Steven Staryk's CD called Every Violinist's Guide

October 11, 2006 at 05:50 AM · Wow.



I knew it would be like this-- but still, I'm actually sitting listening right now for the first time to Steven Staryk's "Every Violinist's Guide"-- a CD re-release of a 1963 recording, with additions from Toronto 1969 and Phoenix, AZ 2003, of various etudes and caprices by all our practice room favorites, Mazas and Kreutzer to Wieniawski and Paganini. Spanning Staryk's ages 31 to 71. Disc is from the Centaur label, catalog no. CRC 2744. Three different Strads. Contemporary violins mixed in. Recording quality and halls are SO variable (and often downright scruffy) that comparisons are difficult, but, still, overall awesome, impeccable, and fiery throughout. Amazing guy.

Just now I had to look-- did he mix in some Philip Glass? No, this is an excerpted group of variations by Mr. O. Sevcik!

Even just hearing Staryk ('Il Rosso') play makes me laugh-- reminds me of all the jokes in his studio classes, which he kindly let me sit in on while I was studying with another teacher at UW in Seattle. He's so damn funny!

I'll bet his book [with Thane Lewis-- an old colleague of mine-- yet i didn't know about this!] is hilarious and interesting as well. Liner notes say "...the [recording] details are documented in 'Fiddling With Life' by Thane Lewis and Steven Staryk.... The story of Staryk's unparalleled versatility and career has been recently published. Part autobiography, part biography, and part memoir, 'Fiddling With Life' has been lauded by reviewers and distinguished musicians. It comes with a CD which provides a fascinating musical portrayal of the book."

:-) :-)

Replies (33)

October 11, 2006 at 06:04 AM · I have the old LP boxed set, are you saying that there are many additions? I'll have to check it out! Do you have a link?

October 11, 2006 at 02:06 PM · The Centaur catalog on-line is not very informative. Perhaps we'd just have to compare track lists-- but here it is-- Centaur Records. Staryk's "Every Violinist's Guide" is listed under "Violin" in the category links on the left. It's a small but very interesting label, and the grouping into categories seems a little odd, so be sure to browse around if you check out their site, especially under the Chamber Music and Contemporary links, I would recommend.

October 11, 2006 at 03:15 PM · I do not recall Steven Staryk to be an amazing or outstanding violinist at all...on stage... His recording do not represent the "performer" in concert. I remember having been seduced by some of his recordings and when I heard him live, I understood that the process was a fake( you can achieve a lot during recording sessions)

During a masterclass, I heard Staryk critisizing Grumiaux, Milstein, and plenty of other famous violinist...for their sound or bow technique ect. ect... Big ego!

October 11, 2006 at 04:00 PM · Then he'd fit right in on!!!

I talked to Steven Staryk on the phone once. He was actually very polite and kind to me, which is UNCOMMON for most of the professional violinists that I run into. Generally the higher the ability (not necessarily status) of the violinist, the nicer he is. That's why they're at the level they are at.

Everybody criticizes everybody, in private and public. They just have to be able to back it up, that's all.

October 11, 2006 at 05:28 PM · Yes... and he did complain quite a lot in his biography about his fellow violinists of "moderate abilities", as he wrote...He was certainly a great concertmaster, but not up to the level of the marvellous Joseph Silverstein...

October 13, 2006 at 02:04 AM · I haven't read the biography, so I don't challenge reports about that-- but in person, the meanest I remember him being in the 1990's was in a comment about a famous violinist who could still play in tune after a fifth of vodka, which I think is actually a compliment. From five feet away and basically retired still he ALWAYS sounded stunning, and I gained a lot from the times together, including appreciation of other players.... besides pissing my pants laughing (should that be "PMPL"? -- please pardon this Luddite's ignorance of TXT-MSG-speak). :-)

October 13, 2006 at 03:48 AM · I read the biography. Surprisingly and refreshingly honest. Staryk shoots from the hip without mincing words. I've seen all sorts of pros of all statures do the same, so it's not as if he's different from anybody else in the complaining regard.

I have Staryk's version of this same recording called "Did You Really Practice". I can really tell a dramatic difference when he's playing the old instruments vs. the modern ones. There's a roundness and resonance that the older ones have, particularly the "Barrere" Stradivarius.

I'd like to see more of him in live performance. My understanding is that he is still active.

October 13, 2006 at 10:31 AM · As active s one can get at 74(?) :-)

October 13, 2006 at 07:31 PM · One can be extremely active at 74 or older, though I don't think Staryk is that active. Just look at Ida Haendel or Aaron Rosand, and Nathan Milstein was a lot older than that before he had to stop.

My friends locally tell me that Staryk is still playing great.

October 16, 2006 at 02:32 AM · Is he still active! I'd love to hear that! I've lost track [ :-( ]. [[long face]] I noticed that the most recent tracks on the CD were recorded in Phoenix-- maybe you're closest, Kevin Huang?

October 16, 2006 at 04:21 AM · I am closest, but the last time I spoke to Staryk was about 2 years ago. Staryk spends the summers in Seattle but comes down to Phoenix for the winter. One day, I'd like to meet him in person.

I've sampled one of the violins on the album. Most interesting was the violin by Terrence McShane, which was a copy of the "Ysaye" Guarnerius. I play that violin every now and then, as I enjoy the sound very much. "Warm and beautiful" is how I'd call it. Terry runs the "String Shop of AZ" and is a very knowledgeable and capable luthier.

On that little album, also termed "Did You Really Practice?", the different sounds of the violins are very discernible. Anybody who wants to hear how different violins respond in the hands of a master should listen to this album. Despite the differing recording environments, no two violins sound or act alike. I have a clear and definite preference for the older violins on that album.

Steven Staryk was known for his daring, and doing such a project over the span of about 40 years is testimony to that.

July 15, 2007 at 07:05 PM · well, he is a awesome violinist and a very good person. I've studied with him for 2 1/2 yrs when I used to live in seattle. that's like.. almost 13 yrs ago. I still miss his lessons. ^^

July 16, 2007 at 06:34 AM · Ah, here's that less known violinist in the other post!. ;)

July 16, 2007 at 12:51 PM · Steven Staryk was one of the very great violinists. It's a shame how McCarthyism pretty much ruined his solo career. Also, he never played the 'violin politics' game well, but i can't fault him for that. Many of my favourites didn't do politics, and i think that makes them dearer to my heart. Even though i understand that one must engage in a certain amount of wheeling and dealing to become famous, i'm not a fan of machiavellian ambition in the arts and i applaud anyone who can make it in the entertainment business without resorting to such practices.

I know that some listeners and critics didn't like Staryk's tone, and i wonder why not? He had some amazing (and incredibly flexible) violin sound and his technique (when he was on) put quite a few of his contemporaries to shame. Keep in mind this was during the 'golden age' of great violinists.

I'm glad to say i grew up hearing Staryk play as the TSO concertmaster, and i've listened to as many of his recordings over the years as i possibly could. It's true that he sounded different in concert than on record. Unlike many of his critics, i believe he sounded better in concert than on record. His tone wasn't huge or suave like Heifetz or Elman, nor was it sweet like Stern or Kreisler. Rather, it was nimble and expressive, lithe, with a unique power of its own. As for violinists i'd compare him to, probably Lucien Capet, or Gidon Kremer. It could be that critics of his tone were aghast that Staryk refused to slather his pieces with sumptuous goo, but preferred to let the music speak for itself in the manner of a true orchestral/chamber musician.

I've also read his book many times. The chapter where he discusses the lack of preparation for orchestral playing is a revelation to say the least. I am increasingly hearing that argument for orchestral and chamber music coaching, and Staryk was the first high profile performer to voice that opinion to my knowledge.

July 16, 2007 at 02:09 PM · to rant away.....

July 16, 2007 at 04:07 PM · Joel--I have to agree with you. I bought the disc after seeing this discussion, and while it represents some very fine playing((I think he played the instrument rather hard--but I'm unsure of that) I do not care for his tone it is hard and thin, at least on this recording. I found that his playing of the pedagogical material was beautifully done with a nice sense of the shape of the music. However when he got to the Paganini caprices I began to understand why this did not turn into a great solo career. None of the Paganini pieces have the organic shape that someone like Renardy gave them, they are simply played very well as far as the notes go but there is no fantasia to the playing--it's as though the conductor is missing. When he got to the Locatelli Labyrinth where I could again compare him to another violinist(Oistrakh in this case) Staryk simply sounds at sea. He was a great concertmaster--a very different gift from being a great soloist.

July 16, 2007 at 07:13 PM · Maybe his Pagannini wasn't showy enough but as a concertmaster/soloist/teacher/chamber musician he did alright.

July 16, 2007 at 08:17 PM · Peter--

I never questioned his strengths in any of those capacities. BTW--has anyone bothered to think that perhaps the very things that make a great soloist would make a poor concertmaster and the opposite as well?They are two very different beasts and I am not sure that we would live well without both of them. Can you imagine Heifetz or Milstein subjugating themselves to anyone else's interpretation of music? I think not. As for Staryk, I was told that Beecham loved him--that is no small order.

July 16, 2007 at 09:01 PM ·

July 17, 2007 at 03:23 PM · Concertmasters and concert artists are very different and it takes a different mindset to approach either discipline. Maybe Staryk couldn't negotiate the differences in his playing or personality.

July 17, 2007 at 04:32 PM · Dion--

I think you're right but Staryk sure could negotiate the fiddle.

July 17, 2007 at 06:16 PM · I also agree with you Dion...

November 6, 2007 at 03:10 AM · I guess you have to play really well to find fault with a violinist like Steven Staryk. Here is another list of tunes on the "Violinists Guide":

November 7, 2007 at 02:47 AM · Staryk recently sent me a copy of his Beethoven Sonatas for a magazine review, and I really liked them. His sense of drive fits Beethoven--by comparison, Oistrakh's Beethoven is plain soporific.

For those critical of Staryk, I'd just say that no performer does everything equally well. I have Bach solos sonatas by Perlman and Mintz. Both are equally repulsive and have no musical integrity. For all their talent, it seemed to me that both guys sat down for a few hours and hacked away, and afterwards the sound guys added a bunch of reverb (particularly heinous on Mintz's effort) and did some heavy splicing.

But regarding a previous comment--there is nothing "fake" about Staryk's playing. I remember all too well Staryk being able to pick up his Strad and demonstrate ANYTHING flawlessly during my lessons. You don't have to like all of his interpretations, but he was fanatical in his pursuit of perfection and integrity.

Now if you want to talk psychopath, let's talk Berl Senofsky...

November 7, 2007 at 05:06 PM · To the best of my knowledge, Staryk is the only violinist to record Mazas Op. 36 No. 8, and he plays it beautifully. I think he gave students a wonderful present by recording these etudes and showing how they should sound. I also think that recording these studies is a great contribution to the study of the history of the violin, and of the previous teachers who composed these etudes.

November 8, 2007 at 11:58 AM ·

December 17, 2007 at 01:57 AM · Steven has been working here at my studio in Arizona for the last 3+ years. He is working on a 30 CD anthology of his life's work - We all find him a wonderful human being, and a pleasure to work with!

We're actually buying him his very first computer (laptop) for Xmas, so if anyone would care to contact him directly, drop me an email message with your email address, and I will get it to him.

Thank you!

John Wroble

December 17, 2007 at 12:20 PM ·

January 9, 2008 at 11:07 PM · Steven remembered you in an instant! He sends his regards, and I will give him your email address. We are still "teaching" him how to use his computer, so it may be a bit before he will email you!


January 10, 2008 at 03:31 AM · Thats wonderful news John and thank you kindly!!!!!

May 12, 2009 at 04:56 AM ·


I was reading all of your postings and thought you all might be interested to know that Steven Staryk has now realesed his anticipated 30 CD Anthology from his work from 1952 - 2003.  The anthology is being distributed via the webiste . Orders can be made there, and also additional information required on his anthology can be made to this email

May 22, 2011 at 03:36 AM ·

You can also check out orchestral parts for violin edited by Steven Staryk published by Ovation Press.

January 23, 2012 at 08:25 PM · I've been asked to post the following on behalf of Cam Trousdale, Prof. Emeritus UBC, Former concertmaster of CBC Vancouver Chamber Orchestra & Vancouver Opera Orchestra

In response to various re: Every Violinist's Guide, refer to the book Fiddling With Life, page 106. Francescatti, Spivakovsky, Goldberg, Schneiderhan etc played in orchestras or were concertmasters. Recorded in 1960 the fifth release (in the received rave reviews from 3 prominent critics, Bookspan, Downes and Jellinek on New York Times radio WQXR. This review is on CD 21 of the 30 CD anthology. The following paragraph by violin historian, archivist, author of the Discopaedia of the violin and producer of the Masters of the Bow label James Creighton provides a "detailed research" in the following condensed summary of Staryk's qualities: "His prodigious career was a unique and extraordinary integration of related activities: soloist, pedagogue, chamber musician, and concertmaster: he surpassed the summit in each and every role. His successful diversity of styles is not equalled by any other violinist. He gained a tremendous reputation and vast musical knowledege with such greats as Beecham, Szell, Krips, Kubelik, Jocham, Kempe, Giulini, Sanderling, Rilling, Rodzinski, and a host of others. In this respect, his musicianship was greatly influenced by non-violinists and developed far beyond the limitation of his instrument. The extraordinary accomplishments of this internationally respected cosmopolitan remain unparalleled in the history of music. For more details and information, see

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