great Jascha Heifetz

November 12, 2008 at 04:06 AM ·

Greetings every body! It is wonderful to me to discover a violinists' community on the Internet, and to be ale to share my views with you ! You might find this page also posted as a blog , and I apologise. It will take me  a while to get used with this web-site.


     For many reasons , my favorite violonist is   great Jascha Heifetz . What could I say I like most about him? The incredible technique? The precission? The incredible speed of the fast movements of concertos ,or fast pieces? The unique vibrato? The way he plays the second movements of concertos , or slow pieces? The depth with which he approaches Bach's master works? To me it is incredible to discover  again and again that for each of these he is UNIQUE.


   To me , and I am sure that for others as well , Heifetz's playing can always be a revelation . In my YouTube account I compared listening to Heifetz with eating a rich ice-cream : on the top layer  you might be delighted , without however noticing anything too special . Then , as you "dig " into the ice-cream , you start discovering pieces of brownies,  of cookies , and different other flavors... Why did I make this comparation? The reason is that I feel Heifetz's playing is so deep , that you may hear it at different levels; it might not touch you from the beginning , but as you go back to his recordings, you might discover new and new things. Also , I feel his playing is very emotional ( contrary to the "coldness" that has been attributted to him so many times).


     I would love to hear other opinions reffered to this great master . I think listening to Heifetz is something that each of us experiences in a different way , so I posted this discussion topic  in the belief that we would all be inspired by the way he touched others' lifes  , influenced others' careers and violin approach , or simply enriched us  emotionally and musically .




Replies (96)

November 12, 2008 at 12:12 PM ·

Hi, Larisa:

I share your enthusiasm for Heifetz, technically and musically.  He has a unique place in the history of the instrument and (I believe) in the history of musical performance. If not the greatest violinist whoever lived (as he has been called by Perlman and most of Heifetz's greatest contemporaries), he certainly has to be the most influencial violinist whoever lived (after Paganini).

I believe he changed the standards of all musical performance in every type of music. After he burst on the scene as a teenager in 1917, it was no longer acceptable to play out of tune or sloppily or without adhering to the printed page or without a great tone and technique.

There have been dozens and dozens of postings about Heifetz on this website. If you search around, you will find a wealth of comments, observations, analyses, compliments, and (yes) severe criticisms.

So, welcome to the battle. Enjoy every word of it. You'll learn a lot, even from his harshest critics.

Cheers, Sandy

November 12, 2008 at 04:05 PM ·

Hi Larisa:


I do not share the common opinion that Heifetz changed all the standards of violin playing when he first came in 1917 or so.


I believe it was Fritz Kreisler who was the real "revolution" at the turn of 20 th century(1900).

Just compare the recordings of Joachim, Sarasate , Auer, and Ysaïe for instance, and immediately, you will see the difference with Kreisler. Also, compare the very early recordings of Heifetz in 1917-1918 and the ones of Kreisler at the same era, and you will understand why they said that Kreisler was the "King" of all violinists, and Heifetz, the "prophet."

Heifetz was deeply influenced by the playing of Kreisler. He went further technically and made "drastic" changes in his sound production during the early 30's. It is often not mentionned that Kreisler premiered many new works and his repertoire was very wide, compared to other violinists. I had myself the opportunity to look at hundreds of concert programs of Kreisler over a 40 years period and acknowledged that he played over 40 concerti  and often performed with the greatest pianists of his time the integral of Beethoven and Brahms violin and piano sonatas, and most of the solo works of Bach.


In Amy's Biancolli biography of Kreisler, it  is very well established, that Flesh, Francescatti, Gingold, Szigeti, Milstein, Oistrach and most of his famous collegues, considered Kreisler to be the violinist who made the "revolution".  Unfortunately, at his best ,Kreisler did not benefit of the technology in recordings that supported most of Heifetz career.

During the 1930's Kreisler had a long and historic career behind him. Heifetz , still very young, had the advantage of following all the evolution of technology in recordings. During the 40's, the recordings of Kreisler on wax were not reissued not until very recently.

Many remember Kreisler as the one who played short pieces well suited for the violin. He was much more than that when you look deeper into his career as a whole.

November 12, 2008 at 09:02 PM ·

See what I mean?

:) Sandy

November 13, 2008 at 12:17 AM ·

Greetings Larisa, I of course share your enthusiasm over Heifetz..  He was the greatest and most influential violinist to date besides Paganini.

November 13, 2008 at 12:18 AM ·

By the way, Fritz Kreisler was quoted as saying, "Where I leave off is where Heifetz begins." The two were indeed friends, and while Kreisler did pioneer the modern use of vibrato to a degree that we recognize his playing as "modern," Heifetz's approach was already almost fully-formed when as a very young boy he started studying with Auer.

November 13, 2008 at 02:49 AM ·

As the Joker says, " And here we go...."  BOOOM BOOM BOOM



November 13, 2008 at 04:50 AM ·

Dear Marc,

Your view over things is certainly interesting.

Dear Sandy ,


November 13, 2008 at 04:58 AM ·

Dear Nate,

    I watched your videos on YouTube and I like your playing . I would love if you could share with me some insights from the experience of having Friedman , maestro's Heifetz's student ,as a teacher.He must have given you so many details about the maestro....

November 13, 2008 at 07:01 PM ·

Sander: Have you heard the recordings of Heifetz he made in Russia  at 10 and 11. I have those. Heifetz is not yet influenced by the style of Kreisler, plays long passages senza vibrato and his rendition of the Caprice Viennois is very similar and almost identical to the recording of YsaÏe: the old fashionned way of playing prior to Kreisler. It is not at all the same violinist  when aged 17. Intonation is not accurate, surprisingly. As a prodigy, judging from these recordings, I would say that Menuhin was much more impressive at the same age, both technically and musically speaking.

The statement about Kreisler speaking about Heifetz ( where I end , he starts), sorry Sander,was never mentionned by Kreisler . This is pure fiction I believe as so many other similar unfounded statements we read sometimes...Kreisler and Heifetz were not close friends, not at all: another fiction. Young Heifetz did indeed encountered a few times Kreisler with Zimbalist, but in all serious biographies I read, Heifetz is not mentionned anywhere to have been in the close circle of Harriet Lies and Fritz Kreisler. They knew each other, not more.It is obvious from all the researches made by Amy Biancolli that Kreisler prefered Oistrach approach. He took his distances from Heifetz conceptions about violin playing. The book of Biancolli is very well documented and the sources are detailed and accurate concerning that subject-matter in the chapter "He was our God and a beam of light".

What distinguishes Kreisler from Heifetz is the sense of improvisation during performances... Kreisler felt  absolutely free to do so during performances.He never played the same way. It is interesting to aknowledge clear evidence of this while listening to several takes of the same piece, during the same session, as demonstrated in the R.C.A. reissue of his complete recordings. Recently, they have also discovered another take of the complete Beethoven violin sonata (8)with pianist Rachmaninov which displays Kreisler's musical changes and moods within the same day and recording session.Horowitz used that kind of freedom, and today , Argerich is a follower of that tradition( Just listen to the numerous versions of her Shumann and Tschaïkovski concerti, or Scarbo by Ravel.) Kreisler was a superb pianist and studied composition with Bruckner and Delisbes!!! Concerning interpretation and the sens of "surprise and unpredictable" phrasing, Heifetz did not feel comfortable with it and was reputed for his exactitude and precision in that sense as stated by various conductors who worked with him.


I would trust the judgment of Gingold and Flesh who heard a great deal of famous violinists of the past to reaafirm strongly and with conviction that Kreisler made the "revolution" at the turn of 20 th century. This is not a statement of mine, but assertions of famous violinists who were there at that precise moment. Milstein stated that for him, the history of violin playing could be resumed with the event of Bach, Paganini and finally Kreisler. Heifetz, althought I admire him deeply, cannot swallow history. Even the meteoric Paganini did not himself and let ample room for his followers. No, the history of violin playing cannot end with Jasha Heifetz and his greatness,and today, we have superb violinists, different, but of the same level, with different conception and ideas.

Sander, I would add:please listen to the 1914 -15 session of Kreisler on R.C.A. of the two slavonic dances of Dvorak and Chopin Nocturnes. Go for the R.C.A.  same pieces, session of Heifetz of 1916-17 and compare. Kreisler was in top shape at the time. There is not much difference, in terms of virtuosity with Heifetz. That period of Kreisler  (a few years before he did premiered Elgar  and Conus concerti) is not well known by members of this site. It is true that the complete recordings of Kreisler reissued by R.C.A. in a set box a few years ago is very expensive... I would add that it is not only a question of vibrato, but also of great variety in the portamenti that distinguished Kreisler from the others, and his unique sense of rythm, translated by a superb bow technic. Parlando was also a very special device not very well understood today and forgotten ( lifting the bow at some strategic points in the melodic line, like a coma , and borrowed to vocal technic...)

From these few documents, there is ample evidence that at a very early stage, Heifetz was more influenced by Ysaïe who incidently visited Russia during his early training, as stated by Milstein in his "Conversations". Then, later, Heifetz was influenced by Kreisler, as we can hear from his recording sessions in America of 1917. Still, there are long passages done senza vibrato ie Norturne by Chopin arranged by August Wilhemny. There is an incredible variety of shades in Heifetz vibrato at that time and his bow technic is light .No one reached that kind of virtuosity and precision during that era. But as I mentionned before, early during the 30's, a drastic change occured in Heifetz playing, which was less refined than before and more agressive... He became Heifetz.

Nate: Ysaïe and Flesh and even Paganini made the same advice before. There is nothing new about scales. I would add that one of my teachers, concertmaster of the L.A. Symphonie during the 40's told me that Heifetz, when rehearsing, insisted a lot on shifting. He watched him doing so just before a performance of Vieuxtemps 5 ( which he played superbly) and on many other occasions. He insisted on descending scales and a very smooth shift, almost inaudible. (ex: introduction of capriccio 5 by Paganini)Descending, as you know, is a much more difficult movement of execution¨than the ascending one.


November 13, 2008 at 07:01 PM ·

I was greatly privilaged as a young violin student to have been able to sit in one of his classes at USC where he taught right to the time of his death.  I shall never forget and am forever in awe of this man..

November 13, 2008 at 07:46 PM ·

George: Please tell us more about your experience and details about the master class...It sounds very much interesting.

November 14, 2008 at 04:41 AM ·

 Yes, George, please fill us in!!

Jascha Heifetz, although deceased, is my absolutely favorite violinist. He is my biggest role model (musically speaking). I even have a picture of him in my violin case! Now, I'm not saying that I prefer every sing Heifetz recording over all others; today I realized that I'm not a huge fan of his Bruch Concerto interpretation. I don't think, however, that it takes a concert violinist to see the mastery in his technique, the precision in his playing, and the emotion in his music.

November 14, 2008 at 05:07 AM ·


What you write there is very interesting! Thank you for the link , I read the article ,and I found it very useful. I knew indeed about Heifetz's insistance on scales ,but I did not know he had a differet method of tuning his violin . Could you explain me more about this?


PLS!!! :) share with us your lovely experience




November 14, 2008 at 05:43 AM ·


the method of tuning to paino found in Ayk`s book is as follows.

Depress the sustainin g pedal. Play an a. Then add the f sharp and D below.  She stated the Heifetz prefereed this brighter approach than the cusomary d minor.  Certianly using the pedal is a neat idea.  Hopefully Nate can confirm or correct this.



November 14, 2008 at 03:46 PM ·

I was a great fan of Heifetz when I attended "my" only live performance of his in 1950. It was an unbelievable revelation to hear that the sound balance I had heard on our (78 rpm ) recordings of the Beethoven violin concerto were maintained in a live, unamplified concert. Perlman also has been able maintain similar acoustic strength against an orchestra; many others do/have not.

I first "saw" Heifetz in a first-run theater performance of the 1939 movie "They Shall have Music" very shortly after I had started violin at age 4. I still remember watching this gigantic violinist on the screen and turning to my father and asking "is he a real man," not because he was so big, but because of the way he played. He was always a family hero (my dad played violin also).


November 14, 2008 at 04:13 PM ·


I'd love to hear more on tuning the  E fine tuner with the right  hand - is the E string bowed or plucked?  Are you aware of any video clips that show this?  As a restless player I  find it difficult to bow while tuning the E with left hand, which for me requires major contortions.



November 14, 2008 at 04:49 PM ·

As great as Kreisler was (I adore his playing), his performances were known to have technical issues.  According to Henry Roth, Kreisler was not known to warm up (which seems to be the opposite of Heifetz) and would walk on stage without playing and would just dip his hands in warm water.  It was no secret that sometimes the first few minutes of a Kriesler performance could be hampered by mistakes - yet his magical tone, presence and quick recovery quickly made the audience forget what happened just a few seconds ago.  I think what people mean by Heifetz's influence is the technical confidence he displayed right from the get go.  We take this for granted because of the high level of the present soloists and conservatory turnouts. Also technology has played a big role this too.  Perfection is expected in the highest levels yet this was not always the case.  Say what you want about his playing (a great artist should have detractors too) but the level of technique that he was known for changed violin playing. 

November 14, 2008 at 09:34 PM ·

Kevin, we all agree. But what about improvisation. This was common during the days of Kreisler and Ysaïe, mastering the music at such level that they could play according to the inspiration of the moment, like Argerich is doing for so many years with technical perfection and great intellectual mastery. I believe that this art, now quite neglected, had a lot to do with distinctive personality and tone!!! Do not forget about their skills in composition.

November 14, 2008 at 07:57 PM ·

Nate: It would be so much interesting to post all the videos of the great on youtube and see if they are as skillful as Jascha when they tune the e string... But only the e string, otherwise we may get confused.( Just joking)

November 14, 2008 at 08:51 PM ·

Nate : In the article about Heifetz that you sent me it was mentioned that Heifetz used  5 types of vibrato  . One can get many types of vibrato while playing violin , but what are the particular 5 patterns used by the maestro ? Did you try them yourself ?


Thanks ,


November 14, 2008 at 09:25 PM ·

Good question!!!! I will try to guess: for sure, finger, arm and wrist vibrato, isolated... ( 3 out of 5) (Of course, arm alone better suitable on elevated positions:ex G string)Then, the combination of the 3 which makes 4, and number 5, I really dont have a clue!

November 14, 2008 at 09:32 PM ·

...the open strings with the first finger in third position on the next one . ( G open ,and G silent in third position , on D,first finger vibrato) Logically it must be number 5. I hope I got it right.

November 14, 2008 at 11:02 PM ·

To all:  I was really too young (10 years old) to remember a lot of the details.  What still remains with me was his presence and demeanor.  He was a perfectionist and nobody got  very far without some type of stoppage and discussion.  There were no excuses.  He was always in control.  One of the strangest things I remember the most is that he chain smoked.  There was always a cigarette either in his mouth or hand.  At the time I though that a little odd as my upbringing had me thinking that smoking was a really bad thing and people who smoked were to be looked down upon.  Being in that room really blew that theory.  He played with upright position that I have not seen duplicated.  There was very little emotion, just the magic of the music.  He was sometimes thought of as without warmth.  I never saw it that way.  He was tough on those people in his class.  You had not better miss a class or forget about going back.  No excuses. 

November 15, 2008 at 05:41 AM ·

Thanks, Nate, for that clarification and clip.  I feel much better now!

November 15, 2008 at 02:48 PM ·

Going back to Kreisler-Heifetz, Heifetz's mother absolutely adored Kreisler and when they watched Kreisler's Mendelssohn in Russia from a box turned to Jascha with a look that said, "Beat that!"  Can one suspect a bit of jealousy  from this? - Kreisler's lyrical playing I would say has the edge over Heifetz, I've never heard anyone play so beautifully.  There's also a photo of them swimming together with others in the Axelrod book, and when K was run over H didn't play any of his works in recitals till K was performing again, so they must have had a close association.  If Kreisler didn't say "His technique starts where mine leaves off", did he say at Heifetz's Bar Mitzvah "The rest of us may as well break our fiddles across our knees." ?

I remember my Dad playing me 78s of Kreisler's Paganini 1 arrangement, and I offended him by saying it sounded like a student - he certainly did have technical issues.

Re Menuhin as a prodigy compared to Heifetz - yes, Menuhin SHOULD have been the greatest violinist ever IMO, only it went wrong somewhere.

November 15, 2008 at 02:49 PM ·


Thank you for your illuminating comments, obviously thorough research, and logical and knowledgeable postings on the Heifetz place in the history of violin playing. It caused me to re-think my understandings, and for me created  a shift (pardon the expression) from my life-long reading and avid listening. I certainly have never questioned that with Kreisler (and undoubtedly Ysaye) we are in the so-called "modern" era.

But the fact is that the Heifetz 1917 Carnegie Hall debut created a sensation that quickly spread around the world, thanks in large part to those brilliant 1917 recordings and his willingness to record extensively throughout his career. The Heifetz career and discography since (even with the relatively minor changes in his style through the rest of his career) has reflected his rock-solid adherence to his principles.

However, to be blunt, most of his recordings could have been made yesterday afternoon and be perfectly in tune (again, pardon the pun) with today's style, whereas Kreisler (whose playing I dearly love) sounds dated, from a different era. Kreisler's idiosyncratic variations in how he played and his inconsistencies reflect a bygone era. Heifetz is the 20th Century, the era of the machine and mass communication. Kreisler may have indeed opened the door, but it was Heifetz who was the first to walk through it. I believe he, and not Kreisler, became a kind of "model" world-wide, or maybe the "standard" to strive for. While Kreisler was admired (for good reason, and by many more than Heifetz), I don't think Kreisler was ever considered the "standard," but rather a unique artist with an approach all his own.

You can listen to a Kreisler recording as a model and feel that you can take all kinds of liberties, but you don't feel that way after listening to Heifetz. I believe he eventually provided a world standard for exacting musicianship, intonation, technique, cleanliness, adherence to the printed page, and creation of a melodic line that made anyone without those standards sound somehow less than the best. And that is what I mean by stating that his impact on musical performance was as significant as Paganini in his day.

I recall from my youth everyone always thought that the ideal was to learn to "play like Heifetz." That was the gold standard. I don't recall anyone ever saying that the goal was to "learn to play like Kreisler," even though Kreisler (as a person and as a violinist) probably was more well-loved than almost any other great violinist I can think of.

So, maybe this is a matter of semantics, or a matter of the impact of an artist from the point of view of experts and musicologists vs. the musical public at large. Anyway, I can't say I'm enough of a musical scholar to say that I'm right. And your comments were indeed very illuminating and thought-provoking. But I still believe that in most of the great violinists of recently and of today, it's Heifetz who is their model, not Kreisler.

On the other hand, maybe not.

Cheers, Sandy


November 16, 2008 at 01:20 AM ·

      I just listened (AGAIN and AGAIN ) to his Serenade Melancolique , by Tchaikovsky ..! What  can I say ... My ears are sensitive to all the great masters , as each is unique ....but there were only two violinists to whose playing I cried ....and those two were Enescu and HEIFETZ. Especially Heifetz!! Even now , about ten minutes after listening to him , I have tears in my eyes.

      I have seen somewhere expressed the opinion that "there is something tragique in Heifetz's playing , and it naturally comes out in his slow , or sad pieces" . My inside tells me "Yes , there is . There is something tragique in his playing."

November 17, 2008 at 09:40 PM ·

Jim: The Paganini arrangement was made at the end of the career of Kreisler and he was quite irregular at the time, as very well stated by Milstein in his conversations. In fact, I myself believed that Heifetz  venue changed everything until I heard these incredible Kreisler recordings  he made in 1914-15 and compared the same pieces with Heifetz's own from 1917...

When I read the whole chapter about Kreisler in Milstein "Conversations", about how extraordinary Kreisler was in Paris, circa1928,playing Viotti, Beethoven and Brahms concerti the same night, and how Horowitz and Milstein were so deeply impressed they could not leave their seats and the concert hall after such a performance, I started to study  and learn more about the fascinating career of the master.

During the 50's, still many were alive who heard Kreisler at his best. It is during the 60's that  Heifetz became a model for many in America because he was still alive and his recordings were easily acessible.Not those of Kreisler. For my generation, althought we knew a great deal about Heifetz, the model was David Oistrach...the perfect combination of great virtuosity and artistry.

By reading all the comments made by Szigeti, Francescatti, Gingold, Milstein, just to name a few, I understood more about the impact of Fritz Kreisler at the turn of the 20th century. Szigeti mentionned during the early 60's that it is very difficult to imagine the impact and the sensation Kreisler caused at the beginning of the 1900's. It was a revelation...

Now, Sandy,I am greatful to read your long answer. I appreciate your comments. I agree about Heifetz influence starting in the 1930's. He was the star then, and Kreisler was gradually fading.But Oistrach was already at the time a fully accomplished artist and was very famous in the U.S.S.R. Nobody knew about him in America. Milstein made his debut in 1925 or so in America. Francescatti and Szigeti were in the circuit. All were mature artists, and displayed outstanding technic and played in tune. Not to forget about Tosha Seidel who could have been a serious challenger to Heifetz. Were Seidel,  Milstein and Oistrach influenced by Heifetz or Kreisler in their youth??? You know the answer...  In 1925, Oistrach and Milstein were on their own. Heifetz was  very famous in the U.S.A., but not worldwilde yet. Elman in his prime and later, with the old style , could play perfectly ( with great technic and tone). Listen to his acoustic recordings, they are splendid.

I believe that the recordings of the old masters do not render justice  to their real artistry and it does not mean that Sarasate or Joachim in their prime , or Ysaïe, could not play as perfectly as Heifetz... The style was certainly different, but when I listen to the numerous recordings of Maud Powell, they surely could play the violin... Other era, other perspectives, great achievements.  And without these, there would have been no Heifetz.


What I feel after hearing Heifetz is a very strong impression that here is the suprême individual who really wants to make it definitive. You do not listen to the pianist, or the orchestra. Everything is focused on the violin. Like Toscanini or Horowitz, Heifetz is the triumph of individuality over music. Martha Argerich who has the 3 talents of Heifetz , Horowitz and Toscanini reunited unto one single person, realized early in her career how dangerous and destructive it is to focus on individuality. That is why she withdraw from the recital scene and devoted herself to chamber music and Concerti performances. About perfection and repetitive performances, she always speaks about the great danger to imitate herself...

That is why I spoke about improvisation earlier... doing things live, in concert , not planned in advance, Reconsidering entirely your conception about a piece of music. If I compare any recording of Heifetz made in the 50's with previous ones of the 30's, 20's, I do not have the feeling that he evolved or changed musically speaking. The performance, the goal is the same. Sometimes less convincing, with less energy and I would add ,sadly , a "caricature "of what was so sublime 20 years earlier...

Go for Kreisler recording of the complete Beethoven violin and piano sonatas. Kreisler was in great shape during that session. Look at the style, the bowing technic, the dynamics. Listen to the inspiration of the moment of someone over 60  who  plays with so much enthousiasm and freedom...

Sandy, as I told you, experiment the playing of Kreisler in 1914-15 , record number 3 of the complete collection reissued  recently on R.C.A. and compare with those of Heifetz... There is not much difference between the two or Toscha Seidel ( Style ,portamenti , vibrato).

The impression of Kreisler being from another age comes from his late recordings of the 30's and the 40's... The ones when young students, we listened to or our teachers, short pieces recorded when his powers faded away, but never the charm.


November 17, 2008 at 08:03 PM ·


I too enormously treasure Heifetz's unique contribution to music, and in turn, to humanity.  My favorite of the reasons you state, is that listening numerous times to one of his performances reveals more and more expressive depth with each hearing.  There is so much expressive content in his playing.

November 19, 2008 at 04:27 PM ·

I just wanted to add a very important factor that favored Heifetz career a great deal. Francescatti was born in 1902 and it is interesting to aknowledge that second world war prevented him, and so many other fine artists like Ginette Neveu and David Oistrach to come to America. Francescatti had a highly successful tour in 1939 in America and was a sensation. Ginette Neveu first appeared in 1946 with Charles Munch at Carnegie Hall ( the critic title "Ginette Neveu plays like a dream".) During her very short career, Neveu received the hightest fees ever paid for an artist with Heifetz and Kreisler and was in constant demand in the U.S.A. until her premature death in october 1949. David Oistrach played for the first time in the U.S.A. in 1955 at the age of 47.


November 19, 2008 at 06:07 PM ·

Marc...why is it that you are permanently trying to dismiss the fact that Heifetz had the career he had because he was...Heifetz, and deserved it?   I seem to remember Francescatti was in the US during the war, and gave many recitals with his friend Robert Casadesus.. And Neveu was 27 when she made her NY debut, not a veteran by any means.. Heifetz was a sensation in Europe before the war, he made several recordings in England. Feuermann's dream was to play with him, he was the absolute model for him (and he knew Kreisler, and had played with Huberman and  Wolfsthal)

 And, by the way, Heifetz in the 50ies played differently than in the 20ies or 30ies, listen to his 3 studio recordings of the Tchaikovsky concerto for instance, or his recital of showpieces..

November 19, 2008 at 08:57 PM ·

I do not dismiss his career.  On the contrary. I just try to set things within  their just perspectives. I do not agree with him being (or Horowitz ) the supreme models to follow, musically speaking. His style is clearly outdated. Tempi and his interaction with the orchestra or the pianist is just not the right model to follow. And the fact that they focused ( Heifetz and Horowitz) to much on virtuosity is something disturbing when we are speaking about beautiful music. His Tchaïkovski recorded in 1957 or so is not very good compared to the earlier ones ( beauty of sound)and he skips important passages in the candenza ( the chromatic sixths).  I do not like when, for instances he rewrites the Frank sonata at the end of the last movements with passages in octaves ect., ect. or the cuts in the Strauss sonata or Bruch fantaisie Écossaise. Why playing such a distasteful cadenza in the Beethoven concerto or Mozart fourth. It does diminish the beauty of the music and enhance the strong personality of the soloist.

I do not take things for granted and this does not only apply to Heifetz. That is very simple and part of my nature. And I suspect that many share my opinions but are afraid to express them.


To sum up, I love the young Heifetz. At the end , he was not as good as Oistrach ( Oistrach and Szeryng played to very high standards until they died) . Heifetz retired quite early, victim of his excess on virtuosity. We have to live now in a new era and young soloists do understand today how important it is to do music with an interactive mind and goal. Music is a communion between individuals. When someone imposes to much and strikes only for an individual approach, it does not render justice to the music.


And, why Heifetz always and always comes up as a main subject here. So many other interesting artists to discuss about...really.

November 19, 2008 at 09:15 PM ·


Marc , I respect your opinion. But I disagree , from all my heart.

Yes , of course there were and are so many interesting artists out there , and I love Oistrakh , KOGAN, Menuhin , Ginette Neveu , going further I LOVE Enescu (him I adore as a composer as well) , and my list could go on and on..Of course each of them deserves all the appreciation  we can give them! Nobody  tried to even question that.

But your last paragraph..:

"And, why Heifetz always and always comes up as a main subject here. So many other interesting artists to discuss about...really."  I am going to say that this was as far not to the height of your other , so interesting and educative comments.I was really surprised to see it.

You know , I started with this topic for a reason: becasue I RESPECT Heifetz's legacy , and because I discovered a lot , technically and musically , in his early as well as in his old recordings. I believe that the "excess of virtuosity " that you were talking about is more an opinion , than a fact. Also , Heifetz was at  his pick until close to his death .

My final point is: just because other artists deserve all our consideration , I don't think this means any future discussion about a master of violin like Jascha Heifetz  shouldn't happen. If people talk so much about him , well , I think that's because there is a lot to say ! I am sure you agree with me here.




November 20, 2008 at 02:12 PM ·


Hi Larisa:

For sure I agree with you Larisa and I respect everyone here and their comments are highly instructive, I got carried away with the frequency of the topic. Maybe because I had a few teachers who only believed in Jascha Heifetz and referred as him to be the ultimate model. I did not appreciate their point of view. I believe that all the doors should be open concerning that subject-matter and that there are many models and examples to follow. Jasha Heifetz is one of them.

You are perfectly entitled to bring up the subject again.



November 20, 2008 at 04:43 PM ·

I can't say that Heifetz was the best violinist of the 20th.century, but I believe that no violinist of the

20th.century was better than Heifetz.

November 21, 2008 at 04:22 PM ·

Then there's the story Mr. Gingold used to tell us about  Jascha Heifetz and Mischa Elman eating at a restaurant and receiving an envelope addressed "to the greatest violinist in the world". Jascha looked at Mischa and said "  you open it". Mischa looked at Jascha and said "no , you open it". Unable to decide, they opened it together. It began, "Dear Fritz".

November 21, 2008 at 10:14 PM ·

Regardless of all of the historical and technical and aesthetic "facts" about the position  of the Jascha Heifetz as just another great virtuoso, no less great violinists than Perlman, Stern, Szeryng, Oistrakh, and I believe Kogan and a few others in that exalted category have openly acknowledged Heifetz's superiority and uniqueness.

November 21, 2008 at 11:40 PM ·

And the fact that they focused ( Heifetz and Horowitz) to much on virtuosity is something disturbing when we are speaking about beautiful music.

Other people wonder why he recorded so little Paganini, go figure...

November 22, 2008 at 03:28 AM ·

To add to Sandy's remarks about others lauding Heifetz' unique gifts, wasn't it Kreisler himself who said after  Heifetz' s Carnegie hall debut something to the effect " Well gentlemen, we all may as well throw away our fiddles.."

November 22, 2008 at 11:48 AM ·

I may be wrong but I think it was at Heifetz's Bar Mitzvah, when he played the Glazunov.  If he actually said it (Marc discredits the other Kreisler 'quote' of "Heifetz's technique begins where mine leaves off", see above).

November 22, 2008 at 03:22 PM ·

Listening to Heifetz..... It's the Scotch Whisky for the ears! (for those who drink).

Listening to Heifetz (Non-alcaholic version)..... it's the Swiss Chocolate for the ears.

Can anyone varify that G. Bernard Shaw actualy wrote Jascha saying, "Your recital has filled me and my wife with anxiety. If you provoke a jealous God by playing with such superhuman perfection, you will die young...."?

November 22, 2008 at 09:32 PM ·

Swiss Chocolate ...yammi! :">

November 22, 2008 at 11:00 PM ·

Royce: I believe that's an actual quote by George Bernard Shaw, but the most famous part of the quote is that he advised Heifetz to practice one mistake every day so that the gods wouldn't get angry (or something like that).

November 22, 2008 at 11:10 PM ·

That quotation I believe was taken from a letter that Shaw wrote to Heifetz.


November 23, 2008 at 01:34 PM ·

Thanks! I was wondering if Shaw said something like that and if it is true?

November 24, 2008 at 02:30 PM ·

...virtuosity does not only apply to Paganini or Sarasate. You can play Beethoven or Mozart concerti alla Wieniawski... with big portamenti and fast vibrato. Unless you dont care to ear that  kind of stuff. Really, there is a world of difference when you compare the stylistic interpretations of Kreisler , Grumiaux, Oistrach or Hahn to Heifetz in Beethoven. Heifetz was already outdated when he first record it...You can also refuse to play Shoenberg, not because it is to difficult, but for other reasons...

November 24, 2008 at 02:35 PM ·

Do you mean with Rodzinski live in 1945?

November 24, 2008 at 04:44 PM ·

Carlos: I am not sure. The live recording in 1945 or so, I have it coupled with Jascha's first recordings made in Russia when aged 10-11. But actually, of course, I would I have dream to play up to his level. Everyone does... It makes me think about a famous quote of Kreisler: "In fact, a woman once came up to Fritz Kreisler after one of his concerts and said to him:"I'd give my life to play as beautifully as you do." To which Kreisler replied,"I did."

To the most severe french critic René Bizet who complained about the fact that he did not perform as good as usual one night, Fritz replied:" Mon cher ami, I travel all over the world; I see statues and monuments erected to poets, virtuosi and composers; I have yet to come across a monument erected to a critic."

Nate: the quote of George Bernard Shaw was published in the London paper (critic) after he heard Jascha for the first time: "...Jascha, please make one mistake, so the gods may sleep."... It has been modified after and it became a kind of legend even spread in the documentary of Heifetz in the 50's where they mentionned it was a personal note from Shaw... the story has been modified a little...

Ronald , Jim and Sandy: the quote about Kreisler saying "gentlement, lets break our fiddles" is true. It was said by Kreisler circa 1912 in Berlin in his private house after Fritz accompanied young Jascha at the piano. ( Fritz  was of catholic confession from his mother...he married Harriet Lies several times in the Christian church and at the end of his life, was always visited by a priest and had strong religious beliefs. Salomon Kreisler, his father, was jewish of origins. This was a very complex question he never publicaly spoke about: Fritz the jew, Fritz the catholic. Many suspected his wife to be antisemit but there are no strong evidence about that. His house in Berlin was destroyed during the war and they left for Paris, and later he became an American citizen. Harriet Lies came from a wealthy american family. All the benefits  and royalties from the millions and millions of recordings he made  for R.C.A.were given to charity. Most of their belongings and fortune were donated  after their death. They were great philantropic.)

Jascha Heifetz performed not long before( the soirée at the Kreislers in Berlin) the Tchaïkovski with Nikish. Surprisingly, the review was not good. It seemed that the violin did not carried in the hall and sounded weak. I read the complete review recently where it was reported in a study about the impact of Heifetz, Kreisler and Szegeti in the musical world... Curiously, when Fritz made his debut aged 13 in the U.S.A., a critic made the same comments. Maybe they both broke their fiddle after and got a new one... That is maybe the real sens of the quote...

November 24, 2008 at 05:10 PM ·

The following about Heifetz may not be common knowledge. This comes from my first teacher, Benjamin Grosbayne, who studied with Miron ( also spelled Myron)  Polyakin, whose playing by the way is sampled on a multi-CD set of The Great Violinists and on Symposium Records and The Auer Legacy Volume 3.

   According to Mr. Grosbayne, Auer chose Polyakin to come to the US first instead of Heifetz for that now famous Carnegie Hall debut but Polyakin , though given the highest marks (equal to those of Heifetz and Cecilia Hansen) did not graduate and delayed coming to the US. Mr. Grosbayne had said it was because of a courtship that he did not want to leave Russia. When he did finally come to the US a few years later  Heifetz had established himself and  then, after a few years in the US,  Polyakin returned to the USSR.

  A sampling of Polyakin's playing reveals a violinist of great technical facility and ease and a strong personality with a unique style and tone. It was said his playing could be uneven, effected by nerves, but he was greatly respected by Heifetz himself and by Oistrakh when he returned to the USSR.

   We cannot know what might have been had Polyakin stepped on that Carnegie Hall stage instead of Heifetz but I think the world of violin playing would be greatly diminished if Jascha Heifetz had not become the celebrated violinist he became. He remains for me the most recognizable of musical personalities with a tone full of seemingly infinite variety and shading and despite criticism of his style with Bach's music and the classic era with Mozart , even  with the trappings of the Romantic tradition which he sprang from, I find his artistry to be of the highest order tasteful and full of  shadings and nuance and  beauty and to be  sound musically and intellectually. Would that any of us could play on such a high level!


November 24, 2008 at 06:51 PM ·

Some do actually play as beautiful in the  restricted contemporary violin circuit of soloists. Very few...Of course the style changed,the repertoire.

You see you are pointing out what I have said earlier about Oistrach and Toscha Seidel... What if Oistrach started as earlier than 1925 to play in concert halls in the U.S.A. and record as much as Jascha?  During the same period, you would have all the major concerti recorded by both and different musical  views, styles and perspectives...What if Seidel or Poliakine made a similar career... Milstein stated many times that Auer prefered Poliakine to Heifetz.

But to be able to hold a career as long as Kreisler, Oistrach or Heifetz is a very difficult and arduous task.

November 24, 2008 at 07:02 PM ·

Its funny, IMO Heifetz's mozart concertos are my favorite renditions of these pieces, and coincidentally mozart pieces (in general) is IMO where i think Heifetz is at his best

November 24, 2008 at 07:31 PM ·

Dian ,

Of course it is very seductive... but.

November 24, 2008 at 07:51 PM ·

Dian, I share your opinion on Heifetz's Mozart. His recording of the divertimento for strings with Primrose and Feuermann is one of the greatest chamber music recordings ever!!, and his second (out of three) studio versions of the A minor concerto is outstanding, my favorite (but some find  his cadenza distateful..).

November 24, 2008 at 08:38 PM ·

Yes, maybe Fritz Kreisler and/or others should share much more of the credit for having had the impact on violin playing that has brought us into the modern era (100 years is modern?). But in the final analysis, it could very well be that Jascha Heifetz just happened to be at the critical point in time when all of the stars and planets were lined up so that he was at the right place and at the right time and with the right talent and with the right stuff and with the right kind of management (from his father?) and with the right kind of self-promoting personality and with the right kind of ambition and initiative. That's maybe what put him in the unique position he had.

November 24, 2008 at 08:13 PM ·

Mr. Mutchnik, good to hear from you.  I have a question: I have not heard of this soloist, but I would like to hear him.  Was he still very successful in the USSR after he returned?  Also, what pieces are on his CD that you mentioned?



November 24, 2008 at 09:41 PM ·

Daniel, you are right: It is truly " HEIFETZ'S Mozart ". I prefer a more subtil approach like, Grumiaux and Haskil playing the music of MOZART...

November 24, 2008 at 10:26 PM ·

Brian: I´ve copies of 2 LPs transfered to CD by Myron Poliakin, with recordings between 1936 and 41.Glazunov and Mendelssohn concertos, Kreutzer, Sarasate´s Aires and Habanera, Brahms' 2 hungarian dances and some short pieces buy Schubert and Tchaikovsky He was a very fine violinist, but IMHO, Jascha could take it on the small pocket of his waist-coat. I don't know how good he was in the 10s. studiing with Auer, but at the time of those recordings he could not match Jascha. He died in 1941, at 46 years old. Is probable that when he made the recordings he was a sick man.

November 25, 2008 at 12:07 AM ·

I like what Sandy wrote touching on his person. Watching Heifetz on Youtube he does project an aura about him. If he were too have walked into a room and I did not recognize him I would think he was a millitary comander or dignitary of some sort.

November 25, 2008 at 01:23 PM ·

Royce, there is a famous story about Heifetz which is TRUE, and which I think has been shared before somewhere on this website. He was rehearsing the Brahms Violin Concerto with the Chicago Symphony under Fritz Reiner, in preparation for their famous recording (late 50's? Early 60's?), which is of course available.

Anyway, when they came to the second movement, Ray Still (the great oboist for the CSO for decades) played his opening solo in his own brilliant manner, and instead of Heifetz coming in with the solo violin part, he started applauding and saying "Bravo" to Ray Still. It was a great moment, especially coming from someone known for his supposed egocentricity and lack of spontaneity. There are precious moments like this reported throughout Heifetz's life, and round out the picture that behind that serious, "all business" perfectionist was a real human being and musician who could indeed appreciate the artistry of others.


November 25, 2008 at 04:05 PM ·

Sandy- Thanks a Million for that info!!!!! I've heard others saying something about a warm human side too him, something like, "When its' time for buisness, its' time for buisness. When its' Not, its' not!"

November 25, 2008 at 04:44 PM ·

Sander: Here is the story  about the recording session of the Brahms concerto with Serge Koussevitzky in 1939. It is reported by Morton Blender who attented the recording session.

Many members  of the orchestra said it was the most grueling contest between two-strong-minded personalities that they had ever seen...Time after time, Heifetz would quit in the middle of a recording side, maintening that he was not satisfied about this, that or the other thing. Koussevitzky, a slow boiler, was nearing the breaking point. Charles O'Connell, Victor's director, was fearing both the end result and the steadily rising cost as time went on. Finally, Koussevitzky leveled a blast at Heifetz with the words " Nozzing is pairfect!" This from a man who was at the time the most notable exponent of orchestral perfection.

They went back to the beginning and finally completed the album that was issued as Victor M-581., probalbly the most finest concerto recording Heifetz ever did...According to Blender, O'Connell remarked later: "For once he read the music, not the notes."



November 25, 2008 at 05:21 PM ·

For additional insights into the character of Jascha Heifetz one might wish to read the chapter on him in Charles O'Connell's book, The Other Side of the Record. I am not one to take issue with other's opinions strongly but I did send in my two cents worth to the  chief music critic from the Washington Post after an article he wrote maligned Heifetz in a way I found unacceptable.

Unfair Comparisons

In Tim Page's essay "The Checkered Life of a Genius" (Saturday, January 19, 2008) the violinist Jascha Heifetz is grouped with Howard Hughes, Hetty Green, and the late Bobby Fischer as among those "strange, gifted, and profoundly isolated geniuses who were scarcely human at all on any emotional level".

My father was in the army as a non-commissioned officer in WWII and Jascha Heifetz was performing in Carnegie Hall. My father explained that the servicemen were all seated on stage to the side. As if to acknowledge their sacrifice to this country and express his gratitude in their presence he turned to the servicemen and played towards them, with his back and side to the rest of the audience, giving them special consideration and attention. As it struck my father, it was a gesture of great humility that Heifetz showed that kind of respect to them as if to say "especially you are the ones worthy of the best I can humbly offer in your presence".

I hardly think that this gesture and countless others that students, and those who knew Heifetz best, recall justifies his being considered "scarcely human at all on any emotional level". Such a glib summary of a person's worth can scarcely be accepted as fact or truth and, as opinion, is at best convenient to making a point about dysfunctionality, and at worst a gross maligning of a great artist's character.

I recommend the chapter about Jascha Heifetz in Charles O’Connell’s The Other Side of the Record for further insights into the humanity of this remarkable musician..


November 25, 2008 at 05:41 PM ·

Brian, Carlos has listed the available recordings, and I tend to agree with him comparing Polyakin to Heifetz. My understanding is that Polyakin died of a heart attack on a train ride during which at some point he was playing a card game with Shostakovich. Thankfully, it was not Russian Roulette!

In any case, my first violin teacher had praised Polyakin highly. He also studied with Michael Press, long forgotten now but whose editions of various violin pieces still circulate, and with Franz Milcke, whose infamous encounter with Charles Ives is recounted in the Nonesuch recording of the Ives sonatas by Paul Zukofsky and Gilbert Kalish:

"a typical hard-boiled, narrow-minded, conceited prima donna solo violinist with a reputation gained because he came to this country from Germany with Anton Seidel as his concertmaster... The 'Professor' came in and, after a lot of big talk, started to play the first movement of the First Sonata. He didn't even get through the first page. He was all bothered with the rhythms and the notes, and got mad. He said, 'This cannot be played. It is awful. It is not music, it makes no sense.' He couldn't get it even after I played it over for him several times. I remember he came out of the little back room with his hands over his ears, and said, 'When you get awfully indigestible food in your stomach that distresses you, you can get rid of it, but I cannot get those horrible sounds out of my ears....'"

  Anyway, I digress. If you don't have a copy of it Brian, I highly recommend the excellent survey of many of the great violinists of the past on PEARL records-  The Recorded Violin: The History of the Violin on Record, Volumes 1 and 2. Polyakin and many many others are included.

One of the most delightful excerpts on that is Rene Benedetti's rendition of  Zoubok's Deux Minutes de Jazz. Great fun!

November 25, 2008 at 06:18 PM ·

Legend said that there was once an incredible recording by Benedetti of Paganini's first. As far as I  know, nobody has ever heard it. There's also the story of an Elgar's by great Hassid, but who knows?

About russian trains, it seems that they are extremely dangerous for violinists. Kogan also had a hart attac on a train?

November 25, 2008 at 07:11 PM ·

Carlos, I have a recording of Paganini's first concerto with Benedetti, maybe not the one you are referring to (mine is a live recording from 1961).


 About Poliakin: according to Igor Oistrakh, at the end of the thirties, there were two groups of enthusiasts in Moscow: the pro Oistrkh and the pro Poliakin. Oistrakh himself "regarded Poliakin's performance of the brahms D minor sonata with H. Neuhaus as the summit of the art of interpretation" and "had a particularly high opinion of his interpretation of Bach's Chaconne"...


 About Oistrakh's opinion on Heifetz, Igor says: "Father met him in 1934 when he toured the S.U. He was able to participate in the rehearsal in the morning and in the solo concert in the evening which heifetz was to perform in. His impression was extremely strong: the perfect and immaculate way he played, which virtually radiated a hypnotic effect, fascinated each listener" (they werre to meet several times later, and attended to each other's concertsin various european cities ).

November 25, 2008 at 07:52 PM ·

Ronald: there are many stories about Heifetz, good or bad. I think he was a very complex person and probably a very unhappy one. Here, in Montreal, he is remembered to have been quite complicated and desagreable with the director of the Montreal Symphonie, Pierre Béique, about his fees. That story was mentionned on many occasions. My grand-father who studied violin with Wintermitz in Boston, one of the closests friends of Fritz Kreisler said always that Kreisler was quite easily approachable. Not Heifetz... He mentionned that in the concert hall, you could sense the same feeling in their playing. Kreisler was beloved because he made it possible to achieve...Heifetz was greatly respected because he could reach what seemed impossible to others.

November 25, 2008 at 08:22 PM ·

Yes Mark, that's the difference: Fritz was loved and respected by anybody; Jascha was admired and had a lot of fans, but he was not  -and I think he doesen't care-  loved by them.

November 25, 2008 at 08:34 PM ·

As a clinical psychologist, perhaps I can be indulged just a bit of historical psychoanalysis. My impression is that Jascha Heifetz most probably had significant expectations of perfection from his parents and from himself. He probably developed this very early in life because he was so incredibly talented at such a young age, that the idea that he could actually attain perfection on a routine, daily basis seemed actually within reach.

As I understand it, his expectations of himself and of others were exacting and at the highest level in most of his interactions. Added to this, he probably had a lot of characteristics which we would call today obsessive-compulsive. So, he was brilliant, talented, detail oriented to a fault, and ruthlessly critical of both himself and of others. I believe that this kind of personality (or something like it) probably drove his personal and professional relationships. He even had exacting expectations in the way he mixed drinks for his guests.

Nevertheless, inside he had to be a human being, just like the rest of us. And perhaps now and then that side of him would show itself in unexpectedly nice ways. No doubt Jascha Heifetz was a complex human being. Had he been a shoemaker or an accountant, perhaps some of these more problematic qualities would not have been so locked in. On the other hand, I also believe that his obsessiveness and attention to detail and striving for perfection probably drove the quality of his art into the stratosphere. In fact, how can you learn to play the violin at the highest level without being at least a little obsessive-compulsive, detail oriented, and perfectionistic?


November 25, 2008 at 09:06 PM ·

I believe there is another reason Sandy, known by very few persons, why Heifetz  was so unhappy. Even with his own son, relations were cold, but cordial... Hilary Hahn or James Ehnes have the same goals concerning precision in execution and they are quite easily approachable persons. You do not need to be obsessive and compulsive to be a genius. Kreisler was not obsess and had diverse interests and a vast culture in general...This sounds so close to the romantic conception of the "genius that no one understands". Maybe it was just part of Heifetz's nature to be alone... He was certainly not the social beast Kreisler was, entertaining and with a lot of joie de vivre... In fact, Kreisler was also very unhappy at the end of his life because Harriet, his wife, had decided to put a definitive stop to that kind of social life they had for the longest time.... Fritz did not possess any violin during the last 15 years of his life.

November 25, 2008 at 09:16 PM ·

This is pure speculation, Marc. Apparently, you like to rewrite the history (any history) to fit with your own theories, putting forward a lot of false information, in this case about Heifetz's career or personality...I don't really see the point..

November 25, 2008 at 10:16 PM ·

Look Daniel: I do not remake history simply because I am not an historian. I do not speculate as much as Sandy does... but because he his in your fan-club and I am not, it is not a reason to treat me that way... I am not the last person you will meet on earth who has reserves about the perfection of Heifetz.


I think it is more damageable, without having seen the person, to affirm as a therapist that Jascha was compulsive and obsessive. I did not say that. I said that Jascha was  very unhappy and that there are some hidden reason about it. This is a very well known fact that we do not know anything about the life of Heifetz, which, by the way, did not seem to be a very interesting one. He liked to keep it secret and it is ok. Nothing to make a movie about...

Daniel, Heifetz  was not perfect, was not a God, and was only a human being like all the rest of us. A very gifted one. 

And I would add that you are obsessive yourself about Heifetz and this is dangerous as a musician. I am not remaking history and do not discredit anything I say or write because I can perfectly assume everything. And contrary to what has been  maliciously mentionned or insinuated by one of your friends, I have more credentials then you can imagine or even dream of...

The Heifetz case has always been controversial on many aspects; this is history.

I wanted to add that Heifetz career should not   be reduced to the recordings he made. Recordings are not concert halls . I like to read about the impressions of the one who were there during the time of Kreisler and Heifetz. It is quite different than what  sometimes is written today by persons who never heard Heifetz or Kreisler live. The recording experience is only partially true... Not completely. Try it, you will be surprised of how these famous musicians were perceived in a different way by their contemporaries...


Have you Daniel???

November 26, 2008 at 03:51 AM ·

As you will note,  my objection was with Heifetz being characterized as "scarcely human on any emotional level". I did not know Heifetz first hand, but I met people and learned about him from  people who did know him, even if they did not spend a great deal of time with him  from day to day. However, from what they said and what my father experienced, I cannot believe he was  "scarcely human on any emotional level." He may have had his "issues" and been difficult to deal with but the same could be said for many artists. We can never know  the all the intricacies of an artist's formative childhood and how it  shapes them  in their interactions with others. Some overcome what might be considered  socially inhibiting behavior and some don't. When one looks at the great composers one can find a lot of dysfunctionality there. Milstein, for example, when asked if he could go back in time to meet someone like Beethoven  and get to know him said he would not want to be in the presence of a  "cranky disagreeable old man" Milstein plainly stated that what was interesting and important was Beethoven's music itself, not the man.

 It is an interesting point. Perhaps, whether Jascha Heifetz was the most personable and socially amiable of souls is not the most important thing. The way he played, after all, is what we will remember and honor the most.  The same goes for all great artists. No one is perfect- we are all human, but a few come close to perfection in what they set out to do or put their efforts into. Heifetz was surely one of them.

 My Milstein quote, by the way,  comes from a very interesting book called Death and the Creative Life  by Lisl Marburg Goodman.


November 26, 2008 at 10:07 AM ·

marc, I think you are wrong about his post 30th recordings being overly aggressive.

have you heard his "gypsy andante" from that Dohnyani suite?  or his La Plus que lent of debussy?  (i am speaking in specific of the recording here:


Here is a good comparison of heifetz and CANNOT say one is more influential.  No one will ever come close to sounding like either one of them....


November 26, 2008 at 02:05 PM ·

If I may clarify a few of my remarks. I certainly did NOT mean to "affirm as a therapist" that Mr. Heifetz was in diagnostic category "without having seen" him.  The one who referred to him as "obsessive compulsive" was me, not anyone else. (And, by the way, people make movies about this kind of thing related to famous people all of the time).

When I say "obsessive compulsive," I am not referring to a pathological state. I am talking about a normal period of development in early childhood that we all pass through and have vestiges of, some of us more and some of us less. Ambrose Bierce once said, "In each human heart are a tiger, a pig, an ass, and a nightingale. Diversity of character is due to their unequal activity." He hit on a basic human truth. We are all made up of the same emotional stuff, but it comes out in different ways in each of us.

There is a period of development, recognized by human development experts the world over, in which the child indeed becomes obsessive-compulsive. It is not a "problem," it is a stage of development, one in which we focus on achieving mastery - mastery over our bodies, mastery of learned skills, and mastery of our environment. Without being obsessive compulsive, no one would learn how to read, how to memorize the times tables, how to play a sport, how to play a music instrument, how to do their job, how to negotiate socially in the world.

What do you think happens when we worry about something, when we pine over a lost love, when we mentally "practice" a speech we are about to give, when we "learn" a Beethoven sonata by playing it over and over again?  Without the valuable skills involved in being obsessive-compulsive, we would not be able to do any of these things. And, most certainly, every one of us who learns to play the violin needs to be obsessive compulsive, or we would never, ever be able to achieve it.

I believe that Mr. Heifetz (and probably a good many other famous violinists), for whatever reason, developed and relied on this mechanism with a passion and purpose that most people in ordinary life do not have. This is not a criticism of Mr. Heifetz, but an admiration of his incredible dedication to his art.

Does this normal obsessive compulsive trait have a downside? Of course it does. It can indeed cause one to distance oneself from others and create problems in relationships. But overall, I think that having both sides of this characteristic makes Jascha Heifetz a person to have some empathy and admiration for. I have known - personally and professionally - many people with almost exactly the same kind of patterns, a few of them with the same kind of blazing talent (although in different fields).

I do wish I could have met Mr. Heifetz, and Mr. Beethoven. And if they were a little on the ornery side, so what!

I have read all of the postings on this thread. Many present very compelling arguments for NOT considering Mr. Heifetz as having THE pivotal role in history of violin playing over the last 100 years. Nevertheless, I still believe that he was the one.  Mr. Perlman once said, publicly, while Heifetz was still alive, that Jascha Heifetz is "the greatest violinist who ever lived." (And I don't think that comment means just as a technician).

And so, I am still an unrepentant advocate for his supremacy - technically, musically, and stylistically - as (after Paganini) the most influencial violinist perhaps in the history of the instrument. It's my opinion, and I am entitled to it. If I'm wrong, so be it.

I have found this entire thread to be fascinating, and it perhaps reflects the obsessive compulsive nature in all of us that the topic of Mr. Heifetz continually brings out all of these strong feelings and ideas. May we continue to disagree. An idea that cannot stand in the spotlight of criticism cannot stand.

Happy Thanksgiving to all,

November 26, 2008 at 02:01 PM ·

Hi Sandor,

Thanks for sharing and really thanks for your hard work!


November 26, 2008 at 02:14 PM ·

D: I have these recordings of Heifetz live with the Bell tel. Hour ( Donhany). This is an arrag. of Kreisler he previously recorded in 1928. I love them Both ( Kreisler and Heifetz) ...Thanks for sharing this. I would add, you made me cry because this is so well done and much better than words.

November 26, 2008 at 03:08 PM ·

sandy, that is an eloquent post but  the phrase "obsessive compulsive"  denotes something pathological, period.  esp coming from someone with psychology background.   to explain it otherwise is slippery.   to say someone is obsessive and compulsive suggests that that person has crossed the line,,,it is beyond focused, intense, disciplined, passionate, etc.   DSM IV.

the process one goes through to be the best in any field may not be "normal"; varying degree of obsession and compulsion accompany if not drive the path.   just acknowledge it.  we have perfectionists in every field.  they can be perfectly abnormal or abnormally perfect,  but these masters of the universe do pretty in this society.

is there a need to add the human side to this godly figure, in an effort to make him more complete, if not likable?   h has had his whole life time to paint himself.  he is not misunderstood--he is what he is. take h for whatever people see, feel and perceive.   to highlight and interpret h's "nice" side is subjective, perhaps not necessary and possibly undermines his music.


November 26, 2008 at 03:05 PM ·

D: Kreisler is about 60 years old on the recording and Jascha, still very young. Kreisler still plays beautifully, but the vibrato was slower during that period. The recording dates circa 1932. But thanks, it is very kind of you. I appreciate a lot.

November 26, 2008 at 03:08 PM ·

The things I have read about Heifetz from other violinists and people who knew him was that  he had a lot of barriers up, but underneath that  facade was someone who could be very warm and yes, human. When it came to the violin and  playing it, Heifetz was all business, a perfectionist, and had little tolerance or patience with those not living up to it, according to what I read, but he also appreciated the gifts of others and wasn't quite the egomaniac he was portrayed to be. And I suspect, having seen on video the way he performed and the stories about the amount of energy he put out on stage and in practicing, it might have been hard to have the energy to be a social animal:).  Maybe too he never fully developed socially, having been part of the Auer violin prodigy machine (though then again, Millstein and others who came from there seemed to be pretty social, so who knows?).

I think at this stage all of it is speculation, and maybe it is better to simply sit back and listen and learn from him, and leave the rest to the biographers and such,and of course enjoy his playing.


November 26, 2008 at 03:10 PM ·

bet you h can beat everyone here in ping pong:)

November 26, 2008 at 03:33 PM ·

Hi, Al: Yes, I can see where you might think that. But it's the jargon in my field, and the term is used in a very, very normal sense. But I do see your point, and if that's the way it's interpreted, it's not the way I meant it. That's what I was trying to say.
Have a good holiday.

PS. By the way, I don't think I've said anything nearly as personally critical about Jascha Heifetz than many, many other things that have been said about him in dozens of other posts by a lot of us. He was a truly larger-than-life figure, and I (like many of us) find it difficult to stop thinking about him and discussing him by concluding that he is what he is, and then leaving it at that. Touchy subject, what?

November 26, 2008 at 03:52 PM ·

"By the way, I don't think I've said anything nearly as personally critical about Jascha Heifetz than many, many other things that have been said about him in dozens of other posts by a lot of us."

concur,,,you have always provided balanced, positive, enlightening if not entertaining viewpoints:).

my grandfather's uncle's friend knew nothing about h, but my hunch is that he knew exactly what he was doing and as far as his persona was concerned,,,he could care less about what others thought.   lonely on the top.

i think we should follow suit and focus on his music.  in another 1000 years, they will be still talking about his music.

November 26, 2008 at 03:52 PM ·

Thank you, Al: And I agree, he'll be in the picture as long as civilization lasts (which, by my calculations, will be just a shade longer than this discussion thread).
:) Sandy

November 26, 2008 at 03:54 PM ·

Sandy & Al;

Very nice posts! enjoyed reading them emensely!

How about doing a thread regarding Christian Ferras?

November 26, 2008 at 04:08 PM ·

as our hopeless human civilization speeds up to evolves toward another total start-over as a carbon molecule:),   i look at heifetz's playing from 60 years ago  and sigh:  there is no progress since then because that, is, it!

and i tell my kid, get real,,,get a real job:)


royce,,,you owe me 2 varnish threads, so me see you do ferras:)

November 26, 2008 at 04:35 PM ·

During my college days in Chicago ( circa 1950s ), I was fortunate enough to attend a Chicago Symphony concert which featured Jascha Heifetz playing the Brahms Violin Concerto. The incident is fresh in my mind because of an unusual occurance which happened at the very beginning of the concerto.

The orchestral introduction is fairly long and Heifetz waited patiently. Then unexpectedly he started playing with the first violins section at about 5 or 6 bars before the entrance of the violin solo.  Apparently the beginning tempo was not fast enough for Heifetz, so he gradually sped up the tempo of the introductory sixteenth note passage in the first violins. The whole orchestra was by now following Heifetz instead of the conductor.
Heifetz stopped playing a moment before his solo entrance, braced himself, and began the solo part. After the concert I talked with David Moll (a member of the first violin section) and he said that Heifetz seemed to make a snap judgement as to the speed of the beginning tempo and there and then decided to alter things.
Heifetz was indeed quite experienced in the execution of the Brahms Concerto and Moll also told me that rehearsals with Heifetz were quite brief and to the point. Heifetz trusted the orchestra to execute any changes and playing interpretations which might occur during performance and was quite willing to change things to make this a brilliant and exciting performance.
Ted Kruzich

November 26, 2008 at 04:41 PM ·

I thought I would put in my 2 cents,but with the economy,maybe only 1 cent. From what I`ve read about Heifetz from various sources,he was a man of contradictions, like all  of us to some degree. I did have two friends who sat  in  on some of his USC classes. They said he was very demanding as a teacher,but  very caring about the welfare of his students. In particular, over the last 10 years,I`ve really enjoyed his live radio and concert  performances on CD , which I had never heard before.

November 26, 2008 at 06:01 PM ·

Let's make a little experiment . . . It is only a fantasy !

Let's assume, only for a moment, that Kreisler had exactly the same degree of perfection, virtuosity, and technique (but not the sound) that Heifetz undoubtedly had  . . . 

Which of the two violinists would have been the "greatest" ?  I think the answer would only be a matter of taste . . . Personally, I would say it was Kreisler because of his truly unique sound, but this is only an opinion of mine.

Furthermore  . . .

Let's assume that ALL the top violinists had the same Heifetz's characteristics mentioned above  . . .

Which of the following would we like the most ?

Menuhin's second movement of Mendelssohn concerto versus Heifetz's ?

Kogan's third movement of Tchaikowsky concerto versus Heifetz's ?

Milstein's Bach Chaconne versus Heifetz's ?

Oistrakh or Szeryng Brahms concerto versus Heifetz's ?

Etc., etc.

My point is perhaps this :  Heifetz's virtuosity has probably never been surpassed by even the greatest violinsts of all times, and as a musician he was also a great one (I admire him with all my heart); however, it is my perception that his enormous (and well deserved) reputation has been based much more on his extraordinary ability to play such a difficult instrument as it is the violin than how beautifully he played it. Of course, the term "beautifully" is rather subjective and anyone can claim with all respect to her/him that Heifetz had, besides his virtuosity, the most beautiful sound too, but other things being equal (virtuosity-wise), I am not convinced that Heifetz was necessarily the greatest violinist ever (like many of his fans say). . . matters such as taste and sound are very important too . . . Heifetz was great in these respects too, but there were many other great ones as well !




November 26, 2008 at 06:36 PM ·

Al- Write a Ferras thread? I don't know man! I've gotten in enough trouble here! ;^P

November 26, 2008 at 06:57 PM ·

juan, your game makes no sense.   without their technique, these violinists wouldn't be who they are.  Kreisler was not inferior to heifetz, they were just different.  heifetz lacked the care for everynote that Kreisler had, but kreisler lacked the sweep and tornado like passion that heifetz had.  Their technique has  alot to do with it, you cannot just separate that.


marc,   i was talking about the dohnyani with piano (i think its far better that the hollywood b. orchestra version)

yes, i love kreislers version of this....but for me heifetz has many moments that are just untouchable in this piece :)  


November 26, 2008 at 07:46 PM ·

I believe that Kreisler, or Toscha Seidel and Heifetz had basically the same gifts. Anyone of them could have been the other... Kreisler knew how to play the violin. He just did not focused on tecnnic as much as Heifetz. He announced publically,  as documented by her biographe Biancolli ,during the 20's ,that he would not practice anymore. Only performances. And Kreisler said in an interview that was given in the presence of Wintermitz ( the famous teacher in Boston and personnal friend of Kreisler) that he had worked and practiced a great deal to reach the level of playing he had...

D... I love the version of kreisler, second movements, with piano. His sound and tremolos are incredible. I do not have at home the version of Heifetz with piano... For me, it is a very special recording to. I love also his gypsy caprice . The left-hand articulation is just amazing... Also in the last movement of the Grieg, the chromatic scale: so clean... That is quite an accomplishment ... Heifetz to , in his first recording of the Achron melodie displays that kind of clean articulation of the left-hand, or in the Chopin Nocturne arr. Wilhemny...

November 26, 2008 at 09:50 PM ·

" If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;

  If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim"...



"If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!" "


"If you can make one heap of all your winnings

And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

And never breathe a word about your loss."


"If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two imposters just the same"...



"If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too"


(fragments from "If" , by Rudyard Kipling)


"He paid a heavy price for success, enriching the world by emptying himself"

"Heifetz, like Hercules, faced a crossroads in his life.According to the legend , Hercules was given a chance to choose between Pleasure and Virtue, the former promising all carnal delights but with it the life of an ordinary mortal , and the latter only hard work but immortality beckoning at the end of the road..."

( from Ayke Agus's book , "Heifetz as I knew him")


Heifetz ...the man that I will always admire ,but that I will never understand. And , the man(or violinist)that I will never try to copy. As with all great men of history , imortality comes with the price of one's life and hapiness. He earned it. May God bless his soul wherever he is.





November 27, 2008 at 12:57 AM ·


I think probably violinists will talk about Heifetz forever. Over the years because of you-tube and the internet we can observe things that was previously impossible to do. When I observed Heifetz's hands up close when he was a young boy until he gave his last performance in his 70's his hands never aged. They never got old or tired looking. I think he must have found something to keep his hands in such order that they became absolute and unchanging throughout his lifetime.


November 27, 2008 at 12:46 AM ·

Hi folks. Just back for a very quick visit before my schedule gets insane again. I couldn't resist the Heifetz discussion. I've read most, but not every single word of the discussion so far, and I hope I won't be repeating too much.

First, my own take on a couple of H. details. I also like to tune to an A and F# from a piano, or just an A. In my case, I feel that I'm less likely to tune sharp that way. With an F natural, I'll tend to think of my A as a major 3rd to the F, and go above the A that is really coming from the piano.

Re tuning the E fine tuner with the right hand...I also prefer doing it that way, and have hounded my students about this as well. It's an aesthetic thing for me. That twisted position just does not look good. If the E string is just being really obstreperous at a given tuning, OK -  tune while playing. Even though I don't use a shoulder rest (come on, if you remember me, you knew I had to get that in!) I don't have a problem tuning while playing, if necessary.

I have a question. Has any fan of the H master classes on tape noticed his peculiar way of picking up his violin from the table? While holding his bow, he would continue to use his right hand, grasping the violin by the tailpiece and the portion of the strings south of the bridge. Only when it was at least a few inches up in the air would his left hand come into play, and take hold of the neck. This superficially resembles someone picking up the violin by the middle bouts. But that's not what he does. I've watched this in slow motion a number of times.Obviously he must have known what he was doing, and his (I believe in those classes) Tononi was none the worse for wear. But when I've experimented with this with one of my cheaper instruments this method seemed to put a lot of undo pressure on the tailpiece, the strings, and to some extent, the bridge. What I would simply do from that position is simultaneously use my left hand for the neck, and use my right thumb on top of the chinrest, and slip my fingers underneath the back. Well, H. said "there are no small things in Art". And I suppose that for Heifetz fans there's no bit of H. minutiae too small to contemplate!

Finally. there's no reason to choose between Heifetz and Kreisler. They adored one another, and shared the same B-day, Feb.2. (I think that should be declared Violin Day -depending perhaps whether the groundhog sees his shadow!) H. is my overall favorite - but it depends a lot on repertoire and my own listening mood. However, whether we're crazy about this or that particular interpretation, his overarching influence to this day is undeniable. So many widely accepted great violinists - violin kings in their own right - have acknowledged H. as the Emperor of the violin. Szerying used that word. Perlman called him God! Kreisler indeed said that H. began where he left off. Oistrakh said "there are violinists, then there is Heifetz. H is in a class by himself." Rosand called him "the greatest master of them all". Rabin, Silverstein, Dicterow, Zuckerman, Libove, Laredo - all said similar things. The list goes on and on. Just maybe these guys knew something? But ultimately we needn't rank - we need only to enjoy

November 27, 2008 at 01:25 AM ·


Hi Rapheal, nice to see you back,albeit briefly.  I too wondered about the way H picks up his violin.  Scares the heck out of me so I sdare not try it.



November 27, 2008 at 01:38 AM ·

Not only the same birthday. If the Heifetz birth year of 1901 is accurate they lived to the same age within 2 months. Heifetz also recorded very little Kreisler compared to others.

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