Anniversary of Michael Rabin's death 47 years ago

Edited: January 19, 2019, 2:27 AM · On January 19, 1972, the great American born violinist, Michael Rabin passed away at the age of 35. I thought it would be nice today to start a discussion on this great violinist who sadly left us way too soon. Feel free to share your favorite Michael Rabin recordings, thoughts, and concert memories.

Here are two Paganini Caprice recordings of Michael Rabin. It is especially refreshing now to hear No. 16 and No. 24 played by Mr. Rabin, without any added gimmicks in contrast to some recent performances of these works. He let his playing do the talking - like a true artist!

Replies (20)

January 19, 2019, 3:46 AM · Great violinist, I really like his Pag Caprices and Moto Perpetuo.

January 19, 2019, 10:25 AM · Yes I agree. It’s great to hear him play the Moto Perpetuo with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. The orchestra accompaniment added a nice touch!
January 19, 2019, 10:36 AM · There’s a great bio of him out. I highly recommend it.
January 19, 2019, 7:12 PM · January 19, 2019, 7:20 PM ·
January 19, 2019, 7:34 PM · Yes, great biography. I took it from the library many years ago, and it still moves me to tears whenever I think of some of his life struggles.

Let us always be wary of thinking of great violinists as untouchable demigods, for I do not think they want to be appreciated in that manner. They are just like you and me; just specially, beautifully talented, and hard working with their instrument.

Love Rabin's performance of the Szigeti/Scriabin etude in thirds, and his Wieniawski Second is among the best recorded-in my opinion, in any case.

Good to remember all of his recordings and sadly short-lived legacy.

January 19, 2019, 8:19 PM · I heard Galamian requested an exercise bike be in the studio for Rabin when he was recording.
Edited: January 19, 2019, 10:38 PM · Oh yes. Galamian also made sure Rabin had a tuning app installed on his iPhone to check his pitches.
January 20, 2019, 10:35 AM · Michael Rabin was a great violinist but also a very sad example of someone who had serious personality issues, which, if I recall correctly, related to the pressure his parents put on him. His death was a tragedy.
January 20, 2019, 10:55 AM · I think his personality was fine. But agree he was pushed in a rather unhealthy manner. There's always pity for the family, but I think Rabin was a victim of the era of his day + the aforementioned parental pressure.

Can't blame him for his feelings at his worst, really.

Edited: January 20, 2019, 11:22 AM · Am just listening to his Wieniawski 2nd again-truly inspired music making. Too bad most people do not care about the piece anymore (other than as a "step up", student work.) Rabin took this concerto seriously, and it still shows to this day.
Edited: January 20, 2019, 2:00 PM · Tom, yes like so many child prodigies, he did not really grow up in some ways. He was collecting toy model airplanes into his 20’s and also drove a beautiful blue Chevrolet Stingray Corvette (which he was very proud of) according to my friend who knew him.

He did have drug addiction issues much like another great talent, Eugene Fodor. Rabin’s mother was also extremely domineering and quite abusive from what I understand. Oddly, she introduced my violin teacher, Erick Friedman, to Arthur Judson (Michael Rabin’s manager with CAMI) who would later become Friedman’s manager as well. Had it not been for her, Friedman would go onto study chemistry at Cornell and probably would’ve never met Heifetz or enjoy the career he did. I wonder how many parents in her situation would help a potential competitor to his/her own child. So she did have a generous side.

Adalberto Valle-Rivera: Yes Rabin turned that piece into something special and that staccato he had! I feel his recording of Wieniawski’s 1st concerto is still the definitive recording of that work.

January 20, 2019, 3:29 PM · Rabin's Wieniawski 2 is my favorite recording of his. I remember first picking up Rabin's recording on a $1.99 tape sale at Rose Records when I was a teenager, and being astounded. I was glad for liner notes explaining who this amazing violinist was!
January 21, 2019, 3:49 PM ·
January 21, 2019, 4:07 PM · So sad that we didn't get to see him develop to his full potential. What an amazing violinist.
January 22, 2019, 8:43 AM · The way pressure was put on him... kind of reminds me of Christian Ferras.
January 22, 2019, 12:24 PM · Maxim Vengerov took a hiatus from concertizing for some years to sort of recover from the kind of pressure his mother put on him. He said as much.
January 23, 2019, 6:07 PM · I was privileged to see and hear Michael Rabin, but only once, in the early 1960's, when I was in college and on a co-operative education job in Philadelphia. He played at the Robin Hood Dell, with the Philadelphia Orchestra. He played the Paganini Concerto #1, and it was by far the best performance I have ever heard of this piece by anyone (live or recorded). I still can hear passages in my memory, just exactly the way he played it. I will never forget it.
Clearly, he had problems, and certainly died too soon. But what an in incredible violinist.
January 23, 2019, 7:06 PM · I've read about Vengerov's childhood and it sounds like an absolute nightmare. He was treated like a racehorse. Many people in his situation would not be alive today.
January 23, 2019, 8:49 PM · I am glad Mr. Vengerov is doing well nowadays. Played an outstanding recital at Carnegie Hall last year. He's a great violinist, and is in full playing form for sure!

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