Nathan Milstein (1904-1992)

Milstein was a Ukrainian-born American virtuoso violinist.
Being a contemporary of the great Heifetz might have seemed an undue burden to some violinists, but Milstein rose to the challenge.
In his early days, he toured Russia with Horowitz, and toward the end of his life he recorded some of the best solo violin I have heard. The recordings of Bach Sonatas and Partitas are especially astounding in my opinion.
One reviewer said of his Bach recordings, “His style is a lethal combination of technical accuracy with emotional depth.”
There is also a very good two-part documentary on YouTube called “Master of Invention.” It was this film and seeing and hearing Milstein, quite late in life, perform these solo pieces that led me to this wonderful discovery of recorded gold. The journey of his long and storied life is also well essayed in this two part documentary.
I am always on the lookout for new inspiration and seeing a man in his eighties play with such élan is nothing short of inspirational.
My new passion.

Miecyslaw Weinberg (1919-1996) / composer

There were several things that drew me to Weinberg and his music. The first thing was that his birth date of December 8 is something I share with him. Secondly he is of Polish origin (another thing I have in common with him), though he lived most of his life in Russia and is known as a Russian composer.

The first paragraph of his biography reads:

“There are composers whose lives were marked by the cataclysms of the ‘short twentieth century’; there are composers who deserve far more space than they have been allocated in histories of music; there are composers who were exceptionally prolific. Mieczyslaw Weinberg presents a rare case of all three in one.”

His life was tragic and heroic. He escaped the Holocaust in Poland only to live and work in Russia, and later be imprisoned there for charges of “Jewish bourgeois nationalism.” Only through the intervention of his friend Shostakovich was he eventually released.

Reflecting the tragedies and resolutions of his life, his music can be bright and hopeful one moment, and despairing the next. Though he is not well known here (or in Russia for that matter), some consider him “the third great Soviet composer along with Prokofiev and Shostakovich.”

Towards the end of his life, Weinberg suffered from Crohn’s disease and remained housebound for the last three years, although he continued to compose. It has been claimed he converted to Orthodox Christianity less than two months before his death in Moscow.

At any rate, I am currently exploring the life and music of this man.

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