Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Nathan Milstein

Nathan Milstein (Nathan Mironovich Milstein) was a Russian violinist born on December 31, 1903 - some sources say December 31, 1904 and others say January 13, 1904 (Heifetz was 2 years old.) He was often called the "prince of the violin." He started studying the violin at age 4 (some say age 7) with Peter Stolyarsky, a popular teacher in Odessa (Russia) who also taught David Oistrakh around the same time. At age 10 (1914), he left studying with Stolyarsky and entered the Odessa Conservatory. By age 12, he had entered the St Petersburg Conservatory where Leopold Auer was teaching. His fellow students were Elman, Heifetz, Seidel, and Zimbalist, among many others. He studied with Auer until the summer of 1917 and had no additional instruction thereafter. In 1925, he left Russia to play a few concerts in Europe and never returned. In 1926, he studied with Eugene Ysaye (in Belgium) for a few weeks but later said he learned nothing from him - it was actually Ysaye who told him he had no need of any further lessons. In that same year, Milstein made his Paris debut. On October 17, 1929 (some sources say November 29, 1929) he made his American debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra playing Glazunov's concerto and thereafter concertized non-stop until July, 1986. He is remembered for a very clean and precise technique and very appealing tone. He is also remembered for his Paganiniana - a dazzling arrangement of different tunes written by Nicolo Paganini. Between 1930 and 1986, he recorded most of the violin repertory. Of the Brahms concerto alone there are no fewer than five studio recordings available - each with a different orchestra. Although he made seven (studio) recordings of the Mendelssohn concerto, he didn't record the Sibelius or the Stravinsky concertos even once. Those works were probably not in his repertoire. There are also many superb videos of his playing on YouTube - all of them professionally produced. Milstein died in London on December 21, 1992, at age 88. (Of that era, only Ruggiero Ricci, Albert Markov, Zvi Zeitlin, David Nadien, Camilla Wicks, Ida Haendel, and Ivry Gitlis remain.)


  1. I am honor to say thank you very much for your valuable time to share us your knowledge!

  2. Milstein played the Sibelius masterfully, but thought it was " too barbaric." He left it too Heifetz, who in turn never recorded the Dvorak, considered Milstein's domain

    1. Thank you for your comment Thomas. I always thought it was a little odd that Milstein's Sibelius was not available. Of course, there were a number of popular concertos which Heifetz never recorded (as far as I know.) The Dvorak was one. The Shostakovich, Barber, Stravinsky, Britten, Paganini, Saint Saens, and Schumann are among the others. Thanks again!!!