Your all-time favorite violinist
Do you have an all-time favorite violinist (living or in the past)? If you had to make a choice, is there one who in your heart-of-hearts you prefer to listen to above all others?
If so, can you (briefly) tell us the following?
1. Who is your all-time favorite?
2. Do you have a favorite performance?
3. Can you very briefly list 3 to 5 musical, technical, personal, or other characteristics about this violinist that you truly admire?
Here is mine:
1. Zino Francescatti (1902-1991).
2. Favorite performance - Beethoven Concerto (1950, Eugene Ormandy, Philadelphia Orchestra).
3. Outstanding characteristics:
a. An emotional, singing vocal quality, even in fast passages, that projects to the listener.
b. Technical elegance and precision.
c. Stage presence.
PS. It was recorded in one take. Francescatti did the same in a video years later (at age 70), readily available and just as great.
1) Hillary Hahn
Bringing this back to the top as it seems like a fun topic to discuss
I have many violinists I like but one of the most interesting ones for me is Gidon Kremer. I particularly like his recording of the Bach Partitas and Sonatas. You can agree with his interpretations or not, but I always find his interpretations interesting and inspirational. He published a CD called "Happy birthday". When I first saw it I didn't expect too much, but then I really enjoyed listening to it. And then there is his Brahms violin concerto with Bernstein. You can listen to it on youtube (don't watch his mouth always open).
Performance wise I cannot really comment, because every concert I have attended has been special. But I wish I could go back in time to listen to Heifetz, Milstein, Kogan etc.
I always look for Oistrakh and Perlman before all others. Modern days probably Hilary Hahn.
I cannot pick just one, so my current top 7 in no order...hmmmm I could lengthen this list but will stop. This changes over time, and I love them all for different reasons. I can't pick just one - or apparently even 5 :-)
I think Stephen touches on an interesting question - is it a 'generation' thing? Can I offer a related but slightly different perspective?
Peter, I went chronologically too, but in the opposite direction.
Wonderful range of responses - every one of them. I'm of that older generation also (born 1941). My folks had classical and violin LP's (and 78's) ever since I can remember. But my first memory of a live performance was 1945 or 46, sitting on my dad's knee (so I could see the stage) in the last row of the main floor of Orchestra Hall in Chicago. It was Isaac Stern, playing the Tchaikovsky Concerto with the CSO. I have brief visual memories of watching him play, but I can recall a few passages, like a recording in my brain. And, even at that age, I knew the piece (every note).
I'm not a professional musician, but there are too many candidates and I tend rate to particular performances, rather than individual players. That aside, Hilary Hahn strikes me as an intelligent interpreter with strong technical skill in the service of the music. I don't find all her recorded performances equally appealing, but she always makes me listen carefully. I haven't seen her live, but she comes across on stage as focussed and present, and not projecting any ego.
Pinchas Zukerman, on violin
This is an impossible question really, because few of us would name one violinist as having done the best performance of even our favorite pieces, and because there are so many standards to apply in naming a favorite.
I agree with Buri that we've too many great ones from which to choose. He mentioned Frank Peter Zimmerman and I heard his Sibelius the other day (on my cellist daughter's Spotify playlist!) and I thought it was gorgeous playing -- but was it as good as Julian Sitkovetsky's Sibelius? Like Peter (above), I also enjoy Gidon Kremer's Bach. I also enjoy Vengerov, Mutter, Rosand, Hadelich, Bell, and Hahn -- the list just goes on and on. I really like Josh Bell's Four Seasons and his Mozart 3. Rosand's "1970 Chicago Recital" album is totally mind-blowing, so is Mutter's "Berlin Recital" album.
No hesitation - me. I'm my own favorite - and its not because of brilliance, tone, beauty or fame. I don't qualify on any scale. I just love how I love to play.
I don’t have an all time favorite, but no one else can do what this one does, and I like that.
1. Who is your all-time favorite?
Paul--the available versions of the BBC performance are of such low audio quality I feel I should warn you. There's a better recording for CD with the same conductor but it doesn't have the same magic. Maybe the transcribed Bach 2 and 3 part inventions would be more fun.
For me, its Shlomo Mintz. He was the first recording of the Mendelssohn (Abbado, Chicago Symphony) that I actually got all the way through and enjoyed. Thats why he's up there. I enjoy all of his recordings, although I find his Bruch g minor a little slow for my taste! I like the way he makes everything look easy. I enjoy Zukerman a lot as well
Elisabeth Matesky ~ Carrier of the Jascha Heifetz - Nathan Milstein Legacy
For me this is an impossible question. When I listen carefully to any good soloist, from earlier years or contemporary, old or young, I immediately become very impressed and feel this soloist must be the best violinist in the world. Then there is the next, and the next, and the next, and I finally realize that it's really the class of really good violin playing that is the thing that is my favorite, not the individual violinists that make up that class.
I repeat - wonderful responses everyone. Yes, it is in many ways an impossible question. And just because you "like" one (or a handful, or dozens), certainly does NOT mean that you hate everyone else. Yes, this is a great website. Especially at this time, when everyone is experiencing isolation in every way, to me violinist.com is a way of sharing with everyone that is important and meaningful. And, to be honest, I'm always tempted to change my "Number One" on a fairly regular basis, but I keep coming back to Francescatti.
My all-time favorite woman is my wife. And even she wasn't my all-time favorite before I knew her. For every category other than "spouse" I am less faithful than that.
I have a couple of absolute favorites so it's hard for me to narrow it down; one is Fritz Kreisler; really anything he plays but especially Liebesleid and the Old Refrain.
Richard: Interesting observation. I have always thought that the development and prevalence of recordings have contributed to a kind of sameness in playing, since everyone now hears everyone else from day one. But the greats of the past had little opportunity to listen to a broad range of players. And many, I think, developed their uniqueness at least in part because of limited exposure to a full range of players worldwide. And that is why, I think, it seems to me that it is easier to quickly identify the unique technical, vibrato, and style of the greats of the past than those in more recent decades.
Indeed impossible question to answer - "all-time favorite".
@Sander, that's a great observation; and I think you are absolutely correct, the lack of a large number of easily accessible recordings probably contributed greatly to past artists developing a more personal sound. I've read that music performance ideals have swung in the past between personally expressive and being "true" to the composition as written though, so it may actually be a bit of both rather than a single cause.
Pierre, you and others can see and hear a bit of Julia Fischer's recent playing in this recording if you haven't already:
Julia Fischer is the real deal. Great sound, and very intelligent, tasteful player - Her playing very much reminds me of Szeryng. I didn't really listen to her until a few months ago, but I certainly missed out.
I'm with Richard. If I had to pick just one for a desert island, it would be Kreisler. Which pieces: Beethoven or Brahms concertos; Beethoven sonatas; any of his own compositions or arrangements.
@J Ray - thanks a lot for the recommendation!
Me - in my dreams, of course!!!!!
Young Menuhin playing Beethoven concerto... one of the best vibrato of history,,fantastic phrasing and big stage presence...Also Oistrach playing Tchiaykowsky concerto,or Heifetz playing Sibelius or Grumiaux playing Mozart concertos or Francestatti playing Beethoven concerto,or Kreisler playing liebfreud,or Ysaye playing the last movement of Mendelsonn violin concerto,or Perlman playing Brahms concerto ,or Zuchermann playing Frank sonata,or Rabin with 24 caprices ,or Kavakos Sibelius,or Mutter Beethoven sonatas,or Hadelich Rondo capriccioso,or Vengerov and Repin with show pieces,or Jansen with Brahms concerto,orZimermann with Prokofiev concerto n 1,or Wilde Frang with Mendelsonn, or Lozakovic with Beethoven concerto..to much Ahahahahah
Can we produce a musical lovechild of Grumiaux, Mutter, and Rabin?
I dunno, Andrew - Quite apart from ethical considerations, there's no guarantee that that lovechild would turn out to be musical. And there'd be ructions about who was the biological father.
Mark, you might also dig Zach Brock. I'm going to say maybe less virtuosic but possibly more musical?
I have a favourite tenor and soprano and oboist, from the days when I listened actively to music, but with piano and violin I've never spent long enough listening to have a favourite. Also, I mainly listen passively nowadays (and I'm a newcomer to the violin, apart from loving Maurice Hasson and Herman van Veen in the 70s) and there are so many CDs to buy that I tend to go for the cheapest offerings.
It depends on what day, and sometimes even the time of the day.
I also cannot name one single player, but I could construct a hypothetical frankenstein concertmonster with
OMG! Someone actually responded to one of my posts! Thanks for that Paul. Anyway, I know about Zach Brock too, and like him a lot, but I also feel that Adam Baldych is profoundly musical, especially with the Helge Lien trio that he’s been working with for the past several years. Almost everything he plays he composed himself, and they all tell a coherent musical story.
Looks like we have at least one vote for every violinist of any significance. I am old enough to have seen David Oistrakh play in recital, and I love him, but not for everything. I have heard various violinists play various pieces I love and probably would choose a different one for each.
Hilary Hahn. I like her pure tone, technical precision, and her interpretations that always seem to let the music speak for itself without seeming like she is imposing herself on it.
Also, that Bach Chaconne video really dispels the myth that present-day violinists all sound the same.
This is so difficult to answer. There are so many fantastic violinists I admire but if I had to choose one at the moment...
Adolf Busch, especially at his greatest in Beethoven's quartets or with Serkin.
Yes. Mr. Norstane's recording with Hairy Blech is one of the greatest recordings ever maid.
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