The world of violin playing has been growing and changing significantly ever since its initial birth. Virtuosi, composers, and instrument makers, have pushed the boundaries of what is possible and achievable on this diabolic instrument and continue to do so today.
The 20th century saw the advent of many genius violinists, ushering in a Golden Age of String Playing, and for the first time ever, we were able to record and preserve these artists’ interpretations for all of posterity.
While many know the names of great players like Heifetz, Kreisler, and Menuhin, there are a handful of other players from this time period who are equally great in their own right. These are five forgotten genius players, each one with a unique, identifiable, individual sound, who have escaped the limelight throughout time.
1. Efrem Zimbalist Sr.
Efrem Zimbalist Sr. (1889-1985) was an influential concert violinist, teacher, composer, conductor, and director of the Curtis Institute of Music from 1941-1968.
Zimbalist’s students include Aaron Rosand, Oscar Shumsky, Shmuel Ashkenasi, and Joseph Silverstein.
2. Toscha Seidel
Toscha Seidel (1899-1962), born in Russia was a student of Leopold Auer and was a childhood friend of Jascha Heifetz.
In the 1930’s, Seidel emigrated to America and made a career in the studio of motion pictures. He was featured as a soloist in many movies, including Around the World in 80 Days, Intermezzo, and The Wizard of Oz.
Seidel had given violin lessons to Albert Einstein in 1934. In return, Einstein gifted a sketch to Seidel, which diagrammed his theory of relativity.
3. Mischa Elman
Mischa Elman (1891-1967) was famous for his beautiful tone and passionate playing. He auditioned and was accepted into Leopold Auer’s class at the age of 11.
When he was 13, Elman made his European debut, performing for Edward VI and Alfonso of Spain at Buckingham Palace, London.
Four years later, Elman made his American debut, performing the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with the Russian Symphony Orchestra in Carnegie Hall, NYC.
Elman went on to tour and perform with major symphony orchestras across the world. He sometimes performed as many as 107 concerts during a 29-week season.
4. Michael Rabin
Michael Rabin (1936-1972) was an American violinist described as “one of the most talented and tragic violin virtuosi of his generation.”
Rabin began studying the violin at the age of 7, and made his Carnegie Hall debut at the age of 15. Of his playing, Ivan Galamian said that Rabin had “no weaknesses, never.”
Rabin toured across the world for years, playing for millions. Towards the end of his career, Rabin lost balance and fell forward during a recital in Carnegie Hall. This was an early sign of a neurological condition which would adversely affect his life and career.
Rabin died at the young age of 35 after suffering from an epileptic seizure in his NYC apartment.
5. David Nadien
David Nadien (1926-2014) was an American violinist and violin teacher. Nadien began learning the violin from his father before entering the Mannes School of Music. His teachers included Adolfo Betti, Adolf Busch, Ivan Galamian, and Dr. D. C. Dounis.
Nadien made his first concert appearance with the New York Philharmonic at the age of 14 and won the Leventritt Award when he 20.
He primarily worked as a studio musician until he was selected by Leonard Bernstein to succeed John Corgliano Sr. as Concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic, despite little experience as an orchestral player.
He left the post in 1970 to resume studio work. As a teacher, Nadien held a position at the Mannes School of Music.