Many great violinists have left their mark in history and on violin technique. Here are a few of the most famous classical violinists, from the 17th through 19th centuries.
Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713)
Corelli was an Italian violinist whose style was formative in the early development of violin playing. Though he made quite a name for himself with his playing, he did not use the violin to its fullest potential. In his compositions for violin, he rarely went above D on the E string.
Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)
Vivaldi was initially taught by his father to play the violin. He became so skilled as a child that he and his father toured around Venice playing together. He continued to impress as an adult with his excellent technique. Vivaldi’s skill earned him the position of Master of Violin at a music school when he was 25.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
Mozart wasn’t just a composer—he was also a child prodigy on violin. He began touring at age 6 with his father and sister, performing for European royalty along the way. Though his focus eventually became composing, his first public appearances were as a violinist and pianist. He is arguably one of the most famous classical violinists.
Niccolò Paganini (1782-1840)
Paganini was the most celebrated virtuoso of his time, and had a profound influence on modern technique. His compositions for violin are famous for their difficulty. In his lifetime he owned and played many extraordinary violins, including multiple Amati, Guarneri and Stradivari instruments.
Ole Bull (1810-1880)
Bull was a Norwegian violinist who was famous for his speed and clarity of playing. He was prolific performer, giving thousands of concerts. He was also a luthier and collector of fine violins.
Heinrich Wilhelm Ernst (1812-1865)
Ernst is sometimes considered to be Paganini’s greatest successor. He was an expressive and technically gifted player who was greatly admired by other musicians like Berlioz, Schumann and Lizst.
Joseph Joachim (1831-1907)
Joachim was a Hungarian violinist who became wildly popular at age 12, when he played a Beethoven violin concerto with the London Philharmonic. His recordings in 1903 made him the earliest famous classical violinists to have recorded.
Joachim plays Brahm’s Hungarian Dance #1:
Henryk Wieniawski (1835-1880)
Wienaiwski was another violinist who successfully made the transition from child virtuoso to mature artist. He had an intense touring schedule and great popularity–even to the point of being likened to Paganini.
Pablo de Sarasate (1844-1908)
Sarasate was a Spanish violinist who owed his fame to his pure tone and fabulous execution. He toured and performed in Europe, North America and South America. He played a 1724 Stradivarius and, along with Joseph Joachim, was among the first great violinists to record.
Sarasate plays his Zigeunerweisen, recorded around 1904:
Check out our lineup of ten of the most famous classical violinists, from the 19th century to the present.