Hassid or Heifetz???

March 29, 2016 at 05:39 PM · Fritz Kreisler had said that a violinist like Hassid is born every 200 years. Carl Flesch said that Hassid was "one of the strongest violin talents of his time." He died at such a young age of 27 because of a lobotomy that lead to an infection. Do you think Josef Hassid would have been better than Heifetz if he hadn't died at such a young age?

Replies (27)

March 29, 2016 at 06:44 PM · Basically an unanswerable question because the future is indeterminate; and what does "better than" mean in this context, anyway?

March 29, 2016 at 10:21 PM · Oops!

March 29, 2016 at 10:22 PM · Heifetz' teenage recordings are amazing. But Hassid shows an angelic charm reminding one of Kreisler or the young Menuhin. Would this have survived into adulthood? (His recordings were made at the age of 17)

March 30, 2016 at 01:52 AM · By "better than" I was simply asking if Hassid would have been a "better violinist" than Heifetz, if I wasn't clear enough. I don't see how it's unanswerable since I was only asking for your opinion......anyways, thanks for your reply Adrian.

March 30, 2016 at 02:05 AM · The answer is "no" because any suggestion that anyone could ever be better than Heifetz is met immediately with muffled gasps.

Another violinist who was on a meteoric career course but died at 33 (of lung cancer) was Julian Sitkovetsky.

March 30, 2016 at 03:24 AM · Not "better", certainly not in a technical sense, but different - and with his own voice more fully developed. The same Flesch said of Heifetz that no one had come more closely to reaching the absolute summit of violin playing. And Kreisler said of Heifetz to his colleagues "well gentleman, we might as well break our violins over our knees."

Had Mozart lived longer, would he have been "better" than Beethoven? These are unanswerable questions.

March 30, 2016 at 04:56 AM · Here are two links of Heifetz and Hassid playing the same song:



Give me your opinion of each recording, and which one you prefer over the other.


March 30, 2016 at 07:40 AM · I refuse to listen to old recordings so I cannot comment however, every time I hear Hilary Hahn I find it difficult to imagine anyone could have superior technique.

March 30, 2016 at 11:49 AM · It's interesting but very inconclusive to compare one short piece. You have to compare a body of work. I can also understand some people's reluctance to listen to really old recordings. But if you can get past the pops and cracks - and that person frying eggs in the background! - there are treasures to be mined.

As to the Hebrew Melody, both do a beautiful job. Hassid somehow tugs at my heart a little more - and he does so surprisingly by playing it at a faster tempo. But here is the tie breaker for me from that generation: Toscha Seidel, despite some unfortunate cuts - but still - https://youtu.be/VmGi4nWH-yc

I happen to be planning to include the Hebrew Melody in my next recital in June, so of course my favorite interpretation is - my own! ;-)

March 30, 2016 at 02:25 PM · I have to agree, Seidel is also my favourite for Hebrew Melody.

Usually, my favourite interpretation of a piece is a toss-up between Heifetz, Elman, Seidel or Kogan (Milstein is nice too!) :)

March 30, 2016 at 03:01 PM · BTW, George, is there a particular reason for your interest in Hassid and wanting to compare him to Heifetz?

March 30, 2016 at 04:50 PM · Raphael, thank you for your input in this discussion. I had a particular interest in Hassid because when I first heard his recordings, I noticed that his style of playing kind of reminded me of Heifetz, although he did not have his same technical level. I wanted to see if it was only me who saw this connection between the two.

March 30, 2016 at 05:04 PM · Oh, OK. Ida Haendel, another Flesch protege, said that there was some rivalry between them for a while and that initially she was not too impressed with his technique or slow vibrato. Well, both aspects must have improved enormously by the time he made this recording!

March 30, 2016 at 05:35 PM · Following up on Raphael's comments initially I was a little put off by the intensity of the "motorized vibrato" in Hassid's recording but I noticed variation toward the ends of phrases, etc. It's a good recording and interpretation although it's not my favorite piece. His "Meditation from Thais" is on YouTube too. Whilst looking at YouTubes that George recommended I also found Mischa Elman's version of the Hebrew Melody, that's very good too ... and slower. The Heifetz version seems a little dry to me. I often find Heifetz's versions of pieces rather dry, not sure, maybe that is just because of the lower dynamic range of the recordings. One place where I deeply admire Heifetz's style is in the Bach S&P.

March 30, 2016 at 06:12 PM · I too appreciate Heifetz Bach S&P (but not his double concerto!)

But I hear Hassid as technically equal to the young Heifetz.

Musically? To me Hassid loved beauty, Heifetz loved Heifetz. So do I, often.

March 30, 2016 at 06:34 PM · Paul, I do remember seeing a discussion in which one person said that Heifetz had his microphone very close to his violin for his recordings, which in my opinion caused some of his recordings to sound dry. That's just my two cents. BTW, for the Bach S&P I highly prefer Szeryng.

March 30, 2016 at 06:44 PM · I like Szeryng's S&P too. And others! Thank God we have 500 recordings of the Bach S&P to choose among. One of Heifetz's recordings that I do not like is his Franck Sonata. It's like he went into the studio and played it once through whilst reading a magazine.

March 30, 2016 at 09:22 PM · Heifetz dry? Well here is one of H's best early short pieces. It's the farthest thing from dry and your eyes won't be, either!


March 30, 2016 at 09:26 PM · or this...


March 30, 2016 at 09:32 PM · or this...


March 30, 2016 at 09:41 PM · Just discovered this!


start at 5:00

March 30, 2016 at 09:53 PM · or here...

start at 0:32


March 30, 2016 at 10:01 PM · and this...


March 30, 2016 at 10:09 PM · And finally, I'll leave you with this:


I have to go to the store; I've run out of tissues! ;-)

March 31, 2016 at 02:57 AM · Raphael, you have proven your point very well! =)

March 31, 2016 at 01:34 PM · I listened to the Lensky Aria. As I feared, it's an early Heifetz recording. The *playing* is definitely not dry. This is a super schmaltzy piece, the sort of piece where the slower sections have half as many glissandos as notes, and Heifetz does have a magic gliss. Unfortunately the recording has very little dynamic range, so overall it still sounds dry. The two Tchaikovsky pieces were much more successful, I enjoyed them a lot. First of all they are superior compositions and seemed better recorded. The Melodie was the better of the two. That's a good one to listen to for variations in vibrato texture. I think this is a really important part of the Heifetz mojo. The biggest disappointment was the absence of any left-hand pizzicato... Because I was not as familiar with the Serenade Melancolique, I listened also to Fischer, Kogan, Perlman, and Menuhin, and even one recording with flute, which was pretty cool. Kogan's recording is interesting, there are quite a few no-vibrato notes -- and his trills are awesome.

April 1, 2016 at 10:35 PM · Post lobotomy, not a chance! With more modern treatment, perhaps. But en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Ogdon gives an idea of the kind of thing that would most likely have transpired, i.e., a bit of a mixture.

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