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Elderly Violinists

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24 minutes ago, Twinpipe said:

Does anyone know of any violinists who were able to continue playing with a nice sound in their 80s or 90s?

I saw Nathan Milstein in recital in late 1985, when he was 81 years old. He unfortunately broke his arm the following year, or I would have seen him again. His playing was impeccable, particularly on the Chaconne of Bach--which requires both great technique and great stamina (mentally and physically). Tremendous. At intermission, the ladies' room was abuzz with breathless admiration on the part of the many LA Chamber Orchestra violinists who were in attendance.  



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Svend Asmussen played great jazz into his 90s.

Gitlis certainly comes to mind as a classical player.

As Crazy Jane mentioned, Milstein kept his form late in life. 

Ida Haendel has had a long and fruitful career. I don’t think she’s performing anymore, but she made some excellent recordings not so long ago. 

Ruggiero Ricci still played amazingly well in his late years. He eventually developed difficulty in holding the violin and stopped performing, but he could still nail any difficult run when he was demonstrating in a masterclass.

Aaron Rosand maintained a beautiful tone in later years. I remember being blown away when I heard a recording of a recital he gave as an elderly player.

I’m sure there are more, but those players came to mind right away. 

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23 hours ago, Twinpipe said:

Did these folks use a different technique (ex. a lower-tension bow hold) to maintain their tone?

I think that the players whose sound aged well with them always had light and relaxed bow holds. For them, maintaining tone was less of an issue than being able to lift their bow arms up and keep their elbows parallel to the string. A lot of really good players, especially those who practiced long hours and used a higher bow arm, ended up struggling with shoulder problems and had to adjust to lessened mobility. 

Obviously having full mobility is the best recipe for good tone, but a fluid wrist will make up for a lot of upper arm deficiencies. I listened to a discussion about Grappelli a few months ago where his bowing style came up. The opinion was that he always used a small amount of bow and kept his right arm movements to a minimum, a sort of economy of motion, which allowed him to maintain the same style throughout his career. 

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