VC VOX POP | “Which Musicians From The Past Do You Take Your Greatest Inspiration From?” [Q&A]

The Violin Channel recently caught up with 25+ of the world’s top string players to find out …


“Which great musicians from the past do you take your greatest inspiration from?

The Violin Channel recently caught up with 25+ of the world’s top string players to find out …

American Violinist, Jennifer Koh

“I love Bronislaw Huberman [PICTURED] for both his unique musicianship and his humanity and activism in saving the lives of his fellow Jewish musicians in the 1930’s and 1940’s … his actions saved the life of one of my teachers, Felix Galimir”

American Violinist, Jennifer Frautschi:

“Clara Schumann is my biggest inspiration … she was a major interpreter of the most important music of her time … an accomplished composer herself … an influential and renowned teacher … had close artistic partnerships with some of the most interesting musicians of her era, like Brahms and Joachim … AND took care of Robert and bore eight children while juggling a demanding international concert career!”

American Violinist, Rachel Barton Pine:

“Maud Powell (1867-1920) is my #1 violin hero … she was dedicated to performing great masterworks at the highest level of artistry, but she also championed contemporary composers including Americans, women, and composers of African descen … tirelessly encouraged aspiring young musicians … embraced new technology (the gramophone!) to spread classical music … and sought out opportunities to introduce the violin to new audiences …  I try my best to follow in her footsteps!”

Canadian Violinist, James Ehnes:

“There are so many … If I’m narrowing it down to just violinists … I guess I’d say Fritz Kreisler and Jascha Heifetz”

Italian-German Violinist, VC Artist Augustin Hadelich: 

“Growing up, I listened to David Oistrakh’s recordings a lot … I love his warm sound and honest approach to the music … I discovered Milstein much later, and learnt a lot from him too … he was not only a great musician, he also found countless clever solutions for how to do things on the violin … unusual fingerings for example … which made his playing so clear and convincing”

Canadian Violinist, Lara St John:

“Fritz Kreisler, Glenn Gould and Alfred Cortot … also, singers Rada Volshaninova and Romica Puceanu”

English Violinist, Tasmin Little:

“My all time favourite, David Oistrakh, is the player whom I take most inspiration from … his sound resonates so deeply and makes me feel so happy whenever I hear his playing …  I also really love Ginette Neveu’s playing … so sad that her life was cut so tragically short … Her playing was so spontaneous, as well as musically beautiful”

American Violinist, Anne Akiko Meyers:

“Sergei Rachmaninoff, Jascha Heifetz, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Whitney Houston, Elvis …. and Michael Jackson”

Dutch Violinist, Simone Lamsa:

“All the great composers!!”

American Violinist, VC Artist Stefan Jackiw: 

“Like most violinists, I went through a phase when I was obsessed with violinists such as Heifetz, Kreisler and Milstein … these days I take most of my inspiration from composers … and so many violinists performing today”

Spanish Cellist, VC Artist Pablo Ferrández:

“Rostropovich, Gulda … and Casals”

Austrian-Persian Cellist, VC Artist Kian Soltani:

“Shafran, Fischer-Dieskau, Michael Jackson, Oscar Peterson, Thelonius Monk … and Rostropovich

Russian-American Violinist, Igor Pikayzen:

“David Oistrakh, Henryk Szeryng, Jascha Heifetz, Emil Gilels, Fedor Chaliapin, Sergei Rachmaninoff … and my grandfather, Viktor Pikaizen”

New England Conservatory Viola Professor, Kim Kashkashian:

“Piatagorsky, Britten, Callas, Boris Kroyt and … Annie Fischer”

University of Michigan Associate Violin Professor, Danielle Belen:

“I could answer this question listing the obvious great choices that are inspiring to so many in my generation, and rightfully so … Oistrakh, Milstein, Callas, etc … but, honestly, I find myself constantly inspired by the violinists of today … the young artists on the professional stage and in competitions, the young string quartets that are sweeping the world … and especially my own students, who share beautiful new ideas with me on a daily basis through their playing … oh, and definitely Judy Garland”

LSO First Violinist “Queen of Bling”, Maxine Kwok-Adams:

“I love watching old footage of conductors like Bernstein who managed to extract the very best from an orchestra … with the use of boundless energy and genuine musicianship”

VC Artists Attacca Quartet Violinist, Keiko Tokunaga:

“I tend to resonate with players like Oistrakh and Kreisler … whose playing may not have been always perfect but listeners could always tell that they had big hearts”

VC Artists Dover Quartet Violinist, Bryan Lee:

“There are so many great musicians from the past that it’s hard to list all of them here … there are certain pillars for me though … Jascha Heifetz, Nathan Milstein, the Guarneri Quartet, Leonard Bernstein to just scratch the surface!”

Taiwanese Violinist, VC Artist Paul Huang:

“Kreisler, Milstein … and the young Menuhin” 

Chinese Violinist, VC Artist Angelo Xiang Yu:

“Nathan Milstein … and Maria Callas”

Russian-French Violinist, VC Artist Fedor Rudin:

“There are way too many … Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Carlos Kleiber, Herbert von Karajan, Leonard Bernstein, Jascha Heifetz, Philippe Hirschhorn, Christian Ferras … just to name a few”

South-Korean Violinist, VC Young Artist Ji Won Song:

“Jascha Heifetz … he has an amazing ability and control to produce the exact result he wants so effortlessly … I also admire his ability to create breathtakingly long phrases while changing notes into various colors in such a magical way”

Spanish Violinist, VC Artist Francisco Fullana:

“The highly personal and incredible sounds from the violinists from the past are just inspiring to listen to … greats like Fritz Kreisler, Szigeti or Heifetz, they were truly one of a kind … each one in their own incredible way”

Bulgarian-American Violinist, VC Artist Bella Hristova:

“Beethoven is my favorite composer and listening to his music is always an inspiration, especially his piano music and string quartets … as for violinists … Heifetz and Oistrakh are some of my favorites … there is so much character in their playing, and their style is so personal and unique to them”

American Violinist, VC Young Artist, Luke Hsu:

“Milstein … for his perseverance even when he reached into his 80s … Mozart, for his personality … just his sheer presence and being in this world … I love his inner-child

South Korean Violinist, VC Young Artist Inmo Yang:

“Yehudi Menuhin and Leonard Bernstein”

American Violinist, VC Young Artist Sirena Huang: 

“It is really difficult for me to narrow down this answer … but I have always felt an intimate connection with old violinists’ recordings … but what moves and inspires me the most is the courage of these artists to authentically, fearlessly and sincerely express their unique voice through their music”

American Violinist, VC Young Artist Kevin Zhu:

“I find that I’m inspired in different ways by many different musicians, but I’ve always been especially fascinated with the sounds of Kreisler and Menuhin”

Norwegian Violinist, Henning Kraggerud:

“Very many … for instance, the pianist Artur Schnabel for his wonderful organic free rubato in his Beethoven sonatas … The “Tenore di Grazia”  Tito Schipa in his Neapolitan folk song recording for his unpretentious but wonderful unforced spontaneity … Stokowski for his childlike perspective in Tchaikowsky’s ‘Nutcracker’ … and last but not least Christian Ferras for his Sibelius second movement on youtube video with the French National Orchestra for his heart-wrenching sadness and humanity … exposing his soul naked crying through his violin”

Russian-American Violinist, Philippe Quint:

“Toscanini, Oistrakh, Heifetz, Horowitz, Rachmaninov … but great musicians are only a small percentage of inspiration … other art forms or individuals have been just as inspiring and played pivotal role in my life”