Heifetz's Bach

September 16, 2008 at 01:15 PM · I'm relistening to Heifetz's Bach right now, and I have to say it's just nothing short of extraordinary. Among other things, his tone is just full of intensity. No, his tone IS intensity. I've never understood the complaints levied against it - that he chooses weird/fast tempi, that he is not faithful to the music, that he showcases his technique. Let me address those one at a time.

He does indeed choose tempi which would be weird coupled with any other violinist or interpretation, but they go perfectly in the context in which he plays them (he has a grasp on interpretation which matches his technique). The tempi aren't that weird anyways.

He is extremely faithful to the music. He puts some slides in here and there, yes, but his playing displays an uncanny understanding of Bach's structure and faithfulness to Bach's intent (e.g. all those off the string passages in the fast movements are there for reasons which are compelling on many different levels! He didn't play them like that by accident), even if he isn't playing on a stripped down Strad.

As to him showcasing his technique...that is just the silliest of all of the complaints. He does play extremely cleanly. I'm guessing that this, coupled with his intensity and slightly out of date musical ideas perhaps could give off the impression that he's showing off, but he always puts the music first. Take my word for it, if nothing else.

I'm currently on his A minor fugue, and I have forgotten to breathe in more than one place. This record is IMHO a monument of violin playing. Is it heresy if I say I like it better than Szeryng?

So, what do you have to say about his Bach? What do you hate about it, love about it?


September 16, 2008 at 01:35 PM · Maybe is better played than Szering, but no better Bach. If you want to hear great violin playing.

Jacob's your man. If you want great Bach playing,

stay with Szering.

September 16, 2008 at 02:23 PM · I don't feel any "wrong" of the Heifetz's Bach. it's one of my favorite .Indeed, I do think Heifetz was among the best , personally . If you don't have any prejudice about Bach .

September 16, 2008 at 02:55 PM · Whether you like his Bach or not, he, in general, did not get good reivews for it. Irving Kolodin is the only major critic I can think of who seemed to like it.

There used to be an article by Tim Page on the Internet that addressed Heifetz's career.It has a lot of interesting things to say, some of which are about the Bach. He makes reference to the lack of critcal support for it. I believe he calls the 1950's recordings of the Bach "brutal." He is more charitable about the earlier ones. I suspect the article is still there.

Of course, there were also those critics who thought,as Page notes, that Heifetz was really only any good for lightweight virtuoso showpieces. Again, you might not agree, but there were a lot of these people.

My point on the Bach: You can argue over whether the Bach is any good. But there isn't much to argue over the tone of the general critical reaction to his Bach. If you think it was positive, you should do some research.


September 16, 2008 at 03:56 PM · I believe he did not understand the hidden polyphonie in Bach... That sense of polyphonie comes with great architectural conception and is rarely found among artists in general.

September 16, 2008 at 05:19 PM · People without a pre-existing idea of how Bach needs to be played seem to like it fine. In other words the pure at heart, or the as uninformed as Heifetz like it ;)

September 16, 2008 at 08:30 PM · Greetings,

you are quite right Charlie. This Bach does, in my opinion , combine great musical integrity with astonishing technique. There are a number of reasons why people state it is no good (which is just a way of saying they don`t like it) including perhaps, the unique Heifetz sound ,(apparently depersonalization is better for Bach- I learnt this from an ancient piec eof grafiti on a toilet wall in Leipzig) and his refusal to take liberties with rubato but rather let the music speak for itself. He trod a fine line here and soemtimes it worlked , sometimes it didn`t. Heaven forbid anyone sugegst that some noted performers actually (maybe unconscoiuly) used rubato because they lacked a little tehcncial security.

The funny thing about this is also that i have heard many people say they are awed by the Chacconne but don`t like Heifetz Bach which dmakes no sense. Then there are those who say they hate it but have never actually sat down and listened to it. or only listened to it once which is sometiems not enough if one has been listening to very differnet artists for a long time. The ear gets kind of out of whack.

I think the bottom line is that anyone who listens to this Bach and walks away having learnt nothing but stating that it s no good probably is listenign more to thier preconceptions than thier cd player.



September 16, 2008 at 09:16 PM · Bravo, Buri

September 16, 2008 at 09:28 PM · Heifetz plays Bach the way it should be played; melodically and from the heart

IMO Bach is too often played in the politically correct way, which IMO is the wrong way

I understand if a small percentage of people dont like too much fast vibrato or wide vibrato or like a simple/pure tone when playing Bach, but it dumbfounds me when nearly everyone plays Bach has the usual symptoms

September 16, 2008 at 09:40 PM · Greetings,

>Heifetz plays Bach the way it should be played; melodically and from the heart

on the otehr hand, I`m nt that keen on -should-;) I also like Bach played Harmonically from the buttocks.



September 16, 2008 at 11:15 PM · Buri,

Remind me not to borrow your harmonica...

September 16, 2008 at 11:29 PM · a good floss usually resolves the problem.

September 17, 2008 at 12:09 AM · Greetings,

as life`s serendipity continues to unfold I picked up my ruty copy of `Note Grouping ` by Thurmond just now and glanced at the list of recommended study listening in the back. Top of the list is the Tchaik violin cocnerto with the follwoing comment:

`This, or any other recordings by Heifetz will be valuable listening! Watch and listen for the muscianship! Don`t merely `bask` in the sound!`



September 17, 2008 at 12:58 AM · I see we're on a roll here.

The art of music as played by the violin is not an absolute, fixed reality. It is changeable, personal, cultural, intellectual, emotional, spiritual, and all of it translated through the physical medium of sound as made tangible by the most ridiculous of humanly invented objects and the strangest and most awkward utilization of our God-given perceptual-motor talents.

Why, then, should anyone have the last word on how the Bach Sonatas and Partitas should be played? In many, many ways, Jascha Heifetz was one of the most meticulous, reverent, thoughtful, passionate, and perfectionistic performers who ever lived. And who cares whether a thousand critics didn't like his Bach? Maybe no one else could or would play it the way he did, but he had an artistic vision that was genuine, and he achieved that vision with a depth and honesty that is there for anyone willing to listen.

And, by the way, you may notice that in his famous master class tapes at UCLA, in which he is explaining (to Eric Friedman, I believe) how to play the G Minor Fugue, he shows exactly how and why to bring out the fugue theme in the middle voices. That seems "polyphonic" to me. And remember, the Heifetz "ear" and genius is for melody above all. His melodic phrasing is like the flow of a line of poetry. It is phrasing at it's utmost. That, I think, is how he hears (and plays) Bach. So that as a result he doesn't focus on chords, but on melodies. And Bach is littered with melodies. When you listen to Heifetz, you'll hear it if you concentrate on Heifetz focusing on the phrasing of melodies, rather than on the beautiful playing of chords.


September 17, 2008 at 03:08 AM · I find Heifetz's Bach to be too hurried, even to the point of being frantic, much like Kremer's. It's a combination of his fast vibrato and fast tempi.

September 17, 2008 at 04:27 AM · "Heifetz didn't understand the hidden polyphonies...." says Marc, probably a hidden genius, likely to remain one..

September 17, 2008 at 04:47 AM · why anyone would want to fake a parrot is beyond me anyway.

September 17, 2008 at 05:00 AM · I love the man's playing but I can't stand his Bach. His tone seems a little stringent for this repetoire. Milstein seemed to have a vastly superior approach; broader, warmer, engaging, emotional and with a more fluid, less intrusive rhythm.

September 17, 2008 at 05:13 AM · "His tone seems a little stringent "

Some of that is the fault of RCA. I've never heard a recording of him that really sounds like a violin.

September 17, 2008 at 05:51 AM · "Some of that is the fault of RCA. I've never heard a recording of him that really sounds like a violin."

No, it's definitely the violin's fault. My grandfather conned him into thinking it was a real live strad.

And Buri, the parrots are all probably asking each other why they fake humans. For both violins and parrots, it's instinct.

September 17, 2008 at 10:59 AM · I'd rather fake a parrot than parrot a fake.

September 17, 2008 at 01:08 PM · Daniel: like Celibache said in a master-class, all his about time and space. Althought I am a great admirer of Heifetz, and I must admit, he is a pionnier to have introduce like Kreisler and many others before him the solo works of Bach in recital programs, I do not favor his very individual approach in Bach , Mozart or Beethoven.

I think you should respect my opinion , as much as I respect yours, and not be insulting or arrogant please.


September 17, 2008 at 02:28 PM · Perhaps the question shouldn't be what's wrong with Heifetz' Bach but what's right with it.

I don’t particularly like many of Heifetz musical interpretations, but I am awed by his technique. When I listen to, and watch recordings of him performing, I always find something that I want to improve on myself. I am very impressed that Heifetz had the guts to play the music as he felt it – whether it be right or wrong in someone’s opinion.

So somebody doesn’t like his Bach – big deal. In my humble opinion, it’s not necessary for the general consensus to agree before music / musician can be admired and appreciated for its uniqueness.

I have only recently been allowed the privilege of beginning serious study of my first Bach Sonata and while I’ve listened to many of the great performances I can’t wait to eventually find my own Bach interpretation.

Ruth Kuefler (sp.?) made the point extremely well in her blogs when she spoke of the many layers of Bach. How beautiful is it that the music of Bach was written in such a way that every musician who plays it is able to find, and bring, something personal and unique to such great music.

September 17, 2008 at 02:28 PM · Probably the first recording of a Bach's work was the E Prelude by Kreisler (with piano, 1904) And

perhaps the first complete recording of a solo sonata was the third by Menuhin (1929, at 13 years


September 17, 2008 at 03:32 PM · You know, when I too read that part of Ruth's post it sort of touched me because Bach's works are... well I can't think of any other way to put it. Just read Ruth's post.

September 17, 2008 at 03:52 PM · I admire Heifetz's Bach, but it is not to everyone's taste. I can't fault the technique!

One of my teachers told me something very interesting about Heifetz, and his sound quality on recordings. He heard Heifetz many times live in the 40s and 50s (and needed little encouragement to talk about it!), and told me that the Heifetz recorded sound was totally different from the Heifetz live sound. He said that hearing Heifetz live, in the great halls, presented the listener with the most gorgeous, rich, creamy, full, deep sound, but because he cut records with his mikes placed very close to his violin, his recordings gave little inkling of what his sound truly was.

September 17, 2008 at 04:41 PM · Oskar Shumsky said that Heifetz sound was quite metallic, in the hall, "stell" like... This is quoted in Kreisler's biographie written by Amy Biancolli...but this is all a matter of taste.

September 17, 2008 at 05:45 PM · I have not yet heard one bit of evidence to prove he plays less "polyphonic" than others.

September 17, 2008 at 06:22 PM · Any top virtuoso, honest ones ,will agree to concede that it is more difficult to play in slower tempi, to hold the notes entirely and beyond their time, and for violinists, to seek for the natural resonance ( the ringing tone ), which comes out with a less muscular vibrato and a smooth bow technique... Heifetz has been surpassed( for Bach solo works) by some actual players, like Hahn or Ehnes for example, technically and musically speaking.Long and sustained bow strokes...

September 17, 2008 at 06:27 PM · I would agree about the difference between Heifetz live and on recordings. I heard him only once live, in a recital at Orchestra Hall in Chicago in the late 1950's. I was sitting way up in the balcony, but the sound in that hall was wonderful and carried to the very back rows of the balcony.

His sound was indeed rich and full and creamy. And because there was no microphone right next to his violin (which, I understand, is the way he liked to be recorded), there was absolutely no bow noise. It was as smooth as can be, and, I might add, warm. To my eternal regret, I don't remember the entire program. But I do remember the Franck Sonata and I think maybe a Beethoven sonata, and of course the general sound of the violin (which I still remember).

It was totally obvious why he was the household name he had become by then. He played a few encores, and (if memory serves) I recall a wisp of a smile to the audience at the end of the program. I think he was so identified with a style of impeccably precise and "perfect" playing, that he was just taken for granted. There was no suspense, no surprise; you simply didn't didn't worry that he would slip. Even though he had to be walking that tightrope constantly, he didn't look like it.

Anyway, it was a great experience. And if his aesthetic was that he experienced melodies faster than the rest of us, so what! Sometimes it's refreshing to hear things played that way, too. Maybe there's too much playing of Bach like you're going to church. Bach also had 20 kids; he must have liked faster tempos ONCE in a while! But Heifetz really was a great fiddle player.


September 17, 2008 at 08:43 PM ·

September 17, 2008 at 08:51 PM · Greetings,

largely anecdotal and unhelpful, but you guys and gals inspired me to actually dig out my Heifetz CD and listen to the b minor which oftebn comes across to me as the elast successfuly perfromed by anyone for some reason. I can`t be bothered to remeber the titles but the opening movement was beautifully judged tempo wise ( a little slower than many) deadly serious and techncially flawless. It seemed ot me so determined to play withhout excess it erred on the side of unfriendly (not cold) It has much of the inimitable burning sound of the lower strings that mark the man. I wished he had used more moveemnts of slight respose or let up of tone. The follwoing moveemnts struck me as exemplary tempo wise, technically superb and very msuical. The unrelenting sound is less obvious in the faster movements. One stood out (no 6) above all the others for me. (Bouree I think) A small movement that Hefetz seems ot relax on and play with the most delicate and subtle phtrasing and nuance. I would love to play this over and over to my less sensitive students and ask them to ponder instinctive and beautiful music making. I listened to the opening of the Allemande and almost immediatley had to turn it off. heifetz Chooses one of the two possible ends of the spectrun in interpreting this piece- the broad, and powerful. I used to play it this way but have long since chanced to more delciate and dancing. I casn`T listen to anyone play it this way - just personal.

After that I put on what I tend to asusme is my favorite Bach- that of Enesco. Unfortunatley he is wildly inconsistent in this set and this partiata is about the worst of the bunch. Aside foirm being miserably out of tune much of the time his muscial ideas seemed to be thowing out almsot randomly and it sounded terribly disorganized and out of control after the disclplined offering of Heifetz. Had to turn it off again;) Maybe thta is an example of how listenign to one extreme can make another version unaccetable unles sa suitable time out is taken?



September 18, 2008 at 04:24 AM · Fault with sound from a recording does not lie with the virtuoso. Recording tech in the 50's was far less than today, and the sound was made worse by audio engineers who went lengths to actually compress the audio dynamics to reduce them to the level of the recording tech. Nothing sounded proper. The tech was simply too limited to record any subtleties of a violin or human operatic voice.

How utterly sad we have no modern audiophile recordings of such greats as Heifitz.


the link goes to Heifitz playing a Partita. Apart from the way Heifitz appears (totally in control and perhaps dispassionate), I do not see how anyone could fault his music.

September 18, 2008 at 06:00 AM · RCA (Heifetz's label) and CBS were two of the worst. DG and Capitol and Decca were also common classical labels, and better records. Records from each label had their own "sound", not like CDs today, where you wouldn't be able to distinguish the label. CBS was awful, worse than VOX actually, which had a bad reputation sound-wise, a reputation a little bit like a joke. I don't know why they didn't do better. It was possible to. I guess they didn't care :)

September 18, 2008 at 09:17 AM · Hi,

I should love to have the other J. H.'s "problems" in interpreting Bach.

Gone practicing,


September 18, 2008 at 06:21 PM · Breaking chords and playing double-notes in tune does not mean you play in a polyphonic way... Albert Schweitzer in his memoirs spoke about the hidden polyphonie in Bach solo works for violin. It does also exists when you play single notes on the piano or when someone sings a capella. The whole effect can be achieve in the presto of the first sonata with the internal and natural resonance of the instrument and accurate bow technique...There is to much pressure in J.H way of bowing to let it come out naturally. In slower tempi, like the sicilienne, it is more difficult to achieve. You have to exercise your ear to that kind of polyphonie and it is very difficult to percieve it if you do not have an open minded approach. This can be done in the baroque style, classical ,romantic or modern, it does not matter. Above all, you need to know where are those strategic point of resonance and how to bring them out... This is not an easy task.I am quite surprised that few in the present discussion or past ones have not brought up that point.Why do Tosha Seidel and Fritz Kreisler sound so miraculous on RCA: their ringing tone comes out naturally , they knew a great deal about that very particular technique. It is from my point of view a very important subject of violin playing.

September 18, 2008 at 08:36 PM · Too bad Heifetz is not around now to take some lessons with you.

September 18, 2008 at 09:02 PM · i dont think heifetz could have afforded marc's going rate, so tough luck to JH

hahaha...oh i love this website

September 18, 2008 at 09:05 PM · "There is to much pressure in J.H way of bowing to let it come out naturally."

Im sorry to say but that sentence just showed that you dont know what you are talking about when it comes to Heifetz, in this case with his Bach.

September 18, 2008 at 09:28 PM · Greetings,

I seem to recall Heifetz telling Friedman, `the more you press the less comes out.`



September 18, 2008 at 10:22 PM · if theres anything that auer students possessed, its fantastic bow technique. to auer, the bow was the paintbrush and the left had was an engine that needed to be constantly maintained. read "Violin Mastery" where many of his students are interviewed...

September 19, 2008 at 03:09 AM · I am quoting from a previous post I made in response to "Baroqueness" in Bach performances:

"Elizabeth Field gave a very interesting lecture/demonstration at a national music convention some years back in which she performed the same couple movements from about 15 different editions of the Bach Sonatas and Partitas. Despite the variety of bowings, fingerings, added dynamics, etc. she came to the conclusion that each performer's edition was primarily focused on the shaping of the phrase to bring out the logic and beauty of Bach's melodic and harmonic genius. She made a strong case for the idea that with integrity and intelligence one could perform these pieces in a convincing way with a number of different approaches. Perhaps Bach's music is much greater than the limitations we sometimes inadvertently place on it by aligning ourselves in one camp or the other."

With examples like the one Sander mentioned regarding the fugue subject that needed to be brought out as he was teaching Erick Friedman in the UCLA masterclasses, and those Buri and others gave, I would think that Heifetz should be considered one of the great musicians of all time and that he did have something of considerable substance and significance to contribute in his playing of Bach's music. No artist can be all things to all people, but I take it as a measure of the rarity of Heifetz's unique gifts that, more than twenty years after his death, we are still talking about him, listening to his recordings, and that his interpretation of Bach or any other composer still compels responses and interest and debate. How remarkable that he existed and gave the world his best. Some are lucky to stand the test of time and remembered for an eternity ( even if I won't be around to verify that)- Jascha Heifetz is such a one.

September 19, 2008 at 09:49 AM · it is interesting that often on v.com we see the polarization of the 2 camps: 1. heifetz cannot be questioned 2. heifetz can be questioned. i think both camps respect heifetz deeply.

it is really not about his tech or musicality but the question: what does heifetz's music does to an individual who each an unique acoustic view of the world? obviously, it is impossible that we all line up and like-- or dislike-- heifetz the same.

in a way, we are not here arguing over the difference between sun and moon, but more like, what is a comfortable temperature TO ME...

if i state that on the youtube partita, i prefer milstein's to heifetz's, because it does more to me, some here will say: um, stop the wowing and get rid of those goosebumps, did you ever listen to this and that record of heifetz or that did you ever attend his live concert? true, it may change my impression or even ADD to my understanding and appreciation, but it does not change my "feel" toward certain particular take in his vast portfolio, does it? i am certainly not attempting to make a conclusive assessment about him as a music icon over one rendition, or any other pieces for that matter.

to me, thus for some others, listening to music is about what it does to us, without the need for context or credentialing. or influence from people who think otherwise, and that makes music, if not life, interesting.

September 19, 2008 at 10:14 AM · Yes, I think there's too much "for or against" when it comes to topics like Jascha Heifetz. Ultimately, if you can come to truly hear the world through Heifetz's ears, see it through his eyes, feel it through his heart, understand it through his brain and his personal and musical history - and then shift your point of view and do the same for Milstein, and Hahn, and each of the other greats - then you broaden your own palette, increase the depth of your enjoyment, and (if you play these pieces) increase the probability of choosing your own interpretation that will bring out your best.


September 19, 2008 at 11:10 AM · concur that the more we know about someone or something, the more we may be able to APPRECIATE with the right perspective, if there is such a thing.

however, with music, we cannot underestimate our LOVE/HATE reaction to sound which may be beyond reasoning and intelligence.

one's appreciation for the fine qualities in

other people is different from one's love for one's family. there is no need to force the issue.

or, the best cup of coffee may not be someone's cup of tea.

September 19, 2008 at 11:19 AM · Nate and D: grow up and act mature like Al KU does...It is a board of discussion here. Probably that you cant yourself accept any critics on your part, and for that reason, you wont evolved has human beings or get stuck with Ernst concerto all your life. You should get away from J.H. for a while, even from your violin, and listen to great music, great pianists or singers, even Metalicca or Trail of the dead, whatever: it will open your horizons. By the way, Elgar hated the way J. H. played his concerto in 1921...I love Jascha's recording and as I said earlier, always have admired him. But I have reserves about his way of playing Bach and can express my opinion about it. I have heard him live, Milstein, Oistrach , Grumiaux also and many, many others. You did not. I was there.

September 19, 2008 at 12:38 PM · When,...I catch myself about to critique something, these days, I try to recall that at one time I cared less for something that 'Now' I like. a) My taste 'matured'. b) I acquired a taste for it. c) NOW I Understand when at one time I could not. and d) somethings are just 'not' for 'me'. Nothing inherantly 'wrong'... it just does nothing for me. Yet if a friend likes it, I most certainly would want to keep it in mind as a gift for that one and others.



September 19, 2008 at 01:41 PM · Hi,

I am always reminded Ysaÿe who admonished ones of his students (in French) something like "You have to hear what an artist has to offer NOT for what YOU want him to give you."

That said, listening to performances in that regard gives you insights that are new and revealing. You may not always be in the same vein, but if you want your version, then play it yourself. But, since they are not us, then let them be themselves.

I think that this has a lot to do with what Joshua Bell was reproching and finding a lesser aspect of this side.

That said, Heifetz's personal sound apart, I find his interest at objectivity and faithfulness to the score to be interesting - absolute tempo, reverance for every not written. Following the Barenreiter, he even omits trills and ornaments that are not in the score where many do them, by tradition, etc. This was one of the first things in his approach that I noticed all those years back and that always struck me.


September 19, 2008 at 02:54 PM · I believe that one can indeed have one's own preferences, likes and dislikes, and favorites. But when it comes to being a professional - in any field - the more different perspectives one understands and appreciates, the greater the depth of one's professionalism.

As a listener (which I probably do better at than actually fiddle playing), I think that the more different styles of playing I can learn about and appreciate, the more doors open to my understanding and appreciation of the music, the composer, the era, and therefore the more my life is enriched. I can't claim that I always live up to that ideal, but I try to.


September 19, 2008 at 03:36 PM · "act" mature,,,boy, that reaaaally hurts, but at least someone saw through it! :)

sometimes i would like to think that the burning differences in taste or musical appreciation on v.com is perhaps the consequence of premature maturation :), that some of you may have tried a bit too hard to act as if you know something very well, a tad too early. some of you have voiced that everything evolves. BUT, at one particular moment in time, it is perfectly ok to state your feelings about things, right or wrong. if you don't have the courage to make a stand and a mistake, you can't learn. what is not advisable for pros is to be too rigid.

take sandy for instance. we can speculate safely that he loves classical music. then we have a heavy metal guy walking in for counseling...about ways to love heavy metal even more. i expect sandy to treat this person with the same pro attitude/skills as another client who appreciates heifetz so exactly like sandy:)

but i do think that if another client shares the same music taste like sandy, begging him here and there to drop a funny line, sandy would treat this client differently.

we are humans and there is always that little voice inside, suppressed may be, but always there! :)

therefore, some react to certain music spontaneously, some have to learn to appreciate it. we are all good! :)

September 19, 2008 at 06:52 PM · Metallica who? Does he use a shoulder rest?

September 19, 2008 at 06:16 PM · Al: at 15 years old, I thought the best violinist should be able to play the God Save The King Paganini Variations...it is not a big challenge anymore and indeed you must evolve and not only seek for technical challenges or perfection. Hearing for instance Kreisler play the first movement of Bach g minor is for me a unique and intimate experience, even if there is a slight mistake here and there or if the style is outdated. I do not mind... The same with Szigeti or Cortot or Thibault. But I also think there are some great players today, on the concert circuit, we do not talk about and this is a shame. I do believe that some of them play better than some violinists of the past, including Heifetz, that they have much better partners in chamber music, and that the level of the orchestras are much better. It is very unfortunate that J.H. is always a major subject of discussion here and cannot be criticized as a violinist, musician, technician or a person.I always believed that Kreisler and Oistrach had a better bow technic than J.H.and a more brilliant sound. Heifetz is rought in his attack and it is a myth that he was perfect...He did make mistakes here and there, wrong notes sometimes, and his sound was not as beautiful during the 50s and the 60s...Many observers knew that something changed... I have a live performance at home of the Beethoven concerto recorded during the early 40s, and there are quite few mistakes of intonation here and there , and a chord totally missed in the cadenza...So what! The perfection of Heifetz, throught the publicity of R.C.A. or M.G.M. created a myth.Of course he was a King, but there where others, and today we have great ones, male and female, we should focus on more often...They are our models now and our inspiration.


September 19, 2008 at 07:05 PM · Nate: It is a wonderful accomplishment to play Ernst Concerto Pathétique...We were all impressed by your skills... Even if I can't prove it, who would care to believe I performed it at 15??? What is more important Nate, is respect. Respect for yourself, respect for the others... Not to be afraid of being controvarsial or bring different point of views.When you will understand these notions, Ernst will become easy and wont be a challenge anymore...

Your old friend,


September 19, 2008 at 08:56 PM ·

September 19, 2008 at 09:32 PM · Greetings,

now that`s a shame.

I enjoyed Marc`s comments about Heifetz. It`s really sad to see a great player and contributor insulted with the words

`think -write`

Maybe I`m just grumpy today but I am going to flag this post.

Somewhat sadly,


September 19, 2008 at 09:57 PM · Buri,

I am sorry I don't enjoy marc's comments as much as you do. I don't see the joy of empty statements that don't incite any kind of discussion about art and playing the violin.

Maybe Marc might have more expertise in Heavy Metal, than in classical music (though this is just going by what he writes). So let's start a post about Metallica can open the minds of people deeply in love with the violin and its champions.

September 19, 2008 at 10:18 PM · My first impression of what Al wrote did unsettle me a bit. However in all honesty I find in myself that I can critique easily that which I truly know little. As I begin to learn, attempt and arrive only then to apreciation that 'whatever it was I critiqued' I knew nothing now I know better! I was trying to be more than what I was/am. I doubt that I am the only one (Posting Here) that has done/does this. Now back to the paragraph:

There are just some things that J.H. would say, "Look! It's the way I bloody like it! And If you don't then do it your way or shut the hell up!" :^)

Kind Regards,

Royce Faina

September 19, 2008 at 10:25 PM ·

September 19, 2008 at 10:46 PM · i joke around too much too often, inappropriately more often than not and since i am truthfully not well versed in either bach or heifetz, i will move onto something else that i can relate, hopefully some of you simpletons will find the analogy fitting...

Violin and Violinist share an interesting property---each comes with an intrinsic, signature TONE. strads sound different from guarneri, etc. perlman sounds different from hahn, etc. and no one really sounds like heifetz for so many reasons that i will not dare to try to go into the tech details. to me, no matter what heifetz touched, it has his signature tone, from a mile away. i think what caught people's attention mainly is his tone, not tech perfection, or missing notes.

just like that some prefer strad vs others or others over strad, some people will find h's tone appealing, some, not. in other words, if we argue over or defend h's tone, it is like arguing over or defending a violin's tone, which to me is unnecessary.

if we are allowed to pick and choose a violin with a tone to our liking, the same applies to a violinist with his tone. either you like it or you don't. and it is ok as long as you are happy with your choice.

jeee, am i an easy going guy full of s or what? :)

ps. too bad we live all over. would love to see v.com "issues" settled in a local pub every friday night. you bring your fiddle and i bring mine!

pss: royce, please settle down.

September 19, 2008 at 10:50 PM · My point of view is valuable about "hidden polyphonie "...Read carefully what I wrote: internal resonance in between single notes. You have to find these stategic points and figure it in the music of Bach and let it come out. I am not speaking about double-notes or chords played in tune. I believe it is a very interesting point that deserves to be discussed and my general impression, it does not come out in the playing of Heifetz as much as it does in Hahn, Ehnes or Milstein...and some others.

I believe that the "bashing" has something to do with control or exclusion of ideas or maybe persons or human beings...Nate, is the one who once said that I "vomit" my knowledge on this website... That is quite insulting and I remember... but I forgive.

I think it is more a part of yourself( ego) that is concern here...Not Heifetz.

September 20, 2008 at 01:10 AM · nate and marc,

"Vomit" is such a strong word.

Why don't we just call it an accidental personal protein spill?

September 20, 2008 at 08:08 AM · This can be a fascinating topic both in terms of Bach and in terms of Heifetz - and I agree with much of Buri's detailed and far from anecdotal/unhelpful commentary earlier. (By the way I love the Enesco version, too, but it does taking a time of acclimatization...). My own summary: it is a monumental version - it should be widely known and appreciated for the many great things it has to offer - I don't agree with various aspects of it. In my opinion Heifetz is overall the benchmark for violinists, but not specifically his Bach. But beyond that, the tone of this thread has, as is often the case when Heifetz gets involved (that could be a topic for discussion in itself), descended into such unpleasantness, it's very off-putting. Nevermind, if I thought it only put me off, but I suspect many people come across these "discussions" and feel compelled to stay silent or even turn away rather than have their say and incur the wrath of the guardians of truth.

September 20, 2008 at 09:04 AM · i do wonder what i would have done or reacted if my teacher's teacher happens to be heifetz, as in the case with nate, and when others become critical of h. i mean, can i maintain any detachment in my defense of the lineage? would i simply let my playing do the talking? knowing my own playing, i probably need to talk:). in 20 years or so, when nate becomes an even more refined and accomplished player, i wonder how he will look back at all this,,,

kurganov, among other things, labelled h as a "perfect" artist, as in you are perfect and now change? not sure if it is done to pee off marc even more, but it may be an interesting topic to ponder,,,slippery ground perhaps, but what qualities constitute a perfect artist? further, do you have to be dead to be perfect?

marc, on polyphony,,,thank you for pointing that out again and again, because i remember you talked about it when we were talking about partita a while back and my awareness of it has been heightened by your insight. you must admit, however, that it did sound like from your statements as if h had no concept of it. i understand to you it sounds lacking, but what is the chance that h understood it but had chosen to manifest differently?

September 20, 2008 at 10:14 AM · Nate:It is enough.Just reply to mine about hidden polyphonie...You can't , because you have no idea of what I am talking about and maybe this subject-matter would improve your whole vision about the instrument, and your playing.Where are on the four stings of your violin the stategic point of resonance? Do you know what undertones are and how to focus on them? Do you know what is the real meaning of the word polyphonie and which composers where experts in that kind of writing before J.S. Bach. Have you read their scores. Did you know about the term polyphonie a capella( single notes). Do you know what is the signification of the term "Nova Arte" in the history of the evolution of the polyphonie...

Now, that is what a board of discussion is for. To dis cuss these subject-matters. Not to defile your pedegree or to repeat over and over again how this violinist was so fabulous or perfect and dont ever dare to question is playing!!!

September 20, 2008 at 01:52 PM · I cannot stand listening to Heifetz's Bach. I need no qualifications to hold this opinion. I also do not like eggplant. Prove me wrong.

Also, while I am at it, I find Mr. Kurganov's value judgments and general insults to those whom he disagrees with to be maddening. Mr. K. seems to believe in something that doesn't exist: PERFECTIONISM. And then goes on to excoriate those who don't "see" it. I agree with every one of you (if it matters) who stress the subjectivity of music appreciation.

September 20, 2008 at 02:24 PM · Perhaps this will be of interest (I don't know though that this quite addresses the issue of resonant tones and undertones, but it's worth a look:


September 20, 2008 at 04:20 PM · Sorry Al. I'm as simple as they come. I'm cool. And Thanks! :^)

And I love the idea of a Friday/Saturday in a Pub with you guys and gals. BTW I'm mostly bravado I'm really a woose!:^p, and the first round is on me!!!!

September 20, 2008 at 11:17 PM ·

September 21, 2008 at 02:11 AM · I side with those who don't think his Bach was very good. The charcterization of it as "brutal" does seem to sum it up pretty well.

There even technical issues with it. It is hard to play a Bach fugue when you don't use the bottom 20% of the bow and when one's downbows move so rapidly. The question, as always, with Heifetz is how he managed to do so well without using the whole bow.


September 21, 2008 at 03:35 AM · Sure looks like he's using the whole bow to me.


(not offering my opinion of his interpretation, btw)... :-)

September 21, 2008 at 05:03 AM · If I see you eating something I don't like, I swear I'm going to karate kick it right out of your mouth.


September 21, 2008 at 10:36 AM · find ronald's link quite helpful, providing some sense of what poly's are about structurally and phonetically. still i am confused about what marc defines as HIDDEN poly's. is there a distinction between HIDDEN ones and OBVIOUS ones? for instance, with almost any piano composition, with the 2 hands, isn't poly's what it is about? that with violin where there is linear progrssion one has to "find" the polys?

on that, to follow kurganov's rather inconsiderate suggestion of leaving the dead alone, i venture to submit a piece of junky bach by a kid that i kinda know well on the golf course whose attempt at violin has much more influence of questionable value on me than bach and heifetz combined:)

in this clip, if you can see/hear past the waffling intonation, it is not difficult for even dumbos like me to appreciate that starting on the first phrase, a single voice is joint by 2-3 others in succession. i can hear that alright. what i am interested to know is that beyond what is structurally set up already, are there any other hidden gems that i need to tune my ears differently to appreciate? leaving heifetz where he is, i must admit what a genius bach is for being able to orchestrate and weave such interesting elements into a 3-D expedition with a pen, a piece of paper and whatever upstairs...


September 21, 2008 at 12:30 PM · The genius of a composing genius like Bach is that the possibility of discovering new motifs and other musical elements is everpresent and often surprising. Just another reason why Bach will live as long as human civilization does.

September 21, 2008 at 12:39 PM · i think after our brief stay, other succeeding life forms can continue to appreciate what bach has to offer,,,the glittering pulses of life:)

to me a genius is someone that one can never figure out...now you see it now you don't, now you hear it now you don't..as mysterious as it is humbling and arresting..

September 21, 2008 at 01:16 PM · D Kurganov responded:


first of all, perfectionism is a manmade ideology, and it most certainly EXISTS. absolute "perfect" of course does not, but you're confused as to what you're asserting, exactly. Just like "good" and "bad", "perfect" doesn't have absolute meaning, but to me, a perfect artist is someone that can express their idea faithfully, to full effect.'

Thanks for a reasonable response. I find nothing to disagree with there, and appreciate your improvement in tone, not that I should be the final arbiter of that. I wasn't really "confused," just imprecise with my language.

September 21, 2008 at 08:53 PM · Sandy, or anyone... Do you think Bach knew and intentionaly wrote his music like what you say?

What a humanbeing! Each time I succeede playing a Bach piece I end up discovering something I had not previously realised about myself. I guess it's one reason I keep playing his music on Cds and my violin. Granted Any song I achieve success learning does this, but none like J.S.Bach

September 21, 2008 at 11:19 PM · Royce:

Well, I'm no expert on the philosophy of art, but I'll try to answer your question, even though I can't say I've got the best answer.

I believe that when you create anything artistic (or, in the case of a violinist or other musician, recreate anything artistic), you are aware of certain things. You are certainly aware of mastering your craft, and you are probably aware of at least some of the implications and subtelties.

But I doubt that you are aware of every single one. I do believe that when you create, you are in a kind of "trance," a mental state in which you know that you are in touch with something that transcends what you are doing.

I believe that an artist like a Bach or a recreative artist like a Heifetz was aware at the moment of inspiration that there were aspects of what they were creating that went beyond what they were fully cognitive of. We indeed call it being "inspired."

I'm sure that has happened to you and any of us who play an instrument or write music or write poetry or make a violin or give a speech or sing a song. There are moments when we know we are at our best, when we are creating something that transcends the details of what we are doing. And most of us live for those moments.

How someone like Bach could have packed that awareness into every single note of the hours and hours of everything he wrote is almost incomprehensible. Clearly, while Heifetz may have been just going through the motions in some of his performances is highly likely, but overall his concentration and passion is evident most of the time for all to hear and appreciate.

That probably doesn't answer your question, but it's given me an opportunity to think about it.

Cordially, Sandy

September 22, 2008 at 12:16 AM · Sandy- You gave me so much more than I hoped. I know that when hooked up to an EEG machine and it says that I'm playing my violin in the Alpha state of conscience I play beyond what I thought I ever could! Or anytime I'm down in the alpha...it's like dreaming and being awake at the same time. And alot of what you wrote, for now it seems to be clearifying things.

Thank You so very much! :^D

Kind Regards,


September 22, 2008 at 05:39 AM ·

September 22, 2008 at 08:10 AM · What kind of math? Differential musiquations? Alkugebra?

Al, I don't know if "hidden polyphony" means anything precisely. But there are probably endless interesting things you could do with phrasing in this. The piece in your video, in measures 9 and 10, a typical thing is to emphasize the f and e, and the g and f#, and just play through the rest of it. But you could break it into a phrase figure that ends on the last note of beat 3 in measure 9, and do the same with the last note of beat 1 in 10. A thing they teach right away is to emphasize sequences, but I think the next step is to delineate out the little phraselets or melodies for yourself, out of practically innumerable possibilities.

September 22, 2008 at 10:06 AM · thanks gents, nice posts.

"because i don't even think you play the violin!"

certainly not the way you do but stop hurting me! :)

i actually DID play a little when my kid started learning to get her going,,,to share the pain.

then about one year ago i kinda slowed down as she picked up the pace, so i am now the corny wind beneath her wings:) a lovely transition from a faux doer to a genuine appreciator.

but i dream of coming back in about 20 years to start a thread: late starter with advanced hand arthritis and early alzheimer's needs help with hidden bach polys!

September 22, 2008 at 12:09 PM · The hidden polyphonie is very simple and complex in the same time. As I said, and I will repeat it again, it is not necessarily double-stops or chords...

It has to do with the internal resonance of the instrument, the natural ringing tone. Let say you play on the D string in third position, first finger (G) and then (natural B) and make a liaison in between the two notes, (G-B-G-B-G-B-G-B ), G will sound continuous and the general impression gives a ringing effect,like a sustained pedal... You can achieve the same for instance ,on the same string, in first position, G-E flat, or in third , C natural G in a backward motion. On each string you have those strategic point of resonance, in each tonality. You have to experiment with them.

Now, if you play ( not to fast at first) the G minor dorian Presto of the first sonata, even if they are single notes, you will understand what I mean...The first few bars of the descendant arpeggio contains many strategic points of internal resonance to be exploited. That is the kind of natural resonance you must always seek for in order to achieve the hidden polyphonie in Bach. Vibrato must be use with subtility here and there, and you must tend to a détaché with the most accurate legato when crossing the string ( right wrist is of great help)...

To much bow pressure or heavy vibrato will kill the resonance, the sustained pedal effect...That is why some violinist sound so magical in the concert hall, even if the acoustic is poor.

Bach solo works for violin are not keyboard music. Bach was himself a very skillful violinist as stated by his sons. He owned two Steiner violins. It was intended for the violin with a great vision of all the inherent possibilities of the instrument. Bach treated the instrument as being polyphonic and proved it to future generations.


September 22, 2008 at 12:21 PM · "strategic point of resonance, in each tonality."

thank you marc!

September 22, 2008 at 05:01 PM · Al:A good example, sound and video , is Hilary Hahn in her documentary portrait... You can hear clearly those internal resonance when she is playing Bach...It is very well understood and assimilated also by violinist James Ehnes and his glorious tone. Also , on old recordings, if you can put a hand on Kreisler's complete set box on R.C.A., on record number 8 starting from the Gypsy Caprice, you will hear these faboulous ringing sequences. Debussy en Bateau is also a good example. Toscha Seidel in Prevost melodie is also a fine example...And the young Jasha Heifetz in Chopin Nocture arranged by Wilhemny makes sounds never heard before, sometimes witout vibrato or a motionless one, sounds he rarely used after 1930...By the way,some comments( negatives ones about my opinions ) have been removed from this board of discussion. I have just noticed. If it is a kind of apology, I gratefully accept it.


September 22, 2008 at 05:13 PM · Marc -

I totally appreciate your explanation of hidden polyphonie in Bach. I'd heard reference to it before but didn't have the foggiest idea of what it meant.

Currently the only complete recordings I have of the Bach S&P's are by Grumiaux but I'm eager to listen to it and see if I can hear a little of what you've been talking about.


September 22, 2008 at 05:31 PM · You will, and Grumiaux is a fine player and good musician. We often forget about the very valuable contribution of Rosand .The complete solo works of Bach have been recorded not long ago... His del Gesù sounds beautiful, the ex- Kochanski.

September 22, 2008 at 10:07 PM · Say Mark: Kochanski recorded several short pieces

years ago. A friend of mine have the vinyl. I think

those are his only recordings. Anyone knows something about it?

September 23, 2008 at 01:43 AM · Marc, a few questions you might be able to clarify: You wrote:

It has to do with the internal resonance of the instrument, the natural ringing tone. Let say you play on the D string in third position, first finger (G) and then (natural B) and make a liaison in between the two notes, (G-B-G-B-G-B-G-B ), G will sound continuous and the general impression gives a ringing effect,like a sustained pedal... You can achieve the same for instance ,on the same string, in first position, G-E flat, or in third , C natural G in a backward motion. On each string you have those strategic point of resonance, in each tonality. You have to experiment with them.

Sounds to me like you are describing the natural phenomenon of overtone. All notes have a roll of overtone above them.Some, like G, D, A, E,are more obvious and audible to our human ears on violin. All good violinists strive to have a maximum amount of overtone in their sound. That is quite different from hidden polyphony,which,in my understanding, is when composers try to condense multiple voices into one single melodic line. That has nothing to do with the strategic resonance you mentioned, because the hidden polyphony could happen on any notes,not only the ones that have the natural resonance on violin.

secondly, you wrote:

You can hear clearly those internal resonance when she is playing Bach...It is very well understood and assimilated also by violinist James Ehnes and his glorious tone. Also , on old recordings, you can put a hand on Kreisler's complete set box on R.C.A., on record number 8 starting from the Gypsy Caprice, you will hear these faboulous ringing sequences. Debussy en Bateau is also a good example. Toscha Seidel in Prevost melodie is also a fine example...And the young Jasha Heifetz in Chopin Nocture

Are those polyphonic pieces? well,any melody can have polyphonic element in it, but was hidden Polyphony the essential elements that make or break a performance of those pieces? Probably not.

Hidden polyphony is just one of many interpretive tools performers apply when they play certain pieces; playing with ample overtone is good violin technique, which you should apply on all notes you play. We should not confuse the two.

When needed, we do highlight certain notes in a melody to imply chord or tonal changes, but that also has nothing to do with the natural resonance theory you described.

September 23, 2008 at 03:07 AM · If "hidden polyphony" means anything, it's what you just said. I might have seen something like the phrase, maybe, as part of a description of something, but not a term, as in "Notice the polyphony hidden in that line." Just maybe.

It's not an actual term. There's no reason to "hide" some polyphony. A real term wouldn't be misleading. Look it up in Groves. But if I'm wrong, all bets are off :)


September 23, 2008 at 08:25 AM · "Now" I get it! I was wondering what this phenomina is, since my violin constantly does this! It sounds like little bells chimming when I play it. If I play 3rd finger 'A' on the "E String" (3rd 'A' above middle "C"?) the "A String" Vibrates like a sympathetic string, or any note for that matter... as is said, like a sustain peddle.

September 23, 2008 at 11:58 AM · may be i am reading in between the lines too much, but i think the underlying theme of this thread is that certain playing or bowing style may interfere or suppress the natural resonance of the violin, related to polys or not, hidden or not...

and i appreciate what zach and marc have to offer, allowing us to stretch our thick skulls a bit.

September 23, 2008 at 01:19 PM · Zach: your definition of hidden polyphonie, which in your understanding, is when composers try to condense multiple voices into one single mélodie line, I do not get it, really. Maybe because French is my first language, as I understand it ( I am a composer myself) ,you seem to describe the strette, the ultimate and final section of a fugue. This is a complete different matter.

I am not sure you make it clear about the distinction with counterpoint ( organized superposition of distinct mélodic lines), tonal harmonie and polyphonie per se...

In my understanding, polyphonie is the combination of multi independant voices regulated by the laws of harmonie...BY EXTENSION, IT IS ALSO THE CAPACITY TO PLAY SEVERAL NOTES IN THE SAME TIME ,AND THEN, WE SPEAK ABOUT POLYPHONIC INSTRUMENT ( a piano for instance).

As I mentionned before, Bach wanted to prove to his contemporary and future generations that the violin was a polyphonic instrument per se.

Another example is the E major Prelude: all single notes, but when played appropriately, it sounds all polyphonic on the violin, more then on a piano, because of the sustained effect of the undertones as you call them. All the music of Bach for solo violin is written in a polyphonic way, even when there are only single notes like the presto of the G minor sonata...

Now not all the violinist succeed to enhance the natural resonance in a violin like Seidel did or Kreisler and very few violinists of the actual generation... Not everyone can really master Bach solo works and in the past 40 years , I could make you a long list of famous players who made a long and successful career without including any of Bach solo work in their repertoire...( And would add that Al does understand my point).

To master that kind of hidden polyphonie or undertones as you call them is the most complex art in violin playing.Bach, an excellent violinist himself, knew a great deal about this matter.

September 23, 2008 at 07:49 PM · i think that is quite inappropriate, nate...quite insulting even when you do not think so..

come on, calm down people!

September 23, 2008 at 07:45 PM · "A simple Google search on 'Marc Villeneuve' will produce this biography of his:


What makes you certain that a website found at random belongs to the individual who posted in this thread? Both Marc and Villeneuve are not necessarily uncommon names.

If someone posted on this website under the name "Mark Newton," would anyone leap to the conclusion that a rock percussionist named Mark Newton was the same individual?

Even if he is a drummer, I thought Marc's point made sense: violinists can use the natural resonance of certain notes on the violin to create the impression of sustained notes and thereby enhance the feeling of polyphony in Bach's music.

September 23, 2008 at 07:32 PM · Al, to you this is a party, but it's Nate's profession.

September 23, 2008 at 08:17 PM · jim, i am not a big fan of kicking people below the belt. if we have an issue, i dont mind you and i private email each other directly and call each other a scumbag. it is one way to settle and clear up something personal.

this debate we have on is NOT personal. we don't have to pin someone to the ground and spit on him. marc shared his OPINION for pete's sake.

because it is a profession for some of you, treasure it.

September 23, 2008 at 07:49 PM · Al, you're on le grande tour of the place Nate works at. Don't leave the tour and call a meeting :)

September 23, 2008 at 07:38 PM · Nate stated:

"I’d like to caution students to be very careful about where you get your advice from (do not believe everything that is written on the Internet) consider the source".

You're right Nate - "consider the source". Anyone taking Google information as fact does need to be careful.

This was not a contest - it was discussion. Perhaps for benefit of the rest of us you could refrain from abusing one of our own members by posting irrelevant and unnecessary information.

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

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