Milstein playing Bach Sonatas&Partitas?

January 8, 2008 at 02:02 AM · I already have Szeryng on Deutsche Grammophone. Does anybody own a set of Milstein? Any comments? How would you rate it? Bach interpretation has surely taken some flip-flops over the last 60 years. Thanks! Sue

Replies (25)

January 8, 2008 at 02:11 AM · Greetings,

snap it up! Pronto!!!!!

Szeryng I love but it is sometimes heavy going for me. Milstein represnets the bets of the olde world for me. Innate musicianship (superb feeling for Bach) aligned with amost flawless technique.



January 8, 2008 at 02:50 AM · recommend also Enescu

January 8, 2008 at 03:11 AM · Oh yes, Milstein's Bach is great!! Definitely go for it. I listened to his g minor sonata a lot when I was learning it. His Presto movement is just astouding - the technical clarity, and rich sound, and purposeful phrasing . . . just thrilling to listen to.

January 8, 2008 at 03:58 AM · Yes yes yes! Milstein's Bach is my favorite! He is so precise and his musicality is outstanding. I bought the recording of all his sonatas and partitas on iTunes and it was only $19.98, in case anyone is looking for them. :D

January 8, 2008 at 04:30 AM · It's ok, but I wish it was better :)

How can I say that? Go to YouTube and look up his E maj preludio. That makes me think this album could have been more interesting. But I've had this album all my life. He also recorded an earlier version, on Capitol. That's probably also on CD, not sure what label. I had it on vinyl (Capitol) years ago.

January 8, 2008 at 04:35 AM · Buy it! It's definitely the work of a master. Even if you have disagreements about how he does things, there's a certain "I am 105 years old, and I have thought about this music for a very long time, and these are the conclusions I've come to" quality that makes this recording pretty authoritative. I'm not saying he's the be-all and end-all, but that recording is an important document in the history of Bach playing (kind of like Glenn Gould's 1955 Goldbergs - not every pianist chooses to play Bach like he did, but every pianist could probably learn something from that recording).

January 8, 2008 at 05:18 AM · Sue:

There are two sets, both highly thought of. The first one (EMI/Angel)is better technically. Some people think the later one (DG) is more sophisticated and freer. I guess I prefer the earlier one but either one is definitely worth hearing.


January 8, 2008 at 06:19 AM · Milstein's Bach is my favorite by far. There is no close second.

January 8, 2008 at 01:57 PM · Thanks, everybody! I'll add a swing past the place when they open later this week. I'm still using my turntable from 1967, but I see that they are available for "regular" consumers again recently. Maybe time to look into a new machine, too. Sue

January 8, 2008 at 10:28 PM · Your '67 table might not be too bad. Those old AR tables are fine, along with most old Thorens tables. Potentially easy to accidently trade down. If it's a Zenith Allegro though, then nah. A couple years ago I almost bought a Linn turntable. It was the ticket back at the end of the vinyl lifecycle, and I couldn't afford one in those days. But I got a grip and didn't go through with it. But it would be so easy these days to make a phenomenal phono preamp with the stuff that's available. That would be fun. I need a cold shower now.

January 8, 2008 at 10:40 PM · You cannot beat a turntable for violin sound. Somehow it never really sounds like a real violin even on an expensive cd player.

January 9, 2008 at 12:57 AM · Hi,Jim, And maybe not. It was a $29.95 something or other my folks got me to take to college. ;) Sue

January 9, 2008 at 02:05 AM · Obviously, I concur with Oliver.

Sue, if you saw an old boxset of the Bach S/P was priced low, why wouldn't you just pick it up anyways? :)

January 9, 2008 at 02:09 PM · Chronic collector from a long line of collectors. My Dad's motto is, "Never pass a good broomstick by." (He's a retired mechanical engineer, builds furniture and models for fun.) If I'm chronic, my husband is obsessive.... There comes a point where a person at least has to think for a few minutes about some things. If folks here had said the Milstein version was dated, etc.,etc., I'd now be unhappy. Sue

January 10, 2008 at 09:09 AM · "Dated" doesn't mean bad...A lot of people say it like it's the cardinal sin, but I think the "dated" recordings are thousands of times better than modern ones 90% of the time (pulled those numbers out of nowhere...and I will avoid a specific example to save myself from the flames)

I like Milstein's Bach. I have to admit it's not one of my favorites...but it's definitely worth owning.

January 11, 2008 at 01:39 AM · Greetings,

sorry this is not on the Bach. The other day I decided to treat myself to a couple of newer versions of the Beethoven concerto. One by ASM and one by a player rated as one of the best in the world today. The latter sounded contrived as though the player wa s unsure about comitting such a defining work to disk. Technically it was less than perfect. Waste of money. Mutter was a great relief. The music flows so naturally from her and the intonation was more reliable.

Finally I put on Milstein. For me that was a tour de force from a differnet world. Everythign so fresh, spontaneous and uncluttered by what I ofetbn here as false consciousness musicality among todays players (the sense that soemthing has to be done with this phrase to prove something...I don`t know what). It wa s also considerably techniqcally superior in terms of intonation, use of vibrato and bow control. I know violin playing has made huge advances in recent years but these kind of experiments make me wonder just a little...;)



January 11, 2008 at 01:46 AM · Buri-sensei,

Its a big problem. My teacher and mentor calls a lot of modern violin playing "decorator" playing. 'Let's try a little accent over here and a little crescendo over here.' His other description is "kinky".

There used to be something called good and bad but it seems to have disappeared. You can't have taste if there isn't a difference between good and bad and some consensus in society that there is good and bad. Nowadays its just a different idea and just as valid as anyone else's idea. All you need to justify yourself is just enough facility to fool most people most of the time.

January 11, 2008 at 04:12 AM · Yes! Buy it ASAP! It is one of the best recordings I own. Milstein's approach is strictly his own. It stands out from all the others. It's wonderful!

February 11, 2008 at 02:18 AM · Buri said:


sorry this is not on the Bach. The other day I decided to treat myself to a couple of newer versions of the Beethoven concerto. One by ASM and one by a player rated as one of the best in the world today. The latter sounded contrived as though the player wa s unsure about comitting such a defining work to disk. Technically it was less than perfect. Waste of money. "

Is this "one of the best in the world" that you describe playing Beethoven poorly called Joshua Bell?

February 11, 2008 at 03:03 AM · I tend to like baroque style playing for Bach in general but NOBODY can even come close to Misltein's Ciaccone!!!!! There's no other way to play it period.

My husband's an audiophile and I can't listen to CD's anymore. When you're listening to top of the line turntable it's almost as if the violininst is in the room with you.

February 11, 2008 at 11:07 PM · Greetings,

Chris- no. I really like JB`s playing!



February 12, 2008 at 04:30 AM · I hesitate to post this because Milstein is a legend. But in the beginning of the Bach Sonata No. 1 Adagio would you advide your students to play the F# so low (measure three, first beat at 00:11) and the C# so high (measure eight, and of one at 00:51) as on the follow youtube Milstein clip?

February 12, 2008 at 03:22 AM · LOL! Gary, that recording is from the DG set we're talking about.

What you're really asking is could Milstein stand a few lessons from the teachers you're referring to. Not a damn thing wrong with this recording, except maybe it's tooo careful (and highly patched up I do suspect).

February 12, 2008 at 03:38 AM · Yeah, I noticed some less than perfect intonation in milstein's version, especially compared to szeryng

February 12, 2008 at 04:06 PM · Milstein's intonation quirks always sounded to me like they are on purpose. ("I always wanted that G# sharp, and dammit I'm 108 years old now, and I'm going to play it sharp!")

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