A new Golden era for violinists?

August 9, 2010 at 03:39 PM ·

Today, a new generation emerged with Hilary Hahn, James Ehnes, Julia Fisher, Augustin Hadelich, Benjamin Beilman and a few others. In between, great names such as Perlman and Kremer or Mutter are preceding the new generation. What do you think? Are we in a new Golden Era? How interpretations of masterpieces like J.S. Bach Sonatas and Partitas or great Concerti have evolved over the years. The discussion is not about your favorite violinist. The subject is about evolution in violin playing, interpretation in general and the new era in the making...

Replies (37)

August 9, 2010 at 08:08 PM ·

I think that the concern that everyone nowadays sounds the same is completely bogus.  Let's take Hilary Hahn, Janine Jansen and Anne-Sophie Mutter for example.  I have a recording of each of these fine ladies playing the Mendelssohn concerto.  

To my ear, Jansen's tone is smooth and buttery, rich and sonorous and has the perfect fiery, passionate edge to it.  

Hahn's Mendelssohn is nimble, but always powerful.  Her distinctive vibrato is on full display here.

Mutter, to me, has one of the most unique voices on the violin today.  Her use of senza vibrato is so mysterious and beautiful.  This may sound dumb, but to me, her sound is the most "femine" of violinists that I've heard.  

The level of playing available to hear these days is quite simply amazing.  I think we should respect the legends of the past while celebrating our modern treasures. 

August 9, 2010 at 09:51 PM ·

I agree totally...I am thinking right now about Rachel Barton Pine playing baroque, metal and the classics...  She also composes...Can we compare Metal for instance to Kreisler arranging popular music of his time or Heifetz affinities with jazz ...Another today's example is David Garrett or even Hilary Hahn with "The Trail of the Deads" Both perform classical music. Garret is more on the road with arrangments made of Michael Jackson's music and some others. He is still performing the great repertoire. Is there a link there with violinists of the past? Is this part of the new era and a valuable approach?

August 10, 2010 at 04:51 PM ·

I am always wondering why it seems so difficult to start this kind of discussion about violin playing, composing, interpretation... There are so many subjects within this particular discussion that are so primordial. Just take for instance the subject of woman and violin. Few during the era of Neveu could play like her. Today, female violinists are dominant and of the highest level. Even if she had a short career,Neveu's was like a blinding flash.She created many new works.(Poulenc sonata, Elizade concerto).  Mutter did also, but they are seldom performed by her collegues. And why do we in 2010 hear always the same standard repertoire, over and over again, in the Concert Halls. These questions deserve a serious reflexion... Does it has something to do with copyrights? Is it the reason why the old repertoire is always on the list first, because they are no longer protected by international conventions?

Another question. Do violinist today display better technique... So many new recordings and approach in the way they play and perform Bach today... Are the level of orchestras better than yesterday? There are so many soloists today compared to the 40's or so... This was not at all the case even during the 70's. Something really happened here, a drastic change. In 1970, you could hear in concert Perlman, Zukerman,Spivakov, Tretyakov, Chung  among the young generation of violinists...  Woman were not yet popular,even Ida Haendel. Szeryng and Oistrach were still on the road... Kogan, less. Grumiaux was playing in Europe. Gitlis never played to much in America. Milstein came, but not to often. And we had the opportunity to discover the quite amazing Gidon Kremer. Then,something happened when Mutter started her career during the 80,s... A kind of baby boom... Just make a list of todays players, starting with violinists such as Perlman and Kremer, and go down until you reach the youngest ones... Do not forget any... You will see how amazing it is...

What do you think about it ?  Marc

August 10, 2010 at 06:04 PM ·

I don't think copyrights are anything to do with why the same standard repertoire is played over and over again. In any case the tariff to play protected music is not particularly large as a percentage overall  of the production costs of a concert. The world of classical music is very conservative, and there is the pressure from management to keep the programming familiar, thinking that this is what the public want. Maybe the soloists of today would like to expand the repertoire, but that would take a big investment in time and then they find themselves not having carte blanche.

The way I see it is that we are in a period of recreation rather than creation, seeing the same few works endlessly polished to the finest degree. In the meantime hundreds of competent composers struggle to get just one performance. Someone's surely going to say that all those composers are not necessarily equal, and that might be true, which simply means that it takes effort to search out new music worthy of being performed. Unfortunately it seems that there's not a lot of will to do that. Personally I get more satisfaction performing new music and bringing something new to life, rather than treading the well-trodden ground.

August 11, 2010 at 05:11 AM ·

I completely and totally agree with Michael Divino.

I also think that interpretations and the overall "sound" of violin is in constant evolution and there are always great violinists out there that represent that current time.

August 11, 2010 at 09:44 AM ·

 Listen to this performance of Heifetz' arrangement of the slow movement of the Rachmaninov Cello Sonata. There is no new golden age.

Also what modern violinist has published a compelling list of compositions and arrangements? (Ysaye, Kreisler, and Heifetz were prodigious.) Milstein, Szigeti and others made contributions to the literature.

Today no one.

We cannot expect everyone to do this but a golden age would have to have some titans of the violin who were extending the repertory by their own hand.

August 11, 2010 at 10:40 AM ·

Wasn't that "golden age" of the Heifetz era largely fuelled by the rise of broadcasting, recording and air travel ? These advances led those players Marc named to international stardom. But beyond a certain point, how much more "jet-set" can a virtuoso get ? The internet continues to nudge the boundaries, but globalisation of taste could become dangerous by-product of that rapid dissemination of information.

The violin has remained unmodified since the early 19th. century, and the classical repertoire is still "current". Soloists and orchestras serve as portable museums for the most part and it's little wonder that that the young will seek to emulate their elders and betters. However, I understand Arnold Schoenberg to have remarked that however slavishly the young artist tries to live up to the standards of his/her predecessors, the personality of the individual will eventually emerge. Three cheers !!!

I agree with Corwin Slack that the decline of the violinist/composer is to be deplored. But the same could be written about keybordist/composers too. Specialisation rules. Whilst there's hardly a shortage of stunning players, that glorious age of all-round musicianship does seem to have gone for ever.

August 11, 2010 at 11:28 AM ·

 But the same could be written about keybordist/composers too. 

Less so. Noël Lee is an example of a highly accomplished pianist and composer. I can think of other keyboardist/composers too.

August 11, 2010 at 12:40 PM ·

Corwin: have you listened to Hadelich playing the Chopin Nocturne? You can go to his website and you will dicover that he is quite remarkable, with many rememberances,done with taste,of the great ones of the past... His Zapatedao of Sarasate is as good as Heifetz's, Rabin or Hassid...   Don't you think that today,violinists are more accurate and faithful in regard to Bach solo works... When listening live to Hahn or Ehnes, or on recording, do you feel that bow technique as evolved. I am thinking about how to break a chord for instance in Bach. Or the Schoenberg concerto that Heifetz declared unplayable...

Do you think that some of the best today do indeed have an individual sound...

August 11, 2010 at 01:31 PM ·

 Also what modern violinist has published a compelling list of compositions and arrangements? ... Today no one.

If violists are included then what about Brett Dean? Have a look at his biography on the Boosey & Hawkes website; that's an impressive list of orchestras that he has been soloist with, playing his own concerto.

August 11, 2010 at 01:45 PM ·

 Nigel, "less so" indeed. As you recall, those violinist/composers were usually adept keyboard freaks as well. Wasn't Kreisler able to play the piano parts of all the Beethoven fiddle Sonatas from memory ? But in nearly 40 years in professional bands I didn't witness any living composers following in the Rachmaninov mould, playing their own big new concertos. Spohr and Joachim apart, the violinist/composers have seldom attained the compositional heights occupied by the top keyboardist/composers.

I suspect the avant-garde movement pretty much put an end to the creation of those fashionable "character pieces" with which violinists would love to fill their recitals. 

As Marc seems to suggest, the general standard has risen. The point at issue as I see it is whether or not technical wizardry has obliterated personality and "character". Some posters are sure it has not.

August 11, 2010 at 02:25 PM ·

 What about James Ehnes' Mozart cadenzas?  Joshua Bell's Mendelssohn cadenza? Rachel Barton Pine collection of cadenzas and arrangements?  Mark O'Connor's method book, Double Violin concerto,  solo caprices, and other various works?  V.com's Ben Chan doing arrangements of popular video game music?

August 11, 2010 at 03:37 PM ·

Nigel: violists,cellists,Bassists and orchestras are included in the discussion... and by the way,Nigel is a violist composer and I myself composed many works for violin and orchestra or solo works.  And yes, Ehnes wrote outstanding cadenzas for the Mozart Concerti and I love Rachel Barton Pine...

Sometimes, I wonder if young people do listen to much recordings. I myself avoid it as much as possible and much prefer the real thing in the concert hall. I have heard several times Oistrach, Milstein, Szeryng live, and when Mutter, Ehnes and Hahn came in Montreal, I felt  as much impressed with their playing than any of these famoust violinist of the past... Heifetz is still a myth and his reputation kept growing during the 70,s and the 80's with his recordings being reissued. But reading bios of his collegues, like Szigeti, Milstein, Menuhin,or comments by Gingold, Francescatti, Flesh and Oscar Shumsky, it does not seem that Heifetz was considered as being the best or the supreme violinist during his active career... The public was very selective and loved various and different artists, displying different personalities and individual approach.Now,we deal with a testimony of direct experiences about live performances during the 20,s, the 30,s, and the 40,s. We do not talk about Heifetz's impressive and outstanding discography. Why such artists today,like Heifetz,Kreisler,Francescatti,Oistrach are only remembered for what they have recorded...

I have the feeling that yes,we are in a new golden era... Hearing live last season Mutter in the Mendelssohn or Ehnes in Sibelius just consolidated my strong believe that these artists, and some others, gave performances equal, if not superior, to the great ones of the past, including Heifetz and Oistrach. And we are also discovering new repertoire, neglected composers of the past, new modern works, (Mutter and Hahn are surprising in that particular matter), different styles in baroque music...

August 11, 2010 at 04:29 PM ·

To be fair one would have to be a pretty famous musician for presenters to even remotely take you seriously as a violinist/composer or pianist/composer, especially for concerto dates... There's no money in that anymore.

Demands on soloists' time and energy have risen. In order to compete with the best you have to be seen more places at more times. There are no week-long boat trips one-way to Europe anymore, during which Kreisler would charm women playing the piano arrangement of the Florodora Double Sextet. Instead in that time you've played a couple concerts at a chamber music festival in Seattle, networked with supporters of the festival (I assume), very possibly bandied about ideas for your next appearance there, flown to from Seattle to New York to Heathrow, somehow gotten over the jet lag before playing in front of thousands of people, possibly lost your luggage, rehearsed a concerto for Proms, done media for your appearance, played at Proms in front of thousands of people, skimmed through the reviews, leapt back on a plane, flown to New York, flown to Chicago, practiced two pieces that haven't been on your programs for months, taken a regional jet up to a little Wisconsin town you've gone to for years, taken a two or three hour drive up a peninsula to the home of a regional summer orchestra, rehearsed there, connected with sponsors and supporters there, performed the concert, and then gone, networked, and fundraised for that organization as well (and if this sounds exaggerated or impossible, this is exactly what James Ehnes is up to at the moment; I know because I'm going to that concert up the peninsula, and I've talked to him about the insanity of his schedule before). Don't forget, in two weeks there's a full recital program to be presented in Bogata! And then the New Zealand tour. And Sibelius and Walton and Four Seasons. And a recording of both Bartok violin concertos coming up in a few months... And Ehnes is by no means the busiest concert violinist out there! This is simply the level that things are at now, for better or for worse. I'm not saying Kreisler had it easy when he and his generation traveled - he didn't - but he didn't have near this number of commitments, squished into such a short period of time.

So when I see people complaining about the lack of violinist/composers or pianist/composers, or insinuating these people are less talented, less able, less sensitive than virtuosos of the past...it gets under my skin. Say you generally don't like their playing as much as the old guys, but don't make assumptions about their inability to compose. Kreisler complained - in his own time! - that the world was moving too fast. He's probably right, but honestly Kreisler would never have been able to sustain a top-level career today. There's just no way. We have surely lost something - but, at the same time, we have also gained something. The repertoire is wider and deeper than it ever has been. More people are hearing great violinists than ever before, both because of faster touring schedules and exciting new media. There is more high-level music-making at a wider set of geographic points than there ever has been before. You no longer have to be in New York or Chicago to hear one of the greatest violinists in the world, and thank God for that. I find it so incredibly unfair for people to judge today's violinists by yesterday's standards, just as I find it unfair for people to judge yesterday's violinists by today's standards. God bless whatever concert violinist can find the time (like Rachel Barton Pine, for instance) to write, compose, arrange, whatever, in their non-existent spare moments, but really let's not forget what this generation is doing in regards to traveling and fundraising and outreach, that Kreisler's never had to.

*incoherent rant over*

August 11, 2010 at 05:06 PM ·

Emily, I agree with you about James, who can in one season or two perform 15 different concerti. Kreisler could not travel as fast... But his schedules concert were absolutely wild and he gave so much concert in New-York, that he had each season to rent an apartment in order to fulfill all of his engagements. Kreisler performed more than Heifetz and all over the world. That is what I mean by " we only remember them for what they have recorded". And this is not my quote, but James own, when we had a similar discussion a couple of years ago... I have made an extensive research on Kreisler's repertoire and listed about 36 different concerti and all the major repertoire for violin and piano, even Bach solo works and all the great sonatas...

August 11, 2010 at 06:15 PM ·

 That's exactly how I feel Emily.  Very well-said. 

August 11, 2010 at 07:37 PM ·

I agree with today's talent and could even say that technique is better than before (since the syntethic strings and shoulder rests + new recording technologies, quite less buzz sound on the recordings.  Faster playing and more precise Mozart and playing...)

But, still nothing can move me as much as the masters of the past (generally speaking. I'm not saying there is no exceptions).  Nothing can describe the beauty of their golden sound, multiple glissando slides etc  I am willing to hear more scratches by stubburn gut strings and bad recordings to hear this sound. Yet, they didn't do in purpose to sratch slightly more...  The equipment was different and, perhaps, it was more acceptable to take more risks publically. Isn't it Ricci who told that the difference between the past and nowadays was "risk"?  Yet, players of today have plenty of "guts". But how can they take risks (which means having more chances to make a few buzz sounds or accuracy mistake) when they know they are millions of players just as good competing for the same place???  Today's style is also a survival one.  If one would play too much "old style" in competitons and auditions, it could be dangerous (you think they would tolerate glissandos per example?)!    But super precision and scratch avoidance because of today's standards can lighten the playing very much.  It's not less nice, it's a different beauty and some might like one over the other since music is a matter of taste.)

Also, the teaching have changed drastically! 




But, talented players are to be found in every era even though people have their own tastes for a sound type or what was in style in a specific era.  So I don't think it's fair to tell that people who love sounds of the past don't aknowledge talent and accuracy of today or some specific performances.   Some people like long hair and others like short hair. Why???  This is life! We do not all like the same hairstyles (lol)  But beautiful people are to be found with long and short hair...  Just a little analogy...




Interesting discussion,


August 11, 2010 at 07:42 PM ·

Emily, very well said!!!

August 11, 2010 at 07:51 PM ·

 Yes, well-said to you Anne Marie!

August 11, 2010 at 08:13 PM ·

Thanks Michael. You expressed your opinion very well too! 

Also, some people like old James Bond movies, Elvis Presley, cupcakes and crustless sandwiches (mmmmm....) etc.  We call these people "Kitch" or retro etc. 

While the people who love violin old masters might not at all be kitch or retro in their lives, they might be Kitch or retro for violin playing tastes!  Might be as simple as this.


August 11, 2010 at 08:18 PM ·

Anne-Marie,have you heard Oistrach live? I guess not... I must tell you that his discography is way under what this artist could do on the concert stage. It was completely different... Not one of his recording can match what I heard live...That is the reason why I do not trust recordings and spoke about famous collegues of Heifetz who did not consider him as being the greatest in his extensive performance days...Recordings do not always give a fair idea of the real thing. Flesh commented in his "Mémoires" that Heifetz sounded better canned than live. Now I do not want to start again a discusiion on Heifetz for whom I have the greatest respect.

Of course Anne-Marie,I am deeply moved by Heifetz and so many others of the last golden era. But style does evolve...Oistrach did not use at the end of his life the same style he displayed during the 30's and 40's... He was I believe changing his views and opening new avenues for the next upcoming generation. I heard the last concerts with Richter, and his Brahms or Beethoven interpretations were deeper,pure and performed without any affectation. And I believe that many of our wonderful violinists today have followed his steps.

Ehnes and Hadelich are able to play with combined styles of today and yesterday, slides done with taste, shades of bowings and effective vibrato. Just listen to Ehnes on DVD playing the Fulton collection or go right away to the website of Hadelich... And what about Mutter...She is as accurate than Heifetz and has a very sensuous sound. Hilary Hahn plays with the purity of Milstein... Really, something outstanding is happening, right now!!!

August 11, 2010 at 08:37 PM ·

Perhaps my ears like old masters "canned" sound then!  I can just imagine how great it must have been live... 

I know there are some similar players nowadays. (this is why I told "generally speaking" for my preference for old recordings.  This means that I have heard some that I like as much!)

The first player I heard live was Repin and I have always loved his sound since. As an example,  I love many of Bron's pupils even if I am a fan of old recordings "generally speaking"! 

I think no one can be totally all white or black even with personal tastes and preferences.

Happy that you share you concert attending experiences!


I noticed what you told about Oistrakh. I think Ida Haendel and Milstein did too.  I have always seen this as "great masters are so good that they improve all their lives". They do not have a peak and decline after while getting older.  

August 11, 2010 at 09:11 PM ·

 Milstein always played in the old russian style until the very last concert... But he was amazing... Ida Haendel was not always constant... but she could play very well and was very touching...Taste evolves as you get older... if not, then,there is a serious problem... Thanks for sharing your thoughts Anne-Marie and everyone... But Kreisler will always break a piece of my heart...

August 11, 2010 at 11:00 PM ·

 I think one of the reasons I'm drawn to modern players is the fact that I actually have the opportunity to see them in concert.  It's exciting for me to see what their next album will be, whereas with the old masters, their catalogs are complete.  I guess I can relate to them more because they are modern people, just as I am a modern person.  Not modern playing, but simply we live in the same era.

August 11, 2010 at 11:37 PM ·

Michael: I like the way you think..

August 12, 2010 at 03:26 AM ·


August 12, 2010 at 06:02 AM ·

I guess I can relate to them more because they are modern people, just as I am a modern person.

Two cents worth from a silver-haired oldster.

OK, Michael, so the golden age really is RIGHT NOW. You make me feel that I grew up in the BRONZE age !

Seriously, whenever I happen to hear Vengerov, Mutter, Hahn etc. etc. I am truly amazed. What's hard for me to comprehend is why so many high-brow types were and are reluctant to pay credit where due. For example, they were apt to sneer at, for example, The Amadeus, Alban Berg, Emerson and other great quartets simply because they play/played relatively cleanly, setting new standards of rhythmic and intonational precision. 

Folk wallowing in nostalgia for bygone eras are apt to discount the down-sides: - plague, pestilence, TB, cholera, high infant mortality rates, grinding and widespread povery, etc. etc. Isn't there a danger that a similar selective amnesia can apply to violinists ?

Alas, advancing years are apt to make us senior folk less impressionable than we were in our youth. The new golden age could so easily pass us by, along with text-messaging, twittering and all the other new-fangled fads. The baby could be thrown out with the bath-water..........

August 12, 2010 at 12:20 PM ·

 I guess I meant I am more apt to listen to modern players because their styles, tastes, and whatever else evolves and I get a chance to be a part of the evolution of the violin..... 

August 12, 2010 at 02:56 PM ·

 @ Marc - "But his schedules concert were absolutely wild and he gave so much concert in New-York, that he had each season to rent an apartment in order to fulfill all of his engagements."

I don't know little details like that; I'm not an expert on the typical lifestyle of a touring artist of that era by any means, so what I said could very well be wrong. But, huge repertoire notwithstanding, do you know if Kreisler toured in as many geographic areas in such a short period of time as, say, Ehnes or Hahn or Bell or Shaham or Yo Yo Ma do today? It's one thing to have to rent an apartment in New York for a long period of time to play many concerts there, and another thing to be ping-ponging across the world during that time, oftentimes visiting dozens of smaller cities, doing concertos in each place, like our current crop of soloists is doing. I would think it would have been impossible for Kreisler et al to do as many concerts in such a huge geographic area because of lack of jet travel - but I can't say for sure. And do keep in mind I'm not saying that Kreisler was lazy or didn't care about outreach - my last post almost implied that, and that's not the impression I want to give, at all. I love Kreisler; I love Kreisler with all my heart, and I know he worked his tail end off for his art, and I think we can learn so much from him. He is one of my heroes. I'm just trying to picture him and his aesthetic and his charm and what made him him in the demands of a fast modern world, and failing. That's the main point I was trying to make, that we are all products of our time, and to assume that modern players somehow lack the heart or soul that the Old Guys (and I use that term with all the respect in the world) had just because they were born into this jet-setting world and don't compose...well I *know* that's not true. I've seen these guys in person and met these guys in person and seen them play in-person. Excitement and intelligence radiate out of their very pores. They have just as much passion as the Old Guys, they just tend to express that passion in different ways than the Old Guys did - by traveling more, and traveling to smaller cities, and doing fundraising, etc. They are just as special as the Old Guys, just in different ways. Which you, Marc, understand, but I feel like some other posters on this thread feel differently, and I want to try to play devil's advocate for them, and hopefully help them understand the other side of the argument. As you can obviously see, it's a touchy subject for me, seeing the great passion of contemporary instrumentalists disdained because they generally don't compose like Kreisler's generation. I just can't imagine going up to someone as hard-working and obscenely talented as Ehnes or Midori or the Amelia Piano Trio or the Miro Quartet, all of whom I've had the tremendous fortune to meet or see perform, and telling them they're falling short of what their predecessors did. Because they’re fantastic torchbearers, and they're lighting the flame for the generation after us. We're so lucky to have them in our musical lives.
As an aside, I think it would be absolutely fascinating for some musicology student to write an essay comparing the typical repertoire and touring schedules of the great instrumentalists of the past to our generation. I think we'd all learn a lot from that.

August 12, 2010 at 03:41 PM ·

Emily: I like reading your posts a lot. They are so interesting... I understood very well what you meant about Kreisler's era and todays player. Today, they have to travel fast and be evrywhere within a short period of time... But what is remarkable about Kreisler, is the amount of performances he was able to fulfill within a year. He gave more than 200 hundred concerts and recitals during two consecutive seasons and halls such as Carnegie were packed. They always had to arrange commodities on stage for the public...you will find out about this by reading the archives of the New-York times. I had to do all these researches the past 3 years because I have an upcoming project in 2012 concerning Kreisler. I discovered that Kreisler's repertoire was huge by reading all of his programs, and sometimes quite similar to the modern formula. He created many new modern works, played entire solo works in a single recital (Bach sonata,Biber,Ysaïe, Paganini caprices), played with the giants of the piano complete Beethoven or Brahms sonatas, and what is the most fascinating aspect, he was often the soloist with a great orchestra with a program including 3 great concerti of the repertoire the same night, not the easiest ones,including Tcahïkovski,Beethoven, Brahms, Vieutemps,Wieniawski, Elgar, Mendelssohn,Lalo Symphonie Espagnole, all Bruch concerti and the Scottish Fantaisy, Mozart, Bach, Paganini, Conus, and many others. Kreisler had not the opportunity to record the great repertoire,because from 1905 up to 1930,it was not possible to do so with technology. And during the 30's , Kreisler was at the close of his career... Kreisler's recording  career was also interrupted by two great wars, in which of one he served as an officer and was wounded. He and his wife were very much implied in charity. He sold millions of recordings with RCA and all the benfits were given to philantropic organizations in which he was personaly implicated...

Travelling was not comfortable during Kreisler's era...Trains,long boat trips,Zeppelin, car...

August 12, 2010 at 04:52 PM ·

 Anne-Marie,have you heard Oistrach live? 

Sorry, I am not Anne-Marie !

Circa 1966 I was a member of the Hallé orchestra. David Oistrakh followed a magisterial performance of the Brahms Concerto with an encore - the Andante from the Bach unaccompanied Sonata. This left a lasting impression because I had never before heard anything like it. The sound was huge, dark and pure. Matchless, I thought.

I have heard other similarly fine performances since. But that experience had the quality of a first love. As I grew older, I found I was less likely to be unconditionally bowled over by fine playing - appreciation became a matter of respect rather than unqualified adulation. Please tell me that this is normal !

Were I still young and impressionable, I am convinced that the players of today would leave me similarly flabbergasted.

August 12, 2010 at 05:30 PM ·

David...this is normal... The very first recordings I have heard were Polonaise Brillante by Wieniawski, as played by Heifetz and Tambourin chinois,Caprice Viennois ,played by Kreisler. I was 5 years old. Kreisler made the strongest impression on me and still today,with all of his best recordings reissued, I feel the same way. As I said, Kreisler's playing will always break a piece of my heart... But I can let it go when I listen to Ehnes,Hahn or Mutter. This happened several times,and a very strong reminescence of Kreisler emerged once,, while listening to Ehnes playing the Brahms sonata 3 in a recital. It was pure magic...

When you assist to a concert,these moments do occur and sometimes,we forget how to be in the specific mood to realize it... Being a true listener is not an easy thing when you idealize only one type of playing or interpretation, or one violinist in particular. You have to be open minded and awake. I know some people who will listen and listen over and over again recordings of Horowitz or Heifetz, and cannot appreciate Argerich, Pollini, Mutter, Kremer or Rachel Barton Pine giving a wonderful performance... That is what I mean about the inherent danger of recordings...

August 12, 2010 at 06:23 PM ·

John: No, we have not. Cerdan was also on board, the famous boxer and lover of Edith Piaf. Both instruments lost belonged to Neveu... A famous 1733 Stradivari and a Guadagnini. Thibault died in a plane crash a few years later, Kathlenn Ferrier and Dinu Lipatti died from cancer and leukemia... Ginette Neveu left a few recordings,the best being the ones made in Germany in 1938-39, just before the war. The recording sessions of 1946-1949 did not benefit of the best technology because of the rarity of the material in England, devastated by the war...As often quoted by Ruggerio Ricci, these recordings are not representative of Neveu's art. She sounded much better in the concert hall, live ,according to Ricci.

The gap will never be filled, because Neveu's playing is truly unique and she sounded totally different than any other violinist, live or dead. Menuhin was truly amazed by her playing. I have a tape at home of a broadcast about Neveu, and Menuhin is commenting. Oistrach to was very much impressed by the 15 years old girl at the Wieniawski competition. Evidence is displayed in Monsaigeon' s DVD about Oistrach,"Artist of the people". Enesco and Flesh were totally amazed by her musical abilities. Thibault said of her that she was the great "priestess" of the violin. She was not of the Auer school,tradition and style,but in lien direct with Eugene Ysaïe, featuring a kind of "impressionnist" playing. This art is lost for ever. But I can still apprecitae todays talents.

I have noticed that there is a lot of similitude in the rendition of Augustin Hadelich Chopin Nocturne and Neveu. Go on his website and make the comparaison...He even holds bow, the violin and his left hand in a very similar way,whithout any shoulder rest...  He can play Zapateado with great skill, or Shumann sonata with true understanding of the music.

No one can replace Neveu,but Hadelich has something very special...He was in his youth victim of a terrible accident and burned while living in Italy with his parents...

August 12, 2010 at 08:23 PM ·

I think that in the past more new works got into the repertoire through having the composer as soloist. A modern day example of a prominent soloist helping to put a new work into the repertoire would be the Hahn/Higdon collaboration, but this seems more the exception more than the rule. So I think that it's generally much more difficult for new works to get accepted into the repertoire as a result of the player & composer divergence. 

The nature of composing has changed over the last century; I personally think it takes longer to write an original work today. Composer outputs are smaller than in the past, and this can be explained by a move away from the tonal system even if we've brought some elements of it back into new works (in some countries at least). I'm talking about what's perceived to be at the forefront. Therefore the split into specialization is totally understandable and I don't think it's reasonable to see today's soloist as inferior to the past's if they are not writing fully-fledged concerti for themselves to play.

It could also be argued that the move away from a purer tonal system makes new work more difficult to assimilate on a first listening. For me music has become more interesting throughout the 20th century. I'm sure the soloists of today if they were going to write something would prefer to create music on the cutting edge as opposed to a pastiche of older styles. 

Composing today is altogether more complicated it seems to me; there are "official" aesthetics that have to be complied with in some parts of the world ie. "la musique contemporaine" dictates that only the last techniques invented are valid expression - those were invented a while ago now when they were avant garde. How would a French soloist deal with that. 

August 12, 2010 at 10:23 PM ·

On tourne en rond depuis Olivier Messian!!! I really have enough of what dictates contemporary exigences. I did wrote a symphony covering the impressionist, atonal and serial techniques and it works!!! I strongly believe that we are in a regression since almost 40 years concerning composition. The serialists of today are no longer the Schoenbergs of yesterday. Soloists are waiting for valuable works to be created...

No wonder we do not have any new symphonies performed nowadays...

August 13, 2010 at 05:40 AM ·

Isn't the "Classical" tradition of musical composition in a state of decay? Schoenberg, the Serialists and the avante-garde movement attempted life-support but failed to halt the progressive alienation of listeners and performers. New "Highbrow" music headed nowhere; an escape into an even smaller room, it was observed. Enter "pop".

By contrast, the performing tradition is alive and kicking, thanks largely to the continued interest in the "Classical Greats". As Marc observed, listen with an open mind and thrills abound.

This thread has concerned itself with the "high end" of fiddling. But during my lifetime there's been a renaissance in the orchestral string-playing scene. Post WW2 filling the string chairs of symphony orchestras was difficult in the UK. There weren't enough players who could read, count, and work in an ensemble. I owe my professional career, such as it was, to this acute shortage. Nowadays, thanks to our specialist music schools, there will be over 100 SUITABLE applicants for each job. And the newcomers will perform beautifully from day one.

I looked on the internet and found to my astonishment that there's a label for me. I am a Post-Modernist composer ! en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Postmodern_music I fancy Nigel and Marc are tarred with a similar brush. Good luck to you both.

August 14, 2010 at 02:56 PM ·

I love reading this thread! Really!  There is just a tiny detail that can bug me.  When someone prefer something, that doesn't mean he or she "denigrates" or don't "aknowledge" the huge talent of something else.  I say someone and something because this is a general concept and doesn't just apply to the violin...  

Wheather someone is sold to the old or new generation doesn't mean this person is a "maniac" unable to appreciate and truly enjoy the huge talent of every violinist!  And, no, we shouldn't even put people in categories such as old or new generation but our whole life is build with categories of things:  nationalities of people, people with the same job, animal and plant species etc just to name a few example or how everything is classified.  Even art is classified. (otherwise, how do you would build a museum...)  But we out to see the good and bad in each category  even though we can prefer (generally speaking) some categories. 

I enjoy everyone's posts and views!  It's amazing to read.



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