Was Frank Sinatra Influenced by Heifetz?

July 7, 2010 at 02:33 AM ·

Apparently so according to this article.  Maybe that's part of the reason I am also a huge Sinatra fan? 




July 7, 2010 at 08:42 AM ·

Bing on Frank; "A voice like that only comes along once in a life time, why did it have to be in mine".

A fascinating life, a fascinating voice and delivery. I'm a great fan of Sinatra since he re-invented his style with the help of Nelson Riddle. 

Comedian on Sinatra ; "I think Frank is the greatest singer in the world, if you don't believe me ask Frank himself".

The connection with Heifetz could be purely admiration, whether it influenced his singing is doubtful.

July 7, 2010 at 09:17 AM ·

Was it Mischa Elman who once said that the violinist should aim to make the violin sound like the human voice? I'm not a fan of ole Frank, but his singing was really class. Quite feasible that his phrasing could have been influence by the great Heifietz, I guess.



July 7, 2010 at 10:03 AM ·

Yes. I have a bio of Sinatra by Kitty Kelly called His Way. On p. 82  "...his love of classical music. He said that his own style, though originally in the Bing Crosby tradition, had developed into the bel canto Italian school of singing...his first musical inspiration was from Jascha Heifetz's violin concerts. He said liked the "fantastc things he did with the notes - holding them, gently sliding them. sustaining them. It was a whole new concept of phrasing to me, and terribly exciting."     

That's something! But personally, I always felt that Sinatra was a bit overrated as a singer, and underrated as an actor.      

July 7, 2010 at 10:43 AM ·

Frank Sinatra has been considered one of the greatest popular music song stylists of all time. Years ago, I recall reading an anecdote (which I believe was quoted as being true) that some young entertainer came up to Sinatra and asked him how one can learn to phrase a song the way he does. Sinatra is said to have replied, "You can start by listening to Jascha Heifetz." If true, it reflects admirably on both.

July 7, 2010 at 01:45 PM ·

Here is some more information about Frank Sinatra's being influenced by Jascha Heifetz and others. Also, ione of my teachers in undergraduate school had mentioned that Judy Garland and Frank Sinatra  shared similar ideas on phrasing and breathing and played some selections for us to prove his point, buti can't recall now which tunes he played for us.



 Scroll down to the Q & A for his mention of Jascha Heifetz:


and from this site: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/reviews/sinatra-the-life-by-anthony-summers-amp-robyn-swan-752349.html

"After watching Jascha Heifetz at Carnegie Hall he noticed that every time the Russian violinist 'came down with his bow you hardly realised that it was going back up again'. Why couldn't he do the same thing with his breath, he thought. "It was my idea to make my voice work in the same way as a trombone or a violin." Thus the classic tracks of the 1950's achieved a delirious balance between word and tone, what Pavarotti called the "bel canto" of mature Sinatra."

July 7, 2010 at 02:35 PM ·

I'm not a massive Sinatra fan although I like his voice ... but it's heartening to hear about singers and string players gravitating to one another.  My own inspirations for viola were all singers, every last one.  Two classical (opera and lieder) and one rock.  I want to be able to do everything they do someday -- the way their voices ring but always retain some smokey darkness beneath them, their inexhaustible game preserves of vibratos, the intensity, the expression, the precision -- everything.

July 7, 2010 at 02:59 PM ·

 This discussion leads to more questions:

Which violinist (probably violist in this case?) influenced Dylan's voice?

Which singer did Louis Farakhan influence? (Beverly Sills?)

July 7, 2010 at 04:10 PM ·

 @Janis ;

You can get a quick start on that smokey darkness by playing with a cigarette in your mouth and blowing the smoke through your nose onto the violin. A sip of jeripico will also help. Does your mother know about this wild desire?

July 7, 2010 at 04:15 PM ·

Yeah, but then the hacking cough would sort of distract from things ... Hard to learn to play a viola while you're barfing up a lung.  :-)

Just googled jeripico -- sounds great!  Wonder where I can find a bottle ...

July 7, 2010 at 08:07 PM ·

Hard, but the coughing will add to the smokey darkness as it helps with the vibrato.

Jeripico is a delicious South African sweet ruby red wine, it tastes similar to a muscadel and It will definitely improve your performance.

July 7, 2010 at 09:05 PM ·

During that golden era, most of the singers really had great voices... Sinatra, Judy, Ertha Kitt, the great Edith Piaf and so many others. The standards of Heifetz, Francescatti and Kreisler were very high. And of course these singers were influenced by Heifetz or other great violinists. Even the delivery man knew who they were. Everyone in America did own at least one recording of Heifetz or Kreisler. These popular singers knew also about the great italian tenor Gigli. The music was also very well written...  I really like the voice of Sinatra... "Something Stupid" is a great duo song and I love it and so many others...

Nate,it is a great idea to have a discussion on that particular matter.

July 7, 2010 at 09:14 PM ·

If I drink enough of it, I think it would also improve the performance of whomever I was listening to as well ... :-)

July 7, 2010 at 09:20 PM ·


Scott ,I`m still trying to figure out which violinist influenced Johnny Rotten.



July 8, 2010 at 09:28 AM ·

I think the most poweful influence on Frank was boss Giancana, even that he (Gianana) hate poeple who "sings".

July 8, 2010 at 09:55 AM ·

There's something I don't like about Heifetz's playing and Sinatra's singing.  Maybe its the thing they have in common (I'm guessing a technical brilliance that they rank higher than their musical one).

July 8, 2010 at 10:22 AM ·

Elise - have you listened to a great deal of Heifetz? So much of it is NOT about actual obvious technical display, but is heartfelt singing - with a flair and panache that are unique. Immediately coming to mind are the expressive passages in the Korngold, Conus, Sinding Suite, Sibelius, Bruch Scottish Fantasy, Tchaikovsky's Serenade Melancholique and  Lensky's Aria (the latter from a wonderful CD called Heifetz Rediscovered). Now let's talk crossover. H. was a pioneer there, too. Everyone knows of his Gershwin arrangements, again played with that unique panache. But if anyone doesn't have the 2-CD set called It Ain't Necessarily So, run, don't walk, and get it!  His renditions of the traditional Greedore Brae and Deep River along with Foster's Old Folks at Home could melt a stone.

July 8, 2010 at 10:32 AM ·

Raphael - so maybe I should plead ignorance :)  I will do as you say - and I have noticed that he is way better in some genres than others - his tchaikovsky is amazing whereas I find his Bach harsh and, frankly, unmusical.  I did wondered if there was a cultural factor.  However, I can learn a LOT more and will do so.  Of course, whats musical to your ears may not be to mine - off to the music store!!


July 8, 2010 at 10:58 AM ·

Sounds good! As the saying goes, "no one can be all things to all men". I think Heifetz' Chaconne is great, but overall for Bach, I'm more in the Grumiaux/Szeryng orbit. That's what makes a horse race, and we have an embarassment of riches!

July 8, 2010 at 03:17 PM ·

Regardless of whether you are thrilled or mortified by Jascha Heifetz, you have to take the historical view and recognize that not only Frank Sinatra but everyone has been influenced by the musical and technical standards that Heifetz modeled for every musician in every kind of music when he burst on the international scene in 1917.

And, by the way, I happen to like it, especially in baroque music, when the tempo is maintained to the very last note. I am so tired of hearing everyone slow down to a dirge as the music crawls to its conclusion. To me it is a tiresome and meaningless musical cliche to hear "dum... .duuuummmm.................. ..duuuuuuuhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh" ending every performance of every piece of music ever written.

Just a thought.

PS. Another thought. Each and every one of us has a musical conception in our heads and ears and hearts of what the best musical performance is supposed to sound like. When we hear something radically different from what seems natural to us, we typically (and quickly) conclude that it is terrible. But why? The consensus of opinion has always seemed to be that Heifetz "owns" the Tchaikovsky Concerto but that he can't play Bach. Nonsense; he could play anything. Don't forget, Heifetz grew up in the traditions of the late-19th-Century romantic musical aesthetic. What do you expect? Within that aesthetic, however, I also happen to think that his Bach is thrilling and right on point. Do I "like" it better than Szeryng or Grumiaux or Milstein or Manze? Not necessarily, but I find it adding to my ability to appreciate the full range and depth and possibilities for hearing new things in the endlessly absorbing works of Johann Sebastian Bach. Why should anyone, particularly musicians, cut themselves off from different perspectives on the same work?

I guess that's more than just a thought.

July 8, 2010 at 08:04 PM ·

Here we go again on that very delicate subject-matter in which I do not want to fall in again. Heifetz had is way in Bach. Even if someone does not agree with his ideas and conception, at least, it is a very individual approach. Heifetz had no models and no reference when he studied and later performed Bach. It was not the cup of tea of  prof. Auer as reported clearly by Milstein. Heifetz and Milstein both imposed on their programs the solo works of Bach, and very surprisingly, Fritz Kreisler, before them.

I have given my opinion five years ago about Heifetz playing Bach. It did not changed. But after thinking about it, I must admit that the man believed strongly in his own ideas, and in that sense, his playing is convincing. It is true that one must not forget that Heifetz was trained during an era in Russia not at all concerned about any music Bach had written... Auer much prefered "salon music". Joachim was the very first to imposed a classical recital, including Bach solo works, Beethoven and Brahms violin and piano sonatas. I have seen these programs of Joachim and Oistrach was the very first after to follow this ideal. Heifetz and Kreisler, for a long time, played the classics in the first part and some short pieces in the second part.. Bach was an all time companion to both Heifetz and Kreisler.

I have learned with time to respect great violinists even if I do not agree with their approach. And I will state again that in the short works,there are no one better than the young Heifetz, and his acoustic recordings are simply a miracle. Elise, you should get your hands on these recordings. The recordings on Naxos of the concerti ( Sibelius-Tschaïkovsky- Vieuxtemps nu.4 and Rondo Capriccioso ) are simply fantastic. They were done during the 30's. There are also many splendid documents of the Bell telephone hour where Heifetz plays live.That was the era of Jasha Heifetz the Great.

July 9, 2010 at 04:11 AM ·

Thats an interesting about Heifetz and Bach - but I read it was Milstein who dug up the sonatas and partitas and added them to the 'repetoire'.  Even if it wasn't don't you think H must have heard him perform them before he did?  If so maybe his way of doing it was intentional - that was his read of the music.  Thats really the only way we can view it now - we only have the music not the mind ...

My mother adored Heifetz - probably for the reasons you mention that he was in his way a pop star: a classical musician that managed to reach general admiration and attention.  No small feat...

July 9, 2010 at 04:37 AM ·


Heifetzx was older than Milstein and established in the Staes while M was messing around in Europe. It wasn`t Milstein who dug up and established the SPs by any means. I am gettign motre and more shaky on my violinistic history these days but I belive it was Menuhin who really does deserve some credit for programming thole works rather than just the odd flashy movement such as the e major prelude ast high speed.  Oddly enoughy I have Szigetis early record of this work and it is nothing special. The persobn whio really got a lot out of that work was of all people Mischa Elman. Not a purists Bach but he really understood that work. A trul;y underrated musician.

The statement `Heifetz@ Bach is not musical` really does not hold up.   Once one established what is meant by musical it merely becomes a questiopn of conflciting taste.   His Bach is well worth careful study. After a time one may begin to feel that there is a lot to learn from it. Muscially too.   One of the key elemnts that is very subtle is his unique ability to keep things in proportion. there is no quasi musical pulling around for no obvious reason which so many players seem to get in the habit of doing.



July 9, 2010 at 10:17 AM ·

Very interesting Buri - we need a topic just on the 'rediscovery' of S&P as a performance piece (I believe it was a practice piece first).  You also wrote:

"One of the key elemnts that is very subtle is his unique ability to keep things in proportion. there is no quasi musical pulling around for no obvious reason which so many players seem to get in the habit of doing."

But I think thats exactly why it sounds mechanical to my (untrained) ear.  Or maybe violin training is a big factor too - people who have poured over the instrument for years hear subtleties that lesser souls like myself are blind to.  Maybe its a bellweather of sorts for a 'violinist', as appart from an 'audience' ear...


July 9, 2010 at 10:42 AM ·

Thank you,  Buri. When one starts taking liberties with rubato and other little alterations of the tempo to make it more "musical," what actually happens is that you lose the pulse of the music (i.e., the regularity of the beat, like the reassuring and almost hypnotic regularity of a heartbeat). In so much great music, but especially Bach, that pulse is everything. In playing Bach, Heifetz seems to be meticulous when it comes to maintaining the pulse. If he sacrifices what often passes for musical "feeling" in doing so, he more than makes up for it by making sure that the music and not the performer is the center of attention. Is there a composer with whom this is more important than Bach? Even in other pieces, liberties are taken with the pulse in the name of being more "musical." One of the aspects of Ruggiero Ricci I have always liked (and maybe it is a matter of personal taste) is that he has the technical superiority to not slow down here and there just because the music is difficult. He maintains the inner pulse of the music, which is especially important not only in Bach but all of those difficult encore pieces. And, yes, Frank Sinatra was influenced by Heifetz.

July 9, 2010 at 11:28 AM ·

Actually, one of my teachers, Rene Benedetti, was among the first violinists to include solo Bach (and Paganini) in his recitals.  I believe Menuhin made the earliest recording of all the solo Bach (available on Naxos). 

July 9, 2010 at 01:52 PM ·

¨Stephen: I am a member of the archives of the New-York times an have reviewed all the concert reviews and programs of the great violinists of the past, starting with Willhemny, Wieniawski and Sarasate. Fritz Kreisler, as early as 1905 until the end of his career played all the major concerti  about 35 of them) and all the grand repertoire for violin and piano. In many of his recital programs he performed complete partitas or sonatas by J.Bach.  I have seen often the complete first sonata in g minor, the partita in B, the partita in D(Chaconne) and the complete partita in E major, over and over again in his recital program. Also, He often came alone with his violin during the 20's and performed Bach partita or sonata, his own recitativo and Caprice, Biber,Eugene Ysaïe and Paganini caprices all for solo violin. This was unsual at the time...

It is almost scandalous that such an artist is only remembered today for what he has recorded. Kreisler premiered the Conus concerto and the Elgar in London and many other concerti. He often played the original version of the Tschaïkovski until 1936 when he premiered his owm arrangement with Ormandy.

Gingold has written that Kreisler gave the greatest rendition of the Chaconne he has ever heard... Milstein said that the best concert he heard was Kreisler in 1926 playing Bach, Beethoven and Brahms concerti the same night in Paris. He was accompanied by Horowitz and both were just stumbled by such a performance. That is the kind of activities Milstein had in Europe with such giants like Kreisler, Ysaïe and Horowitz  and so many others. I do not see his journey in Europe as being a "mess" or fooling aroud.... Europe cultural aspects have a much longer history and tradition than us, in Canada or the U.S.A.

July 9, 2010 at 02:07 PM ·

self EDIT

Lisa is right - this is off subject for Frank and Heiftez.  Lets move the Bach P&S discussion...

July 9, 2010 at 02:24 PM ·

Back to Sinatra, he shared with Heifetz, Kreisler, etc., dedication to producing a consistently beautiful tone and expressive, heartfelt delivery.  I can't think of any current pop singer who does this, and I could make the argument that few contemporary violinists do it in quite the same way, either.  The violinists haven't taken it to the extreme that Johnny Rotten, Janis Joplin, or Dylan did, but they're not Kreisler, either!  This may be most of the reason why both Sinatra and some of the earlier violinists sound "old-fashioned."

Sinatra never missed a note, and his use of expressive intonation was masterful.  When some of the current crop of singers run everything through Auto-Tune, any deliberate distortion of pitch is lost along with the plain bad intonation, although it may be a false assumption that Jessica Simpson would know from expressive intonation . . .

July 9, 2010 at 02:35 PM ·

"When some of the current crop of singers run everything through Auto-Tune ... "

This is a huge reason why I prefer live, classical performances and older rock to any current recording of anything.  I can't trust that stuff.  It's so much more enjoyable to see people pick up their instruments, start at the beginning, and play through to the end without infinite multitracking, and then stop.  It's amazing.

Today's pop and rock singers are products of electronic post-production, a reflection of the person sitting behind the computer running ProTools more than anyone else.  I adored hearing Andreas Scholl, Placido Domingo, and David Daniels live, but I don't think I'll ever get the chance to hear another Annie Lennox or Steve Perry, which is a great pity.

July 9, 2010 at 02:59 PM ·

Lisa: I am in love with Joplin. Have pictures of her in my television room with Kreisler, Heifetz , and Neveu. What a voice. Love Sinatra as well...beatiful voice,  like bel canto


July 9, 2010 at 03:16 PM ·

I love Joplin too, and Dylan and Leonard Cohen, also.  There's a genuineness there that isn't too common.  Technically, though, they're playing a whole different ball game than Sinatra.  And Janis, don't even get me started on what Photoshop has done to photography!

July 9, 2010 at 09:01 PM ·

I would be interested in learning if Heifetz was influenced by any particular singer when he adapted  works of Foster and Gershwin for the violin in the 40`s. Or more generally, in developing his own individual sound after he came to the US in 1917.

July 10, 2010 at 09:18 AM ·

I always thought that prime Menuhin and Judy Garland had some points in common in their tone.

July 10, 2010 at 11:56 AM ·

Stephen: Kids during the 30's drinked Coca Cola with pop-corn. They used to go and watch in the afternoon movies of Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney and at night, when ever they were in town, would assist to a Menuhin, Kreisler or Heifetz concert, if they were fortunate enough... Nowadays, they will go for any violent subject-matter movie and listen to "lets kill all of them" by any band promoting racism,violence and distortion of the mind. They take any kind of drugs.They can't feel anything inside or cannot cope with facts of life.

All of them? Of course no! Heifetz (When you make love to me) and Kreisler (A kiss in the dark) were strongly influenced by popular music. Nowadays, Hilary Hahn flirts with "The trail of the Deads, wonderful Rachel Barton Pine plays in a Metaliica group and David Garrett is extremely popular in Europe, still playing the classicals beautifully or displaying his virtuosity in "Smooth Criminal" in front of thousands of young people...

July 13, 2010 at 10:41 PM ·

You guys should check out one classical singer named Thomas Quasthoff.  He's a basso-baritone, which isn't my favorite type of voice, but he's GREAT.  He's a classical singer (mostly lieder) but he can do jazz and pop, and he really does it -- not like a crossover singer who's playing tourist-with-the-camera-around-his-neck off his home court.  He had a very varied training history outside of the traditional conservatory, and he's quite at home in a large variety of styles even if lieder is his great love.

July 14, 2010 at 02:27 PM ·

Has everyone already heard this pop song, played by JH on the piano? Sinatra could have sung it. The influence may have been the other way around as well.

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