Regardless of their ability, many an aspiring classical violinist has heard the age-old critique, "He's no Heifetz." But who was Heifetz?
As fans of Jewish history and beautiful music, we're celebrating what would've been Jascha Heifetz's 116th birthday with the violinist's performance of the first movement of Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto, one of the most difficult pieces ever written for the instrument.
Born on February 2, 1901, to a Jewish family in what is now Vilnius, Lithuania, Jascha Heifetz showed great musical promise at a young age, debuting with Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E Minor at only seven years old. At sixteen, he made his Carnegie Hall debut, during which one renowned violinist asked, "Do you think it's hot in here?" A piano player sitting next to him replied, "Not for pianists."
Such was Heifetz's mastery of the violin that Fritz Kreisler, himself often listed among the best violinists in history, said, "We might as well take our fiddles and break them across our knees."
From Heifetz's "fiddle" came a tone of unusual emotional intensity, accompanied by its maker's use of vibrato and skillful handling of the bow. These qualities can be seen in the video above and heard in the many surviving recordings of this revolutionary Jewish musician whose talent and technique insure that for years to come, other violinists will still hear the comment, "He's no Heifetz."