Michael Rabin

February 2, 2005 at 06:43 AM · I believe that Michael Rabin is the best violinist to ever have lived. What are your opinions?

Replies (100)

February 2, 2005 at 07:22 AM · Maybe this should have gone on the 'most accomplished violinist' thread.

There was an interesting article on Rabin in the Strad a year or two back. He was an utterly tragic figure who played the violin with ease. So many great or would-have-been-great musicians seem to die young - Neveu, Hassid, Kogan, Lipatti. The musical world had been deprived of a lot over the years.


February 2, 2005 at 03:29 PM · I know there are a number of people out there who think Rabin was among the greatest, if not the greatest. Unfortunately, we will never know because of his untimely death. As the previous poster said, there are a number of musicians like that. I think the greatest loss was probably cellist Emanuel Feuermann who died tragically at age 39 and was thought by many to be the greatest ever. I think his loss may have been even greater than some of the violinists.

February 2, 2005 at 03:28 PM · Rabin had the intensity of Heifetz but also had the sensitivity of Perlman - it's almost as if Rabin was the moderate between the right and left wing.

February 2, 2005 at 04:36 PM · The violinist I'd have loved to hear more of would have to be Josef Hassid. All the pieces he recorded are the best recordings of the those works, in my opinion. His tone, and especially his vibrato are unlike any other violinist I've ever heard.

February 2, 2005 at 05:14 PM · Carl, I wouldn't place Kogan on your list of might-have-beens. He had quite a good career, although perhaps he might have had a better one had he lived longer. He made many recordings, and those who listen to them tend to agree that he was one of the greats.

February 2, 2005 at 06:39 PM · Rabin was one of the greatest violinists, close to Heifetz' superlative playing. I think of him in the same bracket as Kogan and Yulian Sitkovetsky, because there are certain similarities in the playing of these three.

In technique he was very close to Kogan, though Kogan did have a slight edge (in my opinion) as a Soviet-trained player, specialising in spectacular virtuosics.

Rabin's playing was lush and sentimental, a perfect complement to Kogan's muscular playing. I understand that Heifetz respected Rabin's playing very much and that the young Rabin considered himself the best player in the world.

My own assessment of the quality of violin playing of the greats is as follows (accepting that each had his particular strengths):

1. Heifetz

2. Kogan

3. Rabin and Yulian Sitkovetsky

5. Oistrakh and Milstein

February 2, 2005 at 07:23 PM · Amy,

Very true. The list was not so much a 'might-have-beens' list as a 'a-shame-they-died-before-their-time' list - Ginette Neveu and Dinu Lipatti I would certainly rank as some of the greatest performing musicians of the last century, and I think both had realised their potential.

While it's true Kogan did record a fair amount, some gaps in his recorded repertoire might have been filled had he lived longer (if only he had been persuaded to perform/record the Sibelius!).


February 2, 2005 at 08:46 PM · My reason of starting this thread was to honor Michael Rabin. I feel that he sometimes too underated.

February 3, 2005 at 08:05 PM · rabin is my favorite violin player of all time, tied for first place with kogan and oistrakh

February 3, 2005 at 08:38 PM · Must we waste our precious stars on ill considered demotions? Carl, you're remoted though not necessarily remote.

February 3, 2005 at 08:42 PM · "Carl, you're remoted though not necessarily remote."



February 3, 2005 at 08:48 PM · Carl -- must be some Canadian expression.

February 4, 2005 at 12:22 AM · Greetings,

what else is there to say after making love in a kayak?



February 4, 2005 at 09:06 AM · Kogan struggled hard for 20 years before achieving his level of mastery ( which some find a bit mechanical); Rabins'early teenage recordings are still high watermarks.

February 4, 2005 at 06:34 PM · Michael Rabin was blessed with the most natural technique (according to Jaime Laredo) and a hurricane of melancholic temperament (according to Nathan Milstein) and the last virtuoso violinist (according to Ruggiero Ricci), it was just the perfect synthesis of lush, tonal beauty, with the absolute most awesome technique ever recorded. No other violinists display Michael Rabin's ability to draw a listener into his performance. Almost everything is unique, very personal, and (expectedly) individual. Although Heifetz is generally regarded as the greatest violinist of the 20th century, Michael Rabin was fully equal to him in technical prowess and surpassed him in artistry. There are so many never published recordings that will prove one day these facts.

MICHAEL RABIN - The 20th century's greatest violinists !!!

February 4, 2005 at 06:19 PM · Isaac Stern spoke of Michael Rabin in May 1995 on France Musique.

“Rabin to me was the greatest American talent in 50 years. Extraordinary control of the violin and a rare musical perception. George Szell considered him beyond compare as the greatest violin talent he had encountered in thirty years. I heard him [Rabin] two years after his debut. His stage presence was tremendous. We are greatly unaware of the circumstances of his death. This was a great loss because there were very few like him. He was much more precocious than I. His teacher Ivan Galamian taught him a lot about sound production, vibrato and bow technique. He had an absolutely perfect intonation; he played into the string with the bow but also with his [left-hand] fingers. I had ever heard such perfection since Heifetz. His playing was thrilling, not remote. He was very famous very young, no doubt too quickly pushed in his career by his parents or by his teachers. That is why he encountered personal problems. He was not happy, but one did not sense that in his playing.”

February 4, 2005 at 10:08 PM · Important article to understand Michael Rabin from June 6, 1971 "The Rise, Fall and Rise of Rabin By BEATRICE BERG ":

When he was 27, the cockiness was cone. He had a nervous breakdown. Now he is 35 and slimmed down, and I am asking him about the crackup that has been gossiped about in the music world since 1963. He says: "I was lucky I came out of it. It was really just dumb luck that I somehow knew how to find people to help me, to talk to. The first doctor I went to an analyst - was right for me. I found him through an old family friend who is a lawyer. I only stopped playing concerts for seven months. The first year of therapy is the most difficult, so I thought it would be wise to stop playing for half a season and see what would happen., Even during the 1963-64 season I had 21 concerts, By 1965-66 I was back to a full load of 50 or 60, and have been ever since. I can't understand how people got the impression that I didn't play for three or four years. I was never in a straitjacket. I never went crazy. I was never in a mental institution. Could you believe it, after eight years I still hear about out-of-town symphony managers who say they've heard I was sick for such a long time that they want to wait a little longer before I play with their orchestras to be sure I'm okay? How long do you have to go on playing for not feeling well?" For a while he gazed silently at the Hudson River and New Jersey through the wall-to-wall windows of his studio apartment in the vast complex of buildings west or Lincoln Center. Then like started to talk again about grappling with the emotional and musical problems of his post-prodigy days. "It was a difficult and sad time. I call it my Blue Period."

He now seems to be in his Rose Period. "I'm functioning better than ever. I feel today that as a musician and as a person I'm starting another period of growth. I'm getting the kind of kick out of music that I never did before. I want to go on stage and try to convey to the people my feelings through music. I want to try to give them the joy I'm getting from music." And audiences and critics are responding to his brilliance as they did when he first burst into prominence. Reviewing his New York recital last February, The Times's critic spoke of it as "a performance that glittered all the way through."

An auspicious time, then, for "the people"-and especially trade unionists-to feel the joy of music as purveyed by Rabin, who will be one of four soloists and three conductors participating in the precedent-breaking venture called "Experience in Music." This is a nine-concert series (people-priced at $6 for two concerts plus a guided tour of Lincoln Center)

As a cooperative venture of the Philharmonic Society and the New York City Central Labor Council AFL-CIO, the series marks the first time the two organizations have joined to bring orchestral concerts to communities and union halls.

With Aaron Copland conducting, Rabin will play the Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1 in the first of the programs on Thursday, June 17, in a community center at Co-Op City, a mass of apartment towers rising like obelisks in the Bronx flatlands on and beyond the former site of Freedom land, the amusement park where the only music heard in the past was the oom-pah-pah of calliopes. On June 18 this program will be repeated at the Electric Industries Center in Queens, and on June 23-for people who want to hear the music on its home grounds-at Philharmonic Hall.

Rabin says. "It's going to be fun taking music to the neighborhoods. It gives the orchestra, the conductors and the soloists the feeling that besides just making music, we are perhaps also developing a future audience. I'm a natural to be in the project the first week. I'm a New Yorker and a Philharmonic baby. I used to play in the sandboxes in Riverside Park and ride my bike on Riverside Drive. My father, George Rabin, who is also a born New Yorker, was a violinist in the orchestra for 43 years. These will be my 82nd, 83rd and 84th appearances with the Philharmonic. With an orchestra like that, good God, it's such a pleasure!"

The Philharmonic baby remembers that when he finished his debut performance of the Paganini First in 1951 and the applause came thundering in, he took his bow and turned to shake hands with the conductor. "But Mitropoulos ran off the podium to the third stand of the first violins where my father was sitting and he made him stand up and he shook my father's hand. Mitropoulos was a beautiful person. He was my god."

To Rabin, the most astonishing thing about having been a child prodigy is that he managed to survive it. "In the prodigy years, the eyes aren't open because everyone else sees for you. In hindsight I can say it was a horrible time to go through. But when I was going through it, It was a ball. Everyone coddled me. I was spoiled rotten.

"When you're no longer a child prodigy, you continue on because you're expected to. But then you have to shape up or ship out. In the years, say, from 16 to 26, everyone in the music field starts to pull you apart. They say 'He's not a mature artist. He plays fast and loud and Paganini all the time and he's too young to play Beethoven and Brahms.' In your mid-twenties you do play Beethoven and Brahms and some people say 'Better he should play Paganini.' There comes a point where your thoughts and soul and heart have to develop to the next stage. You're becoming a man and you're thinking about finishing high school and being called down for the army physical. And you get an awareness of the Internal Revenue department," he said with a rueful laugh. "For me the big change came when I was around 18. I started to question my teacher."

Since Michael was 9 years old his teacher has been, and still is, the legendary Ivan Galamian of Juilliard, whose pupils include many of the most illustrious violin virtuosi playing today. "Galamian would say, 'I think you should do it this way,' and I'd say 'Why?'

I have four private students now and they question me in the same way. It's a very difficult time in life whether one is a performer or not. Every kid at that age wants to run away, quit school, rebel and yell and scream."

Michael didn't yell and scream, but he did develop a nervous stomach and a morbid fear about falling off the edge of the stage. He began withdrawing from people. "You think that perhaps people don't like you, and you become a semi-recluse. When you start to have problems like that, people don't want to know you, and this increases the loneliness." The psychiatric diagnosis was "disassociative reaction." I think that means you become so preoccupied with your new and incorrect reactions that you actually disassociate yourself from what's real. You get to the point where you either have to do something about it or quit the human race."

Michael opted for staying with the human race. "I don't know win there's all this hush about people admitting they're seeing an analyst or a therapist. When you finally decide to go into therapy I think it's reason to celebrate, not to whisper about, You fall down and break your arm. You go to a doctor to have the bone set, right? Okay, you fall over an emotional problem and you have an emotional wound. You go to a doctor to have that set In addition to bandaging Michael's psychic wounds, his doctor bandaged his nervous stomach wounds with a drug called "Milpath," a specific for "the beginning of an ulcer." This led to several newspaper articles which used the dread phrases "drug addiction" and "accidental overdose." "I remember being absolutely wild when I read that. I called my lawyer and asked if I could sue, because they completely misrepresented what I said, but he advised me not to. What's the expression when you have a drug problem having 'a monkey on your back'? The drug problem isn't the monkey on my back. It's the people who still like to talk about it. The only drug in this house is Excedrin for the number 12 headache."

The all-too-obvious question for a former child prodigy-especially a Jewish child prodigy-is what role his mother played In his rise, fall and rise. To this Rabin's answer is: "The idea that if you're not well emotionally, you must hate your mother, has been overdone to the point where it's a not very intelligent joke. I realize that my mother created problems for me that she was unaware of. So did my father and my older sister. But I created problems for them. When I started to play the violin at the age of 8, my father was in the Philharmonic. They didn't earn the kind of money they do today, and my parents gave up a lot for me. Jewish mothers-not only of sons, but of Jewish princesses are a special breed. They will kill themselves for their children. I don't have to go through the 'Portnoy's Complaint' thing. Philip Roth said it better than I can. But I can tell you very simply and honestly that if it hadn't been for my Jewish mother, with her pushing and cajoling and her knowledge of music, I wouldn't be a concert violinist today because I'm not as aggressive as she is. She's a pianist and a Juilliard graduate, and she taught there and played concerts, and in our house there was music from the day I was born. When I was learning repertory as a child she would play the concertos with me, so when I started to rehearse with symphony orchestras I already knew what was going on."

I reminded him of an enthusiastic New York limes notice of his recital debut at Carnegie Hall on Nov. 24, 1950, a year before he soloed with the Philharmonic. The review ended with this caution: "... it is to be hoped that he will not be rushed into a concert career at the expense of his natural growth into artistry." Michael said unequivocally, "My parents did push me to practice but they never pushed me to play concerts too soon. Needless to say, before my therapy it was convenient to blame everything on my parents. But as a result of therapy, I see my emotional hang-ups and strengths in a much healthier light. I'm closer than ever to my parents and I have a real, true friendship with my sister. She used to he jealous because my mother looked after me more. I was jealous because she could go to school like normal kids - I had a tutor for the last two years of high school. We used to fight about petty nothings, but now I can talk to her about anything, and I feel more free with her - as well as with almost everyone else - than I ever did before."

For Rabin, music is inextricably tied up with his feelings and what he describes as "awareness of one's reactions to people and even to inanimate objects." He said,“ To me, the violin is a singing, vocal instrument and music is basically an emotional experience. For example, I've played in Finland four times, and the last time in the dead of winter. The harbor was frozen over and the weather was gray and overcast. The Sibelius Violin Concerto starts with the strings tremolo and the violin has the first theme. It's a long and very dry theme. Suddenly, from my hotel room, I saw this vast, icy emptiness. And I realized, it's right there in the music!

"Look at those tall apartments across the Hudson." He pointed with his long violinist's fingers. "They weren't there when I moved here in 1963. I watched them blast out the earth and trucks came and carried the earth away. I found that a very emotional thing. You can *hear it in the Beethoven Quartets-how the earth is being eaten up by the stupidity of the people living on it. I hear that sometimes in the music of Prokofiev and the Russians who killed themselves, like Tchaikovsky and Borodin."

We're getting morose again. Then Rabin says, "To me, music is .a whole way of life. I feel very privileged that I'm a musician, and I believe a good one. Most people I know aren't doing what they want to do. I can't think of anything I'd rather do than be a musician. To take it even a step more beautifully, I can't think of any Instrument I'd rather play than the violin."

We're upbeat again, so I ask him about love and marriage and whether he has a girl friend. 'Too many," he says. "I could get married tonight if I wanted to, but I'm still square or romantic enough to wait to meet the girl I'll get bopped on the head by. I hope it'll happen."

Inevitably, we got back to music, and Rabin said, 'The thing I'm sorriest about today is that I'm not recording now. It's a shame, because I've hit a certain peak. I recorded for six years, between the ages of 19 and 25. I often say with bitterness that when I die at 70, they'll bring out these old Angel and Capitol records 'in memoriam.'

February 4, 2005 at 11:11 PM · Hey Mike thanks for all the great info on Rabin!!

February 5, 2005 at 05:21 AM · Michael, how interesting... Thank you for this information and take these stars from me:)

February 5, 2005 at 05:29 AM · and me

February 5, 2005 at 02:17 PM · Mike I would of gave you a star, but for some reason I don't receive any stars to give out.

February 5, 2005 at 10:44 PM · 15 Year Old VIOLIN GENIUS: OCTOBER, 1951

FIFTEEN-YEAR-OLD Michael Rabin is "a genius violinist," says Mitropoulos, conductor of the N.Y. Philharmonic! And George Szell, conductor of the Cleveland Symphony calls him "the greatest violin talent that has come to my attention during the past two or three decades." But what is this boy, who made such a nationwide impression, on the Telephone Hour last year, really like? Let us meet him for ourselves. At 7:30 sharp on an August morning the door of the large apartment house at 905 West End Avenue, New York City opened and a boy wheeled out a shiny new bicycle. His dark eyes sparkled. with excitement as he carefully wiped a small spot from the gleaming surface of his treasure. Then mounting to its seat, he rode gaily down the street, his jet black hair blowing in the breeze, his sturdy figure erect, his feet pedaling vigorously. A man coming out of an apartment a few doors down hailed the youngster. "That was a wonderful program you played last night on the Telephone Hour, Michael. If you keep on you're going to be another Heifetz." The boy laughed. "Thank you, sir, but I guess I'll have to go a long way before I'm that good. Say, what do you think of my new bicycle? Isn't it a dandy? I couldn't wait to get out on it this morning."

As he continued down the street, the man shook his head. Here was a boy who had played on the famous Telephone Hour radio program. Musicians all over New York were talking of his great talent. And what was the boy thrilled about? The praise? No — his new bicycle! "Just a normal kid, in spite of his talent," decided the man. And he was right. For Michael Rabin is a completely normal boy, interested in all the things most boys are — stamp collecting and swimming, for instance. Michael inherits his musical talent from both his parents. His father is a violinist with the N.Y. Philharmonic and his mother is a former pianist who gave up her own career to further that of her son. When Michael was seven, he began to study piano with his mother. Then one day while he and his father were visiting a doctor friend, the boy spotted a small violin.

What makes a great artist? His inborn talent of course, his perseverance and his teacher. In the background of all important artists you will find a teacher who both recognized the talent and knew how to develop it. Teachers are the unsung heroes of music, for without them few musicians would ever have attained renown. Ivan Galamian, who teaches at Juillard School of Music in New York, is the teacher who is guiding young Michael Rabin into the corridors of fame.

From that moment the father had no rest until he consented to the son's pleadings that he teaches him to play. After a few months of study, Michael was turned over to Ivan Galamian, a noted violin teacher. When he was eleven, Michael made his first appearance — at a pupil recital. The next year he was soloist with the symphony orchestra of Providence, Rhode Island, and since then he has played with many orchestras in many cities. Everywhere people were astonished at his ability and critics gave him high praise.

Although Michael Rabin laughed when his neighbour said he would soon be a Heifetz, he would like to take on the great violinist — not in a violin contest but in a ping pong match! For Michael, like all good violinists, is good at table tennis, and can think of nothing more exciting than beating Heifetz, the champion of violinist-ping pong players. Until that rosy day, he has one more ambition. "I wish I were eighteen," he says, "and could get my driver's license."

Michael has promised to play a number especially for you on his Telephone Hour program of October 22nd. He has chosen the first movement from Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto, which he is sure you will enjoy. Your teacher will tell you your local station and time. When you hear Michael Rabin play this great composition on the Telephone Hour, you will understand why many violinists still dare not attempt to play it. Listen for the rapid descending up their own cadenzas. Although this practice was often successful, most composers since 1800 have preferred to write their own cadenzas.

February 5, 2005 at 10:47 PM · A concert in the clouds

October, 1955

"I shall always remember October 23, 1952 as one of the high points of my musical career—if not of my lifetime. That was the day I played my violin in an airplane more than 20,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean.

I had been in Australia for five months, giving about fifty concerts. The people were wonderful—so anxious to hear good music and so friendly. Most of the concerts were scheduled for the larger cities. I soon found out that the smallest of the continents can still be a pretty big place. Actually, Australia is just about the size of the United States. And travelling from concert to concert meant flying 400 to 500 miles between cities.

The major cities of Australia are scattered around the seacoast. The interior of the continent is pretty wild country—high, dry and generally flat, much like parts of our own Southwest.

What we call "ranches," the Australians call "stations." Some of these are quite large. I saw one of them that was more than 17,000 acres! No wonder many ranchers "down-under" fly their own planes!

I was surprised to find that the Australians have no concert halls, such as are found in our major American and European cities. Instead, concerts are given in the Town Halls.

So it was that on this October day, after five wonderful months of concerts, I was preparing to return home. As I stepped from the airline car at the Sydney airport, I caught my first glimpse of the Pan American Stratocruiser that was to carry me home. What a thrill it was to see that beautiful airplane of gleaming silvery metal! I have always loved airplanes and flying, but this was my first experience with the giant four-engined Boeing Stratocruiser.

The plane is so large that when it is at rest on the ground, the vertical stabilizer stands as high in the air as a three-story building! It proudly flies the American flag. The cabin is roomier and more comfortable than I had ever dreamed any airplane could be. Our seats were on the upper deck. And there was a lounge deck below where refreshments were to be served in flight. When we were all checked aboard and comfortably seated, signs lighted up in the forward part of the cabin. "Please fasten seat belts," they said. And as we obeyed, the airplane began to come alive with the noises that meant preparations for flight.

Generators and other equipment started to hum and whine. In a few moments the great engines began to bark, one by one. Through my window I could see the blades of the giant propellers beginning to turn. Slowly the Stratocruiser moved down the taxi strip and into position at the end of the runway, ready for the takeoff. We paused there while each engine was individually run at full power for a final check. Then, after an instant's hush, all four engines thundered together.

Faster we roared down the runway. Suddenly the ground began to fall away. We were air-borne! In a moment we were over the ocean, climbing on course, on the first leg of our trip back to the United States.

I had been sitting idly for some time, looking out the window at the blue Pacific some four miles below and wishing I could go forward to see the flight deck where the crew was located. All at once the stewardess appeared at my elbow. She smiled and said, "Mr. Rabin, the Captain wants to know if you would like to come forward and see the flight deck?" As I started to get up, she pointed to my violin which I had placed on the seat next to mine. "Would you bring your violin?" she added. "You'll find the Captain is a music lover." There were five men on the flight deck—the pilot, co-pilot, the navigator, flight engineer and radio operator. Each of them was surrounded by the many dials, switches, levers and gauges that are the "tools" of his profession. Yet there was plenty of room for a visitor like myself to walk around without getting in their way. Their friendly smiles made me feel welcome. As the stewardess led me forward to the pilots' stations, I saw that the nose of the plane was almost entirely made up of transparent plexiglas. Through this the pilots had a view that was unlimited in practically all directions.

The stewardess introduced me to the Captain, or first pilot. After he had signaled to the co-pilot to take over, we shook hands. He told me that flying and music were the two great interests of his life.

"Would you do me a great favor and play for us?" he asked. "Let's go back to the cabin. How about the Bach Chaconne?" Of course I was delighted to play for the Captain. And that is how I happened to be playing my violin in an airplane more than four miles above the Pacific Ocean on October 23, 1952. What a thrill it was!

I never dreamed such a thing would happen to me when I began to study music as a small boy. I started on the piano and had no idea that one day I would be touring the world as a concert violinist.

But my travels arc only a part of the story. Here at home in New York I study with my teacher, Mr. Ivan Galamian, just as you study with yours. Under his direction I practice four to five hours every day and I do everything I can to become a better musician.

For music has been good to me and has given me many wonderful things. I would be ungrateful if I did not give it the very best that is in me in return.

WHO has not at some time wished to fly, to soar, to be as free as a bird? Even before airplanes were thought of, many people must have felt that way.

Today airplane travel is commonplace. It's as simple as taking a local train. Yet the first flight is always an unbelievable thrill. It brings a feeling of conquest and a freedom from earthly cares.

To an artist this emotion is very familiar, for it is close to how he feels when he expresses himself. This is true regardless of the form he chooses for his expression—painting, writing, composing or performing music.

Perhaps that is why Michael Rabin wanted to play On Wings of Song for you. At nineteen, Michael is a veteran air traveller and is the proud possessor of a plaque certifying that he has flown over 100,000 miles. Yet he never fails to be thrilled when his plane takes off.

The German poet Heine experienced this tingling feeling when he wrote his poem describing his emotions as a young man in love. And Mendelssohn shared it when he composed his lovely melody on the words of the poem. So happy was Heine that he would like to take his beloved "on wings of song" to "a beautiful spot by the Ganges." There in the moonlight, in a garden of lotus flowers and violets and roses, they will rest under a palm tree. There they will dream happy dreams.

The poem itself is romantic and full of color. And Mendelssohn gave it a melody which brought to it an unbelievable beauty. In this arrangement for violin and piano which Michael Rabin plays, you will experience all the feelings of the poem without knowing the actual words.

This composition was first written as a song—and it is one of the most beautiful of all songs. It has been sung a great deal. Michael plays a transcription of the song, because he plays it on the violin. A transcription is a piece of music written for voice or instruments but rewritten to be played by other instruments or to be sung. All instrumentalists who play this transcription should try to "sing" on their instruments as if they were truly "on wings of song."

February 6, 2005 at 02:30 PM · Very interesting articles, thank you!

On a side note is it true that all good violinists are also good in ping pong? I never heard of that. Should we all start taking ping pong lessons or it comes naturally when you practice the violin enough? :)

May 23, 2005 at 06:07 PM · Fascinating discussion of Michael Rabin. I really didn't know that much about him. However, I know a violinist who knew Rabin when he was younger and who thinks that Rabin was inconsistent and not that great a violinist in the most exalted parts of the repertoire. However, when I was in college I heard Rabin play with the Philadelphia Orchestra at the Dell. I think he was about 20 or 21 (maybe a year older). He played the Paganini 1st concerto, and it was so spectacularly better than his own recording and anyone else's I've ever heard, that the particular way he played certain passages are still with me, even after all these years. He was, I think, an incredible talent, and it is a tragedy that he did not get to have a second half to his career.

May 25, 2005 at 07:59 PM · Everyone here should obtain his box set on EMI. Among my many favorites from the set-- his second recording of St Saens Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso (phrasing and the trills) and Sarasate Zigeunerwiesen (high drama).

If not, then a single CD titled "Mosaics". Some of the most amazing playing ever recorded-- Chopin Nocture (beautiful tone and lyrical double-stops), Scriabin Etude (just crazy playing), Engel Sea Shell (where he demonstrates the greatest violin trills ever recorded), Elgar La Capricieuse (the best upbow staccato) and more.

May 25, 2005 at 09:05 PM · That is an absolute killer box set...trouble is, it's out of print. The last set listed on Amazon went for 595.00. Yes, that's right, 99.00 per disc for a 6-disc set. I think one might have sold on ebay recently for "only" four hundred or so. It's really good, but, sheesh...

May 25, 2005 at 11:22 PM · I didn't know that about Rabin's recordings. That's absolutely disgraceful that they are out of print considering what else is out there being marketed. Same could be said about many Friedman recordings that are not in print..

May 26, 2005 at 03:26 AM · I have the Rabin 6-CD set. Great Bruch Scottish Fantasy; what a luscious tone! His solo Bach (C Major Sonata) is wonderous...

May 26, 2005 at 04:23 AM · Yeah that collection is great. I particularly like the caprices, Wienwiawski 1st concerto, Glazunov concerto, and the Bach. He had the best trills and staccato I've ever heard.

May 26, 2005 at 06:08 PM · If the recordings are going for that much, then why don't they do another release of it?

May 26, 2005 at 06:30 PM · who knows? luckily, i was able to borrow the collection from a friend geez it's amazing!

another collection that should be rereleased is the heifetz collection.

May 26, 2005 at 06:44 PM · David -- Naxos Historical has rereleased the Heifetz Collection at bargain prices.

May 26, 2005 at 06:41 PM · I'm guessing that the usual reason for not re-printing is that it sold too slowly the first time. I think this set has already had two separate releases. Dealers in used recordings should be having a field day with this one. Apparently the guy I acquired my copy from this year (for 45 dollars) did not know the present market for this item--it made my day, needless to say!

BTW, the more I listen to it the more impressed I am with this man's playing. Too bad there's no duo sonata material here, only unaccompanied sonatas, "concertpieces" and concertos. I've got to get some more of his recordings.

May 27, 2005 at 12:13 PM · Hi,

The reasons for not re-releasing is the 50 year copyright law. All the recordings released by Naxos are not from the Heifetz collection. They are from the original 78's albums for which the 50 year gap has expired. Once the 50 year gap from the original issue date has expired, the recording becomes public domain, hence the Naxos re-issues.

EMI could put out the Rabin collection again. Why they don't do it is only for them to know.


May 27, 2005 at 04:06 PM · Was his death accidental?

May 27, 2005 at 04:15 PM · The way i understand it is he was a perfectionist and his kitchen floor was no exception so of course he had to have it massively waxed, one day he slipped and his head either hit a table or a chair or something like that and had a concussion and that what killed him

I think i remember someone saying if he was not alone at the time he could have been saved

I also remeber reading they found barbituates in his system which probably had something to do with him loosing his balance

Sad story

May 28, 2005 at 02:53 AM · I heard that if you were in the same room with him while he was playing, the overtones would literally start to hurt your ears. He was that intune!

I think he's a fantastic violinist. He definitely had a very beautiful sound- one that was truly his own. And I find no need to comment on his technique- it's very polished and wonderful.

July 13, 2005 at 05:57 PM · Good news!

I have it on good authority from the folks at EMI that the Michael Rabin collection will be reissued in October of this year! So get your pocketbooks ready.

If you were hoping to sell your set on ebay for hundreds of dollars, you'd better hurry up. :) And for those of us who were hoping NOT to spend those hundreds of dollars, this is a bit of a relief!

I'm glad to see Rabin's recordings getting more of the attention they deserve.

July 14, 2005 at 11:14 AM · i have the Michael Rabin colection..it was one of my first cd`s!!! i think he is realy one of the best violinist ever!!! i love he`s intens wide sound...i hear all the time Paganini no1 and wieniawski no 1....also Introduction and rondo capriccioso and small pieces like Elgar-la capricieuse and hora staccato(with best staccato in the World!!!!) are magnificent!!

July 14, 2005 at 08:30 PM · Please find the following information from first hand:

EMI is issuing the product using the original production parts supplied by EMI Germany many years ago. We are able to proceed because these production parts are in good working order and the only item requiring time to produce is the slipcase. We expect product to be available AND issued by the end of August - possibly earlier. I regret that it is now too late to start bringing in new notes at this stage.

BTW; the existing liner notes from the previous CD box doesn't reflect the real truth about Rabin and would further create misinformation about Rabin with some serious factual errors.

July 15, 2005 at 03:06 PM · I agree that Rabin was one of the greats. I have him playing the Tchaik finale (one of my all time favorite pieces) on the Bell Telephone DVD, and it has to be (by far) the best performance of that movement I have ever heard (even beats Oistrakh and Elman, two of my other favorites IMHO). I have to get his whole Tchaik on audio, and his caprices, sometime. I've only heard bits of his playing but all have been stellar.

July 15, 2005 at 03:12 PM · Francis- a agree with the tschaikowski finale...is great...it`s too bad that we don`t have more video recordings of him...u cann learn so much only by looking on his right hand...his technique is immaculate!!!

July 15, 2005 at 06:03 PM · I don't think Heifetz ever recorded the 4th Paganini Caprice.

July 16, 2005 at 01:19 AM · I'm saving my lunch money for Rabin already. Now all they have to do is re-release the Kogan Box Set ( I forget what it is called), put the Heifetz, Kreisler, Elman and Oistrakh discographies on MP3 and I'll be almost happy. It would also be way past time for Sony to release Francescatti's French albums and his Kreisler album to CD. Quit sitting on them, Sony.

August 29, 2005 at 05:23 AM · Michael Rabin's 6 CD set is re-issued now.


No lover of violin music should omit this uniquely talented genius from his or her collection. A must for violin lovers!

August 29, 2005 at 02:43 PM · I just absolutely his adore his silky smooth tone and his crisp articulations. Though, I'm not sure I would consider him a master musician in terms of artistry. His interpretations always struck me as rather ordinary. His Paganini Caprices are something else all together. I would rank them up there with Ilya Kaler, and maybe put him a smidgin ahead. I enjoy his Bruch "Scottish Fantasy" because his warm round tone works well on it. I however don't care for his Paganini concerto. I prefer Vengerov on that.

August 30, 2005 at 06:03 PM · Thanks mike

I just bumped into the rabin book, check it out

Michael Rabin : America's Virtuoso Violinist (Hardcover)

by Anthony Feinstein


August 31, 2005 at 03:27 AM · I absolutely LOVE Michael Rabin. Listen to his Zigeunerweisen. WAY better than Anne-Sophie Mutter IMO.

September 2, 2005 at 11:07 PM · Hello,

I just finished reading the new book about Michael Rabin and found it well written but very disturbing from the point of his Mother. She according to this book is the reason for Michael Rabin's problems.

His drug dependency in my view is because of his Mother as is his not having any social skills with people his own age. It seems to be another case of the parent exploiting the child for their own needs and egos.

What a shame that this happens so often in the world of the gifted.

September 3, 2005 at 12:35 AM · Most people's problems stem from their subtle disturbed parents, some worse than others. It's a shame, it sounds like Rabin had a real winner for a mother. In my opinion, Menuhin suffered from this kind of manipulation also from his mother, but somehow Yehudi survived. If anyone is interested in this kind of similar parenting, not exact, check out the movie Suddenly Last Summer starring Elizabeth Taylor, a disturbing movie, but great!. To me, Rabin was a true genius of the violin. I will be definitely purchasing Rabin's book in the future.

September 3, 2005 at 04:49 AM · I didn't know Rabin or his mother, but I know that different people respond differently to similar situations (such as siblings being brought up by the same parents. That is, it's not fair to put too much of the blame on his mom regardless.

It's a shame he didn't have a long, happy life and career. We are lucky to have as many recordings of him as we do.

September 3, 2005 at 08:41 AM · rabin was my favourite when i was younger. to be honest i disliked perlman and zukerman for years because i thought they are nowhere near as good as rabin. now that i've come to terms with his death i recognize his place in the classical field.

he had problems with a controlling mother. who knows? maybe she would have caused him to be another menuhin case: a brilliant child prodigy who grew up and lost his technique due to the interpersonal stress of living under a tyrant woman.

September 5, 2005 at 11:41 PM · In a word: fantastic.

Maybe the best so far. A normal life sacrificed for an instrument and music. Bittersweet it is for me to hear the music and the genius, while knowing the sacrifice. So very few things in life are so nobly offered for public enjoyment.

September 7, 2005 at 05:28 AM · He is handy receptacle for the fantasies of anyone considering him or herself a tortured, victimized genius, for whom the notion of promise unfulfilled is a sentimental vision rather than the typical lot of most of us. Great talent does not make for great suffering. That's romantic claptrap. Yeah, he was a violinistic wunderkind who was messed up, and, minus the violinistic wunderkind part was no different from someone we all know in each of our extended families...or lucky youse. And I love many many of his recordings too, but do not place his Tchaikovsky, Glazunov and Mendelssohn on the same level as a good many other artists. That even goes for his Paganini. Personally, the assumption that he sacrificed for his art assumes that minus his art he would have been a happy camper. Don't buy that in the least. His so-called sacrifice as likely prolonged his life as shortened it. Personally, I'd rather my son was a happy insurance salesman than a tortured artist; or a tortured insurance salesman for that matter if his work gave him some respite. Was he the best that ever lived? He was the best Michael Rabin that ever lived, except maybe for the one I went to Chicago's South Shore High School with.

September 7, 2005 at 10:30 AM · Michael Rabin suffered from depression. Pressured by family and teachers, he spent far too much time practicing when he was young and sacrificed too much in pursuit of his professional career after his student days were over. A teacher I had remembered Rabin cutting an open rehearsal short, at a college he taught at previously. Rabin walked off stage after a few minutes, and told my teacher,"I am not worried about the concert, it will be fine. I was just looking at the coe-eds in the auditorium and was thinking how I would give ten years of my life just to be able to go on a date with just one of them."

September 7, 2005 at 12:44 PM · Amen, Alan! While Rabin was a great violinist, he did not walk on water. While his story is very sad, his ability to be great despite his suffering still does not make him the greatest ever.

September 7, 2005 at 09:48 PM · The message I get from that is ignore stingy co-eds.

September 8, 2005 at 03:40 AM ·

September 8, 2005 at 03:40 AM · Why was he just looking? He coulda had his pick...Played Meditation from Thais and then spanked 'em with his bow. So to speak.

September 8, 2005 at 04:10 AM · You are right Alan. My guess is that Rabin had been conditioned to believe that any waking moment not spent praticing was one wasted.

September 8, 2005 at 04:31 AM · let's put it this way: if mr. rabin had gotten one of them in the back seat of his car and ran his fingers down her back, he'd probably be bowing with the other hand.

September 8, 2005 at 05:13 AM · Kenneth, your theory is hogwash. If he actually said he'd give ten years for a date with one of them, probably the reason he cut the rehearsal short was to have a date.

From this thread:

"We're upbeat again, so I ask him about love and marriage and whether he has a girl friend. 'Too many," he says. "I could get married tonight if I wanted to...""

November 6, 2005 at 11:47 PM · The Feinstein book on Rabin is quite good and informative. I recommend reading it. I wish there were more books on Rabin - why there aren't is baffling to me...As far as an early poster wished there were recordings of Rabin doing duo material, there is a recording by DoReMi Records, "Legendary Recordings, Michael Rabin, Volume 1, where he plays the Fauré Sonata (A Maj.), a Beethoven Sonata and they've chucked in a Bell Telephone Hour recording of an orchestrated 17th Caprice (Paganini). One evening I had the Classic Arts Showcase on the TV and nearly had a heart attack: there was a video of Rabin playing the Schubert Duo Sonata at Carnegie Hall! This was around the time of his debut in his teens. I flipped but was calm enough to push the record button on the VCR. This is one of my most cherished items, needless to say. I'm also collecting the off-air (non-published/live) recordings but that is not so easy...about the Sibelius Concerto, he wanted to record it but the record company (and surprisingly Galamian, if I'm not mistaken, vetoed it). That was a great mistake and a shame.

December 4, 2005 at 06:52 AM · Has anybody else read the new book on Michael Rabin? What do you think?

December 5, 2005 at 05:50 AM · Any comments on the Rabin DoReMi CD please?

Appreciate your violinistic comments please?

December 6, 2005 at 02:38 AM · Thanks Fernando for honoring his memory.

I think he was truly a consummate artist.

I also agree with some previous posts that Josef Hassid was stellar. He sounded like a combination of Heifetz and Kreisler. And those gems of recordings he left (age 15-16)are astounding.

February 25, 2006 at 06:37 PM · What kind of violin did Rabin use in his recordings for EMI? Specifically the two Wieniawski concertos and the Paganini?

February 25, 2006 at 09:06 PM · My perspective on Rabin's playing is that he was a wonderful violinist. I feel most fortunate to have heard him live, most fortunate that I got to meet him (though I didn't at all know him well), and very grateful as well to have all of his recordings. That said, I differ with some who have posted here in that I wouldn't compare his playing to the exalted level attained by Heifetz. Rabin's facility, tone and expressive intensity were spectacular, but Heifetz had all of these plus a level of musical integrity, depth of expression, taste and subtlety far above that of his younger colleague, in my opinion.


The violin he used for the Wienawski #2/Paganini Concerto LP with Boult conducting, was a Guarneri del Gesu.

February 26, 2006 at 12:20 AM · Where can I buy this recording of the Wienawskis?

February 26, 2006 at 04:43 AM · It's in the Rabin EMI 6-disc box set. A must-have, IMO

February 26, 2006 at 10:56 AM · in see that kogan got the honour he deserves not that heifets was not good(god forbid)or that mikle rabin's playing is superb .

how ever i first heard about him from my teacher russion style teacher and after hearing some of his playing ;could not get him out of my mind especially the locatelli's sonatas so much magic in his playin i can't understand and dont want to...

February 26, 2006 at 06:20 PM · Rabin's facility, tone and expressive intensity were spectacular, but Heifetz had all of these plus a level of musical integrity, depth of expression, taste and subtlety far above that of his younger colleague, in my opinion.

I have to disagree with this entire comment. In my opinion, Heifetz had a more identifiable sound than Rabin, that's about it. If anything else, very little. As far as Rabin's tone, he had a bigger sound than Heifetzs', at least that's what I hear on recordings. Again just my opinion.

February 27, 2006 at 04:33 AM · Hello friends! Great discussion on Michael Rabin.

So much has been said by so many. Please allow me to add just a few thoughts. First, I highly recommend the "hot off the press" biography on Rabin entitled:

"Michael Rabin: America's Virtuoso Violinist"

(The first, authorized biography)

It is quite an interesting read.

As for the greatest violinist, whether you like him or not, the title has to be given to Heifetz for several reasons. Among them are: Heifetz set the standard in our modern world of violin playing that (again, whether you like him or not) is one by which all violinists are compared; Heifetz recorded more repertoire than any other violinist--much of it before anyone else; Heifetz was great as a live performer AND as a recording artist (not all can say this); and Heifetz was a "complete" musician in that he composed fantastic arrangements, was an accomplished pianist, and also taught.

The only thing disappointing to me (and somewhat ironic) is that both Paganini and Ysaye are among the short list of great violinists who contributed profound violin compositions to the repertoire--who literally changed the violin landscape forever--yet, with all of Heifetz' technique and all that he recorded . . . he never recorded the Paganini Caprices (other than #24--accompanied) or any of the Ysaye Solo Sonatas.

Michael Rabin, on the other hand, not only recorded Ysaye's 3rd and 4th Sonatas, but the entire Paganini Caprices--arguably THE DEFINITIVE RECORDING of these. Of course, Rabin recorded very little in the way of the violin/piano sonata literature and Heifetz was quite prolific in this area, to say nothing of his extraordinary output of Concertos.

I think it would be safe to say that Michael Rabin was the finest American-born violinist. It IS a shame that we could not enjoy him in later years when he might have recorded more of the standard repertoire.

Oistrakh and Kogan are at the top of the list along with Milstein. Perlman cannot be ignored as a great player and prolific recording artist; however, I believe history will treat him as somewhat one-dimensional.

Josef Hassid has been mentioned several times. Here is a truly remarkable and unique voice among violinists. It could be said that he had the most promise of any violinist. What we have in the way of recordings is to be treasured.

Of course, in the end, we must make the distinction between the 20th century recorded violinist and those that came before them. How, for example, could any list of great violinists exist without the mention of Wieniawski and Vieuxtemps?

That said, everyone should have in their library Boris Schwarz' wonderful book "Great Masters of the Violin." This is an invaluable resource including information on Corelli and Vivaldi all the way to Perlman--and young "up and coming" fiddle players of around 1983.

In addition, Henry Roth has contributed significantly to the books-on-great violinists library.


September 1, 2010 at 07:03 AM ·


 I had a master class with Michael Rabin when he visited the University of Arizona.  I don't know why he came, but I think it was because of his buddy, James Buzwell (sp?) who was teaching at the U of A at the time. Rabin walked into the room, pointed at the the blond colored piano and said, "I don't like the color of that piano, make it black!"

He shared the master class with a Cellist, Madam Garbasoba (sp?).   During her teaching, he had been sitting in the back of the room watching.  He suddenly runs down the isle, jumps on the raised platform in front, and offers her a lifesaver mint.  And then runs to the back again and sits down.  He had us in stitches.

Because I was not a full time student I was the last to be worked with. But I had worked hard on my piece, and he saw my effort, so he worked with me almost an hour beyond the official end of the Master Class.

That was the only time I ever saw him. However, one of my fellow students was a cousin to Michael Rabin and came in with a non-commercial tape recording of Rabin playing a fast piece. I don't remember which piece but I think it was the Shubert Bee which is often played about 13 notes a second. The recorder was a 3 speed recorder so we slowed it down to ¼ speed. Even at that speed every note sounded exactly perfect and even, being the precise same duration and degree of loudness and dynamic shape as the next, like a string of perfect pearls.



September 1, 2010 at 10:00 PM ·

Wow. This discussion has been around a long time. I have just re-acquainted myself with Rabin's recording of the Wieniewski 1st Concerto. In spite of all of the very sophisticated criticism of his playing expressed by so many on this discussion thread, I don't think I have ever, ever heard a more spectacular performance of this piece by anybody - technically, musically, or emotionally.

September 1, 2010 at 10:59 PM ·

Sander: Perlman's sounds quite similar to Rabin in that concerto. There is not much reference of this piece to make comparaison. We know Ginette Neveu aged 15 gave an outstanding performance of the Concerto in 1936 at the Wieniawski competition ( Oistrach played number two and won second prize) and apparently many famous Russian stars like Kogan and Julian Sitkovetski could play it,surely, very well and in a different manner than Rabin.

Yes indeed Rabin was at his best in that kind of music. But I think it is unnecessary to compare him to Heifetz. He is Michael Rabin after all and one of the great talents of the last century, like Hassid and few others. Nobody speaks about Szeryng at 13 who was already giving a perfect interpretation of the Brahms Concerto in D major. Some should listen to one of his early live recitals when aged 24: he played much faster ,with lots of portamenti and terrible risks everywhere. But at the time, he could not launch his career, even after a very convincing and successful recital in Carnegie hall. Success came much,much later,like Oistrach, when Szeryng was about 45...

Rabin made many recordings,because at the time,there was a lot of money in U.S.A. Hassid, Neveu , the young Szeryng and Oistrach did not benefit of the same chance due to many circumstances and war. Rabin the best violinist ever: I am not sure about that. For me , a great violinist must be a great musician ! Skills and beautiful sound is ok. But to be a truly inspired musician in the Beethoven concerto is a complete different matter. In an interview given by Neveu in 1946, she said "There are many skillful virtuosos out there, but very few musicians ..."

September 2, 2010 at 08:46 AM ·

I have read the profile of Fernando Flores who asked the question, and it is the most amazing resum'e I have ever read, and he looks uncanny like the Chilean politician. Fernando I have not heard you play but I am willing to give you the vote as the greatest violin smosioso ever. Perhaps you can update us on You Tube.

September 2, 2010 at 02:02 PM ·

There once was a young agent provocateur

Who acted as if he was a genuine monsieur,

He claims without foundation

That he knows Itzhak and his head rotation, 

Then to Fernando's hide-away he disappears, to reconquerir

This nasty pain in everyones derriere 

September 2, 2010 at 09:24 PM ·

Allan: >>>>>>>>He is handy receptacle for the fantasies of anyone considering him or herself a tortured, victimized genius, for whom the notion of promise unfulfilled is a sentimental vision rather than the typical lot of most of us. Great talent does not make for great suffering. That's romantic claptrap. Yeah, he was a violinistic wunderkind who was messed up, and, minus the violinistic wunderkind part was no different from someone we all know in each of our extended families...or lucky youse.>>>>>>>>

What you say is so true.  I love Michael Rabin and treasure his music, his technique, and his story that ends tragically.  I was trying to research Josef Hassid, another...oh god knows what this guy went through in the 'insane assylums' (which is what they called them), the loneliness of no one to really look after him, particularly with the abandon that was probably used and the medical liberties taken after his father died. Horrifying.  But the reality is there are so so many other people not famous, nobodies in unmarked graves who suffered there too, perhaps even more in their lives, so yes, he was no different from someone we all know in each of our extended families.  I think looking at him as being special because of his brilliant Violinism is one thing that makes him so unique, but in terms of the rest of his life, as interesting as it is, and how enriching it can be to know personal factors about the person behind the violin, indeed, he is as anyone else in a world that has a great deal of suffering in it.


September 2, 2010 at 11:59 PM ·

Toma, you have a good point there...  Drama is drama for everyone.  I know that we always have a tendency to say that great artists suffer very much... True!  But we must not forget this too: non great artists (and little amateurs/people too) can suffer very much with music and life issues. Of course, we must aknowledge everyone. And that doesn't erase the really hard struggle of exceptional Rabin... 


September 3, 2010 at 01:28 AM ·

"Life is tough. And if you're creative, it's tougher." - Bobby Short

September 6, 2010 at 07:59 AM ·


"Yes indeed Rabin was at his best in that kind of music. But I think it is unnecessary to compare him to Heifetz. He is Michael Rabin after all and one of the great talents of the last century, like Hassid and few others. Nobody speaks about Szeryng at 13 who was already giving a perfect interpretation of the Brahms Concerto in D major. Some should listen to one of his early live recitals when aged 24: he played much faster ,with lots of portamenti and terrible risks everywhere. But at the time, he could not launch his career, even after a very convincing and successful recital in Carnegie hall. Success came much,much later,like Oistrach, when Szeryng was about 45...

Rabin made many recordings,because at the time,there was a lot of money in U.S.A. Hassid, Neveu , the young Szeryng and Oistrach did not benefit of the same chance due to many circumstances and war. Rabin the best violinist ever: I am not sure about that. For me , a great violinist must be a great musician ! Skills and beautiful sound is ok. But to be a truly inspired musician in the Beethoven concerto is a complete different matter. In an interview given by Neveu in 1946, she said "There are many skillful virtuosos out there, but very few musicians ..


 "That kind" of music..Who do you think he was, the André Rieu of the 50ies? The sound documents we have of Rabin playing the great classical concertos (Brahms, Beethoven) are proof that he was much more than a virtuoso, an authentic and gifted musician.

 Most of his concerto recordings were made in England, I don't quite see the connection with "a lot of money in the USA". The russian stars were recorded intensively at the same period, so were Grumiaux, Ferras, Szeryng and many others.

And yes, his Wieniavsky 1st is completely out of this world, especially his live recordings. No comparison with Perlman, Sitkovetzky or even Gitlis..

September 10, 2010 at 05:37 PM ·

I love his playing. I have a CD of him playing all 24 Paganini Caprices. Very enjoyable and inspiring for me, to say the least!

September 10, 2010 at 08:43 PM ·

Is it sensible to state if a player is great? Should we all be at the level of that player`s ability before we pass judgement.  If I say  " He`s a great doctor" ,it means little if I know less about medicine than the doctor.  I can say I enjoy a player`s performance , but that`s all I am qualified to say.

John, as I understand very well your point of view, I still think that an ordinairy person or amateur can have ennough basic knowledge to define a bit and very broadly what is great and was is less.  As an example, I know a person who went to see a very expeditive doctor, taking no time to undress her, grabbed her roughtly from under her close to do the examination, not talking to her and made the tests. Was suppose to tell her the results of the tests and never did... I am not telling that this doctor isn't knowledgable but I certainly know by comparison that some are better...  even if I'm not a doctor myself.  I think the same can apply to great violinists.  Amateurs with good ear and basic violin knowledge can tell general things as if a performer looks tense, not comfortable, scratches, play confident, fluidly and solidly etc  I agree that it is never a detailed portrait but just a basic idea.  But, one should never criticize meanly a player (even a less good one than onself).  Also, it's touchy to tell names on the net.  I stopped because I realized it sometimes created problems.

But I understand what you mean.  You must also be referring to those who criticize meanly better players than themselves to look better on forums, no?  Do you think that an amateur can have a genera idea though? 

Have a nice day


September 11, 2010 at 02:03 PM ·

Very thoughtful discussion. As an amateur violinist, I believe I can weigh in on this discussion with (ahem) some authority. This is, of course, my own personal opinion, but I feel that anyone, anywhere, at any time who makes the courageous, foolhardy, and entirely ridiculous decision to learn how to play the violin - certainly one of the most difficult, impossible, and hopeless tasks ever created by the human mind - ought to be appreciated and supported. It's easy for anyone to say 'I don't like' this or that, or to completely dismiss out of hand people of enormous and unique talent and artistic judgment and perspective. But I believe that an intuitive, analytical, and discerning listener (which is what I consider myself best at in music), especially with some training in playing, is capable of making some very sophisticated judgments about various players, including the "great ones." However, I consider those critical judgments (mine, anyway) to be more of what to listen for and appreciate rather than who to reject.

September 11, 2010 at 04:41 PM ·

John, I understand what you mean very well of course!  Beeing a professionnal in anything means however that you can read things people said about you and proceed to your own "take it or leave it".  Taking the positive points or critism and ignoring what you really consider as stupid bashing from ignorants.  It surely must be tough and the Internet is a funny thing indeed. Just that before, people told the exact sames (sometimes stupid) things in salons while taking tea I suppose : ) so the world looked like a better place (just looked like...)

Sander, I agree very much with your last sentence.

Yes thoughtful discussion indeed!


September 12, 2010 at 01:04 AM ·

Hi, just to be more precise, I didn't say I agreed with "stupid bashing" : )  Just that there is some on the net... 

September 12, 2010 at 09:10 PM ·

To this day Rabin still does not get the recognition or acknowledgment he truly deserves!

November 9, 2013 at 08:59 PM · I agree with the original poster. I believe that Michael Rabin is the best violinist to have ever left behind recordings for the world to hear.

I also think he's probably the "best" violinist to ever have lived, though that's hard to say, since many of the greats (e.g. Paganini) can't be directly heard.

I think there are some other close contenders for this designation, of course most notably being Jascha Heifetz.

The way I see it, there are different eras in the history in violin playing (most having produced historically more important violinists than Rabin). However, I don't think that violin playing as an art really reached the form it is today until Ivan Galamian came to the fore as an instructor. The Galamian school of course has been very influential in the modern era and for very good reason, particularly with regards to bowing technique.

Though he was a contemporary of Galamian and though he himself apparently advised Rabin to seek instruction from Galamian, Heifetz never benefited directly from the Galamian instruction at a young age as Rabin did. Both Galamian and Heifetz were instructed directly by Leopold Auer, who at that stage in his career, was not as involved in teaching technique so much as interpretation. My belief is that Heifetz comes from a slightly earlier generation of violin players than Rabin, an era which where violin playing just on the cusp of transitioning to the modern era.

Because of this generational gap, Heifetz of course could not incorporate from a young age from the instructional benefit that would have come from a Galamian -type training.

I think Heifetz technique is extremely good, very agile, but I think it lack some of the stylization and artistry that I find so appealing in Rabin. I think someone described it right -- his notes in fast sections are just like a strings of pearls, each one laid out so precisely and discretely that it is just a pleasure to listen to. I presume this is in no large part because Rabin benefited from the instruction of Galamian. Listening to the last section of the Zigeunerweisen, a fast section where Heifetz should fare very well, though Rabin is a bit slower it just blows me away every time. Similarly, Heifetz's pizzicatto though faster sounds a bit sloppy in comparison.

Heifetz in contrast is highly unique, and perhaps to a larger extent than modern violinists, probably somewhat more self-taught. He will always be a historically more important figure as a trailblazer who played a greater part in making the art of the violin what it is today. In contrast, Rabin probably benefited from an advance in the instruction violin that was probably not available to Heifetz in the same way.

But just listening to him, Rabin to me is the best. If Heifetz had been born 20 years later and benefited from being instructed by Galamian at a young age the way Rabin had, would I be saying otherwise? Perhaps so, but who knows?

November 9, 2013 at 09:49 PM · Greetings,

those of us who dont believe Galamian is the be all and end all of violin playing and or teaching might find the idea that Heifetz had anything to learn from him rather amusing.



November 9, 2013 at 11:46 PM · I don't believe Galamian is the end all either. But really you think Heifetz would have had *nothing* to learn from Glamian if he were a young student at the time? This could only be true if Galamian couldn't have taught the way he did without seeing Heifetz first, which is maybe the case. But I think Galamian's contributions are an important part of the evolution of the modern playing of the instrument.

I think you are right in a sense about Heifetz too. If Heifetz had been born later, at face value I might find his playing more appealing than Rabin's; however, in a way that would also detract from much of the uniqueness that Heifetz has historically and in his playing style. I don't think anyone would claim that Heifetz was just a great student of the violin, he was also a trailblazer. In contrast, Rabin was undoubtedly a great student of the violin, and in my opinion its greatest player, but would he ever have been regarded as more than that if he had lived longer? What might he have brought to the world of violin playing that was not known before his time? That's hard to say.

I'm just saying, just listening and without regard for any historical context, I think Rabin's playing is the best I have heard. That doesn't by any means make him the most important player. Of course others will disagree.

January 1, 2016 at 10:16 PM · I was in the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra in the Royal Festival Hall London in 1969 when Milstein was to play the Tchaikovsky concerto, but had an accident with a taxi. Michael Rabin appeared at the rehearsal having just flown in from Berlin with his violin tuned nearly a quarter tone sharp.

He stunned the orchestra with effortless unforced playing that even wowed the brass players who despised violin soloists on principle. At the concert he encored with the Kreisler Intro & Scherzo which was fantastic. A truly great artist.

January 1, 2016 at 11:32 PM · Most people would say Heifetz was the greatest of his century.

January 2, 2016 at 12:06 AM · I saw some comments about Galamian as a teacher. He was a great, if not the greatest teacher, of the Century. Auer, too. Also, watch the recent video of him teaching a girl the Bach Chaconne. You'll see him as a tremendous musiciian, as well as violinist. Look at his bow arm and his sound. Beautiful playing! And that girl who was so, so, turned out to be a wonderful violinist. You can here some of her recordings on YouTube. ( You can also hear the Galamian influence on David Nadien.)

February 5, 2016 at 11:02 PM · I think Michael Rabin is the best too! :)

February 6, 2016 at 02:56 AM · No doubt Rabin was a great virtuoso. No less a violinist than Oistrakh said that R did things that he couldn't! But to say that he was the greatest? No. He had great technique, honed by years of 8 hours a day of practice under a tyrannical mother, a solid and rich tone, and panache in romantic music that suited him. He was not a subtle player as Heifetz, Oistrakh, Grumiaux and other top artist-virtuosos could be, and admitted to having no affinity for Mozart. He painted in broad strokes on a large canvas. His technique was such that he recorded the Paganini Moto Perpetuo with orchestra in one take. And in music that especially suited him, such as the Wieniawski #1, it all came together marvelously.

But if we must make comparisons and give rankings - which this thread almost demands, unfortunately - he still wasn't Heifetz, whom he most aspired to be, for reasons very well-put in a much earlier posting by Peter Wilson. Speaking of which, the idea that poor Heifetz didn't get to benefit from Galamian's teaching is absolutely absurd! In fact, I read that it was Galamian's exposure to Heifetz' practice method that led G to emphasize methodical scale practice more than he originally did.

I'd also reject the mantle of R as the greatest American-born violinist. A number of others spring to mind - particularly, in more or less his generation - David Nadien (who by far represented his studies with Dounis than his studies with Galamian) and Aaron Rosand. Both of these artists had much more subtlety and varieties of color, nuance and inflection in their playing than Rabin, as well as stunning virtuosity allied with elegance.

Rabin was a tragic figure who never had a chance to completely mature. He had a number of neurotic aspects. Many have stage fright; Rabin had stage PHOBIA! He actually grew to fear the stage, literally - he was afraid he'd fall off. He finally had a nervous breakdown. It's sad. He certainly deserves commemoration - but not even close to diefication.

February 6, 2016 at 03:52 AM · Greetings,

I think that is a very fair and accurate summary, Raphel. I ove Rabin`s playing and have coincidentally just spent t e last couple of days listening to the bulk of his recordings. It is to my mind, when one compares the recordings of smaller works that the disparity in suble nuance you mention becomes rather obvious.



February 6, 2016 at 04:35 AM · Thanks! To quote the character, Jim Igantowski from the tv series, "Taxi" when, drugged out but lovable husk that he was, he surprised everyone by showing a subtle understanding of the situation they were discussing: "I have my moments! It costs me though...I think I'll go home and lie down for a while..."

February 6, 2016 at 08:03 AM · Good idea.;)

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email

Violinist.com is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

JR Judd Violins
JR Judd Violins

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra
Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

Violinist.com Shopping Guide
Violinist.com Shopping Guide

Metzler Violin Shop

Southwest Strings

Bobelock Cases

Johnson String Instrument/Carriage House Violins

Jargar Strings

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop



Los Angeles Violin Shop


String Masters

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine