described if they are not right on?

go listen may be. or, take my word for it, that there are notes that are not right on, whatever that may mean to you.

it is a pretty simple premise but i guess it needs rationalization and explanation.

jim, i have answered you last night on "why". i believe my answer back then was and still is: i want to know.

sorry, incredible isn't it, that someone just want to know something without an agenda?:)

or, if you insist, find an agenda for me.

btw, question: is that note that you referred to still missing? do i have to tell you why i need to know as well?

March 8, 2007 at 01:33 PM · Heifetz certainly did not consider himself "perfect." However, he was a model of what can be accomplished if you strive for excellence with everything you've got.

Yet during his own lifetime, Heifetz was always viewed as the metaphor for perfection itself in any endeavor. If you were a good auto mechanic, you were the "Jascha Heifetz of auto mechanics."

In today's parlance, he might be called the Michael Jordan of violin playing. With the passing of time since Heifetz's death, with the increasing personal scrutiny of public figures that is part of today's world, and with the constant critical re-evaluations of his place in the art of violin playing, his stature in the history of the art form is not what it used to be.

What every violinist has had to contend with for almost a century is the Olympian myth and example of Jascha Heifetz, "the greatest violinist who ever lived" (according to Perlman). To younger people who never had the chance to hear him live, he is just another one of the historical figures from yesterday's recorded archives. And I'm not so sure that many of his recordings do him justice.

Like him or not, Heifetz had incredibly high standards that he always spent every ounce of his brain and heart to reach. But he never considered himself as "perfect." One of his famous quotes is, "There is no top. There are always further heights to reach."

And lest you think that this attitude no longer exists, this is what Michael Jordan (considered by many the greatest basketball player who ever lived) once said: "I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."

So let's try to view Jascha Heifetz in the context of his time and with an understanding of what he was trying to do, what his vision was. Remember that the violin world that Heifetz grew up in was far different from our own. Heifetz was only 5 years old when Sarasate and Joachim were still around. How he became (even before he studied with Auer) a violinist who does not sound old-fashioned to today's ears is to me a miracle.


March 8, 2007 at 01:45 PM · 1:14 What...? 2:47 String didn’t speak up.BIG DEAL! Will change everybody’s point of view on Heifetz! I think there was a similar issue w/ a Beethoven trio (or sonata, I’m not 100% sure, don't force me to consult Axelrod's horrid book), with a wrong note in the reprise and a request from the producer to make another take. JH’s answer was IIRC: “People know from the first time that I can do it, so what?” Today a “patch” would be added and all bean counters would be happy…

And can somebody explain me how playing broad detaché or distorting the rhytm is more “polyphonic”…? Please not with a statement “XY is poliphonic, Heifetz not…” I really would like to know it.

March 8, 2007 at 02:25 PM · that is a great post, sandy,,,the only thing missing is an agenda i guess.

i am sure in your line of work if someone in your office claims to be perfect, you counsel him into thinking he is not:)

perfection is reserved for those who strive for perfection and got close, and bestowed upon those who deserve our respect for their unthinkable, superhuman ability and achievement. perfection is a matter of speech.

michael is super but not perfect, not even in basketball and certainly not with golf:) but his basketball ball skills, during his era when comparing with his comtemporary, has set him apart, a fitting parallel to what heifetz has done in his era and even nowadays to a great extent, thus my tongue in cheek argument that on one hand he is a great inspiration and on the other, he serves as an invisible (or to some, very visible and tangible) ceiling. people aspire to get close to his level. no one dares to publicly state to surpass heifetz because in the classical world if you say that, you are gone. so stop the dream and the nonsense. and if you ask a technical question and if people presume that heifetz's image may be distorted as a result, you get an philosophy lesson, a spin.

heifetz, my favorite, is regarded as the gold standard for good and obvious reasons... so much so that some people may have lost their head over it.

March 8, 2007 at 02:14 PM · claudio, thank you for being the first one to actually take the time to listen to those places and give your take on it. it is big deal for my education. i appreciate it very much.

in terms of linking those parts with speaking about heifetz thereafter under different light? never even crossed my mind and i do not have a guilty conscience about it. i think it is very senseless, immature and insecure.

March 8, 2007 at 01:56 PM · Claudio: if you try a "legato " détaché instead of a "broad" one, maybe that the sound will improve and the internal resonance in the same time will also... The 7 first notes of the prelude are the perfect chord of E major...and also the sequence that follows...done properly, at the right speed, with the "legato" détaché, you will enhance the hidden study the piece all the way in that manner, and you will discover that the possibilities are endless...Yes , there is a hidden polyphony in Bach solos works for the violin and that is why, some have the magic touch, and others not, depending of their understanding of the score, and bow technic...


March 8, 2007 at 02:12 PM · marc, are there any recordings (by others i guess) out there that can help show the polyphony effect that you have been talking about? thanks

March 8, 2007 at 02:35 PM · Al: Great comments. If you think Heifetz is a glass ceiling in today's world, you can just imagine what it was like when he was still in his prime. Everyone was compared to Heifetz. In every violin lesson anywhere in the world, he was the 800-pound gorilla in the room. The attitude today is a fraction of what it used to be. So, take heart. I think it is possible to appreciate the model and still have one's own direction.


March 8, 2007 at 02:21 PM · Al, thank you for your question, which is a very difficult one.The best way to judge about polyphonic abilities is to be seated in a good concert hall with the right artist...Very few among the great violinists of today can accomplish that miracle...This has nothing to do with the baroque, classical, romantic or modern approach of playing...It is a distinctive quality in the sound...Milstein had it and I heard him several times playing Bach live...I remember a very grand rendition of the Chaconne and he was 69 at the time...he truly had that internal resonance and projected also beautiful sequences of single notes in a polyphonic manner...I never had the same impression when I heard Szeryng...even if he played in tune with a powerful sound, it was not as much ringing as Milstein, and less seductive...

Now, today, and since the two above mentionned artists, I would say that Hahn and Ehnes are great examples. I heard them both , the same year ,playing the E major Partita, and they really go further, live in the concert hall, than any of their predecessors: they both have an outstanding control of the bow and a continuous "legato détaché" (the concept is similar to the continuous vibrato), and this makes all the difference to enhance internal resonance...

I would add that the recordings of Gringolts and Julia Fisher, in addition to those of Hahn and Ehnes are quite fascinating...and truly a great achievement...All of these four artists ,in their own distinctive way, are giving to our era one of the greatest understand the genius of Bach.


March 8, 2007 at 03:38 PM · marc, that is beautifully written. it warms my heart every time i see a person speaks highly of his contemporary.

you may have to excuse me, because the way i ask or how i ask is determinedly from a different level of understanding, like a kid asking babe ruth to explain how he hit the home run. what do you want to hear, where to start,,, realy,,,

anyway, allow me:)...

in your opinion, is this polyphony effect a result of a conscious effort in the music making/understanding, or a subconscious demonstration of musicality? when someone who is technically capable of anything (like saying someone is perfect, lol), if the so called polyphony is absent, you think it is a conscious effort to not to create that effect or simply not capable of creating it? is this a stylistic thing or a more fundamental music thing?

to be honest, i still do not exactly know what you are talking about on this piece, or any piece for that matter in that reference, lol, at least give me some credit for being obtuse and upfront about it. i did, however, try to engage my kid to listen with me ( one with ok ears, one without). what we tried to do was try to listen to different versions of the piece by focusing on certain notes of each phrase throughout the whole piece, pretending it is the emphasis note when it may or may not be. it has been a pretty wild experience because each version created in our head now sounds very different. crazyphony, if you will.

also, is it correct to say based on your lines that polyphony is best heard live in a good concert hall and that polyphony, my deduction, even if present, may be lost over recording, or poor quality recording?

thanks again.

March 8, 2007 at 03:57 PM · Geez, Sandy, when I was starting violin as a child in the late 50s and early 60s, I think my parents hoped I would be the next Oistrakh, or, as a chamber music player, Szymon Goldberg. Did I miss out on something?

March 8, 2007 at 04:15 PM · Very clever : indeed, the effort is both concious and subconcious at the same time ( when performing) can have the technic of an Heifetz, and still not be able to produce such sounds...Shumsky said that Heifetz mislead a complete generation of violinists and I agree with him...I do admire Heifetz a great deal, as a very sensitive virtuoso...but, when you play Bach, you must be humble and set aside your ego...because the music is so perfect, that it speaks by itself...if you force the tone in Bach, you kill the internal resonance of the violin which is an essential component of the natural harmony of the instrument...Grumiaux did enhance the internal harmony of his instrument by adding during the recording sessions an harpshichord close-by...few know about this but it should be written, because it is the truth... some other violinists do not need such a trick...On her new DVD a portrait, Hahn is permoming the C major Allegro and you can hear a great deal of internal resonace in her playing ( it rings like bells)...Kreisler had that ringing sound and you have a very good example in the RCA CD reedition of his complete recordings made in U.S.A. : go for the selections of the CD number will understand...Ehnes is absolutely magical in that sens: he has it all and not since Kreisler I have heard such beauty and internal resonance in the sound...Eric Friedman wrote that a talent such as Ehnes comes once every hundred years...Such comments ( compared to Kreisler) were made in a very eloquent manner earlier this past month, when Ehnes gave his debut recital at Wigmore Hall...


March 8, 2007 at 03:50 PM · Marc, thanks and sorry for using the word "broad": Must be my German background... But I understand what you mean and agree to disagree in some points: To me, movements like the E Major Prelude alternate linear melodic progressions with "hidden" polyphony. And for my feeling, sometimes a faster tempo helps to keep the polyphonic "building" together.

I haven't heard all the players you mention playing Bach live (actually only Ehnes is missing in my list) but until now Milstein was the most impressive to me, principally regarding the polyphonic aspect.

March 8, 2007 at 04:38 PM · al - I'm not saying there's nothing there. I'm just asking you what you heard. What is there to "discuss" about a performance if you're unable to say what you hear? That was my main point. My secondary point what why does it matter? I said it doesn't matter to me in my post, and Sandy says it doesn't matter to him and you agree with why did you point it out? The secondary point is to discover the sense or make you tell the truth :) Don't misunderstand and think I have an agenda. I'm not a fan of Heifetz over anyone else, and not even a huge classical fan. I can talk about it though. You did say you're here for an education, I think.

March 8, 2007 at 04:46 PM · Yes Claudio: Bravo! You understand that with a certain speed of the bow you enhance the hidden harmony and the piece, within the scope of its entity, becomes polyphonic during a performance...I agree with the point you are not in accordance with me...It is the whole process that creates a sens of polyphony.

BTW, James Ehnes will make a tour of South America next october playing the Korngold Concerto( Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires, Montevideo ect.)

March 8, 2007 at 04:57 PM · jim, i wonder to mix "what do you hear?" with my kid's "are we there yet?" in a polyphonic way, how will it sound?

thank you for educating me:) cheers.

marc, thanks again for those pearls. it really helps put things in better perspective for me. regards

March 9, 2007 at 03:58 AM · Marc, you can show the polyphony in a linear piece just by accenting the notes within the single line which could be heard as multiple independent lines. There's nothing that says the notes have to be played at the same time, e.g. chords, double stops, before you have polyphony. We're a lot more familiar with bringing a single melody out of a bunch of accompaniment, which is close to that, and which we do all the time in the preludio and other linear Bach for violin.

Al, you're welcome :)

March 8, 2007 at 04:49 PM · I think that by the 1950's and 60's, Heifetz had lots of competition as the "greatest," but from 1917 to the early 1950's, I think, was when his reputation peaked for all those years.

I recall reading a review around 1955 when Oistrakh (who was new to the West) played in the same city (I forgot which) where Heifetz played, and they gave concerts within weeks of each other. The critic pointed out how much attention and excitement (all justified) Oistrakh was getting. And then there was Heifetz, a standard fixture on the concert circuit by then, just seeming to go through the motions. I remember that the reviewer quoted one of the orchestra violinists as saying, "But he's still Heifetz," which (as I recall) struck me as somewhat poignant.

As to polyphony, I'm no expert, but it seems to me that it is a question of making clear the implied separate voices. This would mean you have to clearly recognize the voices, and then find a way, technically, to make each sound a little different.

Incidentally, getting back to Heifetz, it has always seemed to me that one of the very special things about Heifetz double-stops is that he would make each voice literally sound like a different instrument, rather than the whole thing sounding like "double-stops" on one violin. I can't think of another violinist who could do that - maybe occasionally Nadien, or Rabin.

Anyway, I think Glenn Gould's Bach had that quality - he somehow made all of the separate inner voices sound separate and distinct as melodic lines.


March 8, 2007 at 05:18 PM · "and then find a way, technically, to make each sound a little different."

In orchestration, one way is by writing the voices for separate instruments or at least in separate registers. Maybe you can't really do that with violin, but nobody would argue that the fugues aren't polyphonic. With violin, that leaves you with accenting.

March 8, 2007 at 06:36 PM · Sandy: Kreisler at his best had outstanding and truly ringing double-stops...better than Heifetz... Hahn , Ehnes can do them as well...I do not think it is something peculiar to Heifetz. His portamento was clearly effective, but Kreisler was also supreme in that field, not to mentionned his unique vibrato and the "parlando" technic of his bow...

March 8, 2007 at 06:48 PM · Marc: Yes, of course, Kreisler. How could I forget about Kreisler? His double-stops were magical.


March 8, 2007 at 06:59 PM · Sandy: it is very interesting what you are mentionning about Oistrach and Heifetz during the 50s...Oistrach was a mature artist at the time, nearly fifty ( born in 1908) and Heifetz retired a few years later...I do not think critics did realize at the time the full impact that Heifetz 's career would have on future generation...Noone can't deny his strong influence...And I must confess, even if I express divergent opinions than others concerning Heifetz ,that I have always been strongly impressed by the young man...The recordings he made in between 1917-1925 still struck me like a thunderbolt...But I am happy that in my case,I can still have the SAME interest for other great artists...


March 8, 2007 at 07:30 PM · Marc:

Yes, Oistrakh was a mature artist when the finally let him out of the Soviet Union and have the international career he should have had decades before, but he was a fresh face here and he was, I'm sure, thrilled to be here.

I was fortunate to see him in person about 6 times in the ensuing years (3 of those times he played the Beethoven Concerto). The voluminous sound he has in recordings is no fluke. In person, he had twice the volume of tone of any violinist (including Heifetz) I ever heard live. And I heard a lot of them (Heifetz, Menuhin, Stern, Kogan, Milstein, Francescatti, Spivakovsky, Mischakoff, Szeryng, Rabin, Ricci).

And I agree, the early Heifetz records do indeed set a standard of playing. And, for an artist usually criticized as being "cold," many of those early recordings are as warm and emotional as you can hear from anyone.

There is a reason that all of his colleagues saw in him a standard of performance that made him truly in a class by himself. He was Kogan's model, Oistrakh's ("There are us violinists, then there's Heifetz"), Perlman's ("The greatest violinist who ever lived"), and on and on. These guys weren't stupid, and they didn't all want to sound like little Heifetz's. But they recognized his unique contribution to setting a certain standard in the art form.

In fact, I think the worldwide popularity of those early Heifetz recordings had a lot to do with raising general musical standards everywhere. Playing out of tune, sloppy, and not in keeping with the score wasn't tolerated as much after Heifetz burst on the scene.

So one can be critical of him as much as one wishes. But you gotta admit, he had an impact. And I believe that whether you like his playing or not, you can appreciate his impact on musical performance in general and violin playing in particular.

OK, I'll get off my soapbox now.

:) Cordially, Sandy


March 8, 2007 at 09:00 PM · Just on the polyphony issue - isn't it also necessary that people are able to listen to hear it? It maybe that different people hear better with different players.

March 9, 2007 at 03:49 AM · Noel, you are right on the money with that comment. Heifetz played with plenty of 'polyphony' to my ears. As someone pointed out earlier, maybe perhaps certain people are more accustomed to a broader flautando sweeping stroke (a la Oistrakh) rather than a articulated and more gritty approach that Heifetz took to detache.

March 9, 2007 at 03:32 AM · Many live concert and radio pefomances of Heifetz have been made available on CD in the last 15 years.As a result, my opinion of him as a musician has grown.If not as perfect,they seem more dynamic and daring than the recordings.I heard his last live concert,and wish I could have heard more.He had the admiration and respect of 4 generations,from Kreisler to Perlman,all of whom heard him live.

March 9, 2007 at 03:50 AM · polyphony in the preludio is a simple thing to monitor. it is the ability to hear the notes in the bariolage sections as being separate melodies (where the odd 16ths make up one melodic line of 8ths and the even 16ths make up another counterline of 8ths displaced by a 16th note rest) instead of hearing a steady string of arpeggios. in essence, to listen horizontally rather than vertically.

as far as bashing heifetz, i won't go there. i have far too much respect for the man - 's legal representation.

March 9, 2007 at 04:01 AM · Greetings,

the illegal stuff is pretty scary too...



March 9, 2007 at 04:30 AM · Al and anyone else interested: compare the passage at 2:04 (Milstein) and 2:07 (Heifetz) for an illustration of implied counterpoint, or lack thereof. This is only the clearest difference of the two greats' handling of Bach's implied counterpoint - there are differences throughout, though mostly more subtle than this one.

Wonderful performances both... but isn't Milstein out of tune (for instance immediately before the passage cited above), and aren't Heifetz's little spicatto variations kind of... campy? Also - your ears are working great, Al - upon close listening I hear what you noticed at Heifetz's 1:14 and 2:47 as well, although I will wholeheartedly second Claudio's point that it really don't mean a thing! OK enough from me :-)

March 9, 2007 at 04:28 AM · jesse, thanks for the heads up, now the kids are asleep, i will crank it up tomorrow to see what you guys are talking about.

you just know heifetz is superhuman with all these paranormal activities going on in this hallway:)

the only comfort i take to sleep is that couple questions found people frozen like deers in headlight.

it is not that dramatic, is it? lol

March 9, 2007 at 05:08 AM · Milstein does something incredible starting at 1:30 and ending about 1:45. To me there's something sort of cinematic-feeling about it, like some transition between pastoral scenes in a film. Great!

I like this more than either of his "real" recordings of it. I think somebody did us a big disservice when they started making "perfect" recordings and releasing them as "the" recording. Like Laurie's sermon about real music, whatever phrase she used, talking about the Superbowl. This feels like real stuff, unlike his two recordings. You might think it's a great slice in time but not the slice you want to represent you for eternity...but hey, I like it a lot more.

March 9, 2007 at 05:13 AM · Greetings,

I agree. Two of most most cherished DVDs contain some real bloopers: Milstein Tchaik and Grumiaux in the mendelssohn. They are whole.



March 9, 2007 at 02:50 PM · One of my all-time favorite recordings is Francescatti's Beethoven Concerto (with Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra), recorded I think in about 1950. It has just been re-released (after all these years) a couple of years ago by Buddulph. I also learned (from someone on this website) that it was recorded in one take. So, for all practical purposes, it was a live performance. There are a couple of "flubs" in it, which only add to its charm and genuineness. And what a great performance.


July 23, 2007 at 06:07 PM · Milstein is by far better. Heifetz plays it like an etude; boring and not musical. Milstein's is filled with so many interesting musical ideas, no wonder he is often called the best Bach S&P interpreter.

July 23, 2007 at 06:19 PM · I like Milstein's playing of it as well. I also like Hilary Hahn's a great deal--just got her CD...

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