The Early Heifetz

February 7, 2005 at 05:26 AM · I just heard one of Heifetz's early Naxos recordings. It had the Mozart 4, 5, and Mendelssohn concertos. These recordings, especially the Mozart 5, are such a revelation. I do like his playing most of the time, but these reveal a completely different side of him I think. His sound is so much warmer and sweeter, nothing like the dry tone people have come to expect. The second movement of the Mozart 5 is just sublime, like a lullaby. Even his spiccato, which sometimes I find scratchy, is so delicate. His later Mendelssohn with Munch, in comparison, sounds so much colder. I like his selection of tempo so much more, too. His first movement of Mozart 5 is slower than both Oistrakh's and Kogan's.

Which other Naxos recordings by him do you recommend? I really think this is a recording that can change those people's minds about Heifetz who think of him as a cold player.

Replies (56)

February 7, 2005 at 05:40 AM · I look forward to getting that. I've always heard recordings don't do him justice for one reason or another. Naxos is a good label, discount, but high quality soundwise.

February 7, 2005 at 05:55 AM · Another great recordings are: 1)Beethoven with NBC Symphony ander conducting of Toscanini (1940, New York)) and Brahms C-rto with Boston Symphony under Koussevitzky (1939, Boston).

2) Tchaik. C-rto with London Philarmonic Orchestra under John Barbirolli(1939); Wieniawski d-minor (1935, same conductor) and Sibelius under conducting of Thomas Beecham (1935). All are with Naxos label.

February 7, 2005 at 08:32 AM · Another excellent early Heifetz albulm is the Naxos Historical recording of the Vieuxtemps 4th and 5th concerti, with some Saint-Saens & Sarasate showpieces and the Waxman Carmen Fantasy.


February 7, 2005 at 10:21 AM · I'm a great fan of the Naxos Great Violinists series. All the discs there are worth buying, partly because they're such important records of the golden age of violin playing, and also because they're really quite affordable (here in Australia, they tend only to be $10 each). To me, paying three times as much for a regular CD by one of the modern artists, albeit with better sound quality, isn't near as worth it. That said though, we should obviously all try to do our bit as well to support the current artists. But, I think Naxos Historical's a wonderful collection of absolutely top-class music.

February 7, 2005 at 02:24 PM · Hi,

All the Naxos re-issues are probably the best yet of these recordings. One not to miss on is the live Mendelssohn at Carnegie that is in the Toscanini Historical series of Naxos. Absolutely amazing and unlike any Mendelssohn that Heifetz recorded in the studio. Hair raising in my opinion.


February 7, 2005 at 06:45 PM · Christian is right. The Mendelssohn with Toscanini is quite outstanding. It is the fastest Mendelssohn I have ever heard (perhaps the fastest ever!), but it works!

Indeed, all the Naxos CDs of Heifetz are worth having.

February 7, 2005 at 07:33 PM · Yes! Jascha's interpretations did indeed change considerably over the years. Personally, I FAR prefer his early Glazunov and Bruch Scottish Fantasy to his later recordings for the reasons you, Kannan, so clearly put in your original statement, which I read about 3 hours ago and have completely forgotten aside from the fact that I agree. Whew.

February 7, 2005 at 08:30 PM · I recently had the same revelation while I was listening to the Heifetz Naxos Wieniawski 2 - Tchaikovsky - Sibelius disc. I was in absolute disbelief that this gutsy, charismatic, full-toned player was Heifetz; aside from the perfect intonation and brisk tempos, he actually sounded like an entirely different violinist. These discs are mind-blowing!

February 8, 2005 at 01:54 AM · Hi everyone,

I obviously agree with you all on JH's early recordings, they are absolutely fabulous. Every one of them! I would suggest, if you haven't already gotten them, to place an order on some of Heifetz's live recordings. There have been some remarkable newly released live recordings on the Cembal d'amour label of Heifetz's Bell Telephone Hour Broadcasts.

In terms of when he got older the recording technology obviously evolved as well, as a result the microphone placement which RCA used picked up more things that you wouldn't hear in an earlier recording or in one of his live performances. His tone was geared for a large concert hall as is Zukerman's. If you were to stand next to either one of these guys while playing you would think it might sound a tad bit harsh however this element is lost completely in a bigger space. My teacher whom a lot of you know worked with Heifetz for many years told me this story about this one time he went to a play and saw this stunning blonde actress on stage, and afterwards he said he went to this after party where he saw this same actress once again. He said as he got closer to her he noticed all the mascara and other such heavy make up on her that he didn't see from a 100 foot distance in the audience. In fact, he said at a close distance this woman certainly did not look as attractive. He told this story relating to projecting an image or a sound in performance such was the case with Heifetz. Hearing him in Carnegie Hall was something else I'm sure!

February 8, 2005 at 02:02 AM · The NAXOS label is amazing! They totally bring the life back to the recordings and hearing them seems like going to a live concert! Whatever NAXOS is doing, they're doing something right!

February 8, 2005 at 03:54 AM · I just bought that CD but it hasn't arrived yet. I also bought the one with the Tchaikovsky, Wieniawski no.2 and Sibelius. They're amazing. I also have the one with the Walton and Elgar but I haven't listened to it in a while. I tend to like older recordings, especially of Heifetz and NAXOS is really amazing for that. Sound restoration is amazing too. Another great thing about them is that they're really cheap, especially on amazon.

February 9, 2005 at 02:34 AM · Hi,

Not related to this thread and some average ones getting stars. Can someone point out the system and how it works? Would someone please tell me why Carl's posts which are nice and informative are getting X's? I am beginning to wonder how this system works...

Thanks and Cheers!

February 9, 2005 at 03:01 AM · Greetings,

I think it might have been because on anotehr thread Carl responded to the question

Ex or cyst?

Never a good idea...



February 10, 2005 at 05:41 AM ·

February 10, 2005 at 07:03 AM · Although he was great throughout his career, I personally prefer Heifetz's post late 40s playing. Listen for example to his Mozart Concerti, all that freedom which is done without muscling the pulse the music. And without the "cosmetic" sweetness. Like Milstein, I think he was always improving musically, and was constantly distilling his art, leaving behind only the very essence. The major difference is, I think his control of time. He eventually found a way of playing freely without any deliberation. Phrases floated with a loosenes above the accompaniment, weaving in and out of it. Everything was less "fussy", much more "to the point." I urge those who are interested, to listen to his last recital which I think is a culmination of his art, even though there are clinkers here and there. Listen to the Strauss Sonata, the 2nd subject (the lyric one)of the 3rd movt.. Never fails to move me. Compare this rendition of this sonata with his two previous recordings. Listen carefully, I hope you'll find the differences. And don't miss the Nigun, his build-up to the climax is so emotionally shattering! Of course there are exceptional recordings before the late 40s which I treasure: for example the two Decca discs which contain such tender playing from the Master! Mozart Divertimento with Primrose and Feuermann. Some of the individual pieces on the DOREMI label. And that Toscanini-Mendelssohn! Scary! There's more, but I'll spare you! : )

February 10, 2005 at 06:09 AM · In the liner notes to the Mozart 5 Naxos recording Tully Potter pretty much says Heifetz ruined the Mozart concerti in his later recordings "with brutally unsuitable speeds." In the Naxos Mozart 5 recording he actually slows down at one point, and I think it sounds great. It's one of the only times I've heard him actually slow down within a piece.

February 10, 2005 at 12:02 PM · A little quiz for Heifetz's experts: ¿do you know "Joseph Hague" vinyl?

February 10, 2005 at 12:05 PM · Any comments on the Prokofiev on Naxos ? I remember having listened to it, and rejecting it because of the high noise level (although being a Heifetz fan, and having a copy of the other Naxos CDs).

But opinions can change over time and when hearing the music through the noise. So anyone has an opinion on this CD.

February 10, 2005 at 12:41 PM · The Prokofiev CD is paired with the Gruenberg Concerto. The latter was written for Heifetz, and when Heifetz commented on its difficulty (it is extremely hard, nobody has attempted it after him), the composer said, "But you are Heifetz, aren't you?" I love the piece. For me, it evokes the spirit of Tom Sawyer! Listen to the opening of the second movement, you can almost see a ferry travelling, very slowly, down a foggy Missisipi. I think the sound is pretty good, better than the RCA reissue.

Is the "Joseph Hague" available on CD?! I know it's a record cut by Heifetz (J.H.) as a spoof! Like the part in his masterclass video where he imitates a really bad student!

February 10, 2005 at 03:01 PM · Hi,

The Joseph Hague album is extremely rare and was never re-issued. Some have tapes of it. Ricci owns a copy and one of his students had me hear a tape in Salzburg of it about a decade ago. Hilarious!!! It's side-splitting. All I remember is a "memorable" Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso.

There is a legend that Heifetz sent this recording as an audition tape to Indiana University in the 60's for fun to see if he would get admitted and was rejected! Don't know if it's true, but funny story nonetheless.

As for the Prokofiev, I don't remember noise issues on the Naxos re-edit (bad CD?). I do like Heifetz in the later years as well; depends on the works. I think that he did great recordings throughout his career. I am partial to a lot of his live stuff, some of which, like the Korngold in New York is just out of this world even for him.

Overall, the Naxos series are probably the best re-editions so-far in terms of cleanliness of sound, although you do lose something on CD from the original 78's warmth, in spite of the scratching.


P.S. Buri, thanks for the above elucidation!

February 10, 2005 at 03:29 PM · Christian: I have a CD copied from a LP by "Joseph Hague".It has no mention of works, only the "violinist". It has 3 works. First 2 are a Beethoven and a Mozart's sonatas, playded as a very bad student of the violin without the slightes talent: totally inexpressive,dull, almost without vibrato, with plain and ugly sound, and with evident out of tune notes. On the third work, Heifetz redeem himself and he play it with absolute control and his usual mastery.Its a sonata for violin and piano, but I DONT KNOW THE WORK.It is the only recording I have, and the only thing Im sure is that it is also the only Heifetz's recording. Can you help me?

February 10, 2005 at 05:30 PM · Carlos,

Any idea why Heifetz would make such a recording?


February 10, 2005 at 05:50 PM · Not exactly. But H.had an acid sens of humor, and always said that his public went to listen to his concerts with the hope to hearing him made mistakes. Maybe he recorded Hague as an homage to this public, as saing "So, you want me making mistakes?. There you are, all the mistakes I can think of"

And I can sure you that to play very badly on purpose is as difficult as play well.

February 11, 2005 at 02:03 AM · Awesome! The CD which is the subject of this thread just arrived in the mail today!!

February 12, 2005 at 01:40 AM · Hi,

Sorry... I don't own a copy of the "Hague" recording and the tape I heard was of an Intro and Rondo Cappriccioso a decade ago.

Heifetz did have a strange sense of humour. He liked to use his initials for doing things that were him, but not him. For example, he apparently used to travel under the alias Jim Hoyle on certain flights for privacy reasons, and he also used this alias to write pop songs. I guess airline security was not what it is today...


February 18, 2005 at 04:06 AM · I made what I thought was an interesting discovery a couple days ago. I was listening to the 1st mvmt. of the Sibelius from this set and a passage starting at about 1:39 caught my ear. It's very fast scale-wise separate bows that I thought would be fun to play. I ripped it into a wav then slowed it down to 50% with some software to make it easier to learn by ear. At the original speed it sounds great. At 50% speed the intonation is bad and the rhythm is irregular. At 50% speed he sounds like a near-beginner playing moderato. I'm not sure what it means, but it's interesting.

February 18, 2005 at 08:34 AM · It means the faster you play, the less accurate your intonation can be and still sound in tune.


February 18, 2005 at 03:43 PM · I do have some of the Joseph Hague material which contains:

- Beethoven: VS "Spring"

- Poliakin: Le Canari,

- Paganini: Caprice Bb op 1/13

- Saint-Saens: Intro & Rondo capricciso

- Sarasate: Habanera

- Schubert: Sonatina D dur

- Hague: Doublestop Sonata (with absolute control and his usual mastery)

Joseph Hague, piano

February 18, 2005 at 05:13 PM · Michael, please explain:

¿Hague is the pianist? ¿Who figure as the violinist?

¿"Hague" sonata has 3 mouvements? How much time it endure? Thank you.

February 18, 2005 at 05:46 PM · Heifetz was the violinist and Joseph Hauge the accompanist and the composer of the sonata which Heifetz played correctly and proceeded as normal. The sonata has got three movements.

February 19, 2005 at 01:49 PM · Hi,

Jim: What you say is interesting. I confirms what Carl Flesch said in the Art of Violin Playing more than 3/4 of a century ago. That there is really no such thing as playing in tune, but that one can give the impression of playing in tune, hence the important of slow practice to get as close as possible to "true" intonation. I guess technology, and you, helped us confirm that. THANKS!


February 19, 2005 at 04:37 PM · I think when you play fast key notes have to be in tune. If those notes are, then the ear hears them and is happy.


February 19, 2005 at 08:08 PM · That post didn't deserve an X.

February 19, 2005 at 09:56 PM · Hi Lisa,

I agree with you completely. The key notes in a fast passage have to be there, more specifically the major and minor intervals deciphered carefully to be pleasing to the ear. This is something that JH worked at constantly.

February 19, 2005 at 10:24 PM · The accented notes are more in tune, which probably translates to the harmonically important ones too. To be fair, it's probably all on the G string and goes real high.

Usually a slowed down fast passage sounds more impressive instead of less because you hear all the notes are where they should be even if it just sounds like a blur at normal speed. But I don't think I ever slowed down violin music before.

February 20, 2005 at 03:33 AM · Kannan, I have the same CD and it really is a very good recording of him.

March 30, 2005 at 03:04 AM · This is a good example of early Heifetz, and you can hear three minutes of excerpts on Amazon - Internet: I was interested to see on the Internet that Jascha Heifetz commissioned the Louis Gruenberg violin concerto, and that its performance time is around thirty-eight minutes.

I understand Louis Gruenberg was born in Brest or "Brest-Litovsk" long a border area between Russia and Poland and now in Belarus on the east bank of the Bug River, and his father was a violinist. Louis came to America young and had a large output of music for motion pictures in the 1930s and 1940s. One of his better known scores was for the movie version of a Eugene O"Neill play.

It would be interesting if someone who knows the violin part could discuss the nature of the difficulties - speed - hand size and flexibility - endurance - why is it difficult?

If you enter "Gruenberg", "Heifetz", and "" on, you can reach a listing of "great Heifetz recordings" in which a pairing of the second Prokofiev violin concerto with the Gruenberg is the eleventh CD. By clicking on that CD you can hear three one-minute excerpts of the Heifetz performance of the Gruenberg with Pierre Monteux and the San Francisco symphony. On a first hearing I was impressed with both the violin and orchestral portions of a very serious work, which may possibly commorate the role of the Brest citadel in slowing Hitler's 1941 onslaught into Russia [it saved Moscow], and the terrible suffering of Brest Jews in the Holocaust. This concerto and Gruenberg's other work deserve rescue from oblivion.

This is the URL: Music / Styles / Classical / Featured Performers, AZ ...

Find, shop for and buy music at ... The monster that was Heifetz: A

list by Scott68, Violin student / composer (25 item list) ...

Then look for "Prokofiev Gruenberg violin concertos" the eleventh CD.

March 30, 2005 at 03:32 AM · My favorite recording when I was a little boy was a record on the Everest label of early recordings of Heifetz, originally 78s. My favorite was the Scherzo-Tarentella by Wieniawski. That record was probably as responsible for me becoming a violinist as anything...I listened to it so much it's a wonder I didn't wear it out. My mom finally broke the record over her knee because it was driving her crazy. She didn't know that my brother had another copy. :-)


May 5, 2008 at 06:14 PM · Some of the Joseph Hague recordings are now available on YouTube:

The recording of "Hot Canary" will put a smile on your face!

May 6, 2008 at 01:23 AM · When it comes to the topic of Jascha Heifetz, everyone seems to have their "knee-jerk" reactions. It is so refreshing to read the comments reflecting genuine re-discovery of this violin giant from so many.

I believe that Jascha Heifetz is long overdue for a fresh look and a re-evaluation.

Jascha Heifetz has always been one of my favorites, even though a few of his recordings are (comparatively speaking) disappointing. His early recordings, starting from the very first, are indeed warm, warm, warm (not to mention elegant, articulate, and masterful).

The Heifetz "coldness" has long been a topic of discussion and a major criticism. Perhaps as a person (and certainly in his stage demeanor), he sure can be described as "cold." If you listen to the sound, however, the sheer ability to communicate and project to the listener, his early recordings are clearly emotionally warm and sweet and just what you would want to hear from a great violinist. I heard him once in person, comparatively late in his career, and the actual sound in the hall was indeed full and rich and clean and emotional, not to mention masterful (in the classic Heifetzian "perfection" sense).

But I think the emotion he conveyed is not as much warmth (in an gooey emotional sense) as it is passion and drama. If you're looking for sentimentality and enough sugar to make you diabetic, Heifetz is not your guy (sorry about the failure to be non-sexist). But if you want gutsy drama and PASSION, how do you get better than good old JH, at any point in his career?

And, as to his Mozart, maybe you'd rather have a different and more "authentic" (whatever that means) style of interpretation than the personalized romanticism of the Heifetz vision, but - interpretation be da__ed - his Mozart is elegance, song, and sensitivity personified. It is totally, completely, 100% genuine and from the heart, yet clothed in a carefully calculated, well-thought-out, certainly well-rehearsed, calculated story in which every detail is in its place. And yet it speaks directly from the heart. What an incredible achievement. Is there anything comparable in any performing art? (or, for that matter, in any human activity?)


May 6, 2008 at 01:30 AM · Wow Sandy, touche!

May 6, 2008 at 09:25 PM · "enough sugar to make you diabetic"

lol, well phrased.

I agree with you. I love that he plays it very simply and straight forward, yet not at all lacking singing quality and musicality. That's how I think Mozart should be played...

May 7, 2008 at 08:43 AM · I never find Heifetz's performances (on disc) cold, and I agree that his playing is not sugary. I did however find a Szeryng performance of the Beethoven concerto on DVD cold the other day, and sometimes sugary, and I hope that this is not representative playing for this violinist.

Heifetz was one of the best violinists of all time and some don't like this. I've been told by one prominent violin teacher that Heifetz had major technical problems. Well who cares.

Heifetz was clearly a warm human being as a young man. There are several photos from this time that convey his obvious sense of humor and warmth. As he aged he probably developed a slight diminishment of patience for suffering fools gladly.

May 7, 2008 at 09:51 AM · I very much doubt Naxos ever recorded Heifetz, the company only started in 1987 and specialises in lesser known artists. I presume what the OP meant to say was "Naxos releases", not "Naxos recordings"?

May 11, 2008 at 09:41 AM · My former violin teacher told me a story about Sir Thomas Beecham and his collaborations with Jascha Heifetz. Sir Thomas was an amiable and jocular conductor. He got along well with the young Heifetz and their "public concerts" together were quite often very different from one day to the other.

But, on the other hand, when they collaborated on recording 78 RPM disks, Beecham and Heifetz would both extensively discuss the many fine points of the particular concerto being recorded. Beecham always trusted Heifetz on these matters and remarked “Heifetz always gave me back exactly what was agreed upon”.

Ted Kruzich

December 7, 2009 at 06:11 AM ·

Jascha Heifetz recorded a total of three records under the name Joseph Hague. The repertoire is:

1. Paganini (Caprice #23), Saint Saens (Introduction & Rondo Capriccioso), Sarasate (Habanera) and Poliakin (The Canary).

2. Mozart (Sonata #10 in B-flat, K. 378), Beethoven (Spring Sonata, #5 in F, Op. 24).

3. Mozart (Sonata in e minor, #4, K. 304), Beethoven (Romance #1 in F, Op. 40), Schubert (Ave Maria, Op. 52), Poliakin (The Canary), Sarasate (Malaguena).

A number of students played for Heifetz, in hopes that he would take them as a student. Over the years, he heard hundreds of students, a number of which he didn't take, as he thought they would never make it. As it turns out, Heifetz had a funny sense of humor, and thought it would be fun to make a few recordings, imitating what some some of the violinists sounded like that auditioned for him. The recordings are simply hilarious! I don't know how he managed to keep from laughing while he made these records. Heifetz gave a copy of these records to his closest friends and a few of his favorite students. I'm thrilled to say that I own all three. It took me over 20 years to collect all three! I hope one day they will be available on CD, for everyone to enjoy.

December 11, 2009 at 11:00 AM ·


(imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Buri!)

I could barely listen to those Joseph Hague pieces, especially when they were pieces I had played myself. And it was a daring thing for JH to do: what if the clock had struck?

But there is a lesson in this: if Heifetz could play like that (like me!) at will, perhaps my own playing like me is a matter of choice as well? What if I throw that caution, which is so very much in evidence in Joseph Hague, to the winds? There will be more mistakes, surely, but perhaps more music, and more enjoyment, as well.

Just a thought.



December 11, 2009 at 01:45 PM ·

Considering that Heifetz was such a perfectionist about everything (even mixing drinks for his guests), he undoubtedly gave those "amateur" performances just as much care and and attention to detail and preparation as he did his regular repertoire. I'll bet he wanted to get all of those mistakes and aesthetic errors perfectly, which is why they all sound like me.

December 11, 2009 at 04:13 PM ·

Just a little "side" though. We often say that energy and coldness is to "youngs" what sweeter and more "sugar" playing is to "olds" (fourtunately some players have the two!) but we sometimes come across some players that played more sweeter when they were young and more "rough" when they got older!   Quite funny, I'm not a psy and far from me the idea to play the psy but could it be a reaction because when you're young (not just in violin) everybody tells you that you lack "sweetness sometimes called maturity"  and that when you get older, everybody tells you you lack strengh, stamina or power (energy)???   Maybe it's a fighting reaction against these stereotypes?  Maybe it's just a coincidence too and I overanalyzing things! Anyway sorry to interrupt.

Happy for you that you find these recordings!


December 13, 2009 at 06:26 PM ·

I've been reading this thread on and off for years, and I've looked hard for the recordings discussed here.  Most of the large music stores carry only a few of them, and some recordings  are available only as used copies., so I finally went to the Naxos website.  Naxos says, "Not available in the United States due to possible copyright restrictions."  Nevertheless, I've been able to find and buy a few of them, and I'm working hard on the others discussed here.

December 13, 2009 at 08:23 PM ·

If you have any websites/companies from which you've successfully procured any of these recordings, would you mind listing them here?  Or send a message to me.  I'd love to know.  Thanks much in advance.


December 13, 2009 at 11:39 PM ·

Early Heifetz recording were published by RCA as part of the Heifetz Collection. First two boxes of 3 CDs each cover all between 1917 and 1934. I've them but I'm afraid they have been OOP for years.

December 14, 2009 at 12:45 AM ·

I think some of the roughness you hear in his later recordings comes from overly close miking.  Any virtuoso, to be heard in large spaces, really goes after the violin and makes a lot of friction sounds that aren't that nice heard from 5 feet away.  But those sounds are sound like crisp articulation at a distance.  The plain gut strings he used add to the scratchiness up close.

I heard a story from a violinist that at Heifetz's final appearance with the LA Phil in the 1960s, he heard H. warming up backstage and was startled at how hard he was whacking away in spiccato--really scratchy.  Then he went out and sounded glorious.

December 14, 2009 at 02:52 AM ·

I think Heifetz had a glorious 'golden' tone. I've listened probably to almost every Heifetz studio recording and many live performances of his.  I can't say I can point out any note that was 'scratchy' ,distorted, or harsh.  

December 15, 2009 at 06:47 PM ·

 I couldn't agree more with Nate.  Unfortunately, I'm too young to have heard him live, but I will say this--I've never met ANYONE who heard him play live in concert, that didn't tell me he had the most golden, glorious sound.  The people who say he's "scratchy" tend to have heard him through recordings only, where he is famous for having insisted on being miked up close.  It's too bad that we can't hear him today.... I think he is often misjudged by younger generations.  Anyway I don't doubt what I've heard from those who saw him play, because it is obvious he is supremely in control.... and he wouldn't have settled for something less than perfection.  I also appreciate hearing about recordings that more accurately captured his sound--I don't have ANY of his Naxos and I look forward to owning them.  Thanks for pointing them out, much appreciated. :)

December 16, 2009 at 02:22 PM ·

I heard Heifetz live once, in the late '50's. Golden tone, yes. Warmth, yes. Clean, clear articulation and sparkling technique, yes. Musical beyond musical, yes. What's not to like. He was one of a kind.

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