Great players who fall through the cracks

Edited: August 22, 2021, 6:35 AM · Greetings,
I find the comparison between sport and violin playing interesting. On the whole, the level of sporting prowess, setting new records and the like follows a fairly linear path of improvement in response to new understanding of body mechanics, nutrition and training and the like. Sometimes, listening to the jaw dropping skills of Hadelich, Hahn and the like it is tempting to assume the same thing about violin performance. yet we can still stumble across players of yore who could match today’s players in terms of sheer facility at the very least. One of my favorites who, as far as I can recall has not been mentioned once on this site as one of the most extraordinary violinsts ever is Albert Markov. I guess there are so many great players today that the Markovs of the world will continue to fall through the cracks or elude our awareness. It’s a great loss really. If I was asked to point to a model of sheer technical ease and precision to emulate Markov would certainly be somewhere at the top of the list.
take time between cappuccinos to check him out….

Replies (55)

August 22, 2021, 7:37 AM · Thanks for this thread! I don’t see this issue as problematic, however.
In order to become a famous star, there is lots of stuff other than just playing necessary. Besides simple luck and, as I assume, at least for young women, an attractive optical appearance (which is, of course, very unjust), the players must be willing to travel around the globe, all the time, and play whatever is demanded career-wise. You must be willing to make recordings, not all of which you have the time to prepare for according to your own wishes.
All of this is a matter of selling yourself, and this is not everybody’s wish. Some are perfectly fine with less fancy projects and fewer concerts, but those being really world class level.
Not everyone strives to be known by the whole world. After all, when you make a decent living performing, maybe plus being a professor, somewhere, this can be a perfect live.
August 22, 2021, 8:30 AM · thank you Buri for the reference, I indeed had never heard of him, just listened to a few clips, really stellar. so he is the father of Alexander Markov? the apple doesn't fall far from the tree in that case?
August 22, 2021, 8:31 AM · True enough. There are some who manage to miss out on the PR gravy train, and still others who enjoy teaching enough to avoid celebrity-- whether they planned for that trade is another question. Then you get people like Aaron Rosand, who seems to have lost a political battle at the very top of the tree...
August 22, 2021, 8:44 AM · The world of sport has raised the profile of mental health as a critical factor in performance, thanks to the candor of Naomi Osaka, Simone Biles, and others. The same is true of musical performers, and perhaps the most prominent among them was Vladimir Horowitz, who was crippled by severe bouts of depression throughout his career. I surmise that there is fairly decent number of violinists who perhaps do not have the brilliant skills of Hadelich or Hahn but are nevertheless "good enough" technically to maintain a small repertoire of concertos for the purpose of performing them with American regional orchestras to now-compulsory ovations. And then there are the CMs of these many orchestras, who are "on call" to cover the solos in Scheherazade or join a guest cellist in a performance of the Brahms Double. When it comes to individuals, I prefer not to speculate unless the individual announces something first, out of respect for his or her privacy. But the "exposed population" of performing professionals is more than large enough that mental health issues are doubtlessly affecting a significant number among them.
August 22, 2021, 10:49 AM · I’m not sure I buy the premise that the world needs to know about every violinist who ever demonstrated a brilliant technique. The world is full of Markovs.

Case in point: when I was young, I bought Shlomo Mintz’s recording of the Paganini caprices. I was young, so I thought it was neat. He had all the facility, yadda yadda. As I matured, I grew tired of his inelegant, aggressive thrashing. His Bach sonatas were even worse-the model for thoughtless, tedious playing. In fact, I never heard anything by him I liked, even though he had technical prowess.

There have been many great violinists, like Staryk, that didn’t get the recognition they deserved; those that had both technique and musicianship.

Some of this is due to the internet, which younger people rely on too much. They think they know what’s out there, but fail to realize how selective it actually is. Algorithms favor certain people like Hahn, so that’s what people assume is out there. Unfortunately, a huge number much more interesting musicians remain invisible. (I’ve made no secret of what I think of her flawless, boring playing.)

August 22, 2021, 11:46 AM · Scott, Hahn is actually a pretty darned good player, don't you think?

I long ago went beyond caring whether a good player is male of female, or what racial stereotype they might conveniently fit into. For me, it's more about about how well they play, and I think that's the way it should be.

Edited: August 22, 2021, 12:04 PM · There's also a curiosity about a Europe/US divide, where a lot of seemingly fantastic players can't/don't make the jump to the US, and where the big touring in the US is occupied by a lot of the same names.

Why do so many winners and top finishers at big competitions like Queen Elizabeth, Tchaikovsky and Wieniawski stay in Europe and don't have really any presence (Often times, the winner is pretty forgettable, whereas the more interesting players finish somewhere in the top 5, but I digress) in the US market? Winners of the Indianapolis Competition seem often poised for bigger careers in the US, but perhaps they don't tend to make it as much in Europe (Although I imagine that Augustine Hadelich can do whatever he wants at this point).

Some of the most interesting players to me come from South Korea, and specifically, the studio of Nam Yun Kim, but they seem much more active in Europe. I don't think that a lot of the really fantastic Polish players of the post-war generation have had much traction outside of Poland, in contrast to Henryk Szeryng, Ida Handel and so many others before - I love the playing of Kaja Danczowska, who I think is totally underrated, but she's not exactly well known for classical musicians outside of Poland. German violinists tend to be able to get more traction, and British ones too (although I find them to generally punch under their weight), and there are plenty of French violinists that don't quite make it to the top tier of marketability, like Agustin Dumay, and some that seem to come close, like the Capucon brothers. Tedi Papavrami is a fantastic Albanian violinist that could be thought of as part of the French school, and could be classed with Kavakos in terms of virtuosity (though I find Papavrami more interesting), but Kavakos is the way bigger name.

I'm sure there are plenty of totally fantastic Chinese and Japanese players that I'm not familiar with, or only passingly familiar, and there are plenty of great Americans that have benefited from the migration of so many great teachers over the last century. South America is a total unknown to me, and my impression is that there aren't many top-tier players coming out, but that's likely due to my total ignorance.

How much is marketing, how much is teaching, how much is talent, and how much is just the desire to have such a grueling, isolating job? I go see a fair amount of concerts by younger American players, and a lot of them seem undercooked, even though some manage to surprise me.

August 22, 2021, 12:23 PM · Christian wrote:
"How much is marketing, how much is teaching, how much is talent, and how much is just the desire to have such a grueling, isolating job?"

This varies, doesn't it?

August 22, 2021, 12:26 PM · Each necessary, none sufficient.
Edited: August 22, 2021, 1:16 PM · When I was a teenager, the recordings I can find were by Stern, Stern, Stern... and Perlman, Zukerman.

There was almost no European artist except the very young and attractive ASM.

Thank goodness we have YouTube now!

August 22, 2021, 3:00 PM · Buri, I'm glad you mentioned Albert Markov. I played in a small string orchestra that toured with him in the early '90s, and I thought his playing was excellent. (I don't remember the entire program, but Mozart 5 and Zapateado were on it.) Another name worthy of adding to the list would be David Nadien's. And Victor Pikaizen's. And, and, and...
August 22, 2021, 3:37 PM · I get the distinct impression that luck plays a large role. Record labels seem to have a strong bias toward soloists who are noticed at an early age; it seems like many of them are already signed with a major record label when still in their teens. It seems to me that even musicians who win big competitions at later ages have trouble breaking into global solo careers and end up touring only regionally, because they're already too old to be hailed as prodigies.
August 22, 2021, 4:55 PM · There are two other factors affecting who "falls through the cracks."

1. Conflicting life goals: If one does not to spend life living out of a suitcase and away from one's loved ones, the life of an international soloist is a tough and lonely existence.

2. Charisma: Some great violin virtuosos just do not project a personality (i.e., image) that attracts the audiences necessary to make the solo life worthwhile.

August 22, 2021, 5:39 PM · David,
I think I summed up my opinion of Hahn.
I wasn’t sure if your other comment was reacting to my post, but I never said anything about male vs female players.
August 22, 2021, 8:52 PM · Urs Frauchiger, the former director of the conservatorium in Bern wrote a book--I believe in the early 1990s-- titled "Was zum Teufel ist denn mit der Musik los?" (What the devil is the matter with music?). In it he discussed in a highly entertaining way topics like "how to listen to music", "the audience", "amateur musicians" etc.

About the topic raised here he had the following to say (I am quoting from memory and the translation is also mine, please be lenient!):

"In the old days there were three people who could play the Tschaikovsky concerto well, one of them, Hubermann, played it enchantingly. Nowadays 3000 people play it well..." (that was 30 years ago, multiply with 3 for present times, I guess)

I bet that for every under appreciated virtuoso from yesteryear there are more than 10 who are alive today.

Edited: August 23, 2021, 6:17 PM · 90% of those Menuhin/Wieniawski/Elizabeth/Tchaikovsky/etc Competition people that don't place 1st prize. Oleksii Semenenko (who placed second in the 2015 Queen Elizabeth) played a fantastic Waxman and Mozart 5, but you don't hear too much of him anymore. Maybe that Palpiti turned all the orchestras away? I don't know, but it is very sad.

Edit: If the great used in the title is defined as Hadelich great, then I'm not sure if my post is true. The more I think about it, the more I realize that the great players who slip through the cracks are not that outstanding among the very-high level that is seen in today and yesterday's top soloists. Perhaps, to some degree, the slipping through cracks is justified.

August 23, 2021, 1:01 AM · I was friends with a great soloist (he had won both the Tchaikovsky and Paganini competitions) who was truly stellar. Unfortunately he was done in way too young by personality issues as well as substance abuse.
August 23, 2021, 5:21 PM · Greetings,
not too sure how many soviet violinists were sent to the gulags for coming in second either…
On the other hand, having suggested there is more parity than linear distance between the players of past and present I am not aware of any violinist of the 20c who can do what Roman Kim can do on the violin :)
Edited: August 23, 2021, 5:32 PM · Buri, among Soviet-era Russian violinists, Igor Politkovsky comes to mind. I have a nice album of his playing. The title of the album is atrocious: "Russian Violin School" or some such. But there are some lovely salon pieces by Rubinstein, Balakirev,* etc., and it's thrilling violin-playing. Politkovsky took 11th in the QE competition in 1955. Julian Sitkovetsky was another great Russian violinist but he died at a very young age (early 30s). He was considered an equal of Oistrakh. His Sibelius is amazing.


August 23, 2021, 6:01 PM · Thanks Paul.
Boris Goldstein and Victor Tretyakov also well worth a look.
Edited: August 23, 2021, 7:39 PM · Scott, I have an interesting exercise for you. Cue up a bunch of youtube recordings of, for instance, the Tchaikovsky violin concerto, and listen with your eyes as well as your ears. One easy thing to note that doesn't involve tonal discrimination is the difference in the strength of strong attacks, the visual attack vs the audible attack. Notice that HH makes all the right moves, but her terrible violin filters it all out, rendering a monochromatic, narrow and relatively undynamic performance. I discovered this one night listening to an unfamiliar playlist, hearing someone I thought resembled a fine player run through compressor software. . . . turned out to be her. She gained a small amount of status for me that evening. When she buys a good violin I may cede her more status.

I suspect she bought that POS at a time when she thought the variety offered by a good violin was "inconsistency" because she hadn't learned to handle it. A bit like buying a Volvo to use as a race car rather than forcing ones self to learn to handle the real tool.

There's a fine player behind that filter.

Edited: August 23, 2021, 6:34 PM · "but her terrible violin filters it all out"

To be honest, I feel like her tone at times sounds too articulated/pressed. I don't know if anyone else hears it, but whenever she makes a bow change in an aggressive passage, it almost sounds like a recording by older Shlomo Mintz. Maybe that's the violin? Isn't it a Vuillaume though? I thought those were good.

Edited: August 23, 2021, 6:48 PM · A Vuillaume is not a Strad. Good is different from great. This is for me the core difference that people who talk about modern violins being just fine aren't hearing. But you don't know what you don't know, and a lot of egos are tied up in what they know as being the upper limit of what is knowable and possible.

I have not heard what you heard, but I will watch for it. It might be the result of a subconscious recognition of what the violin isn't doing and pushing through it, if I interpret your comment correctly,

August 23, 2021, 7:08 PM · But now she's traded up to TWO Vuillaumes.
August 23, 2021, 8:45 PM · I read somewhere that HH has been interviewed and questioned exhaustively about why she doesn't play a Strad or a del Gesu and she has said that whenever she tries them against her Vuillaume, she just can't find anything she prefers. I'm going to guess that she has the physical skill to coax a good sound out of any other top soloist's violin.

If you don't like her sound or her playing, that's fine. If you think it's her violin, that's fine too. I enjoy her playing and in fact her tone and the sound of her violin are a big part of that appeal. I think her tone sounds very focused. Sometimes I think she could allow herself more grit.

Edited: August 23, 2021, 10:34 PM · No No No No. I don't not like her playing or sound. I am just trying to notice the correlation that Michael mentioned, even if I'm stretching it a little. I love her recordings of the Schoenberg Concerto, Stravinsky Concerto, and Vieuxtemps 4.
Edited: August 24, 2021, 8:49 AM · Well, this discussion reminds me of people arguing top of the line audiophile gear. Some people can afford anything, others are forced to buy the best they can afford. Some in this firstly mentioned "upper tier"-though by no means all-will berate this "mid-fi hell" gear. Others can also afford anything, but do prefer "mid-fi" gear or even lower due to personal preference. These last ones will be accused of bad taste, or "broken ears", not knowing "what is good for them."

The players are more important than their tools. Many of these bad violins are really good. Let them play whatever is more comfortable to them.

I mean no offense to anyone's experience or expertise. Be well, and stay safe.

Edited: August 24, 2021, 10:06 AM · Adalberto, You are correct. As far as calling any individual violin a "POS," one only needs to look at the fact that even trained ears often can't tell that a Stradivarius et al sounds "better" than another maker's violin. Some of the talk about "good, better, best" is sometimes rooted in envy. But I am a permanent beginner resigned to my lot. Music is to be enjoyed, not fought over especially when argument spills over into vulgarity.
August 24, 2021, 10:41 AM · Three great artists that deserve more attention today, in my opinion, are Antal Zalai, Kirill Troussov, Liza Ferschtman. Who knows why they don't appear on the cover of The Strad, get signed up for recording deals with Deutsche Grammophon, or play with the world's major orchestras.
August 24, 2021, 11:51 AM · Michael, are you referring to Hahn's first Vuillaume or her second?

Her sound has tremendous carrying power. But her tone is very "sticky" -- the hair is basically glued to the string. When she was younger she used to use a TON of bow, with utterly silent bow changes so she might take four bows to a long note where another player might use one. She's stopped that now, as far as I've seen.

For Hahn's recordings, listen on SACD, not CD. The CDs are terrible, sonically, with a total compression of the dynamic range and they do no favors for her tone. The dynamic range and color on SACD is fine (and from what I've heard live, she's got plenty of range in person).

Edited: August 24, 2021, 1:39 PM · It's a serious disservice from her recording company to her if she's the only top violinist that sounds bad on CD in that particular way when the others seem to manage, isn't it?

But I know a number of working musicians who aren't fans and have heard her in person. In fact I hear this a lot more from musicians than civilians, which may be meaningful.

But as I will repeat, my complaints are violin related, as far as I can tell. So do you think she needs a better recording company, then? It sounds like you think her recordings are not up to the general standard. I mean,if her videos aren't keeping up with 60s TV production, that's a pretty serious problem!

August 24, 2021, 3:22 PM · I didn't mean this to turn into a referendum on Hillary Hahn. Ok, she's a good fiddler, if you like her interpretation, fine.

My main point is that too many people rely only on the internet: if something doesn't turn up in a Google search, then it simply doesn't exist. Instead, it's the young, media-savvy ones that generate likes that come to naturally dominate the discussion. It's like the obsession with getting noticed as a youtuber. The more noticed you become, the more noticed you become.

The internet has eliminated just as much as it has created and preserved.

Edited: August 24, 2021, 3:45 PM · Hilary draws a beautiful sound from her instruments in my opinion. Aaron Rosand bought a wonderful Strad model J.B. Vuillaume in 2008 and told me how much he enjoyed playing on it.

For further reference Rosand also made this recording in 1956 on a J.B. Vuillaume:

Can you honestly say after hearing this recording that his sound is lacking in any way? Sure a great Guarnerius del Gesu like he had added another dimension, but so much of how someone sounds is the player.

Kreisler also did many performances and recordings with his Vuillaume and Tubbs bow. Stradivari and Guadagnini are in my opinion still the gold standard and have unique shades and colors a Vuillaume might not have. I think one really interesting thing that some of these great Strads have is the ability to project at the softest dynamics and maintain a core to the sound. A very fine Vuillaume or Lupot can compete with anything in the loud dynamics.

August 24, 2021, 7:33 PM · Sacrilege, coming up!

I don't think it's the fiddle's fault, but I find Rosand's sound oppressive and exhausting, and I don't just mean in that particular clip. I'm not sure that I would have been able to make it through one of his recitals.

I can't imagine that most people's criticisms of Hilary Hahn have anything to do with her violin, and the one's I've heard have always been about her interpretation rather than her sound. I'm skeptical that a Vuillaume can't hold it's own with the old Italian fiddles.

August 24, 2021, 11:04 PM · Relatively anonymous excellent violinists would be all those section players in the major orchestras. One of my teachers in L.A. was a very fine, accurate player, who spent most of his time in the recording studios. He earned enough money to purchase a major violin and a house in Malibu. Less unknown would be Louis Kaufman, who we all have heard doing 100's of film scores as soloist or concertmaster.
August 25, 2021, 3:02 AM · I may as well chip in my two ha'p'orth, that in her recent recordings HH sounds very different from 20 years ago when she presumably played a loaned Strad or GdG, e.g.
She's obviously satisfied with the immediate sound she hears today, but isn't it the sound in the room that matters?
August 25, 2021, 1:13 PM · Well I sound very different from 20 years ago too.
And not in a good way...
August 25, 2021, 3:30 PM · Michael, I'm often not keen on the ultraprocessed sound of many modern CD recordings of violinists, which seem to filter out a lot of the warmth of a player's sound. SACD fixes that to a large degree.

But for Hahn the difference is stunning for some reason. A number of her discs were issued as SACD hybrids. Take the same hybrid disc and try it on a CD player vs a SACD player. You'll hear the difference instantly. I'm not sure why this is the case.

20 years ago, Hahn was playing her first Vuillaume. She's had that violin forever.

But her sound has changed over the years, at least to my ears. I think it was bigger and freer years ago. In any case, I find her interpretation to be restrained and tasteful. I know she's Milstein-inspired, and I like her playing much in the same way I like the (mature) Milstein.

Returning to the original topic, I do love Kaufman, whose Khachaturian recording is one of my favorites. Practically any of the "obscure" Auer pupils are fantastic, too.

August 25, 2021, 8:25 PM · Anyone:-- forgive my ignorance, but, what is SACD? -- jq (BC, Before Computers, techno-phobe Luddite dinosaur)
Edited: August 25, 2021, 9:05 PM · There may be an official meaning, but it is basically a super audio CD. Looks like a CD, generally plays in a conventional player, but in a machine designed for it will deliver much higher resolution.

One of several ways of delivering better audio quality.

Edited: August 25, 2021, 9:25 PM · I'm curious to know what "resolution" means in this context. There are only two axes -- time and intensity. The bit rate of the sample can be increased, which extends the frequency range according to the Nyquist principle, or the ADC can be more bits (e.g., 32 vs 24 vs 16). Along which axis is there increased resolution?

One thing about recordings is that there is often some studio compression or limiting. If you listen to a vintage recording of, say, ZZ Top, vs a re-released recording, the newer recording is very heavily compressed and it sounds totally different. Is HH just too hands-on in the booth?

Edited: August 25, 2021, 9:30 PM · It's a compact disc format, created by Sony and Philips, which uses DSD (Direct Stream Digital) recording technology that samples the musical signal at 2.8 million times per second. By comparison the standard CD, first developed in the late 1970's, samples at 44,100 times per second. Many SACD are hybrids that contain a SACD layer and a conventional CD layer, which allows them to be played on regular CD players.

My only SACD is a 1999 Telarc recording of the Dukas Sorcerer Apprentice by the Cincinnati Symphony. In terms of sound quality, it's as good or better than any other classical recording I've come across subsequently. Telarc claimed that even the conventional CD layer sounded better on a hybrid disc due to the original DSD recordings being down-converted to produce the CD master.

August 25, 2021, 9:26 PM · CD-quality audio is easily bested by the various hi-definition (sampling rate, bit rate) formats. The question that the industry is having trouble with is how to deliver those superior files to consumers.
Edited: August 26, 2021, 2:41 AM · These days "processed" has come to mean "all the goodness extracted and replaced with toxins" (I really shouldn't have had those Choco-pillows for breakfast). I believe it's often true that too much mixing and dynamic compression goes on in the processing of CDs, resulting in a loss of immediacy, directional information and sheer oomph. Popular genres rarely call for large dynamic contrasts so dynamic compression has become the norm, ironing out the residual dynamics presumably so you aren't startled by sudden contrasts while driving the car. Sadly this practice has leaked into the classical domain where dynamic contrasts are often huge. Now it isn't hard to find orchestral recordings in which the loud bits are scarcely louder than the quiet bits.

However I don't believe conventional CDs are much more "processed" than SACDs, rather that both go through the same mastering process before resampling at whatever rate is required. The CD format was chosen to comfortably exceed human auditory frequency detection capacity as it was understood in the 1970's. Now the sampling rate of the master recording and the SACD exceeds known human capacity by a factor of 50 or more, which seems like overkill. Apparently some people are able to tell the difference; I haven't done a side-by-side comparison but my SACDs never struck me as sonically superior to the rest. As far as I'm aware there's no new audiological or psychoacoustic information to explain how this is possible and what the original Sony and Philips engineers were ignorant of.

Formats used by youtube (including the ubiquitous mp3) sacrifice a lot of the information contained in CDs in aid of data compression - not to be confused with dynamic compression. The 128kB/s mp3 format was chosen in the belief that most people would find the loss undetectable or insignificant, and I'm lucky in that I'm of their number. Someone needs to convince me that HH of all players produces a sound that is only fully revealed to those with golden ears!

Edited: August 26, 2021, 9:45 AM · I see this a lot on the net, people arguing that theory makes ears useless.

So it appears that not a single person has taken 5 minutes on youtube to try to see what I was talking about (which wasn't about either CDs or SACDs, by the way), but all would rather argue their theories to inforce their opinions about what they haven't tried to hear. I was just having an exactly parallel discussion about something completely different, elsewhere. Thus goes the internet. . .

By the way, as always, the player is the playing we hear, not who we don't hear, not the fantasy, not the player alone in their room. If her CDs are compressed and her MP3s don't measure up to everything else out there, and that's what she approves, that's who she is and certainly will be once she's gone, so why is technology part of this discussion at all?

I think my work here is done. :-)

Edited: August 27, 2021, 4:49 AM · .
Edited: August 26, 2021, 10:17 AM · I don't understand your thesis Michael. I listened to the Shostakovich posted, then I went and listened to Hahn playing the Carmen Fantasy very recently, and in both, her sound was fine. I guess we're at an impasse, unless we want to turn this into a hi-fi forum where people argue about even bigger nothings than we already argue about here.

I always let hearing someone live be the arbiter of my judgment of them as a player, which has yielded some negative surprises before. I haven't heard Hahn live, but I will if I get the chance, even though she's not someone I tend to listen to regularly.

Curiously, I haven't really encountered the opposite, where I dislike someone's recordings, but they blow me away live.

August 26, 2021, 11:58 AM · Let's all admit that hearing and judging "sound" is highly vulnerable to auto-suggestion. In other words: If I don't like HH (or anybody else for any reason) I project that dislike on her tone rather than deriving it from that tone. This leads to a sort of circular self-justification.

Anyway Hahn is fully established by now; there is no way anybody can throw her "through the cracks" now.

August 27, 2021, 2:27 AM · Perhaps Michael means that HH uses less extreme color variations in her playing, compared to many other soloists, e.g., JJ, but many others too. Then other top soloists also do not go with that "hype". It's good there are many different individual soloists so we can listen to all of them!
August 27, 2021, 4:50 AM · To paraphrase James Galway, every violinist, first or second, in the Berlin Phil could have been a soloist.

Does it matter?

August 28, 2021, 11:45 AM · Of course the irony is that much as I love my SACDs, convenience means that I do nearly all of my listening on Spotify (at the top bitrate) these days.

Anyway, to Michael's point, I went hunting for a YouTube of Hahn playing the Brahms, which seemed like a good candidate for comparing visual attack to what comes out of the instrument. So: LINK

The first chord isn't as much of a punch in the face as one might expect. I usually think of the ability to grab an attack with a "pow" to be more a function of the bow than the violin, though?

(I've never heard Hahn play Brahms live, though I have tickets for it this season...)

Edited: September 1, 2021, 1:31 PM · Michael Darnton wrote:
" A Vuillaume is not a Strad. Good is different from great. This is for me the core difference that people who talk about modern violins being just fine aren't hearing. But you don't know what you don't know, and a lot of egos are tied up in what they know as being the upper limit of what is knowable and possible."

This can go both ways, can't it? Is there no ego enhancement derived from playing or owning a Strad?

I don't recall ever running into you where hundreds of violins were available to play and view, and play side-by-side. Might it be more likely that it is YOU who "don't know what you don't know"?

When you were a salesman in the Bein and Fushi shop, how much more money would you make by selling a decent Stad, versus selling a Vuillaume or a contemporary instrument?

Edited: September 1, 2021, 11:53 PM · @Michael

If we discount the effect of listener preferences, I actually think that the difference in tone between her recordings and her live performances is particularly large compared to others. Why this is I have no idea, since I have zero insight into the world of audio engineering. I only have reference to extant mainstream performers (i.e. those who have not fell through the cracks) due to the fact that I cannot time travel and I operate on a limited income. But if your thesis is that her recording company is doing her (or as the case seems to be, her violin) a disservice, I would agree that this seems to be the case.


I may see you there, I have a ticket for Saturday at Kennedy. Brahms is my favorite of all the accompanied violin repertoire, and her Brahms is my favorite of the major recorded ones.

Hilary I suspect is unique in her tone production even among the upper echelon of performers, both live and in person. While I love hearing her live, most of her recordings, while having amazing articulation and musical interpretation, are not, IMO, terrifically good audio recordings. A product of the times, perhaps, or maybe of listener preferences, but there's something about the separation of her playing from the orchestra that feels unnatural to the listening ear vs what you get when you hear her live.

I personally don't understand the tired "Hilary is too flawless and sterile", since I've heard her at least 20 times live and her playing is most definitely not flawless and not sterile at all. Unless you count the Mozart violin/piano sonatas, but I think I have a particularly unique dislike of Mozart on this board. She certainly generates a bigger wave of sound than other performers playing "superior" instruments, but in observing technique I suspect that it has more to do with her right hand technique more than anything else. She definitely loves the bridge more than others, which opens up a completely different discussion about sound quality vs penetration.

If we are to continue this discussion of superior vs inferior equipment, I suspect that additional fisticuffs may be thrown when it comes to a conversation about her bow and it's lack of...uh...provenance. And we certainly wouldn't want to argue about string selection here, would we?

To get back to the question at hand, I found Tai Murray's Ysaye recordings to be particularly instructive, although I can't say I prefer the interpretation and deviation from the written note. Would we consider her to have fallen through the cracks? She teaches at a major institution now, so perhaps not.

September 12, 2021, 7:47 AM · I'll give a shout for Vaughan Jones, such a fine player with an innate musicality and an effortless technique. His recording of Paganini's Cantabile e Valzer is as good as anything I've heard.
Edited: September 12, 2021, 11:42 AM · One potential factor in the difference between live and recorded: vibrato. We may never know how many have been hit by this, since (by definition) they will have less successful recording careers. But playing to the mike is its own sub-discipline.

As an example, I performed a few times with the young Stefan Jackiw, and was surprised at how pallid the resulting tapes sounded in comparison to what he did live. I don't know his current work, so I have no idea whether some combination of teachers or engineers has managed to fix the problem. Observations welcome from anyone who's heard him recently.

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