Favourite quotes from Great Violinists

October 31, 2005 at 04:08 PM · Would anyone like to share any inspiring articles, or just quotes which are about or by some Great Violinists or Musicians?

I think they would be really interesting to gain an insight to their personalities... hmm

Replies (77)

October 31, 2005 at 06:54 PM · One of my favorites is Milstein once said "great violinist that michael, whats his name?"

(speaking about michael rabin)

October 31, 2005 at 06:56 PM · Another Milstein quote: 'there are no difficult pieces. Either you can play it, or you can't'.


November 1, 2005 at 12:32 AM · Hi,

"Take a chance. If you miss it, it will hurt only once." (Jascha Heifetz)

"A violinist should always be happy when he is playing. If he is playing well, he should be happy that he is playing well. If he is not playing well, then he should be happy because it will soon be over." (Jascha Heifetz)


November 1, 2005 at 03:10 AM · I have this one in my case -

"Criticism does not disturb me, for I am my own severest critic. Always in my playing I strive to surpass myself, and it is this constant struggle that makes music fascinating to me."

- Jascha Heifetz

And another, not from a famous violinist, but a well-loved violin teacher upon the completion of a piece by my then 8 year daughter.

"Not bad....not good, but not bad".

November 1, 2005 at 03:34 AM · Cindy,

That last quote is the equivalent of violin purgatory.


November 1, 2005 at 03:58 AM · Music is the thousandth of a millisecond between one note and another; how you get from one to the othere-that's where the music is." Issac Stern

"One must take a leap and dare to make music, the fear of failure be damned" Barry Green


"When it starts getting tough, make faces." Perlman

I have a whole bunch, just can't remember them now. I'll write them as they come to me.


November 1, 2005 at 06:28 AM · There could be an encyclopedia written about Anne-Sophie Mutter's disparaging remarks...

During a rehearsal of the Brahms violin concerto with the Boston Symphony, directed towards the violin section: "You sound like dogs."

About Baroque violinists: "They are players who ordinarily wouldn't make it, who make silly accents with the bow, cannot produce a sound, and think they are making something profound."

About a certain guest conductor with the Munich Philharmonic (back in the early 90's): "Yes, I am rather a leader, and when he informed me how I would play the Berg in rehearsal, I needed to leave. End of story."

November 1, 2005 at 06:52 AM · I don't know if he counts as a "great violinist"...


"Pay no attention to what the critics say; no statue has ever been put up to a critic."

Jean Sibelius

and here are some others ^^

For 37 years I've practiced 14 hours a day, and now they call me a genius.

Pablo de Sarasate

There are more bad musicians than there is bad music.

Isaac Stern

"When love is deep, much can be accomplished"

Shinichi Suzuki

"I am not handsome, but when women hear me play, they come crawling to my feet."

Niccolo Paganini (I dunno if this is so great ^^U)

Of course...if you cheat you can include people like Einstein...he had a lot to say ^^

OH, and Bach touched the violin a little too, I think ^^ (his primary instrument was organ though...if I remember...)

look at this

"I was made to work. If you are equally industrious, you will be equally successful."

~ Johann Sebastian Bach


November 1, 2005 at 12:55 PM · Here are a few more in my collection (I put a bunch of career and motivation quotes at careermotiv8.com/quotations.html):

Bach: "It's easy to play any musical instrument -- All you have to do is touch the right key at the right time and the instrument will play itself" (That's easy for HIM to say; he played the harpsichord and the organ)

Jack Benny (assuming he qualifies as a violinist): "I don't deserve this award, but I have arthritis and I don't deserve that either."

Heifetz was once quoted as saying that to play the violin, you need "the nerves of a bullfighter, the vitality of a night-club hostess, and the concentration of a Buddhist monk."

Fritz Reiner: "Watch out for emergencies. They are your big chance."

Ruggiero Ricci: "An expert is someone who does everything else worse."

Dr. Albert Schweitzer (musician/explorer / physician/ missionary, etc.): "There are two refuges from the miseries of life--music and cats."

Joseph Wechsberg: "A violin should be played with love or not at all."

And how can we leave this list without that great violinist, Henny Youngman: "I've got all the money I'll ever need, if I die by four o'clock."

Sandy Marcus

November 1, 2005 at 02:36 PM · Here are a few morning quotes...

From Sir Thomas Beecham of course, in the early days of women being in the orchestra, with a beautiful cellist there that distracted all the men... "You have the most beautiful of intruments between your legs. Please don't scratch it!"

From a photo of a t-shirt worn by Zukerman: "I play with vibrato and do slides in Baroque Music. Deal with it."

Zukerman in response to a public question by a student on how to prepare quickly for a competition: "If you are not ready, don't do the competition. You should practice for it like for anything else. Don't change your practice just for that. It's not about speeed, it's about doing it well."

From a well-known violinist on the subject of being more in tune or not: "Intonation is like being pregnant. You are not more pregnant, or less pregnant. Either you are or aren't."

Ricci, on the subject of playing the way he likes, rather than some arbritary rules: "Now, I will play the way I like. Better to be a prostitute than a nun."


November 1, 2005 at 02:54 PM · "Not bad....not good, but not bad".

That's funny, Cindy. My teacher said once: "Not bad..., which means it's not good."

Heifetz: " If I don't practice for one day, I'll know it. If I don't practice for two days, the critics will know it. If I don't practice for three days, the whole public will know it."

November 1, 2005 at 05:37 PM · Sarah, that last quote is actually attributed to Rubinstein:

"If I do not practice for one day, I know it. Two days, my wife says something. Three days, the world world."

November 1, 2005 at 05:45 PM · Heifetz when asked about how he never messes up with intonation "I do not always play in tune, I just fix it quicker than anyone else."

Christian, I like the one on pregnancy and intonation. That was funny! :D

November 2, 2005 at 12:47 AM · John Lanceley -

"I never practice"

Crap, Im not famous yet...

November 2, 2005 at 10:18 PM · When I was in college, at an orchestra rehearsal of Mozart's Musical Joke, we were rehearsing the famous passage where the French horns purposely play the wrong notes. One of the horn players asked our conductor if the passage Mozart was satirizing was actually to be played in "thirds." Our conductor said, "Yes, in turds." Got a nice laugh from all of us.

November 2, 2005 at 11:38 PM · "I occasionally play works by contemporary composers for two reasons. First to discourage the composer from writing any more and secondly to remind myself how much I appreciate Beethoven."


November 2, 2005 at 11:46 PM · Christian the Ricci one is killin me.

August 30, 2006 at 10:09 PM · "Wow is it a year later already?" - Jim W. Miller

"Wagner was a musician who wrote music that is much better than it sounds." - Mark Twain

August 31, 2006 at 01:52 AM · "Playing Ysaye is a bit like the Grand Prix or Formula One. You have to know all the turns and curves, and even then it's not really safe." --Maxim Vengerov

August 31, 2006 at 02:04 AM · "That reminds me, I'm playing a concert tonight." -Fritz Kreisler, after seeing a row of fish at a market

From "Better Than it Sounds, A Dictionary of Humorous Musical Quatations" by David W. Barber

ISBN 0-920151-22-1

August 31, 2006 at 02:10 AM · Yay! I love quotes.

"There is no top. There are always further heights to reach."

-Jascha Heifetz

"Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy, it is the wine of a new procreation, and I am Bacchus who presses out this glorious wine for men and makes them drunk with the spirit."

-Ludwig Van Beethoven

"Music is not illusion, but revelation rather. Its triumphant power lies in the fact that it reveals to us beauties we find nowhere else, and that the apprehension of them is not transitory, but a perpetual reconcilement of life."

-Peter Illyich Tchaikovsky

[I love that quote! It's like my guiding inspiration]

August 31, 2006 at 02:26 AM · My inspiration is a quote from Ferrucio Busoni that he told to a fourteen-year-old Joska Szigeti: "My wish for you is, may your art satisfy you. Others will then rejoice in it, but the former is the more important." Joska admits that Busoni was the biggest influence that changed him as a musician, and that quote sums it up rather nicely.

August 31, 2006 at 02:52 PM · A few quotes about the career of the great Jan Kubelik

1) "At a concert which he gave in Prague in 1906 his old neighbours rallied in hundreds and gossiped about his early days. 'His practicing drove me crazy' said a washerwoman who lived next door to him. Others spoke of the way he played in village inns, tramping the country, and receiving coppers from the peasants". (biographer J.Cuthbert Hadden on Kubelik)

2) "Kubelik lacked expression at first, but it came to him as he grew older" (Ottakar Sevcik reminiscing about his prize pupil)

3) Kubelik with all his marvelous finger facility, could never develop a big bow technique. His playing lacks strength, richness of sound (Leon Sametini on his Sevcik classmate Kubelik)

4) If Kubelik had had another teacher instead of Sevcik he would have been great, for he had great gifts. Even as it was he played well, but I consider him one of Sevcik's victims. (Jacques Thibaud on Kubelik)

5) I have never heard anyone but Kubelik play it. It is so difficult, in fact, that it should not be played! (Tividar Nachez on Kubelik's ability to play Schubert-Ernst's "Erlkonig")

6) "This is how you treat me after I've made your hotel famous???" (Louis Lochner relating through Kreisler an episode in which an enraged Kubelik reportedly yanked down a picture of Paderewski)

7) "Become part of the violin and make it sound beautiful, is always the maxim which I preach to young players wherever I go" (Jan Kubelik on himself).

Side note: Kubelik financially outearned Thibaud and Sametini despite his incredibly short playing career. That's not a rap on Thibaud or Sametini - it's just acknowledging the rock star like draw of that celebrated Bohemian violin superstar.

September 2, 2006 at 03:11 PM · Mischa Elman (to an admirer asking him what it is like to be Mischa Elman): "Sometimes I think it's all a dream."

(Can't remember the source).

Fritz Reiner: "It's not true that I hate musicians. I just hate BAAAAAAD musicians." (I've seen it quoted several places)


September 2, 2006 at 03:39 PM · "You may be ready for Beethoven,but Beethoven is not ready for you!" Heifetz

September 2, 2006 at 05:34 PM · Aaron Rosand told me with a smile once that Heifetz and I had things in common, "notably, you both have Arthritis in your shoulders." He walked away chuckling.

September 3, 2006 at 02:54 AM · After a concert, Heifetz met a couple, who invited him to have dinner and play for them. Heifetz answered: "Sorry, my violin doesn´t have dinner".

September 3, 2006 at 05:28 AM · One of my favorite quotes was said to me by the successful film composer Bill Conti (Rocky, The Karate Kid, etc.). I served as concertmaster of the Walt Disney World Orchestra many years ago and Mr. Conti was guest conducting. After our final concert with him I was about to hop a plane to DC for an audition for the White House Marine Orchestra. I asked for some departing wisdom and he said to me the following:

"First, you should have the most FUN you possibly can taking the audition. If you are NOT chosen, remember this: There are thousands of people in this world who love YOUR playing . . . they just haven't heard you yet."


September 3, 2006 at 04:47 PM · "In 1895, violinist Cesar Thomson told an American interviewer that he believed the days of the virtuoso to be numbered. All the intelligence, energy, and genius of the modern composer, he said, are bent upon orchestral work, or work in which the orchestra predominates or largely participates. The prediction does not seem like coming true yet awhile".

September 6, 2006 at 01:46 AM · An annoyed narrator, to the Guckenheimer Sauerkraut Band when they kept playing loudly (and out of tune) while he was trying to talk about how great the Viennese musicians are: "Vill you please schtop that noise."


September 6, 2006 at 03:13 AM · Once, after a lesson, I asked Mr. Milstein what his next recording will be. He answered: "Complete Unaccompanied Bach again. This time better, I hope!"

September 6, 2006 at 03:30 AM · Margaret Pardee: "You sound too much like a Baroque violinist. Don't do that."

Kevin Huang: "But I thought we were playing Bach. Shouldn't it be done in a period style?"

Margaret Pardee: "No. You have a modern setup."

September 6, 2006 at 06:06 AM · Angel(my teacher): "Oh God, not again"

September 6, 2006 at 10:09 AM · Brahms (to Eugene Ysaye after hearing Ysaye play the Brahms Concerto): "So, it can be played that way, too." A good lesson for those who believe there is only one way to play a given piece of music.


September 6, 2006 at 04:32 PM · A variation on the theme--

My teacher was fond of saying, with mock enthusiasm, "Almost good!"

September 6, 2006 at 04:37 PM · Henry Meyer (LaSalle String Quartet):

"You paid for the whole bow, you will use the whole bow."

September 6, 2006 at 08:47 PM · I saw this on a bumper sticker:

"Lord, help me to be the person my dog thinks I am."

And since my dog always listens to me play and seems to like it (I think), this has become my motto for the week.

:) Sandy

September 7, 2006 at 12:32 AM · Hi,

"Just......................................... PLAY!" (David Oistrakh)


September 9, 2006 at 06:08 PM · "I'm one of the boys, no better than the last second violinist. I'm just the lucky one to be standing in the center, telling them how to play."

- Eugene Ormandy

September 12, 2006 at 08:39 PM · "The majority of husbands remind me of an orangutan trying to play the violin."

- Honore de Balzac

"Life is like playing a violin solo in public and learning the instrument as one goes on."

- Samuel Butler

"If you take a violin, you can make it sound 50 different ways. Not just pizzicato and played by the bow, but ponticello, and harmonics, and tremolos. If you take an oboe and play it, there's about one way you can make it sound: like an oboe."

- John Corigliano (whose father was the concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic)

September 13, 2006 at 12:07 AM · Leon Sametini (teacher of Aaron Rosand):

Ysaye used to roar with laughter when I would tell him how, as a boy of 15, I played the Beethoven concerto for Sevcik - a work which I myself felt and knew it was then out of the question for me to play with artistic maturity - the latter's only criticisms on my performance were that one or two notes were a little too high, and a certain passage not quite clear.

September 16, 2006 at 05:14 AM · Ruth French (my teacher) after telling me of all the non-related Wong families that had mysteriously cancelled their lessons on a particular day:

"I guess two Wongs don't make a right."

September 16, 2006 at 11:16 AM · I play the Huang way.

September 16, 2006 at 12:14 PM · How do you pronounce Huang?

September 16, 2006 at 12:54 PM · Hwong or even Ungh ("yellow")

September 16, 2006 at 05:08 PM · Not quite my guess :) Is Kevin your birth given name or do you have a lovely chinese one too?

September 16, 2006 at 10:11 PM · Kevin IS my birth name, Matthias.

A few years ago, I posted as "HuangKaiVun" on Maestronet. That's my Taiwanese name. Then I was banned from that board for offending the wrong people (some of them prominent violinist.com members). Now I'm HERE . . . for the moment.

September 16, 2006 at 10:50 PM · Greetings,

offending people is mandatory here. You've just gt to do it in style,



September 17, 2006 at 05:49 AM · Oh, so you is HKV :)

I remember when you posted Libesleid, the interpretation was not at all to my liking but I remember that I thought that you hade a bow arm to kill for!

There where some big egos on Mnet and I am glad that you decided to join us instead.

September 17, 2006 at 04:56 PM · That is only true in bad popular music and bad classical :)

September 18, 2006 at 12:51 AM · "Do-Re-Mi is kinda like a moose getting up off the ground."

--Kayla McVeigh

September 18, 2006 at 05:08 AM · I had a quote from a great violinist in another thread, but heck, everybody deserves a second chance:)

September 18, 2006 at 05:26 AM · Kevin,

No need to advertise for John Thornton.

He has been officially banned by the editors here as of Friday, and he similarly has been banned from Maestronet as well.

Trying to pass off (knowingly and willingly) bogus instruments as genuine articles is unlawful and is punishable by Law.

And those running the scam operation (along with him), are being looked into.

"You Reap What You Sow" ;)

September 18, 2006 at 07:33 AM · yes I'm sure he was running a dangerous violin cartel complete with central american henchmen with black moustaches.

It seems to me as if he was simply a bored old man with some sort of complex. I must admit, he was very nice in every e-mail he ever sent me, and never once made any commercially motivated overtures. He looked at pictures of my violin and told me about its apparent origin, which of course I take with at least 3 boxes of kosher salt, but I won't totally crucify the man... he's just a little crazy.

September 18, 2006 at 07:21 AM · People who abuse this site will be banned, and without much hesitation. Things like scamming people, posting obscenities, threatening the editors of this site who have bent over backwards to make it a safe and fair place for everyone to talk....that's what I'm talking about.

To most of my dear v.com friends, this does not apply to you. We love *you* guys.

September 18, 2006 at 07:35 AM · Laurie,

You go girl.

September 18, 2006 at 04:41 PM · Laurie, people here have actually threatened you and Robert? Geez! Remind me never to volunteer to be a site moderator. I'm very sorry to hear that, and very grateful to both of you for enduring what you do in order to give us this site. We love you too. :)

September 19, 2006 at 05:54 PM · Laurie: You certainly have my full support. Although, actually, I was about to post some pornography, but then I realized that I don't have a pornograph to play it on.

:) Sandy

September 19, 2006 at 08:37 PM · Simon Fischer, in a local masterclass, to the lovely shining star of our conservatorium:

"has your teacher told you to use the whole bow?

She, meekly "yeh"

Simon "so why are your parents still paying for lessons if you're not listening. You know, if you only practise the same old way, you'll only ever get the same old result. Now USE THE WHOLE BOW."

The masterclass proceeded for 1 1/2 hour with never getting out of the G scale.

September 19, 2006 at 10:00 PM · sounds riveting.

September 19, 2006 at 10:09 PM · Geez, I suppose it would be in bad taste to walk out in the middle of a master class such as that?

September 19, 2006 at 11:01 PM · Greetings,

I think I prefer the Heifetz method of producing a twelve inch bow and offering it to the student because the current one is far too long,



September 19, 2006 at 11:19 PM · Well I suspect that something with Simon Fisher is far more likely to be a technique class rather than a masterclass.

September 20, 2006 at 06:36 AM · You have my support too, Mrs. Niles. You run this forum FAIRLY, and for that I have no complaints whatsoever.

Violinist.com is still the best forum around.

September 20, 2006 at 10:41 AM · Hey, the materclass wasn't all that bad. I mean, they did the scale over like, 2 octaves.

With vibrato......a bit......somewhere towards the end.

September 20, 2006 at 11:45 AM · I wish that my teachers had that patience with my playing back then.

September 20, 2006 at 11:47 AM · Hi,

A scale is still something. I have seen masterclasses with Mr. Zukerman where the person only got to play open strings after their initial performance. But, what a difference afterwards!


October 13, 2008 at 10:16 PM · Holy cow!! Has it been that long since anyone added to this discussion?

Niccolo Paganini (to Franz Liszt): "It's all in how you market it. Play a few fast scales, give'em a backup orchestra tapping the rhythm, light a few strobe candles, and they're all yours."

Actually, I made that up, but I just wanted to revive this discussion.


October 14, 2008 at 06:09 AM · Albert Einstein, after playing the first movement of Schubert's String Quintet, in America: "Kid, ist das nicht wunderbar?"

June 19, 2015 at 07:31 PM · Time to revive this long-dormant discussion -

Sir Thomas Beecham (to a woman asking what instrument her son could learn without the usual agony of the initial stages of learning):"I have no hesitation, Madam, in saying the bagpipes. They sound exactly the same when you have finished learning them as when you start learning them."

Anyone else welcoming back this discussion?

June 19, 2015 at 09:17 PM · Beecham was conducting a rehearsal at Covent Garden and someone ran onto the stage and shouted out "Sorry Sir Thomas, but the donkey has done a you know what in the middle of the stage."

Beecham shouted back "well, what a wonderful critic."

On another occasion in rehearsal a tenor called out 'sorry Sir T, did I die too soon?"

The reply came back "no tenor can die too soon for me."

The brand new first clarinet was in rehearsal in the Holywood Bowl (that's in the US...) and Beecham said "OK, we needn't go on - it's a lovely day." So the first calrinet said "Sir T, I haven't played Brahms one before," to which Sir T replies, "Oh, don't worry, you will love it."

In London after a concert a very obviously pregnant woman came backstage and said " Sir T, that was wonderful, would you be Godfather to my child?" Beecham replied "why bring God into it."

June 22, 2015 at 12:14 PM · I believe I've shared this one on these pages somewhere. However, it deserves repeating.

I heard Sir Thomas Beecham conduct the Chicago Symphony about a year before he died (it was, I think, in 1960). As I recall, he seemed very frail, and hobbled up to the podium, where they had placed a stool for him to sit down while he conducted.

His program was a "Lollipops" concert, basically a concert full of encore pieces. The orchestra played their hearts out for him (the concertmaster then was Sidney Harth). The only piece I remember was a spectacular performance of the Saint-Saens Bacchanale.

After every piece, Beecham would motion the orchestra to stand and take a bow. Then he would stand, turn to the audience, and take a modest little bow.

After about the third encore, when he motioned the orchestra to stand, they all refused, stayed seated, and motioned Beecham to stand. It was a great moment, and we were all applauding wildly.

So Beecham stood, to thunderous applause. He then motioned everyone to sit down, and out of this frail body came a booming voice with his aristocratic British accent, which you could hear distinctly to the very last row of Orchestra Hall.

And he said, "You have a wonderful orchestra here in Chicago. But there is one thing they haven't learned........OBEDIENCE !!!"

He then told a number of delightful personal stories and anecdotes (which, to my regret, I don't remember), and then he hobbled off-stage to a standing ovation from audience and orchestra.

I don't think there's anyone quite like him today. And, incidentally, he was a great conductor.



June 23, 2015 at 02:09 AM · Someone paraphrased a quote they thought was by Dorothy DeLay the other day...something about "cleaning the kitchen and sweeping up the cobwebs" of your technique. Anyone know it? I tried Google and came up with nothing.

June 23, 2015 at 10:59 AM · '"Pay no attention to what the critics say; no statue has ever been put up to a critic."

Jean Sibelius' - Anyone got any idea when the statues to George Bernard Shaw were put up in Dublin and Niagara-on-the-Lake?

I have a quote from Kreisler that was passed on to me verbally by his claimed pupil, Stanislav Frydberg (I think I misspelled his first name the first time I mentioned him on violinist.com): "Horses, women, the violin: Treat them all gently" (in contrast to the old Chinese proverb). Actually, I'm not sure as to what extent Dr Frydberg put this into practice!

June 25, 2015 at 06:46 PM · "I hate music, especially when it's played." - Jimmy Durante

"If at first you don't succeed, so much for skydiving." - Henny Youngman

June 25, 2015 at 09:03 PM · OK--I'll start of with a Beecham:

When told that Malcolm Sargent had missed a conducting engagement because he had been detained in Egypt, he said, “I had no idea that the Arabs were such a musical people.”

--Sir Thomas Beecham

“My sole inspiration is a telephone call from a producer.”

--Cole Porter

“I would rather play Chiquita Banana and have my swimming pool than play Bach and starve.”

--Xavier Cougat

June 27, 2015 at 08:16 AM · (Taking his word for it) "Qualis artifex pereo" ("What an artist dies with me!").

Nero Claudius Caesar Drusus Germanicus

"If you cannot save both, at least let the child live, for other wives are easily found"

Henry VIII of England

"my latest symphony"

Orpheus (source: Halévy/Crémieux/Offenbach)

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