One of the world’s best violin teachers?

One of the world’s best violin teachers?


norman lebrecht

December 01, 2015

That’s how Zakhar Bron is described on his Wiki entry.

He’s a controversial figure, involved in many controversial competitions.

His latest engagement is on the jury of a revamped Nutcracker Competition in Russia. Watch his opening solo performance. Watch the faces of musicians and audience.

zakhar bron


  • Sebastian Bohren says:

    Dear Norman, I have been student at Mr Bron’s class in Zurich for two years. I agree that there is controversial things going on around him. But still in my opinion he is an exceptional teacher, absolutely great.
    Teaching and Playing are very different things. And sitting on a jury and trying to support students is a different thing again. But the lesson’s with Mr Bron are outstanding.

    • Greg says:

      it does not matter how good his teaching is if he has to do deals under the tables to get his students ahead. its a shame to Music.

    • Harry says:

      Exactly, let’s divide flies form cutlets. Mr. Bron can be awfully biased towards his students, sitting in the jury of any particular competition (he just should not be allowed to judge his own students, that’s the whole deal), but he is an excellent violin teacher. No other violin teacher has trained more outstanding performing solo violinists than Mr. Bron, that’s just truth and fact.

  • ingrid says:

    he is surely a great teacher, and this performance is very credible.

  • milka says:

    Sounds as if a cat was being butchered .

  • Cocello says:


  • Dirk Fischer says:

    So on the basis of a video made recently, we are supposed to answer the question if Zakhar Bron has contributed to the development and careers of a plethora of violin talents. He might be controversial, but so is Norman Lebrecht.

  • Freddy says:

    Perhaps he should stick to being a “pedagogue”……

  • Lech Antonio Uszynski says:

    Dear Norman

    I am truly wondering in who’s interest somebody would forward this video to this Blog and it’s readers.

    I have known Prof. Bron for nearly 20 years and honestly said I am disgusted how todays social media judge and question his artistic/pedagogic ability just by one video.

    Yes, he is controversial and things going on in competitions are questionable. But one never should forget about his achievements as teacher. There is absolutely no doubt about that. So what is the point with that video?

    I would understand some of the buzz if it would be a video of an active concert soloist. But in this case?

    His passion is teaching and he is undoubtedly one of the best in his field. He certainly also loves to perform from time to time, but which musician doesn’t? Performing on stage never becomes easy, especially i think if you dedicate yourself most of your life teaching young gifted violinists.

    • MacroV says:

      The video comes from Russian television, not somebody’s iPhone.

      But you’re right that just because his playing isn’t great doesn’t mean he’s not a great teacher.

      • Lech Antonio Uszynski says:

        I know it is from Russian TV. What I meant was that I suspect somebody had the joy to email this Blog sharing this link.

        • Marina Arshinova says:

          Yes, it passed more than 30 years since I first time seen Zahar Bron and heard his students. He came to SPb with his class from Novosibirsk for a concert. Repin and Vengerov were about 12-13 years old, and also I remember fine playing of Natalya Prischepenko and Nikalay Madoyan. Actually, it was truly fantastic concert which I remember till today. (I was about 15 years old then and impressions at this age are always very strong)

          Good. Let’s see what happens with all of them now. As far as I know and sometimes hear, all of them experienced big health issues related to their professional sphere. I wouldn’t like to say much about it, but it’s obvious, that Bron’s pedagogic was directed on/and only fast competition’s achievements. That’s very dangerous, destructive way to work with kids. Life is long and such a teacher is responsible for consequences.

          Compare this with schools of Stolyarsky or Auer, whose students were playing till the end of their life.

          We need to look at the pedagogic results in historical prospective. And Bron’s school does not stand the test of time. For me that’s important

          • NYMike says:

            Watching the video, I notice the arm vibrato and stiff bow-arm difficult to maintain in advancing age. His students have had some of the same problems.

  • Sarah Sans says:

    The man is in his late 60s and is a former prize winner at the Queen Elisabeth competition.

    He has produced a plethora of virtuoso violinists – including Repin and Vengerov.

    He is arguably one of the best music teachers of all time.

    Why do you have to be such an asshole, Norman? Really.

  • thekingontheviolin says:

    This is quite hysterical. I simply can’t stop laughing.

    I still remember the evening he invited himself to my home for dinner with my wife in Belsize Park more than thirty years ago. H e had just given his first abysmal master class at the Royal Academy of music. He was under the misapprehension that the only person eating was himself. He ate quite literally all the food….
    My Bulgarian wife Vanya Milanova (check her recordings on youtube) fluent in Russian, whispered to me in the kitchen “he is a Total Muzhik and talentlessed enough to get to the top!” She was right as usual. Thank you so much for this Norman…quite hysterical…
    A B S O L U T E L Y H Y S T E R I C A L . . . . . . .

    • Jewelyard says:

      But he is Zakhar Bron, a revered and highly successful (not to mention highly paid) pedagogue and prizewinner in international competitions. And you are? A jealous chump. I’m glad he ate all the food in your house – a testament to your wife’s cooking.

      • thekingontheviolin says:

        Thank you for complimenting my wife’s cooking! However my comment was cryptic. The reason I found it all so “hysterical” was alluding to La Comédie Humaine. Someone as a guest eating literally all the food was alluding to the deadly sin of GREED. Now regarding the playing of a teacher I have always espoused the position which so many people have correctly mentioned in this thread, that a great teacher often is not going to be a great soloist. I have no problem with that at all. My own playing is nowhere near as good as my best students. The position is nothing new. My mirth was at seeing the particular “style” of hideousness in this clip which is not replicated in his students. I don’t think this person is able to teach from the very beginning. I think he takes students after they have already mastered the instrument with someone else doing the groundwork and not getting any credit for that work. His power is seductive and menacing to youngsters and their ambitious parents. It is all very clever but does not amount to anything more than sticking a few glacé cherries on to an already well baked cake. The thread was opened by Mr. Lebrecht, I believe, in a cryptic manner also. Mr. Lebrecht is no fool and understands full well that teachers do not have to be great players. He did not intend this thread to be enticing people to defend teachers whose playing does not compare to soloists. I believe he was alluding to what I have had to spell out now, viz. greed, ambition, power, seduction and theft. You are quite right however about my wife’s cooking.

  • Anna Aleksandrova says:

    Ok, yes, the playing was… but look how confident! I swear, I’ve never seen anyone being that exceptionally confident. I almost wanted to hear the violin the way he did. He seemed to really enjoy it! I think it’s due to his age, he, probably, had the absolute pitch, and with age, normally, people start hearing everything a half-tone or quarter-tone below. But his structure was very clear, very well executed in that regard. I’m pretty certain that problems with intonation came from having perfect pitch and getting older. I have no idea about what is he doing now, but I know a lot of very good violinists who studied with him. He is an incredible teacher, and if anybody doubts his hearing just watch him yelling at little Vadim! It’s on YouTube. He’s yelling in Russian, but it’s pretty clear. Not everyone would have courage to perform at his age, and not everyone could stay so confident during a performance like that. In fact, this proves him being an exceptional teacher, the guts to withstand when things aren’t going perfect. Bottom line is, Zahar Bron is a great teacher, and his students are the proof of his teaching. He is the teacher who taught the youngest winner of Queen Elizabeth, it was true in 1988, and is still true today.

  • Mark says:

    Prof. Pyotr Stoliarsky, the teacher of Milstein, Oistrakh, Boris Goldstein and many others, wasn’t much of a violinist himself. Apparently, Prof. Galamian’s and Prof. Delay’s playing wasn’t terribly impressive, either. Their pedagogical achievements, however, speak for themselves.
    A great teacher isn’t necessarily a great executant and vice versa.

  • M2N2K says:

    As a well-known saying goes: those who can’t play – conduct, those who can’t conduct – teach, those who can’t teach – criticize. Is it perhaps possible that those who can’t do any of that are the ones who write snarky comments online?
    For a man in his late sixties who has not been performing for over four decades, ZB’s playing in this video is actually not too bad. As noted by “mark” above here, some of last century’s most successful violin teachers were rather mediocre players themselves, so there is nothing new or unusual about that.

  • Marina Arshinova says:

    Probably Stolyarsky himself played even worse. Or Auer. Or Yankelevich. We will never know, because they left us just their photos, their students, not their recordings.
    This Bron’s performance is absolutely monstrous, in all the terms. It’s not like being technically imperfect, it’s full of inner beauty and grace (as I heard at late Menuchin). Not at all.
    The only question is – how sane and adequate at the moment is the person, who plays this way at one of the biggest hall of Moscow, with live TV translation. Zahar Bron now is the biggest violin professor and juror in the world. How sane is the world? Maybe it’s Time to Say Good Bye?

  • Sven says:

    To draw the comparison to football: Of course Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho can´t be great managers because they were mediocre footballers – right? (This article is just incredibly stupid. How many formidable teachers do know of who were not the greatest musicians themselves? Many.

  • milka says:

    Watching his teaching methods one can come away with the thought what a colossal BS artist ..
    His prize pupils seem passable in spite of the teaching methods . That some win prizes the
    stupid believe it is because of the teaching .Forget technique, his playing at what ever age is vulgar.