Milstein and Heifetz are but two violinists comprising the golden age of violinists. A discussion would not be complete without including David Oistrakh, Fritz Kreisler, Yehudi Menuhin and Isaac Stern.
Heifetz and his teacher Leopold Auer were viewed as traitors by their home country for immigrating to the United States. David Oistrakh, on the other hand, who stayed in the Soviet Union, was seen as a patriot. Born in 1908, Oistrakh played with virtually every major orchestra in Europe, in Russia and in the U.S. Numerous works are dedicated to him including the two Shostakovich concertos, the Khachaturian concerto and he premiered Prokofiev’s two violin sonatas.
When the Nazi army invaded the Soviet Union during World War II, Oistrakh traveled to the front lines. Oistrakh courageously performed the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto during the battle of Stalingrad in 1942 while the city was brutally bombed.
Oistrakh’s rich tone is memorable to anyone who was lucky enough to hear him live as I was. Austrian violinist and composer Fritz Kreisler was born in 1875. He studied in Vienna and Paris and had the benefit of illustrious teachers such as composers Anton Bruckner, Léo Delibes, and Jules Massenet. After his American debut in New York in 1888, he made an unsuccessful bid for a seat in the Vienna Philharmonic. Overcome by disappointment, he decided to abandon his career in music to try his hand at medicine. Lucky for us, Kreisler returned to the violin in 1899, performing with the Berlin Philharmonic. His U.S. tours of 1901-1903 finally lead to acclaim as a virtuoso soloist. Sir Edward Elgar’s Violin Concerto was commissioned and premiered by Kreisler.
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