These are the films that I found most interesting about playing the violin and music in general. I recommend watching them and being inspired by them for any serious student, whether beginner or intermediate.
- The Art of Violin
- Nathan Milstein: In portrait
- Yehudi Menuhin: The violin of the century
- The Soviet Violin School
The Art of Violin
This is a great DVD that I have watched many times. It gives a great insight into the life of several great violinists through the eyes of legends. There isn’t just a historical perspective of the matter, but great performers and artists of several generations give their opinions and thoughts about violin playing. For the older generation, we have the great Ivry Gitlis and his magical advice, Ida Haendel. For the current generation, Itzakh Perlman. The young generation represented here is so by Hilary Hahn.
The first part details the life and Art of Heifetz, Elman, Kreisler, Francescatti, Milstein, Menuhin, Oistrakh, Stern, Ferras, Szigeti, Grumiaux, through the Mendelssohn concerto as a guiding thread. Ivry Gitlis describes that era and details many anecdotes about those great virtuosos. Bruno Monsaingeon has re-discovered and put together so many rare films from those legends that it is in itself a joy to watch. But also all the commentaries from today’s violinists are of great quality and interest and put in perspective the great tradition of violin playing with today’s standards and knowledge.
This film offers many aspects of violin playing: its history, myths, legends. This is priceless culture for any violinist or musician in general. The greatest pieces are presented in the greatest halls. Not only that but the violinists interviewed give great details, stories but also advice to the young or learning violinist. You will gather and pick up so many tips and tricks; unknown details and secrets are uncovered here to the attentive spectator.
The second part focuses on less known violinists but legends nonetheless: Ysaye, Enesco, Hassid, Neveu. Yehudi Menuhin is not the subject anymore: he shares his knowledge on the violinists before him he loves.
I have bought it for myself and offered several copies to my students. So it is a must-have, I think. If you only have one DVD, it must be that one. For the ones who can’t wait and want a preview, there is this version on Youtube. The audio and video quality of the Youtube version is subpar.
Nathan Milstein: in Portrait
This film is important in many ways. Yes, it retraces the life of the Great Nathan Milstein. But it allows us to glance at a period when violinists were all different when nothing was standardized. When Nathan arrived in Odesa from St Petersburg, his great teacher Leopold Auer declared “Let’s see that Black Sea technique!”. Even between different parts of Russia, there were differences in playing. All along with the film, the great Nathan provides advice in psychology, practicing, playing in concerts, virtuosity, musicality. This is a rare opportunity to hear such a legend give advice: every young violinist should know what he says by heart. And yet, Nathan is a funny and simple person with a lot of charm. Hearing him playing fiddle tunes and improvising village songs in a playful manner is priceless. Yes: it is my number two on the list. You definitely must watch it if you are serious about violin playing.
Yehudi Menuhin: The violin of the century
This film by Bruno Monsaingeon is a collection of interviews of Yehudi Menuhin approaching his eighties. Bruno Monsaingeon has gathered rather unique films that go back up to 1943. Together, Bruno and Yehudi watch the young Yehudi play while making comments and insights about that period. It is a great chance to hear Yehudi recalling those years, the way he played, the people he encountered, and the music of that era. So not only this film is centered on one of the greatest violinists of all time, but it gives a broad view, understanding, and analysis on the violin but Music in its greatest meaning. Yehudi tells great stories about Enesco and Bush.
The Soviet Violin School
The Soviet Violin school by Bruno Monsaingeon. This film is more for advanced violinists.