Milstein- Staccato

July 30, 2007 at 05:26 AM · Is it true that milstein couldn't do staccato? Is it true that not everyone can develop a good enough staccato to play the staccato passages in wieniawski concerto no. 2 and vieuxtemps no. 5?

Replies (38)

July 30, 2007 at 11:25 AM · Now you mention it, I can't remember any staccato passage in the Milstein recordings I know.

One of my teachers used to say "Das kommt von Gott" ("It's a gift from God"), when he meant to say "-- or isn't."

Maybe Milstein was indeed not able to produce a staccato comparable to that of his famous contemporaries Heifetz or Elman. There is a kind of next-door-variety staccato most people can do, and Milstein should have been able to do it either -- but perhaps couldn't find it good enough to boast with it, let alone to compete. To me, it does not diminish his right-arm achievements -- this incredibly noble and elegant tone.

The most incredible staccato I heard and saw was done by Ivry Gitlis in Elgar's "Capricieuse". It's on the Gitlis DVD issued by EMI. I still don't believe what I saw there.



July 30, 2007 at 01:04 PM · No it is not true.

Milstein had a wonderful staccato.

The technique of staccato is nothing special:

1) give weight to arm initially and after playing

2)release of pressure

the quality of staccato changes according to the nature

i) pressure is like a martellato

ii) velocity of bow is staccato

July 30, 2007 at 01:10 PM · Hey Chris

because I got used with your threads on comparison between big violinists (Heifetz-Milstein for istance) I was wondering who this violinist called Staccato was!


July 30, 2007 at 01:33 PM · It was a known fact for all of his virtuosity, Milstein did NOT have an upbow nor downbow staccato. In the Intro and RC, he uses separate bows and in the Goldmark Concerto where there are upbow staccato markings, he chooses to do them spiccato.

July 30, 2007 at 01:50 PM · Antonello,

your excellent description of staccato nonwithstanding, isn't it a question of the speed of repetition at which you are able to execute all this? I believe everyone can arrive at resonable staccato speed, but only few players manage the step beyond. From what I know about Milstein, he wouldn't have been a person to execute anything below top standard.

Additionally, the tone should still carry. How many satisfying renditions of the Sibelius thirds have you heard that don't sound slow, or suffocated from pressure, or out of control altogether?

Of course, I might not have come across the recording that taught me Milstein *did* have that kind of exceptional staccato.



July 30, 2007 at 02:31 PM · Henry Roth explains in his book, Great Violinists of the 20th Century that Milstein did not own a upbow or downbow staccato.

July 30, 2007 at 02:43 PM · Kevin Yang wrote: "It was a known fact for all of his virtuosity, Milstein did NOT have an upbow nor downbow staccato. In the Intro and RC, he uses separate bows and in the Goldmark Concerto where there are upbow staccato markings, he chooses to do them spiccato."

It is true that Milstein sometimes chose other strokes in places where most violinists traditionally use staccato, however he most definitely had a very impressive up bow flying staccato which he showed me in a lesson at which I was playing Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso. The place where he used it was not the famous staccato passage. It was 3,4,5 and 6 before letter F (Schirmer edition). He played each 6 note group with the first 2 notes downbow legato and next 4 notes upbow flying staccato, at a nice brisk tempo!

July 30, 2007 at 03:25 PM · Oliver --

up-bow flying staccato, wouldn't that be rather in the lower half of the bow? That would be different from the staccato needed, e. g., in the Wieniawski D-Minor concerto or in the Sibelius thirds, wouldn't it?



July 30, 2007 at 04:31 PM · Friedrich,

Yes, it is not the stroke one would use in those examples.

July 30, 2007 at 05:10 PM · Fascinating stuff...

July 30, 2007 at 05:20 PM · Oliver-

I was talking about the stiff-arm staccato that was used so well by Heifetz, Rabin, Kogan etc...pieces like Hora Staccato etc...

July 30, 2007 at 06:30 PM · Kevin,

In that case, my observations are the same as yours: I never saw him employ stiff-arm staccato (though he did use other kinds).

July 30, 2007 at 06:43 PM · Which is easier to perform, stiff arm staccato or flying staccato? which did oistrakh use?

July 30, 2007 at 07:51 PM · I believe that in "The Way They Play" Francescatti says something like, "even a great technique like Milstien is not a spiccatto expert." I've never been, sure, though, what stroke he was talking about. Someone should check on on that, since I read that 30 years ago!

Someone on this web page told a story once about the violinist Bronislav Gimpel. He and Milstein were listening to Gimpel play the Wieniakski concerto (I've not heard this)and Gimpel played the staccatto in tempo. Milstein asked him why did that. Gimpel's reply: "Becuase I can!"

Not sure what that proves.

Gitlis has a great up-bow staccatto in the Wieniawski. Rabin's is great, too.


July 30, 2007 at 08:18 PM · Apparently Heifetz was dissatisfied with his own staccato and would regularly ask one of his pupils (Fodor?) to demo the stroke for minutes on end while he watched.

So it must be just talent then when he walks onto the Bell Telephone Hour and plays the Hora Staccato from cold with more brittleness and character than just about anybody else gets.

There's also interesting flying examples in the 1st mvt of the Mendelssohn trio with Rubinstein and P'gorsky, apparently for no other reason than to tuck the notes in or something. Zukerman's sickeningly good at this sort of thing too.

July 30, 2007 at 09:02 PM · "Jim Hoyle"

(thought you were no longer among us, but apparently was wrong :-) –

"sickeningly good" is what I would call the thing Perlman does in his recordings of the Saint-Saëns I+RC. Every note in the two long staccato passages clear and brilliant, and the sound becomes even better the closer he gets to the frog.

And I have seen Hilary Hahn doing "it" on stage in Baden-Baden, in Paganini #1 in a comparable manner and with her usual flawless elegance.

Must have practiced, both of them.



July 30, 2007 at 09:53 PM · Just some extra food for thought on the topic above... can any one of you remember any whole bow staccato passages performed by D.Oistrakh?

If yes - was it Up or Down the bow?


July 31, 2007 at 09:01 AM · Olena --

I recall my teacher telling me that one of the reasons Oistrach was awarded 2nd prize (and not 1st, which was awarded to Ginette Neveu) in the 1935 Wieniawski competition was that he did *not* play staccato in the Wieniawski D-Minor concerto. I don't know where that information should have come from, though.

On the other hand, on "The Art of Violin" Menuhin tells about Oistrach giving hints to him about his own "wonderful" staccato.

Considering Oistrach's choice of music in resitals and recordings, as far as I know about it, maybe he was not the type of player boasting with show-off pieces. I hear, however, that his Kreisler must have been admirable. But then, what wasn't?



July 31, 2007 at 09:21 AM · Well, there's more than one way to create the staccato sound, and "stiff-arming" it is just one of those ways.

Creative people come up with other solutions!

July 31, 2007 at 07:10 PM · On there is a video of a young boy playing Kreutzer no.4 at speeds increasing to 116 for the quarter. Prof. S. next encourages him to practice some more and see if he can go to 120.

I cannot go beyond 108 -- yet --. Perhaps this is easier for children? "It's so simple, so very simple, that only a child can do it!"

I remember my teacher telling me that not every virtuoso could do staccato at the speeds some concerto passages require. Milstein may have been one of those virtuosi.

July 31, 2007 at 07:41 PM · I´m not sure if Milstein could or not play easily staccato, but, in the circumnstance that he coudn´t or didn´t want, he could imitate it perfectly with his wonderful spiccato. So I recommend to hear Goldmark Concerto, first movement, before the coda. It sounds like a staccato!!!

July 31, 2007 at 09:08 PM · The problem I had with increasing the tempo on Kreutzer 4 was never staccato itself, but rather the bow division - getting back to the tip quickly or using much less bow on the staccato, depending on how you look at it!

July 31, 2007 at 09:31 PM · i dont know about milstein, but stacato is a very personal stroke and not everyone can do it. as a matter of fact, oistrakh didnt have good stacato hahaha, but we should still try and master it.

August 1, 2007 at 12:10 AM · When I was studying the Wieniawski 2 with Bronislav Gimpel, he told me a very interesting (and I thought very amusing) story about Milstein. It seems that Milstein was visiting Gimpel and Gimpel was playing his new recording of Wieniawski 2 for him. When it came to the up-bow staccato passage, Milstein asked Gimpel why he played it in tempo. Gimpel's reply - "Because I can".

August 1, 2007 at 12:17 AM · "as a matter of fact, oistrakh didnt have good stacato hahaha, but we should still try and master it."

then what the heck was menuhin talking about when he was saying how he admired Oistrakh's staccato and could never get his like oistrakh... I've heard menuhin with pretty good staccato before

August 1, 2007 at 04:42 AM · He probably meant martele.

August 1, 2007 at 05:27 AM · staccato is a brain and motor skill.. if you don't have the motor power.. you can't develop a staccato...

August 1, 2007 at 08:31 AM · Perhaps one cannot develop a specific motion that many people use and/or aspire to have, but just like any other motor skill, there are many different ways to manipulate the muscles in one's arm to get a specific sound out of an instrument. We don't all do things the same...that much should be apparent from comparing the lengths of our arms!

Take a look at wind players...everyone has a different sized oral cavity, different shaped lips, facial muscle arrangement, etc. but somewhere out there is an embouchure that makes tone production (of the desirable kind) possible.

August 1, 2007 at 10:34 AM · David Oistrakh was able to play stacatto passages. In Sibelius he in fact chooses playing the whole run of thirds upbow as opposed to the popular down and up. however as far as I know it was not his favorite violin technique. d

August 1, 2007 at 11:22 AM · Hi...I've never quite worked out why it's easier to descend in stacatto than to ascend. Most of the virtuoso stuff descends. Any ideas?

August 1, 2007 at 11:52 AM · It is because of the weight of the frog and that the lower strings are more forgiving. But with the proper technique it is not harder.

August 3, 2007 at 09:44 PM · This topic reminded me of a story I'd heard on a youtube vid...

Check out 5:30 on this video - Perlman tells a story told to him by his teacher Gingold about Gingold's experience with staccato...

Rather humorous :)

(young Cho Liang Lin playing Vieuxtemps, staccato section at around 4:38)

August 5, 2007 at 06:51 PM · I also have heard and read that Milstein and Oistrakh did not possess a brilliant up-bow or down bow staccato yet both possessed such elegant light spiccatos as to render the passages "requiring" up-bow staccato (as in the Intro. and rondo. or the Goldmark concerto) cap.)with a charm and grace that left nothing better to be desired. In teaching this technique to students, I have found that motor skills to develop a fast up-bow staccato are enhanced by leaving one or more fingers off the bow (but always at least with thumb and index finger maintaining contact with the bow) and trying positions with the wrist with palm turned outward (wrist kept in a more immobile position as the arm pushes the bow) as well as inward (with the wrist making narrow scooping movements towards one's face). Here, a moving picture is worth a thousand words but I hope you get the idea.

August 6, 2007 at 02:20 AM · Check out Mr. Perlman telling a story of how Gingold learned his up-bow staccato. It is at the end of the video on youtube.

August 6, 2007 at 04:34 PM · I just said that Michael :(

August 11, 2007 at 10:54 PM · I´m not sure if Caruso could yodel either. Or was it a queston of his taste???

I´m personnally not fond of this circus amusement.

August 12, 2007 at 07:06 AM · :-)

August 12, 2007 at 01:33 PM · Gunnar Nordell wrote: "I´m not sure if Caruso could yodel either."

Bravo! That puts the issue of this thread in its correct perspective!

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