Henryk Szeryng, why is/was he so underrated?

October 27, 2007 at 02:44 AM · I love Henryk Szeryng's Playing, he is amazing why do you think his playing is so underrated compared to others in his era?


October 27, 2007 at 03:00 AM · Greetings,

not underrated for me!;)

But he did get a slight reputation for inconsitency in his later years. Not technical but a slight sense of emotioanl coldness.

I don`t know oif this was a factor.



October 27, 2007 at 06:34 AM · Sometimes I think there is only a tiny little room "at the top", that the public can only handle a small number of "greats", and what gets you a place there, assuming you have become a great player, and can work hard, is luck and good fortune.

I don't mean random chance, but luck in meeting the right people, making the right impressions at the right time, picking up on the zeitgeist, etc.

Then there's making the right career choices, working the PR right, making sure that you outshine the rivals at the right times, and even looking good. Also not gaining a reputation for "difficulty" in the earlier stages.

There is so much more to getting that recognition than simply being a great player.


October 27, 2007 at 09:15 AM · The only time perlman disappointed me was when he criticized Szerying, one of my favourite violinist (for Brahms the best)

October 27, 2007 at 10:32 AM · Szeryng is a favorite of mine. Heard him live in Holland (in a place built like a gymnasium) playing Sibelius. My other most-memorable concert was a Fischer-Diskau recital. Perhaps Szeryng is not included with other masters because of the profound effect of WWII on the continuum of his career, and his demise at a relatively young age.He kind of got lost. :(( Sue

October 27, 2007 at 11:13 AM · Antonello, if you are referring to the time in the "Art of Violin", where Perlman talks about Szeryng, I don't think he was putting Szeryng down. Although he says he couldn't always recognise his playing, he does say, "But GOOD!" very emphatically.

I actually took it as a compliment for Szeryng, as it seemed to me that Perlman was commenting on Szeryng's ability to sound different for each piece of music. I thought it was interesting that they made a point of noting that Szeryng was unusual in that he played both a Strad and a del Gesu. Maybe that contributed to his changing sound?


October 27, 2007 at 02:26 PM · Szeryng underrated? Then many other violinists are overrated.

October 27, 2007 at 04:53 PM · Szeryng was a great, great violinist, and I don't think he was underrated. He did not have, as far as I can tell, the kind of extroverted personality of a Perlman or a Stern, nor did he have the kind of eccentricities that would make him an interesting public figure. I do think his playing had a certain reserve, so that it seemed to lack a certain inner fire in some of the repertoire. His recording of the Bartok Concerto, for example, is exquisitely played and refined, but without the raw energy that Gitlis or Stern brings to it. But his Paganini and Brahms playing is incredible.

I heard Szeryng in person twice. Once was an absolutely stunning performance of the Tchaikovsky Concerto with the Chicago Symphony, and once when he was the first violinist with a quartet at a private party (the quartet played the first movement of the Beethoven 1st quartet). Szerying was a wonderful ensemble player and never overpowered his 3 colleagues (which he clearly could have done at any moment).

At the party, I got to meet him, and in my amateurish stupidity at meeting such a great violinist face-to-face, I said, "What wonderful playing. I wish I could play like that." He frowned, turned around without so much as a 'goodbye,' and walked away, apparently insulted at the remark. It never diminished my overall admiration for him, however.

October 28, 2007 at 06:46 PM · Sander, I wonder why he reacted that way? It would be the greatest compliment to me if someone said that. As for Szeryng being overrated, the first time I even had a sense that this was a consideration was in the movie, Art of the Violin. There was mention by Itzhak Perlman, who I have tremendous admiration for, that Szernyg sounded like everyone - good, but like everyone. I didn't understand the remark because my ear is not trained to make flawless distinctions among great violinists. Hilary Hahn had followed that comment with great compliments about how Szeryng played Bach so well. I thought Szeryng was superb. I wouldn't mind then sounding like everyone if Szeryng is among the counted.

October 28, 2007 at 06:59 PM · Yes, I can't imagine that being taken as insulting either. I think he either had something else going and it just looked abrupt to you, helped along by the fact he didn't know you from Adam, or else he hadn't been paid enough to mingle (paraphrasing Kreisler).

October 29, 2007 at 05:28 PM · Yes, could have been a lot of reasons he reacted that way, but it was definitely an abrupt about face without so much as a nod, and he certainly appeared to be annoyed. We'll never know.

October 29, 2007 at 05:33 PM · he has always been a favorite, one thing i like about him is he didnt interfere with the music

when i hear heifetz play brahms all i hear is heifetz

when i hear perlman play brahms all i hear is perlman

but when i hear szeryng play brahms all i hear is brahms

October 29, 2007 at 08:17 PM · Well, actually there were eccentricities.

One, if you might want to count that, was mercyless perfectionism. One of my teachers, who had studied privately with Szeryng, told me about a recording session when everything went so well that Szeryng and the conductor just kept playing on. After that, when listening to the recording, it appeared so that the pitch had altered slightly without anybody noticing, so that they had ended on another pitch than they had started on. Szeryng had the, otherwise perfect, recording destroyed, and everyone had to start over again.

Another eccentricity, if I believe another teacher, was a certain consciousness about social position, first of all his own. People who were not awarded to a somewhat intimate circle, this teacher told me, were expected to address Szeryng as "Excellency". This had its origin in the status awarded to Szeryng by the state of Mexico. Szeryng travelled as a member of the Corps Diplomatique, and apparently wanted to be considered a diplomate.

Others report that Szeryng was a perfectly amiable soul, and a personality of flawless form and kindness. So it appears to be a matter of perspective.

Most of all, I admire his Mozart playing (as heard on his recordings). He plays so very elegantly, eloquently, gently and powerfully at the same time, with such a noble fire, all that apart from flawless tone, intonation, vibrato, and allover taste -- that until now I couldn't find anyone who came near it. There are many violinists, big names or not, who play Mozart beautifully, and who I love listening to. Szeryng played him classically.

Second, there is the utmost noblesse of Szeryng's Bach recordings. Grumiaux comes close in terms of charme and intonation, and in fact his Bach sounds warmer and a tad more telling, or sociable, if I might say so. But Szeryng, to me, still out-Bachs most of his colleagues, including Heifetz and even highly individual Milstein (who has his own altar, and not the smallest, in my virtual Violinists Temple, mind you). Of younger players, I would mention one who comes very, very close, but since this person has recently joined this august forum, I won't say more. :-)

Third, I just love his recording, with Kempf and Fournier, of Beethovens Archduke trio. Another classic, nothing else. And I suffer from bottomless boredom listening to the triple concerto with Starker and Arrau. But that may be the piece's fault as well.

Fourth, the legendary Brahms sonatas with Rubinstein -- utter beauty, and pure joy to listen to. Thank God these recordings exist.

Fifth, the Chatchaturyan, with the composer's own cadenza, other than most other recordings that prefer Oistrach's. Unexpectedly exciting and raw. Maybe that's what Perlman meant in "Art of Violin": Szeryng had a chamaeleonesque quality about his playing.



November 8, 2007 at 04:08 PM · The recording he made of Bach's solo works on 0dissey-Columbia is my all time favorite; absolutely pure sound, all the inner voices are

heard, total rhythm control, and over all, a great

serenity and peace of mind. Beautiful!

November 8, 2007 at 10:27 PM · Graham Clark said, "I don't mean random chance, but luck in meeting the right people, making the right impressions at the right time, picking up on the zeitgeist, etc."

Isn't luck the same as random chance good or bad?

There are many types of genius. For the violin, in order to "make it," one must have a keen since of observation and fast nerve responses to the senses outside of their own mind. But to make it to the top, one must be socially genius. That is the ability to read people and situations in a way where that gifted one can maneuver through society relatively easy by noticing the doors of opportunity and then having the personality and analytical skills to not only walk into the doors of opportunity but totally dominate the atmosphere once they are on the other side.

Those two aspects will not only give you the title of great on your instrument, but just great in general.

November 8, 2007 at 10:57 PM · Good violinist, but to me there's nothing really special or unique about his sound. He also does not bring as much energy into a piece as Neveu or Gitlis did...

November 8, 2007 at 11:30 PM · Greetings,

Jasmine said:

>Isn't luck the same as random chance good or bad?

NOt really. At one level, there have been more scientific analyses of what constitutes `luck` and why some people are `luckier` than others. What these have consistently shown is consistent and quantifiable patterns in the behaviour of lucky people. For example, many people claim to have no luck in lotteries and express rverence for Mr X who semes ot win something in some competition every week. What is the differenc? Stupid as it sounds, the former =almost never- enter competitions and the latter do so on a regular and systematic basis. Or people who seme to fall into the habit of getitng a good job wnenever thye want it make a point of remembering peoples names and staying in touch and so forth.

On top of this research I have noticed over the last few decades that many differnet approaches to getting the best out of life or living including filed sof psychology such as NLP have accepted and pracitce dthe belief know for thousands of years (perhaps mainly in the sphere of religion) that people are basically energy fields with the power to attract or repel the things in their life. Essentially bad luck is slef creaitng and good luck can be consiously create dall the time. The mandala is an exmaple of a tool whihc can help one create and acquire what we need. However, it is not as simple as just thinking positive. Many people start out with this intent but don@t undertsand the principles behind how to ask and end up with more of the same. For example, someone who is struggling financillay may choose to try and change the negative energy they are spilling out but only go as far as identifying the problem (lack) and asking for less of it. Unfortunatley by doing that the foucs is on lack and th at is the energy projected which attract mor eof the same. The uNiverse does not disciminate: it sends everythign you ask for good or bad and it is up to you to find out how to work with this.



November 9, 2007 at 01:00 AM · I heard him play live 4 times between 1981 and 1984: Brahms concerto and a recital (at Tanglewood), Beethoven concerto (in Seattle) and Tchaikovsky concerto (in Rochester). Every performance was note-perfect and played with a beautiful, rich, soaring tone that still sets the standard in my memory of what a violin "should" sound like.

Nevertheless, not at any of these concerts did I ever get an impression of a human being putting himself into the music. I am not someone who requires contorted facial expressions and postures to believe that someone is musical: what I mean is that I heard nothing in the performances that sounded like the person playing thought the music was anything special.

Maybe I only heard him when he was old or tired or in a bad mood or disillusioned or bitter (or drunk), or a combination of those; but although I thought he made unbelievably beautiful noises every time I heard him play, I was never interested in actually buying any of his recordings. Maybe I should listen again...

November 9, 2007 at 02:02 AM · I heard him around 1975 in recital. I remember he played Ponce and unaccompanied Bach, but that's all I recall about specifics. I know I was thrilled to hear him play. Man, what I'd give to experience that concert again.

I really like his recording of the Brahms sonatas with Rubinstein. Has anyone heard their Beethoven recordings?

November 9, 2007 at 02:21 AM · Thanks for your clarification, Buri.

How far is Gifu from Osaka?

November 9, 2007 at 02:52 AM ·

November 9, 2007 at 03:12 AM · Greetings,

Jasmine:Nagoya is the nearest big city for me to go to Osaka. It takes about forty minutes ot get there from my house. From Nagoya is a sfollows:

>If coming to Nagoya from Osaka, a travel option that comes cheaper than the Shinkansen is a Kintetsu limited express service called the Urban Liner (アーバンライナー), which runs out of Namba station. The Urban Liner departs at 0 and 30 minutes past the hour, covering the journey in as little as two hours, but at a cost of ¥4150 each way. (The shinkansen, by comparison, makes the run from Shin-Osaka to Nagoya in under an hour for ¥5670).

I presume it runs both ways.....



November 9, 2007 at 04:29 AM · I am taking Japanese in School right now and my professor is hosting a trip to Osaka next May. I want to go, but I am not sure. I am afraid of planes.

November 9, 2007 at 06:49 PM · I have a record of Szeryng and Rubinstein playing Brahms and Beethoven sonatas. No doubt they played it very beautifully, but I cannot listen to it, because in the course of the Beethoven sonata the pitch goes up more than a semitone. If Szeryng was a perfectionist in such matters, this record must have been put on the market before he ever heard it.

November 9, 2007 at 10:11 PM · He drank a lot

November 9, 2007 at 10:48 PM · A lot of people do.

November 9, 2007 at 11:30 PM · I'm drinking right now. Szerying's bach is one of my favorites too. Side note, Mr. Kaler just recorded the bach s+p's. I actually like it more than szeryng's on some levels, but you can't really compare them...

Szeryng's mozart is 2nd to no one...

November 10, 2007 at 03:36 AM · Greetings,

I would like to drink a lot. I used to drink a lot. Now I can`t drink a lot,



November 10, 2007 at 09:28 AM · Bless you, Buri

November 26, 2007 at 02:28 PM · Hear, hear - Friedrich! I would add his Berg Concerto with Raphael Kubelick.

November 26, 2007 at 08:00 PM · I met him in Havana several years ago. In my opinion his problem was: 1) He was NOT politically correct. 2) He choosed Mexico City to live (Not NYC, London, Paris etc...)

November 26, 2007 at 09:51 PM · I think the biggest reason he never quite made the great impression was his rather prickly personality. He insisted on being called "maestro" by everyone, that in itself should be an indicator of what sort of person he was.

January 7, 2008 at 07:31 PM · ^But its not like he deserved not to be called "maestro"... He plays more in tune than Heifetz!

January 7, 2008 at 07:47 PM · I have some old LP with Mozart sonatas, I don't remember the pianist, perhaps Ingrid Habler, quite a good player.

And he owned the Leduc del Gesù, a violin dated 1745. Del Gesù had died in 1744, so most probably the Leduc was made by Katarina Guarneri, Del Gesù's wife. I'm thinking about making a violin based on the Leduc, I just love it!

January 7, 2008 at 11:28 PM · I don't want to detract from Szeryng at all, he is one of the greatest violinists of all time and I love his playing but he did not play as in tune as Heifetz as Chris declared.

January 8, 2008 at 12:11 AM · When does Szeryng not play in tune?

January 9, 2008 at 10:02 AM · I don't think Szerying is underrated. To me and many other violinist I think he is one of the greatest interpreters of Bach and a sophisticated interpreter of most music.

He's not one of the famous virtuoso violinists and I think that's fine. That doesn't fit with the way he plays anyway. His playing seems to me less flashy/more intellectual than most performances. Szerying has his own very important place in music..it's just not the place as Heifetz. That being said I do get what you might mean by "underrated". It's too bad more people don't listen to Szerying. His recording of the Beethoven Sonatas with Rubenstein is one of my very favorites!

I think a lot of other great violinists are more underrated than Szerying, btw.

January 9, 2008 at 03:06 PM · I agree with Joseph.

Szeryng was exemplary for Bach, Beethoven and Brahms. He also championed contemporary music.

January 9, 2008 at 06:11 PM · Szeryng's Mozart was also excellent. His recordings of the sonatas with Ingrid Haebler are among the 20th century gold standard recordings along with Grumiaux/Haskil and Goldberg/Kraus.

January 9, 2008 at 05:08 PM · I really like Szeryng's recording of the Schumann Violin Concerto, with Dorati and the LSO on the Mercury Living Presence label.

January 9, 2008 at 07:48 PM · indeed it is one of the best recordings of that piece.

January 9, 2008 at 07:50 PM · his tchaikovsky concerto is better than heifetz's!

January 19, 2008 at 05:13 PM · I don't think that Szeryng was ever underrated by most people. He was a terrific violinist. His Bach Sonatas and Partitas are second to none and his Brahms concerto is the one I like most. However, I believe that Perlman did play him down in the Art of the Violin (even if at the end he said that "he was good"). Why ? who knows...

January 19, 2008 at 04:49 PM · ^It's actually true that Szeryng did not have a very idiosyncratic style compared to like Heifetz or Ferras... Perlman wasn't downplaying him

January 19, 2008 at 06:48 PM · it could be his personality. This is a man who most of us would not be having this conversation about had a pianist not bumped into him in Mexico. Rubinstein found him in Mexico. He found it strange that a fellow Pole was also in Mexico, he heard him and the rest as they say is history.

One almost thinks that he would have been happy teaching in Mexico, learning the native languages and helping people.

Unlike others, he didn't seem to suffer jealousy or want to hinder others. He helped the careers of a number of violinists.

He may have been a great violinist, but he was probably a greater person.

March 22, 2008 at 03:47 PM · My violin teacher witnessed a gag szeryng made in concert in bucharest at the enescu festival: in the brahms cadenza, szeryng had a scale that went up and down. He got up through the runs with incredible velocity and when he reached the top note he suddenly stopped. He remained motionless with the fingers stuck in place for more than a minute and in that silence, when everybody thought that something was wrong, he suddenly broke through and thunderously continued the cadenza from that very spot as if nothing had happened. Next day, when it was aired on tv, the pause was cut and the cadenza was spotless.

March 24, 2008 at 02:14 AM · I saw Szeryng in Portugal. I remember being struck by the beauty of his bow arm. He also sported a gold ring on his right hand which seemed to draw attention to his bowing. It looked particularly arresting on T.V. At the concert I saw he addressed the audience in very good Portuguese. Apparently he spoke many, many languages fluently.

He had the reputation of a demagogue. Everyone in the orchestras that accompanied him wanted him to fall off the notes in the concert but he never did. There is a rather sad story surrounding the circumstances of his final concert in Germany but I don't know if it is true so I wont repeat it here.

I was told that he was a late starter as a soloist. Also, that he auditioned for the concertmaster job in the Portuguese National Opera Orchestra. He was turned down for the job!

March 25, 2008 at 04:07 AM · Oh, c'mon. Everybody likes a good cry.

March 25, 2008 at 09:55 AM · "He had the reputation of a demagogue." I don't think the word "demagogue" fits in this context. Do you mean "autocrat?"

March 25, 2008 at 03:01 PM · I like Szeryng much more than Perlman. Szeryng's Brahms Violin Concerto and Bach's Ciaconne are by far (as I see it) greater than Perlman's, so if Perlman said in The Art of the Violin that Szeryng was "GOOD" after having downplayed him ("Szeryng is a chameleon violinist", he said), then probably, if Szeryng would still be alive, he would have said about Perlman that he was "GOOD" too. Now, more serioulsy speaking, it seems that the fact that Szeryng took the Mexican citizenship was not well seen by some other people. Probably, this would explain Perlman's sarcastic comment about the great Szeryng. Anyway, it is just a conjecture of my own.

March 25, 2008 at 03:38 PM · deleted

March 25, 2008 at 03:55 PM · I didn't sense that Perlman was belittling Szeryng or speaking sarcastically about him.

The way he stressed the word "good" in describing Szeryng's playing, it was obvious Perlman had a lot of admiration for him.

March 26, 2008 at 05:38 PM · Heifetz or Szeryng?

March 26, 2008 at 09:37 PM · Heifetz plays the violin perfectly well ...

Szeryng plays Bach perfectly well ...

Which of the two do you prefer ?

April 6, 2008 at 08:21 AM · Heard Szeryng play the Mendelssohn concerto in Perth, Western Australia, circa 1980 - magnificent, a lifetime memory.

May 12, 2009 at 02:01 AM ·

I played with Szeryng twice, he was absolutely fantastic. I had also the oppotunity to study under his assistent  Maestro Enrique Espin Yepez in Mexic City and also under one of his best students maestro Juan Ramirez in Atlanta, what I heard from them is that Szeryng was underestimated because he was not accepted by the "head" of the Mafia in New York, the reason was, believe it or not; religious. Anyway, besides USA , Szeryng was famous and valorated  world wide and his playing is a reference of quality. He is to me one of the best violinist ever.

May 12, 2009 at 04:15 AM ·

It could be a charisma or presence issue. I found some musicians, especially in live situation, even if they were consumate ones, quite closed-in or not-openly-communicating with the audience. On the other hand, with some other musicians you could sense their presence, openness, charisma the moment they appear on stage. It is definitely a different issue from their musical competence. Usually, mostly connoisseurs may appreciate the former. And that excludes myself from being a connoisseur, since I was never too impressed with Szeryng.

May 12, 2009 at 02:08 PM ·

So...what was(is) the religion issue? Was Szeryng too religious? Or not enough? Did he curse in temple? Was he a worshipper of the aztec divinities?

May 12, 2009 at 06:36 PM ·


>Was he a worshipper of the aztec divinities?

I thought i was the only one.  That`s why I never got invited to the Cirque de Soleil.   Running out of Inca.  Maya go now?



May 13, 2009 at 02:10 AM ·

>>Was he a worshipper of the aztec divinities?

>I thought i was the only one.

I just never had the heart for it.

May 13, 2009 at 03:56 AM ·

we all have to make sacrifices sometimes....

May 13, 2009 at 09:17 AM ·

I was at Gidon Kremer's workshop in Kronberg last week and he was talking about this (Szeryng, that is, not Incas). He was complaining about players who don't have their own 'signatures' and told an anecdote about Oistrakh, who once told him, 'Whenever I listen to the radio and I can't work out who's playing, it's always Szeryng.' Along the same lines as the Perlman critique, I suppose.

I've only just discovered Szeryng's playing, as we're including him in a new series about great violinists, but from what I've seen on YouTube (Ravel's Tzigane, Bach etc) it's very classy playing. I'm not sure I'd recognise him on the radio, yet, but I think I need to listen more.


(Editor, The Strad)


May 13, 2009 at 09:25 AM ·


if you get a chnace look at the DVD of him called `The Art of Szeryng.`  There are many example s of him playing when he was young that have enormous fire.  Quite scary;)   I have et a number of people who said in his later years he started ot come across as rather cold in his later years.  I think there is some truth in that and i would think it fairly likely to have had at leats soemthing to do with the enormous quantity of alcohol he consumed.  No question he deserves ot be up ther eamong the greats though.  Its rather strange,  but for some reason his recordings are much more freely availabe in Japan than America and perhaps Europe as well.Last time I bought is stuff was about ten years ago and I think I picked up about twenty of his CDs just like thta from a non specialist CD shop.



May 17, 2009 at 10:52 AM ·

 "what I heard from them is that Szeryng was underestimated because he was not accepted by the "head" of the Mafia in New York ..."

I agree with this statement, but I don't think "religion" had to do anything with this. Szerying became a well recognized, appreciated and rewarded violinist in Mexico ... He was appointed "Amabassador of Culture" in that country and somehow he was out of the loop of the top guys in New York and probably they did not like that ... Another factor to consider is sheer jealousy :

"Whenever I listen to the radio and I can't work out who's playing, it's always Szeryng.' Along the same lines as the Perlman critique, I suppose."

If one is listening to the radio and Kremer or Perlman are playing, would they be more recognizable than Szeryng ? Really ?

May 17, 2009 at 09:14 PM ·


I really am a little confused now. Are we talking about the Cosa Nostra  or what some poeple referred to as the musical mafia .  How much power the latter wilded is idle specualtion. In the case of the former just run for your nearest tax office.



May 17, 2009 at 10:01 PM ·

I'm listening to him on Youtube and he realy sounds amazing. it's Bach's Partita 2 Ciaconna.  Just enough vibrato to warm and season it, but not detract from the piece.....

I'm glad J. Andrew Miller mentioned him!!!!!


May 17, 2009 at 10:51 PM ·

Not difficult to recognize Szeryng on the radio or recordings.

Not sure what the problem is there...

He is one of the greats.

May 19, 2009 at 05:42 AM ·

Mr Alfaro,


It seems that nobody has really understood neither what the "mafia" in NY is(and who's the boss) nor what Szeryng's religion had to do in his appreciation. Could you be more specific??

  As for Szeryng being "underrated", I think that he was one of the most recorded violinist from the late 50ies to late 70ies (Most major concertos, some even 2 or 3 times, Bach's S&P twice, Sonatas by Beethoven, Mozart, Brahms, Trios with Fournier and Rubinstein, etc...

May 21, 2009 at 12:04 PM ·

As to his deportment offstage, it must be remembered that he had a very serious drinking problem. 

December 2, 2010 at 08:27 PM ·

The question is: "why do you think his playing is so underrated compared to others in his era?"

I think I have a simple explanation: he signed up for the wrong record label.

While I always admired the Philips technical guys for having used the state-of-the-art technology (at their time) to immortalise the sound of their artists, their catalogue has only been milked for cash since the 80s, before being sold as unwanted "non-core" to Decca, which manages the catalogue as tail business.

With no reinvestment whatsoever in marketing, how are the younger generations supposed to know the old masters?  Grumiaux has made exactly the same mistake, hence bearing the same curse.

Buri has pointed it out earlier: it is much easier to find Szeryng's recording in Japan, as the Philips catalogue used to be re-edited locally by Toshiba - an agreement that ended with the sale to Decca, I believe. 

I am so glad to be a proud owner of the now-extinct 2 CDs of Bach's Sonatas for Violin and Harpischord (BWV 1014-1019) by Szeryng and Walcha - who made me love the sound of the violin and the harpischord.

December 4, 2010 at 12:15 PM ·

I guess in some decades people'll forget who Perlman (as well as many others) was but not Szeryng. Szeryng made some greatest recordings which made him immortal.  Could anything be more important for an artist than that?

December 10, 2010 at 06:24 PM ·

BTW...many of his recordings are available on Philips (check Amazon), and this includes the complete Mozart sonatas with I. Haebler

August 20, 2015 at 05:35 PM · Just reading this old thread. I do disagree strongly with the comments that his sound and style were not distinctive. I could always pick out his sound right away and still can.

He playing often struck me as "soft" in a way I mean as a compliment: beautiful, rich, alto sound quality, a softness of attack, and a seeming desire to be beautiful and stylisitic at all costs. Definitely not a histrionic player. Listen to his Paganini Concerto No. 3 while following the score. He plays all of its spiky difficulties and they´re always musical and beautiful.

His sound in Bach was glorious. I heard him play three movements of the Bach E major partita as an encore to a concerto performance once. It was unforgettable. What a sound!!!

August 21, 2015 at 05:02 PM · definitely at the top of the top. why he wasn't as famous as Heifetz, this is a question with no pleasing answer. levels of fame are rarely about quality - it's mostly other factors.

also, his sound is immediately identifiable. I think Itzhak Perlman just misspoke on "the art of the violin"

August 21, 2015 at 07:04 PM · GOSS - Grumieux, Oistrakh, Szeryng, Suk.

Daniel, wasn't it you who linked to Suk and Szeryng doing Bach? And Suk's Chaconne?

I have no idea if they were adequately recognised at the time they played, all the teachers I talk to love these players. I listen to them every day.

Is it a bit like Zimmerman today? Excellent, known, but not at the same level of community recognition as say Hahn or Bell (the former, I can believe, the latter I just do not get at all).

August 21, 2015 at 09:36 PM · I heard him and Ernest Lush play the Brahms D-minor in the Wigmore Hall. The difficult movement is the third movement, the scherzo, and they managed to make it sound grim, the way I believed at the time it should sound. I think that's probably the way most greats play it. But I've had second thoughts about it: Brahms liked to be vulgar sometimes, and I think the scherzo is a case in point; but most people just wouldn't dare, even if they thought about it the same way I do. And possibly the reason I would is because unlike better players I shall never have anything to lose by making rude noises on the violin.

August 21, 2015 at 09:59 PM · Many years ago there was a documentary on British TV comparing the lives of an established top-line professional soloist and a struggling young musician.

The top-line soloist was Henryk Szeryng, then at the height of his career, and traveling on a diplomatic passport with the life style that goes with it, and the young musician - I can't for the life of me remember his name, it was that long ago - was a pianist who seemed to spend most of his waking hours driving long distances from one small venue gig to another as he struggled to make a living.

However, the unexpected publicity of that TV documentary turned our pianist's life around and a successful concert career soon emerged.

[Edit 26 January 2017

The pianist was Allan Schiller. He confirms the documentary in


August 21, 2015 at 11:55 PM · Greetings,

I think his name was Black, although I remember the rest of the documentary rather better than the name. To be honest, what stood out was the vast disparity in artistic level between the two. No offense intended to th epianist who was pretty good although not in the same class as those playing in the Baremboim videos on YouTube for example. To be honest, it was the clear disparity between the two levels (how many musicians of any species get even close to Szeryng?) that rendered the program rather moot. If you are average plus then you are not going to travel around in a rolls Rocye with two or three very attractive secretaries as Szeryng does in that documentary.



December 27, 2016 at 06:54 AM · I was present when Mr Szeryng performed the Tchaikovsky concerto in Cardiff in 1976, and my father, another fan, and a keen amateur violinist, listened to the concert on the radio. I shall never forget that event, and I still have several of Mr Szeryng’s recordings. Regarding Mr Szeryng’s failure to be recognised even more than he actually was, I cannot see how he could have been, quite frankly. He became, despite several obstacles, such as a career interrupted by a major war, one of the recognised great violinists of his time, and I think that is probably the best any violinist can do in this period in history.

What I am trying to say, is that I whereas I would rank Mr Szeryng alongside the other great violinists of his time, such as Milstein, Francescatti, Grumiaux, Menuhin, and Oistrakh, I would not place him alongside Heifetz and the other immortals of the golden age, such as (and I am excluding, here, of course, the early “greats” such as Corelli) Paganini; Joachim; Sarasate; and Ysaye. I really do believe this group, and I might include, at a pinch, Wieniawski and Kreisler, were in a league of their own; each not only possessing a totally recognisable violinistic personality, but also changing violin history. To join them, a violinist now has to move violin playing forward in some recognisable way. He would have to be recognised as being markedly superior to the last of them (Heifetz). This will not make him greater than Heifetz (or Sarasate or the others), because they belong to different eras; it will simply allow him to stand alongside them in violin history. And I do not think this is possible, because we have reached, I think, the limit of what two human hands can do with a violin.

Quantum jumps in violin playing are no longer possible, I firmly believe, but I would, of course, be happy to be proved wrong.

January 18, 2017 at 08:15 AM · Picking Mexico City as your base is perhaps not the smartest career move, and I sense a little bit of that in Perlman's comment. His drinking may have added to his being a bit of an outsider in the NYC circles.

For the general public there's the fact that he wasn't the kind of violinist who played circus-style encore pieces, and appeared kind of aloof. There's an excellent biography there, waiting to be written.

But in general I think he's regarded as one of the mid-century greats. You can't miss out on his Bach, Mozart and Brahms.

January 18, 2017 at 03:32 PM · His Brahms Sonatas are the greatest I've ever heard. So his is Bach (both versions). (Although, I just heard Shlomo Mintz's Brahms, and it may be the second best, although it's slower and different than Szeryng's take).

Among violinists, at least, he always seems to be highly regarded, though, and that's praise of a very high order, even if he's not as generally famous as some other violinists.

January 18, 2017 at 03:46 PM · Only know his music-making/recordings, not his personality or quirks. Regardless whatever other famous individuals may have said, I have never thought of Szeryng as anything else but a great violinist.

I will always remember his beautiful Paganini 3rd, which I heard for the first time on LP many years ago at a music school's library.

Too much is said, IMHO, about the great violinists of today and the past. It's easier to be a critic, I assume. All of them are human, and therefore imperfect (including the so-called "gods" of the violin), but the legacy of their artistry remains through , recordings, media, and other means-even that of the more obscure ones, which Szeryng isn't even part of.

January 18, 2017 at 04:37 PM · I remember hearing second-hand about a live Paganini #3 -- a note-perfect performance, but when he got backstage, people in the orchestra discovered that he was almost incoherently drunk. I don't know if stories like this bias people to hear somewhat soggy performances, but that may be part of it.

Also, I have heard stories that his other vices made travelling with a diplomatic passport a very good idea. No documentation, but passed on to me with some confidence by someone who might have reason to know.

In any case, I do remember Joseph Silverstein recommending at least one of his recordings as a jewel of perfection. And there were many other top musicians who thought him the best going, for at least a short while. Rubinstein, Karajan, and who knows else endorsed him most strongly.

January 19, 2017 at 02:31 AM · Lots of brilliant musicians suffered from substance abuse, and some died from it. Bill Evans, Fats Navarro, etc. Interesting how their reputations were not tarnished thereby.

January 20, 2017 at 01:29 AM · Regarding Sander's anecdote, maybe Szeryng would have preferred him to say "What a wonderful quartet that Beethoven is", or "What a terrific quartet you lead". He might consider himself to have failed if all he had done was to draw attention to his own playing.

January 20, 2017 at 02:12 PM · John:

Thanks for the comment, and I agree with you completely. I came to the same conclusion some time ago.


PS. In my humble opinion, at the top of the list of Bach S&P interpreters (in no particular order) are Szeryng, Grumiaux, and I like Hillary Hahn's performances very much. But, especially in this era as well as looking back, there are so many great performances by violinists well known and not so well known.

January 20, 2017 at 07:39 PM · Marcus, I would agree with your interpreter list.

My teacher recommended Yuval Yaron for Bach S&P, and I've heard the second disk of the set and it's great. I can't find a single copy of the first disk anywhere, though, and itunes doesn't have it licensed for the US...

January 21, 2017 at 06:23 PM · I have to confess I like Gidon Kremer even though he does tend to take things very fast. It's Grumiaux's recording of the E Major Gavotte that was chosen for the Golden Record (for the Voyager mission).

Bach has left the solar system!

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