Any common denominator of how great players were taught as beginners?
If you have an awareness of the specifics of how great players first began, are there specifics regarding how they were taught, what they worked on at the outset that made a difference?
Their teaching has to be really good of course from the outset, but I don't think anything abnormal happens in teaching young children that will later become great players. It would be exactly the same as a good teacher teaching a child that is less talented. Of course the progress will be proportional to their talent.
I think parents had to truly support and encourage them. Just paying for the lessons is not enough (even if top notch).
Having read some of their biographies and having spoken to a few, the "Common Denominator" seems to be that they are driven by an inner-desire to play music on their particular instrument.In these people the parents, teachers, coaches, managers, and the rest are guides.
I do think that even a great potential talent, with the drive and everything, can be squashed by bad early teachers and poor parental support.
Generally they'll start with either a parent (often music runs in the family) or a regular teacher. The teacher will quickly see how talented the child is and transfer them to someone more qualified. By their teens they'll be studying with someone notable who teaches at a conservatory. They will often have two or more lessons per week and be held to higher standards than the other kids. Years of this, plus huge talent, is a recipe for a great violinist. Whether it makes a well rounded artist is another discussion.
Some children really have that drive. Listen to interviews with Rachel Barton or Hilary Hahn talking about their childhoods, or the still-young pianist/composer Alma Deutscher.
Also while this is not always true in most every case these violinists had very fine instruments from a early age. For example Vengerov got his first strad at 12.
Yep - I'm sure there a few (which is why I said "many" not "any") I just know what most kids are like and they seem to be the rare exception.
And then there are the violinists who exhibited talent and then their choice whether to play was taken away from them. They were put into schools that were single minded - and sometimes even brutal to bring them to their peak. How many of these became great players? I don't know but I do know of top symphony orchestra violinists who are there because they simply do not have any alternative; no other training. One of these is counting the days to their retirement when they can sell their Guadigini and use the process to never touch the cursed thing again.
Humphrey Burton's biography of Yehudi Menuhin describes in detail the pattern of development for many famous soloists. Yehudi's parents took him to classical concerts starting when he was about 4 years old. He was entranced and wanted a violin to sound like the music he heard. The parents were not strong musicians, but were strong supporters. Yehudi's sister played piano very well. Yehudi showed talent and dedication to practicing, so his parents connected him to the best teacher in the community. He blossomed. He gave his first recital at age 8, and within 5 years, at age 13, he was world famous as a concert soloist with major orchestras. Once his immense talent was recognized at around age 8 or 10, his parents isolated him. He played long hours every day. He was home schooled. He never had a meal without a parent present until he was 21 years old. His personal interactions were primarily with more senior violinists, or within the family.
Elise - Michael Rabin and Maxim Vengerov were violinists who were put under great pressure by their mothers and ultimately were unhappy. Rabin's life ended tragically, and Vengerov ended up taking some time off to address his demons.
I have no doubt at all that the thing that made greatness possible for these players was in them from the beginning. Their teachers were just able to help them along their paths.