The biography, important facts and dates
Impressions from concerts
Overview on recordings
Opinions on personality, art and play, recordings and concerts
Pictures of the Artist
Back to music-menu
Back to homepage
Selection The featured chapters of this artist
that time, I did not really like violin playing"
is taken from the biography of N. Milstein. A similar comment appears in his
Interview on Video.(Quellenverweis).
needs to be occupied, otherwise he would thrash the children of our neighbors..."
"I still did not like the Violin..."
"More and more I became interested in the Violin...(1915)
quotes should not be put in doubt, being direct statements by the master.
However they were made at a time, when N. Milstein already had developed
considerable skills which must have been by far above any average of other
violinists of same age. In 1915, his teacher, Pjotr Stoljarsky requested
him to play the concerto of Glazunov at a time of strong competition among
the attendants of Stoljarskys masterclass.
In the light of these facts, the quotes can only be interpreted in such
way, that learning to play was not a real challenge for Milstein. Many great
masters of this instrument did not mention that they had difficulties; in
the contrary, one gets the impression that becoming a master is not a difficult
of concerts with studio recordings:
who heard Milstein play on stage are of the same opinion: Extraordinary were
the impressions to his audience. It started when he came on stage, like the
"King without crown". In
spite of this there appeared to be no distance between him and the audience,
he played with "Selbverständlichkeit" which caught the full
attention of all listener from the very first minute.
comparing the few live-recordings which are known (Milstein hated live recordings)
one can easily find out what inspiration Milstein must have obtained from
the direct contact with his audience. The same piece of music sounds much
more extroverted, much more brilliant and shows more virtuosity than any
earliest recording of the "Paganiniana" dated 1946, which
is a live-recording, Milstein demonstrated his virtuosity in his utmost
manner . Not only did he produce a rich and strong sound, forcing his instrument
to the very limit (did he already play his STRAD?) but he also added peak
notes and musical passages to his own composition or arrangement, which
no later recording contains.
interpretation of Bachs works
is still today, 2001, almost 10 years after his death considered the most
authentic interpret of the works by Bach, his sonatas and partitas BWV 1001
mentioned in his biography, these works were practically unknown at the time
of Milstein's childhood.
Already during his early years he started and continued to play these very
difficult works and he went on all the rest of his life.
two remarkable complete recordings::
The recording for "Capitol Records", dated 1954 and 1956.
BWV1001: march 1954; BWV1002: February 1956; BWV 1003: December
1956; BWV 1004: March 1954; BWV 1005: March 1956;BWV 1006: December 1955)
recording is today considered the referential recording of the 20th century.
2. The recording for "Deutsche Grammophon", issued 1975
is no point in discussing, which recording is better. Both represent the
most valid interpretation of Bach, There are no extra or unnecessary accents,
no strong vibrato or no vibrato, but an especially elaborated "Terassendynamik",
which is rarely found today. ("Terrassendynamik" means that continuous
crescendo or decrescendo is divided into several levels with no grades in
of Nathan Milstein is heard in all his recordings. Weakness in sound production
of whatever kind is rarely found.
is often described by a "silver shade".Many recordings give witness
of this extraordinary multicolored sound.
from Leopold Auers masterclasses equal in their even sound production, the
purity, non exaggerated use of vibrato and their great tone.
sound was enriched by brilliance and enabled him to play practically all styles.
Besides Bach he played and recorded a wide repertory. Special emphasis was
put on one hand on the works of the early Baroque, works by Geminiani
on the other hand the Classic period up to the rich romantic repertory.
He always kept Noblesse, never sounded anything too exaggerated. His
interpretations were developed directly from the composition without adding
highlights or "polish", such as Heifetz did in some of his recordings,
Observers of Nathan Milstein could not discover secrets or special techniques
of his play. Besides the grip of the bow in the "St. Petesburg"
manner which however was not as emphasized as with Heifetz, he could produce
his gorgeous sound virtually on every point of his bow. This may confirm the
comment of Hartnack who noted that Milstein changed the contact point
between strings and bow apparently without any system.
Anyhow, this incomparable sound of his play.....
stage with the age of 82 years
It is considered
common sense that the decline of physical forces, paired with the diminishing
Eros of a man of high age also entails the loss of ability to produce a strong
and vibrant violin tone
for Nathan Milstein! In the contrary, the late recordings exhibit intimacy
and maturity which are in definite disagreement with the above statement.
kept his impeccable intonation and the richness of sound until the very end
of his career. The late recordings are in no way minor to the early ones.
His art enabled him to be perfect in any respect during all of his career.
a degradation due to age cannot be overheard in the late recordings of Szigeti
or Elman, nothing of that kind with Milstein.
remember of one of Milsteins last concerts in Vienna, where he played the
complete program of works by Bach in the upper half of the bow, (problems
with the elbow?). Incredible but true, his sound could still fill up the concert
hall back to the last rows. His wonderful sound was not deteriorated.
"Live or Studio..." Continued
event was to hear Milstein paying from a very short distance.
In the 1950th, there was a habit to walk near to stage in the aisle at the
end of a concert. (To the dislike of those sitting in the front rows.) Thus
a few enthusiasts who were first could stand in a distance of say 5 meters
to the soloist and listen to the encores or the extra pieces from that near
distance. I can only describe this impression as if Milstein would play especially
for every single listener there. There were no secrets to be discovered, in
was just completely natural. In no other way could one imagine a violin being
played. His sound was not loud but very rich in colors and seamless as ever.
His famous encore, "Sicilienne" by Maria
Theresia Paradis, played con sordino, could be eared pianissimo
until the very last rows of the concert hall.
of another encore, the moto perpetuo by Paganini, in incredible
speed when Milstein took single peak-notes with full bow ( ! ) in order to
obtain the desired accent,
demonstrated his "extroverted" attitude in the same way when playing
Bach or other works. He disliked to have recordings of his concerts, as I
was told by the director of the "Konzerthaus" of Vienna.
remain the personality of Milstein standing steadily on his place on stage
and his seamless sound production which every time anew caused breathless
astonishment among his audience which in turn expressed the enthusiasm by
applauding half an hour or more.
fans who have access to live-recordings may convince themselves.
Back to the first part....