Lost violin stars of the Soviet Union

Lost violin stars of the Soviet Union


norman lebrecht

November 25, 2017

Everyone has heard of Milstein, Oistrakh, Kogan – the ones who made it.

But what of Miron Polyakin, Busya Goldstein, Mikhail Finget, who were reputedly their equals?


A fascinating long essay by Grigoriy Kuperstayn (in Russian), with audio clips, here.





  • Jan Kaznowski says:

    Be sure to hear Miron Polyakin play Glazunov concerto (on YT).
    I find it much better than Milstein

    • Simon Scott says:

      Agreed. However,I wouldn’t say that Poliakin is that much finer than Milstein.
      Also,have you tried Ursula Bagdasarjanz’s live performance on youtube? That is really something….!!

      • Elisabeth Matesky says:

        Reply to superb Simon Scott!

        As my friend, Simon Scott wrote, Poliakin, (with whom I’m quite familiar through my great Russian born ‘third’ teacher, London’s Sascha Lasserson, who always
        spoke glowingly about Miron Poliakin’s magnificent playing) was a ‘Great’ (my words continuing here) gone astray by Names Crazy early Twentieth Century Violin ‘Historian’s’ ~

        Lasserson, hailed as London’s Greatest Violin Pedagogue, and Authentic Auer
        Assistant in the fabled Leopold Auer St. Petersburg class, became known to me through his great admirer, Jascha Heifetz, w/ whom I was honoured to study as
        one of Mr. Heifetz’s original 7 Violin Master Class, USC, pupils (all our half hour films are available on YouTube) ~ That said, in complete agreement with Simon
        Scott, a very discerning violinist with a sensitive ear, I would Never cross such a
        line stating Poliakin was “much finer than Milstein” (re Glazounow’s Violin Con. ) ~ Whoa! The Milstein Glazounow was his early-on ‘Trademark’ Violin Concerto which was No accident! As Mr. Milstein’s 1st private artist-pupil in London at his
        Chester Square home, (and for 2 ‘tutorial’s’ a week of no less than 3 to 4 + hours each time for over 3 & 1/2 years), please know his personae, both as an artist & person were/are well known to me. His unique instinct for sometimes starting a single note without vibrato was in harmony w/Nathan Milstein’s real life personae + a Franco Belgium influenced beauty fused w/his Russian temperament style ~

        Starting the opening Eb of the Prokofiev Second Violin Concerto slow movement is an example of the ‘Milstein Sound’ & inherent personality to not give too much vibrato too soon ~ Allowing listener’s & Prokofiev’s preamble theme to grow from its root & deeply into the root intonation of the Eb, he then widens it & its musical suggestive message with vibrato! This is Nathan Milstein’s distinctive signature if ever there was one which is definitive and instantly recognisable! (With respect to the contributor writing of Poliakin, I fear he had no distinct sound signature …)

        ‘Testifying’ that Poliakin was “much finer than Milstein” seems akin to throwing dark mud on the indescribable painting, the ‘Mona Lisa’ ~ A possibly wild over -reaction to words of Mr. Lebrecht’s Title, ‘Lost Violin Stars of the Soviet Union’, perhaps, & certainly well intended, yet to many, an artistic ‘sin’ against a Great
        Giant Violin Master, Nathan Milstein, w/ an unheard of Violinist Playing Lifespan
        of over 72 years with such extraordinary technical mastery & a painted coloured palette of phrasing for every work Milstein’s hands spun their web of wizardry in and around, defies the statement, Poliakin ‘is much finer than Milstein’ whether it
        be the Glazounow, Beethoven, both Prokofiev Violin Concerti, Saint Saens’ #3 in b minor, Chausson Poeme, Dvorak or Goldmark Violin Concerto’s, + NM’s Bach! Even though Sascha Lasserson (an unheralded Violin Star of the pre-Bolshevik Revolution +) who spoke glowingly of Poliakin, & never questioned Poliakin’s violin prowess, would make such a remark! Nor do I believe this idea was ever in Lasserson’s thoughts nor Auer’s, Heifetz, Seidel, Zimbalist, Elman & Co. ~

        As a Sage of Music once wrote, “One cannot teach that which one cannot do!” It
        is time to take one’s leave in respect for kindness & courtesy sake, for all beings are given ‘inalienable’ rights to express individual opinion on the soil inhabited ~

        Sincere compliments to Norman Lebrecht for creating such an intriguing subject of discussion with Goodwill to all …

        E. Matesky

  • Andrew Constantine says:

    See, Grisha! I told you to write it in English! Time to translate it, I think.

  • Boris Kupesic says:

    Julian Sitkovetsky!!!!

  • Robert Levin says:

    Boris Goldstein!

  • Simon Scott says:

    Mikhail Waiman,Boris Gutnikov,Igor Bezrodny

    • Simon Scott says:

      Galina Barinova,Zoria Shikhmuzaeva.
      Violinists out there take a look at Barinova”s edition of the Elgar concerto on IMSLP. Yes,it’s a pirate soviet job but Barinova has some very very good ideas. Have a peep,you won’t regret it….

  • Gregory Kuperstein says:

    Thank you very much, Mr. Lebrecht.
    This article is just one chapter of my book, “Kids from Odessa”, Russian readers can already get the book on Amazon. English speakers would have to wait. I have an English translation ready.

  • M2N2K says:

    Who is “Finget”? You may have meant Mikhail Fichtenholz.
    All of the above named were certainly very fine violinists, some – Polyakin, Goldstein, Sitkovetsky – particularly outstanding instrumentalists, but calling any of them equals of David Oistrakh is an exaggeration.

    • Simon Scott says:

      Politically speaking,David Oistrakh remains something of an enigma.
      It is said that he was jealous of Poliakin and others.
      I remember asking a noted violinist who knew Boris Goldstein as to what happened to his career “Well,we are hoping that it was Goskonzert,and not David Oistrakh…..”

      • M2N2K says:

        He was not an enigma at all for those who knew him personally – a very decent man and one of the most generous souls I have encountered in my entire life. Whatever was “said” is a natural product of jealousy (perhaps the most characteristic trait of “homo sovieticus”) of which there was plenty.

  • Mihail Ghiga says:

    The ladies were fantastic, maybe even more than the men. Zoria Shikhmuzaeva had so much colour and layers in her playing, some of her recordings are stunning.