Nathan Milstein: Master of Invention

March 16, 2010 at 09:11 PM ·

Part One:

Part Two:

I saw that "Hollenbach" had linked this over on Maestronet, and I thought we could all enjoy it too.


Replies (8)

March 16, 2010 at 10:39 PM ·

Thanks!!! Extraordinairy!!!


March 17, 2010 at 03:09 AM ·

Ann:  I have had this DVD from about 1 minute after it was first issued.  I had a long e-mail conversation with the producer in England who had quite a relationship with Milstein.  Its a wonderful DVD.  I am currently studying with a young Russian violinist here in Orange County California and his teacher is Harotune Bedelian who was a long time student of Milstein in Europe.  I am constantly getting anecdotal info on Milstein and his playing,  sense of humor, etc.  Its quite interesting.  I am much older and actually saw Milstein in concert in Long Beach, CA.  My teacher at that time was the concert master of the Long Beach Symphony.  He played the Goldmark VC, which unfortunately is not played much today.  Its a beautiful concerto.  Thanks for the post.  Charles Bott

March 17, 2010 at 04:03 AM ·

 82 and playing like that! Don't expect to see that again.

March 17, 2010 at 04:18 AM ·

I watched it last weekend, during practice breaks.  The whole documentary is about two hours long.  I thought it was beautifully made, and the editing was most sensitive for the performance segments.  All of those close ups!

Few can come close to Milstein's Goldmark.  I wish I had heard him live, but he was performing before my time.  I listen to his solo Bach recordings a lot, and his Tchaikovsky concerto too. 

I'm going to re-read his excellent autobiography, From Russia to the West soon.  That book is tragically out of print, and pretty expensive now.

March 17, 2010 at 01:43 PM ·

Wonderful interview and performances. I was fortunate enough to see Milstein live twice when he came to Chicago. Once in the 1950's (a recital), and the other his last appearance in Chicago at the age of 80. Among other things, at that last recital he played Paganiniana and the Bach 2nd Partita. As far as the Paganiniana, Milstein still had it. But the Bach was beyond great, technically and musically. There were moments I still remember, moments when his violin voice transcended everything and you felt you were listening directly to the voice of Bach. I'll never forget it.
And I agree about the Goldmark. There are many (but not enough) recorded performances, but all are a distant 2nd to Milstein's.

March 18, 2010 at 01:40 PM ·

 I watched both of them last night with my teacher/mentor who heard him live several times playing similar programs. Much has been lost with the passing of these greats. I am astonished with the efficiency and ease of his technique. He has a powerful instrument to express his ideas. The juxtaposition (brief as it was) with modern violinists was very telling.

March 18, 2010 at 10:31 PM ·

 The show said that Milstein spent some of his retirement writing accompaniments to Paganini Caprices and making some transcriptions. Were they ever published?

March 19, 2010 at 03:41 PM ·

The sheet music for his Paganiniana, a collection of three of his transcriptions, a collection of four of his cadenzas and his edition of Wieniawski A Major Polonaise are all available:

It isn't shown on this link, but there is also a published collection of some transcriptions of Russian short pieces.  All are published by G. Schirmer, yet I was not able to find them on Schirmer's web site,  They are available -- I suppose there is a Schirmer web site problem.

During one of my lessons with him, in which I played Mozart Concerto #4, I asked him (thinking of the recording I have of Milstein playing this concerto with his own cadenzas): "Mr. Milstein, will you publish your cadenza for this Concerto?"  With a smile, he replied: "Write your own cadenza!!"  However, I was happy to see that a few years later, he did indeed publish several of his original cadenzas (though not the ones for Mozart #4).

It was fun to hear how he constantly made changes to his cadenzas and to Paganiniana.  If you listen to two of his recordings of the same concerto which were made several years apart, you hear small, and sometimes big, changes in the cadenzas.  (Compare his Pittsburgh Symphony Brahms Concerto and his Philharmonia Orchestra Brahms Concerto.)  The same was the case with Paganiniana.  The sheet music, for example, doesn't exactly match with one, or perhaps all, of his recordings.  I don't recall for sure, off the top of my head, but I think his performance of Paganiniana on the video (see YouTube) may have some changes in the variations in comparison with one or more of his audio recordings.  My impression from having studied with him is that if some of my fellow VCommies were to  study his Paganiniana and then perform it in public, Milstein would be fine with your changing the order of variations, omitting a variation, or replacing an arpeggio with a chromatic scale, as long as it sounded convincing!  

I believe that in a performance, a deviation from the printed score, if it comes out of a full understanding and feeling for the music, is much preferable to a performance in which mindless obedience is substituted for understanding and feeling for what is going on compositionally.  I think it is safe to say that Nathan Milstein held this opinion.

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