The Golden Age of String Playing
The Golden Age of String Playing is roughly a hundred year period beginning with Paganini and ending with the advent of television. It is characterized by great musical personalities like Fritz Kreisler, Jascha Heifetz and Gregor Piatigorsky... great innovators like Paganini, Sarasate and Ysaye and those who raised the standard of playing forever like Feuermann and Casals.
By the height of Golden Age, radio reigned supreme and there were constant live broadcasts of many different artists. There was Symphony of the Air with Leopold Stokowski and the NBC Symphony with Arturo Toscanini. New recordings were continually released, far more than today.
Playing in the Golden Age was colorful and artists were glamorous. The Golden Age of String Playing subsided as society entered the technological age.
Influential figures of the Golden Age
Pablo Casals was a key figure in the history of cello playing. Not only did he set a new standard for excellence, but Pablo Casals did a great service to everyone by re-discovering the Bach cello suites and bringing them into the musical limelight.
Fritz Kreisler influenced all string players with his gorgeous sound and mesmerizing performances. Fritz Kreisler’s influence on Jascha Heifetz was well known, but the reverse was true as well.
Jascha Heifetz was one of the greatest influences of the period. Heifetz’s emergence really set the gold standard in violin playing. His dazzling technique and musical flare excited audiences worldwide and raised the bar for string players everywhere.
Pablo Sarasate is one of the greatest violin composers and well as a great virtuoso. Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen, Carmen Fantasy, Zapteado and Introduction and Tarantella, to name a few, are now standard concert fare.
Yehudi Menuhin was one of the most beloved of the violin prodigies of the Golden Age. Menuhin’s performances went beyond mere flashiness of many of the “wunderkind” of the time to express a true humanity and vulnerability.