Paganiniana Variations (Nathan Milstien)

April 15, 2004 at 03:40 PM · Anyone played this piece/have any advice doing it?

Replies (38)

April 15, 2004 at 11:56 PM · Greetings,

Sum, maybe just leave that one to the master....



April 16, 2004 at 09:29 AM · Like just milstien himself?

April 16, 2004 at 10:48 AM · Greetings,

Sum, have you seen the DVD of Milstein doing it. taht is just plain scary...



April 16, 2004 at 12:31 PM · it's a nice piece. if u manage to master the caprices and the 1st concerto where the extracts are taken from, u should have no problem with this piece.

have u heard Ysaye paganini variations? that's another nice thing in the same kind. =)

April 16, 2004 at 01:00 PM · I got his DVD. It was like the difficulties of all the 24 Carprices put into 1. Buri you are right, that's scary! I wouldn't dream of playing it.

April 16, 2004 at 02:56 PM · :) i have the DVD of him playing it too. Just makes it all the more challenging i suppose...

April 16, 2004 at 03:37 PM · I have played this piece. It is a difficult piece, but like any piece by Milstein, it is VERY violinistic. Basically, if you have good left hand and right hand articulation it is far from impossible (Yesaye sonatas are much harder). There are a few hard places there (first broken-chord variation, fourth trill variation, 7th variation, and a few passages at the very end), but other then that, it lies under the fingers very well.

As for advice, practice slowly with rhythms, go after the variations I mentioned first, and apply light left finger pressure when playing. Also, treat the piece like an etude (in essence, it is a very useful piece technically).

April 16, 2004 at 04:42 PM · I was thinking as much, it sounds so much like a daily warm up/ cool down study...

April 16, 2004 at 06:45 PM · "u manage to master the caprices "

well i guess its not for me then :)

April 17, 2004 at 12:10 AM · You should hear Anastasia Khitruk. I used to be on

April 17, 2004 at 03:07 AM · It is really not necessary to know all of the 24 Paganini caprices to be able to play Paganiniana (I only knew 7 when I played it). In the end, it all just comes down to the articualtion a person has in both of his hands.

April 17, 2004 at 11:19 AM · You should look at Anastasia Khitruk, and heard at her became secondary!

April 17, 2004 at 08:37 PM · Don't get what you mean Carlos...

April 17, 2004 at 10:46 PM · Go to

April 17, 2004 at 10:47 PM · no idea what that was supposed to mean either...

the only recordings on CD seem to be by milstein himself, accardo, Khitruk, and a violinist named Amir. I've only heard Khitruk's and it's pretty good

April 18, 2004 at 01:24 AM · I have steered away from this piece because it seems as though it belongs to Milstein. It's not a great piece, but he plays it so well it sounds like a great piece.

April 18, 2004 at 07:20 AM · Chris L. There are lots of other recordings. Most famous Kremer and most recent Shoji.

April 18, 2004 at 01:50 PM · Rici is also very good.

April 18, 2004 at 03:45 PM · Yes, but nobody as Milstein himself.

April 18, 2004 at 04:00 PM · There I agree, though a few versions I have heard do match milstien, if at a much lower level.

What is the technical difficulty say compared against the Scottish fantasy?

April 18, 2004 at 07:28 PM · not sure thats a very good comparison, i think its about on par with some of the harder caprices, of course it depends on the tempo you take. I spliced in the second variation to my paganini 24, dont tell anybody.

April 19, 2004 at 06:27 AM · The piece does have many many interesting sections, Particularly like the chordal variation...

April 20, 2004 at 08:01 PM · Ihave just borrowed the Milstein DVD from a friend. His Paganiniana is superb, as are the two or three caprices. However, my favurite is the Bach Chaconne, recorded in France in 1968 or thereabouts. There can be no doubt as to Milstein's wonderful technique and musicianship.

April 20, 2004 at 09:09 PM · Milstein is/was God on Earth. I always knew God was an Odessan Jew...:)

April 21, 2004 at 12:08 AM · Greetings,

does that mean aetheists are not allowed to listen to his recordings?



April 21, 2004 at 03:11 AM · No, god loves one and all... it is aetheists who choose not to listen to him...

Still waiting for my score though.

April 23, 2004 at 01:07 AM · Greetings all:

About 20 years ago I heard Milstein in one of his last recitals in Chicago’s Orchestra Hall and was astounded at the ambitious program he played. If memory serves me right he began with the Tartini Devil’s Trill Sonata followed up with a set of Schuman pieces. After intermission came the Saint-Saens Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, the Wieniawski Scherzo Tarantelle and his own Paganiniana. He didn’t play any encores – I wonder why?


April 23, 2004 at 05:13 AM · Well Ted, given that it was twenty years ago, circa 1984, he probably didn't play any encores since he was tired. The man was 80/81, give him a break. Even if Milstein was truly a "Deus" on earth.

April 24, 2004 at 01:03 AM · Ted,

I'm very curious to know how Milstein sounded in comparison to violinists of today, since I don't think videos and audio recordings really do the job in telling how people sounded especially in a hall when you're sitting way in the back. I know Milstein is known for not such a large tone but a tone that always carried beautifully to the last row. Is this true? Also, was the sound similar to people of today or was it much different?

April 24, 2004 at 11:46 AM · Dear Brian, April 24, 2004

When I heard Milstein the last time I was with another violinist my friend Marjorie. We sat on the main floor, about 20 rows from the stage on the right side. Milstein walked slowly to center stage with an air of utter confidence. The first piece was the Tartini Devils Trill which he played quite softly and cleanly. Every nuance was there and the audience was exceptionally quiet. Milstein’s tone was clear very mellow and it carried to where I was sitting very nicely. When he wanted to produce a steely edge he did so but only very rarely.

I cant remember how the Schuman pieces were played, however the second half was quite spectacular. Milstein did not have a loud violin, but his tone was clear as a bell and he seemed to hold to faster tempos for most of the rest of the program. The Rondo Capriccioso of Saint-Saens was crisp and clean with a few discreet slowdowns.

The Wieniawski Scherzo Tarantelle was done with a very fast and dynamic beginning but the cantelina second section and arpeggios were played with utmost delicacy. His attention to detail in softer passages was sensed by the audience and they listened carefully.

However, when Milstein ended this piece he showed his technical prowess and gave it all he had. In the 50s, I heard Heifetz do this same piece at a breakneck speed and much exaggeration and scooping and he nevertheless received a standing ovation.

Milstein’s Paganiniana was played with versatility in that speed was not essential and used only when called for. His confidence was there to the very end but he was visibly tired when taking his bows. He came out for bows only twice and we left thoroughly satisfied.

Professional violinists of today usually play with a lot more muscle and they want to overwhelm the audience. Milstein was a very discreet musician and he had a lyric sense which had many shades of nuance. His versatility was unbelievable – much more than Heifetz.

Audiences came to a Heifetz performance to be wowed and Heifetz duly responded. Milstein was much more humble, yet he played all the notes, all the dynamics, and added his own shadings in very subtle and delicate manner. His humanity and sense of fun showed on stage and he was revered by whole audience that night.


April 24, 2004 at 01:11 PM · Greetings,

Brian, I was sitting at the back of the hall for Milstein"s last concerto performance (the Beethoven) .

His b ow arm seemd to slash across the violin faster than any other violinst I ever saw, and yes the sound carried all the way to the back, again , as no other violinst I ever saw,



April 24, 2004 at 04:20 PM · Ted and Buri, thank you very much for sharing your experiences. How do you think Milstein's sound compare with that of Szeryng of Oistrakh in a live hall?

April 24, 2004 at 03:51 PM · I was happy to see him a lot for two weeks in 1976 in Zürich. I didn´t really know then who he was. He was 72 years old and I thought a man in his age had declined. He was not as wellknown as he deserved. My great idol at that time was DFO. After some days I had found my new star. I couldn´t resist his playing though I thought I would. I was surprised. He had someting very sound in his playing, in musicality and tecnique. I still get happy and inspired every time I hear his recordings. He had his own style. He didn´t follow others. In his playing he reached a climax in a way that isn´t common. Many players work with each tone from beginning of the piece to be aware nothing will get lost. Many are very good players but the musical structure get lost a bit in too much exaggerations, vibrato and seeking for virtuosity effects. Milstein had a cool style with paying much attention to give the music the right form and tempo and gave the listener a feeling of living fantasy at the concert. His use of the bow permitted him to give a quick attack and a stress on separate notes that is unusual for violinists. To explain it I would compare it with the way a pianist give certain notes great importance. He elaborated much with strict puls and different stressing. If anybody he had virtuosity but he always combined it with musicallity.

You can her a little video clip by this link:

I have this concert on an other DVD. The rest of the movement and especially the end part is even better. Nobody plays the end of Mendelssohn as he did.

I wish the noble taste of Milstein will be left among violinists.

April 24, 2004 at 07:18 PM · if you listen carefully on a lot of his recordings, especially the brahms i think you can get a pretty good idea of what his tone was like

January 24, 2008 at 03:45 AM · pretty technically astounding

January 24, 2008 at 04:45 AM · I have the DVD and I love it. Every note he plays is well articulated, and his sound is heavenly.

January 24, 2008 at 08:36 PM · Someone asked for a comparoson of Milstein, Oistrakh and Szeryng.

I found Milstein's sound to be very fluid and lithe. He could be heard but I always felt like I had to listen louder, rather like Fischer-Dieskau.

Oistrakh's sound was astonishingly large and loud and it literally filled the room rather like a very complete voice does, ie Sutherland or Pavarotti, the sound was wall to wall.

Szeryng's sound by comparison to the other two struck me as brusque but only in comparison. It was a warm substantive sound but without the gradations of nuance. I love his playing but to me he plays a bit like a mathematics professor in comparison to Milstein. Everything is there but not the shades of nuance.

January 24, 2008 at 08:51 PM · Try to find Alena Baeva's Paganiniana from QE competition.

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