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Got an all-time favorite? Unique features?

Edited: August 16, 2022, 7:42 AM · In your heart of hearts, when all is said and done, do you have one all-time favorite violinist (past or present)?

If so, who? And can you briefly say what you feel is unique or truly outstanding about that violinist?

Here's my answer?

All-time favorite: Zino Francescatti

Unique features:
- Unique vibrato, like no one else in history (that we know of).
- Vocal, singing emotional quality, even in the most rapid technical passages.
- Elegance in every note and musical passage.
- Elegant stage presence (clearly "into" the performance, but no physical gestures that detract from the music).

Replies (18)

August 16, 2022, 7:59 AM · Augustin Hadelich, hands down
Edited: August 16, 2022, 9:04 AM · I grew up hearing recordings and radio broadcasts of the great violinists of the mid-20th century and especially Heifetz. Shortly before my 16th birthday, 72 years ago, my father told me he had bought tickets for us to hear Heifetz perform Beethoven's violin concerto with the Baltimore Symphony. I started working on that concerto the next day and was really ready for the performance about 2 or 3 months later. I have also continued to collect recordings of that concerto since the inception of CDs.

Following a neck injury 32 years ago I have been unable to even consider trying to play that concerto and other works with similar technical requirements. But hearing them still moves me as much as ever.

Heifetz was my violin hero for a long time. It was, perhaps, 20 years later that I started questioning the way Heifetz played some things and I started to spread my preferences around.

Recently I have heard that the performances of The Beethoven by Augustin Hadelich were something I just had to hear. Therefore I have been trying to find his recording - but I guess it doesn't exist yet. I've been looking on YouTube - and just a hour ago, I found this:

a Haidelich performance of the complete Beethoven Concerto, which I watched and recorded. I can now make my own CD and put it in my iTunes, etc.

It was Mary Ellen's post above that inspired me to search once again.
Thank you, Mary Ellen.

August 16, 2022, 9:05 AM · You’re welcome!
August 16, 2022, 9:14 AM · Roman Kim. Nobody can play what he does.
Edited: August 16, 2022, 6:31 PM · Greetings,
like Andrew, and perhaps rather typical of my generation, Heifetz wa s my go-to for many years. There were certain notes or phrases he played that I can instantly call to mind because no other violinist who has ever lived could do such a thing so perfectly it was just painful (in a good way). For example, there is a ritardando in the Bazzini Ronde De Lutins that is timed in such a way it seems to me almost as though the secrets of the universe are being revealed. I do not believe any violinist has ever truly matched Heifetz for an internal sense of rhythm and the ability to distort it in absolute proportion between notes. Later, like Andrew, I began to broaden my taste beginning with Milstein. At his best , in a differnet way, Milstein could transcend Heifetz in terms of sheer natural magic from within the music. For example, his opening of the Glazunov violin concerto. I do absolutely adore Gitlis as an underrated (really?) blazing genius of music and the violin who unashamedly did absolutely whatever he felt like at a given moment.
Then like Mary, i have come to believe the true heir to these masters is Hadelich.
Edited: August 16, 2022, 6:44 PM · I agree that Augustin Hadelich is one of the best ever.

I love Heifetz, too. His solo Bach speaks to me. I do theorize, however, that Heifetz had the advantage of being in his prime at the onset of the high-fidelity recording era. As the "great one" of his time, he therefore had the opportunity to establish his own interpretations as "definitive". I don't mean to imply that he was merely "in the right place at the right time" but I think there is an element of that.

I find we live in age of readily available streamed music through Spotify and so forth, that having a favorite artist is almost a curse.

I also listen to piano trios on and I am constantly hearing something that sounds incredibly fresh and tasteful and inspiring, only to glance at my phone and realize that I've never heard of that pianist before. I can only conclude that the idiom is alive and well, and that I am glad I didn't try to compete in that field.

August 16, 2022, 6:59 PM · For good measure: Gauthier Capuçon's Haydn Cello Concerto at about 19:00: Gauthier plays a big violin.
Edited: August 16, 2022, 7:50 PM · There are a few that come in close, but my all-time favorite is Hilary Hahn.

Unique features:
-Complete clarity in even the most "fuzzy" passages (e.g., runs of slurred notes, quick double-stop sections, etc.)
-A pure and clean but warm and "feminine" tone; tasteful phrasing in both lyrical and virtuosic lines
-More projection and articulation power than anyone else I've heard (especially so on her old 1864 Vuillaume, the "Cannone" copy)
-A nearly inhuman level of intonation accuracy/consistency
-A faultless fourth finger (she is one of few violinists who have no problem with pinky trills)
-Ultra-flexible left-hand fingers (which allow her to execute fingered octaves in places others would dare not)

I also like that, since her sabbatical, she seems willing to really "dig into" the strings when the music allows it (examples: Mozart Concerto No. 5 "Turkish" section, Prokofiev Concerto No. 1 Scherzo, Dvorák Concerto 1st mvt.). Hahn is easily one of the most dynamic players today and certainly one of the most artistically curious of our time.

August 16, 2022, 10:32 PM · Augustin Hadelich is also my favorite. His playing is just exquisite and there's rarely anything he plays where I prefer someone else's recording. He's just so well-rounded. His Beethoven Concerto is to die for as are the pieces he's played by African American Composers such as Eddie South's Black Gypsy and Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson's Louisiana Blues Strut



August 17, 2022, 3:12 AM ·

The best of the best.

Edited: September 6, 2022, 5:07 AM ·
I joined the Columbia Masterworks Record Club as a H.S. freshman. One of the initial three records that I selected was Isaac Stern playing the Beethoven. As I recall, a second was the four Vivaldi double concertos played by he and David Oistrakh.

From then on, Isaac Stern's playing has become part of my DNA. I once heard Stern speak of musicians having a "musical inner ear," which is their center of gravity for how they would like to make music, what they listen for when others make music, and generally, how they think in terms of music. Stern's playing probably occupies about seventy percent of my musical inner ear. As Karl Haas once commented on his program, Adventures in Good Music, Isaac Stern plays from the heart, to the heart.

As one might suspect, I think the Beethoven is a terrific recording. But for those unfamiliar with the second, the Vivaldi recording with Stern and Oistrakh is also quite amazing. It just does not get better.

September 6, 2022, 10:59 AM · We had a long discussion over at LinkedIn on the topic of "Best Violinist". We were mostly of an older generation so that players like Hilary Hahn and Hadelich were not given fair consideration. The consensus was for Heifetz as #1. For #2 there were lots of votes for Oistrakh, Milstein, Francescatti, even Kreisler (who had a different artistic agenda). Also not considered were those before electric recording (1927). Judging by their reputation and assuming they could play well what they composed, that list would include; Paganini, Vivaldi, Joachim, Sarasate, Ysaye.
September 6, 2022, 1:49 PM · Try this - Zino Francescatti, video performance of Beethoven Kreutzer Sonata:

Edited: September 6, 2022, 3:04 PM · Jascha Heifetz. Nathan Milstein. David Oistrakh.
Also,I have a special fondness for Joseph Szigeti, whom I met briefly as a young violin student when he was on one of his final tours in the late 1950s. It was a remarkable concert and his playing affected me deeply.

September 6, 2022, 7:58 PM · Past: Jascha Heifetz
Present: Augustin Hadelich
In the middle: Itzhak Perlman
Honorable mention: Yehudi Menuhin
September 8, 2022, 3:01 PM · I really like Hilary Hahn. I don't think anyone else can match her clarity and accuracy.
Edited: September 9, 2022, 3:59 AM · I've got Hahn's Pag 1. last time I listened to it I felt she could have traded in some precision for a bit more passion.

Short answer to the OP prolly Oistrakh, but favourites were more a thing of my past. No reason apart from his overall dependability (in addition to all his obvious good points).

Heard some of Hadelich's Recuerdos on the radio the other day. My only thoughts on the Bizet were "plod, two, three, plod, two, three".

Perlman gets honourable mention, but my introduction to him was on telly 35 years ago when he was playing virtuoso pieces with a piano accompaniment and he finished each piece half a measure ahead of the pianist. That put me off him for 30 years.

Edited: September 9, 2022, 5:13 AM · I had several gift cards to use and last week a friend and I spent a whole day blind-listening to recordings of the most famous violin works: Bach, Sibelius, Sarasate, Bruch, Mendelssohn, etc, etc. The plan was to choose and buy the recording of the performance I liked better without pre-judging it by its player (he would select and play, I would rate). Some results:
On one hand, all my choices were of the usual suspects mentioned in other's post: Hadelich, Szeryng, Menuhin, Perlman, Oistrakh, Vengerov... There were no anonymous players although some names we didn't know were played. I suppose that their quality can be recognized in the blind.

It was quite outstanding that I didn't choose the same violinist twice. I liked different ones in different works. This shocked me because I had some favorites before this test and I didn't choose them. It also discourages me to attempt any ranking even in my preferences. It also made me wonder if -really- all interpreters are suitable for all compositions, even if technically they are. Any good actor can play any role, but they usually are better fit for some. I suppose this extends to any interpreter.
I'm left wondering why I didn't choose some of what I previously thought that were the best. At this moment I believe that I chose the music I liked better, whilst before I was choosing the violinist/artist whose technique I wanted to admire and this links this thread to the one about emotion and technique

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