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Abstract

Performance studies relying on sound recordings as evidence have often focused on establishing trends and traditions in various periods and repertoire. So far little attention has been paid to individual artistic profiles and idiosyncratic expression. Yet if performance is as significant as the notated work, as has often been argued, musicologists must be able to show what identifies a particularly famous interpreter just as they can state what characterizes the works of a prominent composer. This paper investigates the individual differences between two famous violinists. The solo Bach recordings of Nathan Milstein and Jascha Heifetz - two of Leopold Auer's pupils - are analyzed for technical and interpretative features using aural and software assisted methods. The study of phrasing, bowing, fingering, use of vibrato and portamento, tempo choices, and approaches to rhythm and repeats indicates clear differences in both technique and artistic disposition. Heifetz has been found to vary repeats, including changes to fingering that result in more frequent portamenti; to use a faster and wider vibrato, and generally to allow for a more subjective interpretation. Milstein's vibrato was found to be narrow and even, his approach consisting of preference for low positions and open strings; a relatively steady treatment of tempo, and an overall tendency to provide a more literalistic reading of the score. A comparison with the Bach recordings of contemporaneous violinists (Enescu, Szigeti, Menuhin) highlighted the problematic nature of discussing trends in relation to performance practice. It appears that when a particular era is examined in detail individual differences may outweigh the significance of possible period trends. Results provide a step towards distinguishing broad categories of performing "traditions" from individual "signatures", as well as some quantifiable data in support of the artistic status of these violinists.

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