Inspiring books about violinists or by violinists

May 30, 2020, 9:47 PM · Hello, could you please share your best and most inspiring books you have read about violinists or written by violinists. I am sure this has been asked before. The recommendations I found posted in 2010 we have now read (some of them). Any new ones will be very much appreciated. Much obliged, Mel

Replies (22)

May 30, 2020, 11:40 PM · Anything by Arnold Steinhardt.
May 31, 2020, 1:06 AM · I’d strongly suggest either of Fritz Kriesler’s biographies: Fritz Kreisler by Louis Lochner and Fritz Kreisler: Love's Sorrow, Love's Joy by Amy Biancolli. I also really enjoyed the collection of interviews in Violin Mastery by Martens.
May 31, 2020, 2:17 AM · I think there was an earlier forum on this topic (perhaps the one you refer to, Melinda) but it is nice to repeat a good conversation! I like Edward Dusinberre 'Beethoven for a Later Age' and Vikram Seth's novel 'An Equal Music'. I find a lot of insights in 'Conversations with Menuhin' by Robin Daniels.
Widening the topic slightly, does anybody have favourite poems about violins, or by violinists?

Edited: May 31, 2020, 2:57 AM · [wicked joke]the complete works of Simon Fischer[/wicked joke]

Seriously, it won't harm to read Stradivarius by Toby Faber.

And Unfinished Journey by Yehudi Menuhin.
I haven't read it, so I can't really recommend it, but I'm sure it's fine. I mention it for two reasons - you can still get sewn-spine hardbacks of it cheap: and mine is signed by Yehudi Menuhin, so maybe I could sell it for the price of a few beers, or even a set of strings, although I suspect there are quite a lot of his signatures around.

May 31, 2020, 3:17 AM · I really like the books of Laurie. I just started to read volume 1 again. For me there is a lot of inspiration in all those different personalities and approaches in all those interviews. ( interviews volume 1 and 2 by Laurie Niles)
May 31, 2020, 3:19 AM · I also liked Indivisible by four
, by Arnold Steinhardt. Its about his lifetime playing in a top string quartet
May 31, 2020, 4:20 AM · Thank you all! Much appreciated. Will work through my new list now!
Best wishes to all.
May 31, 2020, 9:07 AM · One of the best autobiographies by a leading violinist is Joseph Szigeti's "With Strings Attached". Out of print now but often available on ebay and elsewhere.
May 31, 2020, 9:39 AM · I read a book by Auer. I thought it was rubbish.
May 31, 2020, 4:56 PM · I really enjoyed, "Great Masters of the Violin"
by Boris Schwarz. Lots of interesting and useful information.
May 31, 2020, 9:27 PM · Le Violon Interieur - I'm sorry it's in french but it is the most amazing book, getting to the heart of the violinist in a quest for equilibrium and ease.

May 31, 2020, 10:29 PM · “With the Artists” is an excellent book by Samuel Applebaum. It was written while all the great players were alive, and Applebaum got them to share some extremely valuable information and insight.

“Tartini: His Life and Times,” by Lev Ginsburg was one I especially enjoyed as I was growing up. Very good historical information and engaging writing. Not enough attention has been given to this incredible player and composer. Albert Spalding was so inspired by his life that he wrote his own novel about it, “A Fiddle, a Sword, and a Lady.” Spalding’s book is quite enjoyable, although it’s a glamorized account.

“Nicolo Paganini: Supreme Violinist or Devil’s Fiddler? ” by John Sugden is a good read. Very engaging and entertaining, and it gives good reason to believe that Paganini was not the caricature he’s often made out to have been.

June 1, 2020, 7:10 AM · "'With the Artists' is an excellent book by Samuel Applebaum. It was written while all the great players were alive..."

Oh my! Has Hilary Hahn passed away? James Ehnes and Augustin Hadelich too? Josh Bell is in his grave? This coronavirus must be worse even than I had imagined.

June 1, 2020, 8:54 AM · None of them are from the golden age of violin playing. The term “the great players” is in common use and refers to those who were part of that age and inspired all the current most popular players.
June 1, 2020, 1:10 PM · They aren’t so easy to find these days, but the entire “The Way They Play” series by Applebaum is full of great information. Those books have inspired numerous generations.
June 1, 2020, 4:33 PM · Fiddling with Life, written by Steven Staryk with Thane Lewis.What a career!!
Edited: June 1, 2020, 6:11 PM · Agree about Steinhardt's books. He writes very well.

From an older generation, there are superb memoirs by Joseph Szigeti and Albert Spalding-- players sadly underrated today, and very sharp observers.

Menuhin's book is a bit like him in his later years, perhaps. A tad woolly, and goes on maybe too long, but very gracious and with much to enjoy.

Primrose and Tertis, if I can step outside the literal brief of the question, each left good memoirs.

As for Richard P's suggestions, I would firmly endorse Dusinberre's book on Beethoven quartet playing, but register disappointment at "Equal Music". That latter one had a truly juicy and potentially moving piece of writing about 80% of the way in, while the rest was a formulaic setting-up of that moment. The dialogue in rehearsals seemed completely stilted to me. But I am not a fiction scholar, so take that for what it is worth.

June 1, 2020, 9:19 PM · The bio "Yehudi Menuhin" by Humphrey Burton is beautifully written.
Edited: June 2, 2020, 4:46 PM · I think it's about time for Applebaum & Roth's inestimable "The Way They Play" books to be reprinted, or, which is more feasible today, that they be made available on-line.

I do not know how many books there were in the series, since I have only Books 2 and 5, bought many years ago in a secondhand bookshop. I've gleaned useful hints and insights from those two books, in particular the interview with Ruggiero Ricci. I have in the past referred to some parts of the Ricci interview, with appropriate acknowledgement of the source, when responding in discussions here.

Of particular interest to performers, in Book 5 there are soloists' annotated scores of a number of major works, including concertos by Khachaturian (Viktor Tretyakov), Beethoven (Sidney Harth), Paganini No 1 (Igor Oistrakh), Bloch "Schelomo" for cello (Christine Walevska), and Brahms's Sonata Op 78 in G (Vladimir Spivakovsky). I don't know which other books in the series contain similar material.

June 3, 2020, 10:36 AM · Most of the books in the series contain some gems. Here are some of them:
Vol 4 contains David Oistrakh's version of Brahms 3rd sonata
Vol 6 contains Francescatti's Symphonie Espagnile (minus 3rd movment)
Vol 7, Fredell Lack, Prokofiev 2nd Concerto and Franco Gulli, Bach Chaconne
Vol 8, Nina Beilina, Bach, solosonata 1 and Yoshio Unno, Brahms Concerto
Vol 10, Vadim Brodsky, Wieniawski Vars op 15, and my favorite - parts of the Tibor Varga Method.
Vol 11, Ilona Feher, Mendelssohn Concerto, Mihaela Martin, Enescu Impressions d'enfance
Vol 12 Kagan, Denisov Concerto, Kulka, Penderecki (first) Concerto
Vol 13 Zhislin, Bach Chaconne, Mintz, Beethoven Concerto
Vol 14 Tziganov, Five of his arrangements of the Shostakovich Preludes
Edited: June 3, 2020, 3:49 PM · Two books about Heifetz I really enjoyed are, "Heifetz, As I knew him", by Ayke Agus and
"Jascha Heifetz, Through My Eyes", by Sherry Kloss. I personally liked the Ayke Agus book better. I thought it was more revealing on a musical and personal level of the great violinist.
June 4, 2020, 3:53 PM · Excellent suggestions from everyone so far. Here are my suggestions:

1) From Russia to the West: The Musical Memoirs and Reminiscences of Nathan Milstein.

2) A Thousand Mornings of Music: The Journal of an Obsession with the Violin by Arnold Gingrich

3) The Glory of the Violin by Joseph Wechsberg

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Yamaha Silent Violin
Yamaha Silent Violin

Find an Online Music Camp
Find an Online Music Camp

Corilon Violins
Corilon Violins

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Bobelock Cases


Los Angeles Violin Shop

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Wangbow Violin Bow Workshop

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine