Many great violinists have left their mark in history and on violin technique. Here are a few of the most famous, from the 20th century to the present.
Eugène Ysaÿe (1858-1931)
Ysaÿe was a Belgian violinist who was sometimes called “The King of the Violin”. He studied with Henryk Wieniawski and Henri Vieuxtemps and went on to teach players like Josef Gingold and Nathan Milstein. He had a successful career as a soloist, touring all over Europe, the US and Russia. He was known for his variety of vibrato and use of rubato.
Eugène Ysaÿe plays Schubert’s Ave Maria:
Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962)
Kreisler was born in Austria, but his heritage was Jewish. He studied at the Vienna Conservatory as well as privately with many notable teachers, including Jakob Dont and Anton Bruckner. He was known for his sweet tone and expressive vibrato and phrasing.
Kreisler plays Dvořák’s Humoresque:
Bronislaw Huberman (1882-1947)
Jewish-Polish violinist Huberman founded the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra in 1936, which saved nearly 1000 Jews from Nazi concentration camps. In 1896, he performed the Brahms Violin Concerto in front of Brahms himself, who was impressed with Huberman’s playing. His playing was expressive and personal.
Huberman plays Chopin’s Nocturne Op. 9, #2:
Jascha Heifetz (1901-1987)
Heifetz was a Russian-born violinist who moved to the United States as a teenager. He became popular in Russia before moving, and his first public performance in the US (at Carnegie Hall), was received with incredible enthusiasm. He is remembered for his incredible precision and intense tone quality.
Heifetz plays Wieniawski’s Polonaise No. 1:
David Oistrakh (1908-1974)
Oistrakh was a Russian violinist (and violist) who had a large, bold sound. When Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, Oistrakh went to the front lines to play for and cheer soldiers and factory workers. Much of his career was in Russia, due to World War II, but after 1950 he was able to take his playing abroad.
Oistrakh plays Tchaicovsky’s Violin Concerto:
Yehudi Menuhin (1916-1999)
Menuhin was a child virtuoso. He performed with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra as a soloist when he was seven, and continued to play with great orchestras throughout his childhood. He also recorded from age 13 to 82, making his contract with EMI one of the longest in history. Menuhin’s natural musicality and feel for the music are what set him apart.
Menuhin plays the third movement of Paganini’s First Violin Concerto:
Ida Haendel (1928-)
Polish-born violinist Ida Haendel won many notable competitions as a child, and studied with multiple famous violinists. She toured all over the world and is known for her highly expressive manner and intense sound.
Haendel plays Sibelius’ Violin Concerto:
Itzhak Perlman (1945-)
Perlman is an Israeli-American violinist who began playing at age three. Despite his legs being paralyzed from contracting polio at age four, he continued to play and gave his first recital at 10. He has a elegant sound, and has recorded extensively and performed worldwide. He teaches privately and at Juilliard, where he attended as a youth.
Perlman plays Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 61:
Joshua Bell (1967-)
Bell is an American violinist who began playing at age four. One of his teachers was Josef Gingold, who fostered his love for the instrument. He has performed with many of the world’s best orchestras and conductors. Bell has been featured in several movie soundtracks and performs new works, in addition to standard violin repertoire. His sweet, delicate sound appeals to musicians and non-musicians alike.
Joshua Bell plays the first movement of Bruch’s First Violin Concerto:
Hilary Hahn (1979-)
American violinist Hilary Hahn picked up the instrument at age three. She is finding success by recording and performing as a soloist and chamber musician. She has been featured in several film scores and commonly debuts new pieces, including some written specifically for her.
Hahn plays Bach’s Partita #2:
Check out our lineup of 10 of the most famous classical violinists, from the 17th to the 19th centuries.