Acclaimed Violinist Nathan Milstein Dead at 87
Dec. 22, 1992
LONDON (AP) _ Concert violinist Nathan Milstein, considered one of the foremost violinists of his generation for his renditions of Beethoven and Bach, has died, his family reported. He was 87.
Cause of his death Monday was not given.
Milstein, born to Jewish parents in Odessa on Dec. 31, 1904, defected from the then-Soviet Union to the West in 1926. He became a U.S. citizenship in 1942 but preferred to live in London. His original name was Mironovich.
His preference was for music of the Baroque period and for 19th century works, particularly the Beethoven violin concerto and music by Johann Sebastian Bach. He had few modern works in his repertoire.
''Modern composers try to make it (the violin) into some kind of percussion instrument,'' he chided in a 1960s interview.
The authoritative New Grove Dictionary of American Music said in 1986 that Milstein is ''the least 'Russian' among Russian violinists because his violinistic instincts are controlled by intellect.''
''His fiery temperament is firmly disciplined, his line classically pure,'' it said. ''His interpretations of the great concertos are full of nobility and reveal a stimulating mind. He can be a dazzling technician.''
Milstein's father was a prosperous wool merchant. His mother decided that he would be a violinist, although at first he did not much like the instrument.
He studied music with Pyotr Stoliarsky from age 7 to 10, then went to St. Petersburg, where he became the pupil of the great Leopold Auer at the Conservatory there.
He made his official concert debut in Odessa in 1920 and two years later, he recalled, ''I went to tea with the (Ukrainian-born) pianist (Vladimir) Horowitz in Kiev and stayed three years.''
Milstein and Horowitz gave sonata recitals together and formed a trio with cellist Gregor Piatigorsky.
The Soviet Communist Party gave Milstein permission to go to the West if he wished, but he initially had no desire to leave.
He recalled in an interview: ''Life was too wonderful in Russia: we had universal adulation, lots of money and whipped cream and pastries at the cafe in Stoleshnikov Alley.''
But in 1926, he and Horowitz toured Europe, met emigres on their travels and never returned home.
Milstein went first to live in Berlin and then in Brussels, where he was coached by Eugene Ysaye.
He made his debut in the United States in 1929 at St. Louis.
In 1979, he celebrated the 50th anniversary of that debut with solo recitals and appearances as soloist with major American orchestras.
He also gave master classes at the Juilliard School of Music in New York and in Zurich.
Small, dapper and with a waspish sense of humor, Milstein finally gave up playing at age 84 when injuries from a fall left him unable to hold his violin.
He married in 1945 and is survived by his wife Therese and their daughter Maria.
Details of his funeral and a memorial service will be announced later.