Survey of your opinion of the

March 26, 2006 at 06:37 AM · In your opinion, who is the top violinist (or your favorite), living or dead, in each of the following categories? [One to a category, please]

1. Overall technical excellence

2. Vibrato

3. Musical interpretation

4. Left hand technique

5. Right hand technique

6. Overall tone

7. Ability to project emotionally (in person)

8. Ability to project emotionally (in recordings)

9. "Specialty" pieces - which one (or ones)

10. Stage presence (if known)

Thanks. I'm pretty busy these days, but I'll try to tabulate the results in a timely manner.

Cordially to all, Sandy Marcus

Replies (75)

March 26, 2006 at 06:46 AM · Heifetz.

Other then that...Milstein and Shumsky for right hand.

Milstein for emotional.

Kreisler for vibrato.

Misltein for stage presence.

March 26, 2006 at 07:37 AM · 1. Jascha Heifetz

2. Gil Shaham

3. Sergey Khachatryan

4. Jascha Heifetz

5. Isaac Stern

6. Maxim Vengerov

7. Leonidas Kavakos

8. Sergey Khachatryan

9. Sergey Khachatryan - Waxman Carmen Fantasy

10. Joshua Bell

March 26, 2006 at 07:55 AM · Sander, great topic. I was thinking of doing a thread like this one...

1. Hahn

2. Shaham

3. Shaham

4. Heifetz

5. Oistrakh

6. Perlman

7. Preucil!

8. Shaham

9. Bell - The Red Violin; Shaham - Wieniawski F# minor concerto (there ain't a better recording out there)

10. Salenno-Sonnenberg

March 26, 2006 at 08:30 AM · 1. Overall technical excellence


2. Vibrato


3. Musical interpretation


4. Left hand technique


5. Right hand technique


6. Overall tone


7. Ability to project emotionally (in person)

8. Ability to project emotionally (in recordings)


9. "Specialty" pieces - which one (or ones)

10. Stage presence (if known)

March 26, 2006 at 09:22 AM · only string players could vote for something so nonsensical


March 26, 2006 at 11:46 AM · Hi, Ilya: Yes, you're right. I'm trying to get a sample of the opinions of string players. And it indeed may turn out to be nonsensical, but I think it will be interesting to see what the data looks like if enough people respond.

Cheers, Sandy

March 26, 2006 at 01:18 PM · Hi,

Thank you Ilya for saying what I was thinking. How this stuff gets up is a mystery to me. Nonsensical is right.


March 26, 2006 at 04:55 PM · Who cares for "overall technical excellence" if the "musical interpretation" is dead wrong? Which "overall tone" do you mean? The one produced with bad "left hand technique" or the one produced with terrible "right hand technique"? And the "vibrato"? You mean the "vibrato" while having an "overall awful tone" or the one with low level "musical interpretation"? Or do you mean the disgusting "vibrato" with wonderful "left hand technique" with little or no "stage presence" and the total inability to "project emotionally in person"?

I have to admit: my education is far too incomplete to understand the goal and meaning of this poll.

Nevertheless, in "Dead Poets' Society" there was a wonderful scene where students were encouraged to rip a page out off their literature text book. It was a page about something like evaluating, judging literature, not violinists.

How does one rip a page of similar or worse quality out off a forum discussion?


March 26, 2006 at 05:35 PM · Guys, chill.

I know what you're saying, and agree in part, but I think everyone's taking this a little too seriously. It's just a harmless opinion poll, that's all. I'm sure Sander's fully aware of the true impossibility of rating one artist at the level of Oistrakh or Heifetz "better" than another on the same level. And yet there are people on this forum making those sort of judgements all the time. Sander just made it a bit more organized - merely a gauge of violinistic opinion, nothing more.

March 26, 2006 at 06:12 PM · How harmless is it taking a human being apart like a racing car just because this human being makes music by means of a violin?


March 26, 2006 at 06:54 PM · How many people here don't spend half their time telling others here they need to be torn down like a race car, or a jalopy? Nicholas is on the money. Why the sudden sensitivity?

March 26, 2006 at 07:00 PM · I'm not experienced/educated enough to reply to these questions, but that's precisely why I am interested in hearing the results. Thanks, Sandy, for taking the time to present and organize this, and I hope more people reply with names and not just opinions.

March 26, 2006 at 07:12 PM · Everybody will agree that each violinist has got specific qualities. That's what this thread is about. It's not about comparing them like racing cars. It's about what makes the playing of a certain violinist so personal (and human).

Allthough making up a list is a bit dry and doesn't explain much, that's true. At least it made me thinking about this question.

March 26, 2006 at 07:20 PM · Hey, this thread encourages thinking about players' playing, and that's a fantastic and educational activity.

March 26, 2006 at 09:24 PM · Thanks all for your comments, positive AND negative. Nothing is perfect, and there is always the other side of every coin. But I still think that the results might be interesting, especially to string players. My colleagues in psychology and sociology have (in my opinion) created thousands of surveys about a lot less significant topics than this one.

Cordially, Sandy

March 26, 2006 at 09:59 PM · 1. Heifetz

2. Heifetz

3. Heifetz

4. Heifetz

5. Heifetz

6. Heifetz

7. Heifetz

8. Heifetz

9. Heifetz - all except Bach

10. Heifetz

March 27, 2006 at 01:59 AM · 1. Overall technical excellence: Hahn

2. Vibrato: Oistrakh

3. Musical interpretation: Oistrakh

4. Left hand technique: Hahn

5. Right hand technique: Oistrakh

6. Overall tone: Midori

7. Ability to project emotionally (in person): Menuhin

8. Ability to project emotionally (in recordings): Midori

9. "Specialty" pieces - which one (or ones): Oistrakh - Shostakovich Concerto 1

10. Stage presence (if known): Shaham

March 26, 2006 at 11:19 PM · 1. Oistrakh - best technique overall

2. Fransicatti - best vibrato

3. Milstein - best musical intrepretation

4. Hahn - best left hand

5. Heifetz - best right hand

6. Elman - best tone (in his early years)

7. Perlman - best in person interpretation

8. Milstein - best recorded interpretations

9. Mark O'Connor - best specialty pieces (music he performs with Yo Yo Ma from their "Appalacian" series.

10. Milstein - best stage presence

March 27, 2006 at 12:02 AM · 1. Heifetz - best technique overall

2. Stern- best vibrato

3. Menuhin - best musical intrepretation

4. Hahn - best left hand

5. Perlman- best right hand

6. Bell - best tone

7. Hahn- best in person interpretation

8. Rabin- best recorded interpretations

9. - best specialty pieces

10. Heifetz - best stage presence

March 27, 2006 at 01:27 AM · 1. Overall technical excellence


2. Vibrato

all great players have good vibrato

3. Musical interpretation


4. Left hand technique


5. Right hand technique


6. Overall tone


7. Ability to project emotionally (in person)


8. Ability to project emotionally (in recordings)


9. "Specialty" pieces - which one (or ones)

Jenson - Sibelius

10. Stage presence (if known)

Paganini (haha) (I heard he put on a great show)

March 27, 2006 at 03:19 AM · 1. Overall technical excellence

Leonid Kogan

2. Vibrato

Zino Francescatti

3. Musical interpretation

Michael Rabin

4. Left hand technique

Leonid Kogan

5. Right hand technique

Jascha Heifetz

6. Overall tone

Michael Rabin

7. Ability to project emotionally (in person)

Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg

8. Ability to project emotionally (in recordings)

Yehudi Menuhin

9. "Specialty" pieces - which one (or ones)

Efrem Zimbalist - "Coq du Or" fantasy

Jascha Heifetz - "Hora Stacatto"

10. Stage presence (if known)

Maxim Vengerov or Joshua Bell

March 27, 2006 at 04:02 AM · Plump award: Oistrakh

Skinny award- Szigeti

Stump award- Elman

Grumpy award- Heifetz

Funny award- Perlman

Jumping award- Kavakos

just couldn't help it...

March 27, 2006 at 06:09 PM · 1. Overall technical excellence:

Nathan Milstein and Ruggiero Ricci

2. Vibrato:

David Oistrakh, Isaac Stern and Itzhak Perlman

3. Musical interpretation:

Nathan Milstein, David Oistrakh, and Ginette Neveu

4. Left hand technique:

Jascha Heifetz and Nathan Milstein

5. Right hand technique:

Mischa Elman and Isaac Stern; today: Pinchas Zukerman

6. Overall tone:

Mischa Elman and Nathan Milstein

7. Ability to project emotionally (in person):

Nadja Salerno Sonnenberg, Christian Ferras and Ginette Neveu

8. Ability to project emotionally (in recordings):

Nathan Milstein, David Oistrakh, Michael Rabin and Joseph Szigeti

9. "Specialty" pieces - which one (or ones):

Jascha Heifetz playing Bruch's "Scottish Fantasy"

Nathan Milstein playing Dvorak's violin concerto

Mischa Elman playing small pieces by Kreisler

10. Stage presence (if known):

Christian Ferras, Igor Oistrakh, Glenn Dicterow and Leonidas Kavakos

March 27, 2006 at 06:48 PM · 1. Vanessa Mae

2. Vanessa Mae

3. Vanessa Mae

4. Vanessa Mae

5. Vanessa Mae

6. Andre Rieu

7. Vanessa Mae

8. Vanessa Mae

9. Vanessa Mae

10. Vanessa Mae

March 27, 2006 at 07:55 PM · *smirk*

March 27, 2006 at 09:15 PM · Shut up Preston it's true. You're just jealous of her fleet of oil tankers.

March 27, 2006 at 10:03 PM · Have to give credit to a lot of those to Aaron Rosand. Many of the artists previously mentioned themselves give him the nod.

March 27, 2006 at 10:23 PM · Pieter - don't tell me that Toni turned you to the 'dark' side of the Force.

March 27, 2006 at 11:48 PM · Yeah... sorry. I just couldn't resist the Porches and 9 figure bank accounts.

March 28, 2006 at 12:23 AM · HAHAHA!!!

March 28, 2006 at 02:33 AM · So - we've had a female who dress in wet skimpy white dress in the Baltic Sea playing the violin who is "successful". Time for some gay(or lesbian or transvestite) to cash-in on some great violin "marketing". Anyone out there who is willing to start?

March 28, 2006 at 03:14 AM · Wanted: Bisexual Violinist for marketing experiment. No violin playing experience needed.

All enquiries to Cheng.

March 28, 2006 at 09:29 AM · Yes - I'll be happy receive CVs and marketing plans. Any takers?

March 28, 2006 at 04:04 PM · There are 3 players who stand out to me as the greatest recorded violinists Heifetz, Kogan and Rabin ...Szeryng isnt far behind

I seem to listen to oistrakh the most though, I love his sound and he has my favorite vibrato of all

other favorites are evil linda, laurie, amy f, and buri ;p

March 28, 2006 at 04:50 PM · Hi,

Cheng - beware of live auditions ;)


March 28, 2006 at 06:05 PM · jascha :) for everything...

March 29, 2006 at 06:33 AM · 1. Overall technical excellence: Heifetz

2. Vibrato: Menuhin

3. Musical interpretation: Szigeti

4. Left hand technique: Heifetz

5. Right hand technique: Heifetz

6. Overall tone: Mil-Oistrakh-stein

7. Ability to project emotionally (in person): Menuhin

8. Ability to project emotionally (in recordings): Early Elman

9. "Specialty" pieces - which one (or ones:)Kreisler playing ANY Kreisler; Stern playing Melodie from Gluck's Orfeo and Erudice (for sheer songfulness); Kogan playing Largo et Factorum after Rossini by Castelnuevo-Tedesco (technically jaw-dropping)...

10. Stage presence (if known): Spivakovsky

April 1, 2006 at 11:32 PM · So far, only 15 of you have responded with ratings. 15 isn't enough even for a correlation, but it does show a trend.

Some didn't rate in every category, and some gave multiple ratings in any given category. I counted them all. One rater said that every great violinist has a great vibrato, so I gave one point to every violinist (except Paganini and Zimbalist).

I'm going to try to put all the data up on a page somewhere, but for now, here are some highlights.

The "Heifetz Supremacy," if not over, is definitely not what it used to be. He still comes out number one, but the ratings are really spread out over 37 violinists rated. Only in a few categories (Overall technical excellence and both left hand- and right hand-technique) was Heifetz a "distant" first.

And there were a few surprises, and a few whimsical responses.

Vibrato: 4-Heifetz, 3-Francescatti/ Kreisler / D.Oistrakh/ Shaham / Stern.

Project emotionally (in person): 3-Heifetz /Salerno-Sonnenberg, 2-Menuhin, lots of 1's.

Favorite whimsical response: Plump-D.Oistrakh, Grumpy-Heifetz, Jumping-Kavakos.

More later. Cordially, Sandy

April 2, 2006 at 05:38 AM · Cheng and Suresh, that was offensive.

April 3, 2006 at 03:47 PM · 1 paganini

2 paganini


4 paganini

5 paganini

6 paganini

7 paganini

8 paganini

9 paganini

10 paganini

As you can see, I am a fan of him.

April 3, 2006 at 04:19 PM · Yo Luke,

have you ever heard Paganini?

April 3, 2006 at 04:31 PM · I just have to join in on this:

Big Russian Bear award: Repin

Making-funny-faces-while-playing award: Vengerov

Grumpy award: Zukerman

Gypsy award: Karoly Schranz (from the Takacs)

Goofball award: Perlman

April 3, 2006 at 07:42 PM · Repin isn't very big.

April 3, 2006 at 09:14 PM · I saw him in person a few years ago (playing Shostakovich--incredible) and he looked like the classic Siberian guy: tall, stocky, broad-shouldered. I've also seen pictures of him with his old friend Maxim Vengerov and he looks pretty big there too--but then again Vengerov is kind of short. :)

April 3, 2006 at 10:47 PM · these lists are very subjective, but here goes:

noisiest eater: pinchas zukerman

loudest smoking cough: david zafer

tackiest suits: many qualify

biggest pot belly: michael rabin (late 50s/early 60s)

receding hairline: menuhin (his hairline went all the way back to the BC era)

most absent-minded: norbert brainin

funniest faces while playing the hard bits: isaac stern

play like they're dodging bullets: vengerov, bell, kavakos (tie)

best duet with a muppet: itzhak perlman (with telly)

the 'i'll see you in court, you pipsqueak' award: heifetz

please do a maxim photoshoot!: vanessa mae

please DON'T do a maxim photoshoot!: sigiswald kuijken

the 'hey! get away from my porsches!' award: ilya gringolts

April 3, 2006 at 10:03 PM · HAHAHAHA! Thanks for the laugh, D Wright.

April 3, 2006 at 11:35 PM · hahahahaha that's great!

I would say "ugliest suit" goes to that blue-green plaid monstrosity that Vengerov wears on his Sibelius DVD. Great violinist....awful fashion sense. :)

April 4, 2006 at 12:08 AM · where can i collect my award


April 4, 2006 at 12:29 AM · Ilyusha,

Maybe on the Oprah show?? :)

April 4, 2006 at 03:29 AM · IG, you can borrow my favourite Hawaiian shirt for your Oprah appearance, see the photo on my profile :)

April 4, 2006 at 06:51 PM · Ilya - you have to pick it up on the Oprah show, where you will have to restle Josh for it using a giant porterhouse steak... Actually that sounds more like the Jerry Springer Show.

April 4, 2006 at 11:19 PM · You know what guys, all I can say is that Sander is going to have a heck of a time making any kind of tabulation of results from this discussion.

April 5, 2006 at 12:30 AM · Agreed....sorry Sander......we hijacked your thread!

April 5, 2006 at 01:44 AM · Most interesting/entertaining reply while dodging Sandy's questions

D. Wright

April 5, 2006 at 02:13 AM · Hello, everyone. Actually, I've been following everyone responses with great interest (and amusement). As someone who has on more than one occasion added something on the humorous side to other serious discussion threads, I'm in no position to complain. However, if there is a way to integrate some of these -- shall we say -- rather "different" responses into the data, I'll find a way to do it.

Cheers, Sandy

April 5, 2006 at 04:01 AM · I've seen enough tests drawn up by psychologists to know this isn't what it appears to be. What he's actually going to tabulate are the complacent responses, defiant responses, and humorous responses.

April 5, 2006 at 07:34 AM · 1. Overall technical excellence


2. Vibrato

I love Perlman's Vibrato

3. Musical interpretation

Kreisler interpretations are so cool...

4. Left hand technique

Milstein? His recordings are always very precise.

5. Right hand technique

Hahn is very clean

6. Overall tone

Gil Shaham has a very pretty tone. Elman and Kreisler recordings do too.

7. Ability to project emotionally (in person)

Don't know

8. Ability to project emotionally (in recordings)

Yehudi Menuhin

9. "Specialty" pieces - which one (or ones)

Tough one. For movie soundtracks Bell, Hahn, and Perlman have some excellent pieces. Kreisler and Ysaye had their own pieces, of course, Milstein Paganinia, Oistrakh his contemporary pieces... I'm going to pick Heifetz. Some pieces just are always being played by Heifetz. Umm, Scherzo-Tarantelle, Scottish Fantasy, Hora Staccato, etc.

10. Stage presence (if known)

Hilary Hahn and Joshua bell both had good stage presence that I know of. Actually, so did Midori. I can't think of any musician I've seen who had bad stage presence, though some move a lot.

I guess my answer is Joshua Bell. He did a good job announcing that he would not be announcing extra pieces to the audience, right before he announced his encore ^^.

I don't think this poll is insulting great violinists. I guess if somebody comes on and is personally insulted the thread might be a problem. It's not like we're taking a poll of "who is the worst in each category" ~_~. I have to say, some of these categories overlap. Vibrato is connected to tone for me...

April 5, 2006 at 03:26 PM · OK, I have tabulated the results of this survey (so far, as of today, 4/5/06). I did not draw any conclusions, but it is very interesting to peruse this data. It will be interesting to see what you conclude from this data. And, no, I did not psychoanalyze anyone's responses.

The results as of today can be found at:

Cheers to all, Sandy

April 5, 2006 at 04:32 PM · 1. Overall technical excellence

Yulian Sitkovetsky : Paganini Concerto n°2

2. Vibrato

Ivry Gitlis : Nielsen Concerto

3. Slides and colours

George Enescu : 3rd Sonata

4. Musical interpretation

Josef Hassid : Achron Hebrew Melody

5. Left hand technique

Vasa Prihoda : Paganini Nel cor più

6. Right hand technique (sound)

Philippe Hirshhorn : Ravel Tzigane Cadenza

7. Overall tone

Henryk Szeryng : all

8. Ability to project emotionally (in person)

Josef Suk : Suk Fantasia

9. Ability to project emotionally (in recordings)

Josef Hassid : all recordings

10. "Specialty" pieces - which one (or ones)

see before

11. Stage presence (if known)

David Oistrakh : Shostakovich 1st Concerto Cadenza

April 5, 2006 at 09:46 PM · I think that assigning numbers, a quantitative variable to a qualitative element makes no sense. Add to that there is little to no justification for any of the answers, and you have what might be the most useless discussion since Toni Furman learned to write.

April 6, 2006 at 06:02 AM · >Toni Furman learned to write.


April 6, 2006 at 02:57 PM · Pieter: Those aren't "assigned numbers" - they are frequency counts of the number of respondents who voted for that violinist for that category. Hope that clarifies it.

This survey is not a "rating" in that sense (say, rating on a 1-5 scale). But ratings like that 1-5 scale or 1-10 scale are assigned to qualitative data tens of thousands of times in most fields where sampling statistics are done.

In fact, there is a history of that that dates back over a hundred years to the old psychophysical methods (for example, for rating different physical sensations or sounds). Modern medicine now routinely uses a subjective pain rating scale (1-10, no pain to excruciating), which is certainly a quantitative reponse to a qualitative and highly subjective experience.

Cordially, Sandy

Once again, the tabulated results (as of yesterday morning) can be found at:

June 19, 2006 at 06:02 PM · Bell for everything

June 19, 2006 at 06:59 PM ·

June 19, 2006 at 07:30 PM · I think that good violinists have all of these atirubutes. I say my two favorite violinists of all time, Itzhak Perlman and Chee Yun!

~*~Violins Make the World go Round~*~

June 19, 2006 at 07:35 PM · Hey, I just saw Chee-Yun last week at Innsbrook! :) She busted a string in the Ravel violin/cello duo...then she got to borrow David Halen's Guadagnini...sheesh.

June 26, 2006 at 03:39 AM · Interesting thread. I was particularly impressed with the references to Prihoda, Hassid et al and concur. Was very surprised not to see Znaider in the mix of great artists from our generation. In my opinion, his tonal control, overall technique and musical intelligence (without the loss of passion) eclipse Bell, Hahn, Repin and almost all the rest, excepting Gill and Frank Peter Zimmerman. I'm curious to hear the rest of your thoughts

-Odin Rathnam

June 30, 2006 at 06:11 AM · 1.Anne-Sophie Mutter

2.Sarah Chang

3.Kyung Wha Chung

4.Hilary Hahn





9.Hahn - Bach stuff

10.Chang - so fun to watch!

February 12, 2007 at 10:25 PM · Szeryng and Gitlis are the two faces of the coin named violin. The rest are on the edge of the coin...

take it in a plastic way... i am not so extremist as it seams.

February 14, 2007 at 09:45 PM · Even thought she's part of the celtic music genre, I was wondering what you all though of Miread nesbit of the new hit ensemble group Celtic Woman.

February 15, 2007 at 08:20 AM · Lol, in reference to your mention of psychologists Jim, it's more than likely that he/she will take one look at this and have the majority of you all committed. Then again however, string players never really were known for their sanity. I would also like to add, that there was never any notification regarding the handing out of bells and that I am therefore raising strong objections to not having received one.

February 28, 2007 at 06:33 PM · Here is a wonderful website which has articles from many famous violinists; contains much interesting reading.

Ted Kruzich

March 1, 2007 at 12:14 AM · I agree with Ilya, but I'll submit a couple of thoughts just for the sheer joy of committing social suicide.

Milstein--connected to the violin

Oistrakh--connected to perfection and singular voice

Ferras--connected to his inner voice

Francescatti--connected to deep concept of beauty and nature

Itzhak Perlman--connected to people

Kreisler--connected to life


Joshua Bell--honest

And I think it's rather comical I'm making these assertions about people I've never seen in person (except Itzhak).

Still, I didn't want to give up my chance to go on record as establishing some qualities I've noticed in violinists I love.

July 29, 2007 at 12:56 AM · Stern was great.

But I saw a film of him and a young Mintz and Stern was doing some very very naughty things.

July 29, 2007 at 01:21 AM ·

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