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Nathan Milstein

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Biography

Nathan Mironovich Milstein (31 December 1903 — 21 December 1992) was a Ukrainian-born violinist who took United States citizenship in 1942 after spending much of his life there.

He was born in Odessa. As a child, he was forced by his mother to take violin lessons to keep him out of mischief. As a young child, he studied with Piotr Stolyarsky (also David Oistrakh’s teacher). When he was 11, Leopold Auer invited him to become one of his students at the St. Petersburg Conservatory.

When Auer went to Norway in 1917, Milstein went back to Odessa. In 1921, he went to Kiev and met Vladimir Horowitz, and they performed together and struck up a fast friendship. In 1925, they went on a concert tour of Western Europe together. About this time Milstein also became a pupil of Eugène Ysaÿe for a few months.

Milstein made his American debut in 1929 with Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra. He eventually settled in New York, although he repeatedly toured throughout Europe.

He is considered one of the 20th century’s leading violinists and was especially well known for his interpretations of unaccompanied Bach sonatas and Romantic works. He is also known for his long career: he performed in public into his mid-80’s, only to retire after suffering a broken hand.

Milstein was also a transcriber and composer, arranging many works for violin and writing his own cadenzas for many concertos. One of his best known compostions is Paganiniana which is a set of variations on various themes from many Paganini works.

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