Itzhak Perlman as a teacher

March 14, 2005 at 06:15 AM · Has anyone here studied with Itzhak Perlman? Is he filling the void that Dorothy Delay left when she passed on?

If anyone has studied with him, or has heard about how he is as a teacher, I'd really appreciate a couple comments about that here.

Replies (54)

March 14, 2005 at 06:17 AM · Greetings,

if you read everything by Carla Leurs you iwll find a lot of good references to Perlman.

Mr. Gringolts also studied with him. In his Strad interview he commented on how Perlman rarely played in his lesson but when he did it took him days to recover.



March 14, 2005 at 05:07 PM · Anyone that has the kind of performing experience and plays the way Perlman does has to be a good teacher.

March 14, 2005 at 05:36 PM · Nate, not necessarily so. Talent for performing is one thing, and talent for teaching is another thing. They go together sometimes, but certainly not always. My understanding from reading Carla Leurs's blog is that Perlman is both.

March 14, 2005 at 05:46 PM · Pauline, what I was trying to point out is that there are certain things one cannot learn from someone with no performing experience. A teacher that has the experience and ability to play well is much more helpful.

March 14, 2005 at 10:07 PM · I agree with Nate. Performing experience, especially the sort that we know Perlman has, really enhances what one can learn off a particular teacher. That, to me, is precisely why many of the great soloists and concertmasters have produced so many other great musicians.

March 15, 2005 at 12:31 AM · A visiting first violinist of a famous quartet told me after a concert, "Those who play, play. Those who teach, teach. And those who can't teach, play."

March 15, 2005 at 01:40 AM · That's absolutely absurd, of course, but it does show an important point: watch out for teachers who don't have significant (and preferably ongoing) performance experience.

That said, I do disagree with Nate's initial post. The fact that Perlman plays well and has loads of experience does not guarantee by any means that he is a good teacher, though it certainly sounds like he is.

March 15, 2005 at 02:06 AM · Yeah just because one knows everything about the world, doesn't mean he can transfer that knowledge on a level others can understand.

March 15, 2005 at 03:54 AM · Hi,

I think that Nate is right. I would love to know who the first violinist of a quartet was. Sounds a lot like someone I know, really. Like someone said so rightly in a recent thread, and I quote; "You can't teach what you don't know." Plus, considering who Perlman studied with, I am sure that he has the pedagogical background that anyone could dream to have.


March 15, 2005 at 04:10 AM · LOL


Did I just hear you roar?



March 15, 2005 at 04:23 AM · I just want to point out that while this little argument here is nice, no one's answered the initial question.

March 15, 2005 at 04:28 AM · Cheers,


Release of agressive repartee?

Hey, I`m getting the hang of this computer lingo,



(Born to undermine roaring iconoclasts)

PS I answered the initial question to some extent so that wa smore of a miaow.

March 15, 2005 at 06:10 AM · what about the great russian authoritarian teachers of the moscow conservatory? they taught almost by sheer example and im sure little of you would really call them great teachers...but look at the students they produced!

March 15, 2005 at 06:15 AM · Ok, but what about both Heifetz and Joachim, who notably failed to produce great students? With better pedagogy and career advice behind them, might not Erick Friedman and Eugene Fodor, among others, have had larger careers?

March 15, 2005 at 06:57 AM · Jude I think that is not at all accurate to say Heifetz wasn't a good teacher, I know first hand he was a very good teacher from my studies with Friedman. Most people form there judgement on his teaching from those two masterclass videos which didn't really show how he taught. Heifetz didn't want the general public to know his trade secrets I think. Heifetz had many other students like Amoyal, Yaron, Rosenthal, Dicterow that are really players not to sneeze at. Legend has it that Perlman would play for Heifetz whenever he was in LA.

March 15, 2005 at 07:27 AM · Live recording of the Walton violin concerto played by Mr. Friedman:

March 15, 2005 at 06:28 AM · I do think one can only teach as well as one plays (or has played), and that it is important for teachers to continue performing and growing musically. But great performers don't always make great teachers. Sometimes they do, but sometimes they simply do not. Sometimes they have little patience for the trevails of a lowly student.

In my own experience, I did have a teacher who was a marvelous performer and a child prodigy, but he did not communicate well. If one teaches solely by example, one has a limited amount of students one can reach, namely, those who learn best through example.

That teacher, for me, absolutely did not compare to other teachers I had who were brilliant pedagogues and communicators, though he probably played a more impressive Tzigane than the others.

Can someone speak to the question of Perlman?

March 15, 2005 at 07:17 AM · LOL Buri,

I would have thought it was Born to UnderLINE Roaring Iconoclasts.

Lisa ;-)

March 15, 2005 at 07:19 AM · Purportedly, Paganini was one of the worst violin teachers in existence - and that was according to his only successful pupil, Sivori.


March 15, 2005 at 09:28 AM · Not to say that Sivori was his Only pupil. And quite succesful.

That is 100% successful students.

March 15, 2005 at 09:54 AM · From my experience of Perlmans' Masterclasses, he has a unique ability to transmit complex info to a student in a simple way. One well- phrased sentence from him can provoke a lot of thought and revelation; veritable gems!

March 15, 2005 at 11:35 AM · Greetings,

nate, I have watched thoise Heifetz videos over and over and the more I do the better I think his teaching was. The situation is unreal but I think you can get a good sense of much better things.

The Ayk book also describes some importnat aspects of his taeching that his studnets apparently werebn"t awrae of when they went to him such as 'know the piano part.' If this seems banal perhaps it is. On the other hand, if supposedly crack violinists weren"t bothering then someone ha d to say it. In the end though I feel the comment made by Grach in his recent Strad interview summed up the problem."Heifetz understood stuydnets needed to be directed to the buried treasure , only he diretced his students to the place where he had already dug it all up. (roughly accuaret).



March 15, 2005 at 11:58 AM · Hi,

I have not had the priveldge to see Mr. Perlman's classes myself, but from friends who have attended his classes, they tell somewhat what Thomas said: that he can explain something profound in a very straightforward way, and that he combines well a well articulated point with brilliant demonstrations of course.


P.S. This said, and I put this in P.S. because it is not related to the conversation, I think that Laurie's point is excellent. Ideally a teacher should be able to play well and articulate his/her point clearly. If one can do both brilliantly, then so much the better. But a person who can only demonstrate and not zero in on the exact thing to fix, and how to do it, will not get his point across as clearly. On that note, I saw an unbelievable class by Mauricio Fuks from Indiana University yesterday that embodied just that.

March 15, 2005 at 02:45 PM · Christian, you said it perfectly.

Nate, we had a big discussion about this on the "New at Teaching" thread - you might want to check it out.

I agree with what Buri said also (and stated that in the other discussion).

In addition, with a very advanced teacher (and in the context of this thread author's question), one presumes an advanced student, presumably with a context already in place with which to decipher a cryptic teacher's remarks (not saying Perlman is cryptic - I have only ever heard him speak very articulately). I think that is pointed out in the Zukerman videos also. Many would think he is missing the point, but for those who can see, he has gone directly to the heart of the matter. When I converse with very intelligent or accomplished people, sometimes I have to do some research to keep up.


March 15, 2005 at 09:15 PM · Does Mr. Perlman grant lessons for people not studying with him already? I might be going down to NYC very soon to meet with one of his colleague, Mr. Flores, for a lesson.

I'm sure that will be very helpful. Perhaps for my DMA or my MM, I'd like to study with Mr. Perlman, at least on occassion.

March 15, 2005 at 10:06 PM · "...I do think one can only teach as well as one plays (or has played)..."


I would respectfully have to disagree strongly with that. I agree that a certain level of practical ability and performance experience is necessary to become a great teacher, or even a good teacher. The problem is I can think of a huge number of examples that go against your philosophy. I'm not going to mention contemporary names, since it might possibly offend the marvellevous pedagogues I am thinking of.

I can agree with what you say to a certain extent at the lower echelons of violin instruction, but I think at the higher levels, the actual playing ability of one's teacher becomes less and less relevant. Were Ivan Galamian and Dorothy Delay better players than their best pupils? Was Jascha Brodsky a better technician than Hilary Hahn? I would love to mention a slew of other European examples too, but I'll leave it at that :)

March 15, 2005 at 10:19 PM · Jonathan,

I completely agree. I doubt that Galamian (though he was undoubtedly a fine player in his earlier years) was ever as technically proficient as Rabin. Same thing with DeLay and Perlman. The very greatest talent cannot be taught, but merely developed. It takes far more than just being a great violinist to be able to nuture talent.


March 15, 2005 at 10:38 PM · Exactly Carl. If the potential is not in the student to begin with, it matters not one iota how good the teacher is. There are numerous examples of contemporary players whose early training involved teachers who could almost be described as "one hit wonders". And yet these pupils developed the majority of their facility on the instrument with their earlier teachers. Sure, a "famous" teacher then polished them off, but these pupils were already incredible, world class players at the hands of their more humble teachers. I myself learned from a Galamian pupil, and towards the end of my studies my teacher was looking to put me in the hands of a "more famous" teacher. The fact was, my old teacher would probably have been more than capable of carrying on. As it turned out in later years, my old teacher did not suddenly "explode" with a brand new violin technique to rival Michael Rabin (although being a Julliard graduate she had ability in spades). But my old teacher certainly got a lot more teaching experience, and ended up training pupils at the very highest levels. It had nothing whatsoever to do with my teacher's playing ability, as wonderful player as my old teacher is. In fact, I am sure a lot of more advanced players here will acknowledge that once they reached a certain stage of performing, their teachers were more and more reluctant to get their fiddles out to demonstrate. In my last year, I hardly remember my teacher even getting their fiddle out much at all. It didn't impact my progress or learning ability at all.

March 15, 2005 at 10:44 PM · i dont know if there are exact criteria you can apply to what makes a great teacher. certainly delay was a great teacher and definetely not on teh level of the majority of her students. but of course you need to understand the violin to teach.

March 15, 2005 at 10:45 PM · btw i'm not suprised joachim didnt produce any great violinists, his technique was not all that good. and you can't always teach musicality.

March 15, 2005 at 11:23 PM · Greetings,

an interesting thread. Owen, your comment about Joachim made me wonder if we don`t have a tendency to analyse things about teachers on too simple a level. Justusinng example , basically you/us are thinking in a kind of paradigm constrcuted on the ratio between playign abilty and abilty to analyse what one is doing and explain that, right? But teachign/learnign has become a huge (perhaps the ultimate) area of research into what makes us tick as humans and perhaps allows us to break things down even more to be concerned with things like elarner styles, the extent we regard learning as filling the stduent from without or bring out what is innate and loads of stuff like this.

So when I try and figure out people like Joachim or anyone else I think w eneed something more. Was he a crappy player ? Well, yes sort of. But did that necesarily lead to him of necessity being able to articlaute/not articlate as a criteria for evaluating his teaching? At least some of the things he appeared to do in his lessons were not much differnet from what Misltein or Heifetz or even Auer did.

One area where this may have broken down completley may have been the kind of cultural milleu in which he taught. The context was I suppose a kind of feudal hierachy iin which Joachim was top dog (a trend that persisted in European quartet style) and that would very much have conditioned the attitude and thinking of the studnets themselves to the point where it may have been impossible to learn or be curious or whatever,

Just a quick ramble,


March 16, 2005 at 12:44 AM · Good point. On another level, I feel we have also been using the number of famous pupils an instructor has in order to determine his standing in the heirarchy of good teachers-- and I'm not thoroughly convinced that this is an acceptable criteria. Where would Heifetz be without his naggingingly insistent father? Where would Olveira be without his brother as guide?

On a personal note, I credit most of my success to the teacher who took me from 0 to the Vivaldi Concertos-- and that was no easy task! And what have I learned from that? In short, I believe that even if we were to use students as measuring sticks, I think the best way to evaluate is by looking at how far their teacher took them from their initial point of origin as opposed to whatever laissez faire aprroach some bigshot used to slick up their ready-made prodigies.

P.S. Don't be so quick to knock Joachim. Maybe his turn of the century recording as a fumbling geriatric doesn't portray him in the most positive light. Still, his sense of style that is evident in his editing and the sheer amount of influence he had on the way people wrote for the violin since the 19th century ought to count for something.

March 16, 2005 at 01:13 AM · Joachim was of course an incredibly important influence on violin playing, and I haven't even heard those recordings. I read a little about his teaching, though, which is described by Henry Roth (if I remember correctly) as stiff, out-dated, and ineffective.

That's a very important point, though, Lewis.

March 16, 2005 at 02:26 AM · Greetings,

thanks. I never read the Roth description. But it does beg some questions. What did he mean by stiff? Is this the Debbie Does Dallas question again?

Dated? Dated relative to what? Are we to make the claim Auer`s teachign is still modern or would be relevant in today`s context. Bron has pointed out on a n umber of ocassions that today@s player s have to learn a completley different set of skills to do with rapid learnign and retention of major works- what he refers to as flexibilty. Heifetz never really had to do taht kind of stuff. he took the Summer off and travelled by ship before many world tours.

Ineffective? I think this one is on safer ground in thta it can be measured by the number of known students he produced. But that still doesn`t dela with the thorny question of who really does th eteachign anyway? the lesser known person who is great in giving a foundation or those who juts provide an example for a fertile and prepared field.

In his book Auer seems to suggets a split- some people profited from his example by going beyond externals. those that couldn`t failed to improve.



March 16, 2005 at 03:07 AM · Hi,

This is interesting. Lewis makes an interesting point and so does Buri. Part of the negative view of Joachim's teaching stems from Flesch's negative endorsment. However, Flesch did raise an interesting point: that a teacher's greatness is measured by his ability to raise the general level of violin playing (i.e. of the average student) and that geniuses will always find their own way. A thought to consider...


March 16, 2005 at 03:24 AM · I have great admiration for Galamian, many of my teachers were his proteges. I'm thinking that he was able to do, at least at some time in his career, the techniques he taught, and correct me if I'm wrong.

What I'm saying is that a teacher who can't, say, do spiccato and never has been able to, will probably be rather unsuccessful teaching it.

March 16, 2005 at 03:37 AM · That geniuses will find their own way is old school thought. 20th century thought was that genius is very commonly undone, for what it's worth.

March 16, 2005 at 03:30 PM · Hi:

Laurie - that is very true. Jim: you are ablsolutely right. I don't know how else to say it. Too bad you can't call Flesch and tell him...


March 16, 2005 at 03:58 PM · "Was he a crappy player ? Well, yes sort of."

Sorry for questioning this but saying that on one of the most important violinists in the 19th century who is surely among the most famous in his time is quite odd in my oppinion. I hope you don't base it on what he "recorded" if that's how it was called :)

March 16, 2005 at 11:37 PM · Greetings,

actually I find quite a lot of things I like in Joachim`s playing. Maybe the choice of term was unfortunate but I don`t think that playing is really accpetable by todays standards.

No I don`t just base it on recordings , there are also a few writeen reports (one by Shaw I think) iof his making a bloody awful noise on more than one ocassion. So two otehr criteria by which I might judge his playing are theMilstein one thta to be genuinly great one has to be consistent.

Of course, in my previous life as a toilet cleaner at the worlds greatest concert halls, I had a great dela of first hand experience which I am happy to pass on to you,



March 17, 2005 at 12:27 AM · I've had teachers who have been amazing performers but can't teach a thing, teachers who don't do much performing but have a huge gift for teaching, and teachers who are a combination of the two.

Everyone works differently when they learn and different teachers work better for different people. Some people learn very well purely by example, others prefer and want an explanation as to why things do/do not work.

I think ultimately you just have to determine the type of learner you are and find a teacher who works for you and who will cater and tap into your learning style and nurture you. You shouldn't pick a teacher purely because they are famous or because of what they have on their resume for a degree, you should pick the teacher because you truly believe he/she will be a compatible fit for you and your learning style and who you can gain knowledge from.

March 17, 2005 at 12:47 AM · I always pick my teachers according to who charges the most. I like spending lots of money!!!


March 17, 2005 at 02:04 AM · I agree with Jonathan and Lewis. I think it's also important to remember that, where the top teachers are concerned, really it only takes one exceptional student to make the name of the teacher in question. If you could boast of having taught the Next Big Thing (even though, as has been pointed out, you probably only put the icing on what was already a scrummy cake), every other talented student will be queuing round the block. I'm not saying it's always this way, but you have to wonder whether it's the teacher who makes the students, or the students who make the teacher.

March 17, 2005 at 02:47 AM · One of Shaw's attacks on Joachim was really primarily an attack on his performance of the Bach C major fugue, which apparently evaded comprehension either of Joachim or Shaw...

March 17, 2005 at 07:03 AM · Interesting idea Jim, but I can't help but feel that your latter statement implies that a rather inordinate amount of geniuses exist in this world. That being said, here's a few more points.

First, I'm not surprised Flesch/Shaw considers Joachim old-fashioned. Shaw is Joachim's junior by 25 years, and Flesch is 16 years younger than Shaw. Not to mention the fact that as intelligent as he is, Shaw was inclined to be acid-tongued towards most musicians anyways.

Second, maybe Galamian/Delay etc. weren't in the top eschelon of violin soloists by the time they were teaching, but we still have to evaluate them with a certain amount of perspective-- the very fact that in general, we stigmatize those who make an uneventful appearance in the performing limelight. When I heard Galamian in a "lost" recording from his youth, "Heifetz" wasn't the first word that came to mind. However it was an acceptable performance that was at least as good as 90% of the current violin-playing population on a good day, and certainly better than a majority of the students I hear in conservatories.

March 17, 2005 at 07:26 AM · Along with a strong technical, musical and performing ability i think a lot depends on the personality and what a teacher conveys of their personality that influences their teaching ability. (that was a mouthful). I've just started teaching a little. Just youngens and beginners and i really really enjoy it. I'm still young and all but i feel really proud with most of my students so far. I'm not a great performer and the like but i think it's the way i approach teaching that really helps. I'm one of those warm hearted kinda guys and to me if they're not smiling or dont have that little grin saying 'hehe i really like the way i'm sounding' they're not learning.

From all the footage i've seen of Perlman for some reason he just comes across to me as a really warm charismatic person and he seems to have a really appealing sense of humour. I dont know i kinda just feel drawn to him. I'm on my third teacher at the moment and each one has brought me somthing different. My first teacher tought me to love music, my second tought me to hate it (only had him a couple of weeks and told him he was an idiot and left mid lesson one day. now i've stolen one of his students mwahhaha), and my third is currently teaching me how to play it. Anyway i think overall teaching is a natural a instinct and some people have it and some dont.

sorry for the rather long post it's just i'm becoming rather passionate about teaching.

March 18, 2005 at 03:57 PM · So no one here has studied with Perlman?

March 18, 2005 at 04:51 PM · Ilya Gringolts, who occasionally posts here, has studied with Perlman.

March 18, 2005 at 08:21 PM · Hi,

Actually, Carla Leurs, who has a blog on this site currently studies with Mr. Perlman.


March 20, 2005 at 04:07 AM · Kind of digressing again, but it's not like Joachim had a stunted technique; I saw a program from a recital he played when he was 13 that included Ernst's Othello Fantasy, and I have the feeling that he was smart enough to know not to play a piece like that in public if he completely sucked at it. It's just that by the time he made his recordings, he was so far past his prime that they no longer represented his best playing, and , after all, he was raised in a different artistic climate than 20th century violinists.... eh, its late, im just rambling now.

March 20, 2005 at 10:03 PM · there exist first hand accounts that he often had off nights where his intonation was not very good

March 20, 2005 at 11:04 PM · I aggree with Sean. With our unlimited sources we have now as violinists, it's easy for us to criticize the older generation of violinists like Joachim, for intonation, bad sound etc. But we can't forget that Joachim was a violinist in a completely different century, way before we had the luxury of recordings, which raised the standard of modern violinists. And Joachim was the leading pioneer of the 19th century, who championed the concertos of Beethoven, Brahms, Mendelssohn, and many others. So, all I'm trying to say is that we can't compare Joachim's technique, to modern violinists like Heifetz and others, who have/had trained teachers, recordings, books and other sources, to turn to.

March 21, 2005 at 12:11 AM · Well put. Im sure that even Heifetz and Paganini had concerts where they werent at their best, and bad publicity usually sticks more with famous people. After all, wasnt everybody dying for Heifetz to play just one wrong note?

March 21, 2005 at 02:42 AM · Change the record, Erika.

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