Nathan Milstein Violin virtuoso


December 22, 1992

Nathan Milstein, the Russian-born violin virtuoso, died of a heart attack Monday at his home in London at age 88.

To many, Mr. Milstein -- the last surviving pupil of Leopold Auer, considered the 20th century's pre-eminent teacher of violin -- was the greatest of all exponents of the 19th-century violin repertory.

From the beginning, his playing was described as "flawless," "aristocratic" and "elegant." A supreme technician, he nevertheless refrained from flaunting his extraordinary bow and finger dexterity. Instead he concentrated on the substance of the music, interpreting it in a warm, unaffected, personal manner.

As a Romantic violinist, he had in his repertory any number of virtuoso works, including his own "Paganiniana," a wild melange of violinistic stunts based on the famous 24th Caprice by Paganini. But even in works like these he managed to imbue the music with a kind of elegance that completely transcended any hint of vulgarity.

Year after year, Mr. Milstein (pronounced MILL-stine) played in much the same flawless manner, with no apparent deterioration. He never seemed to age. Brown-haired, medium-size, stocky but never looking stout, he came on stage and, in his imperturbable manner, made music.

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