Violinists are some of the most respected musicians in the world. It’s one of the most challenging and complex instruments to master. With dedication and the right equipment - not to mention properly tuning your violin - you'll be able to be good at playing this instrument. However, there are many violinists who have achieved incredible success as a profession violinist. In this blog post, we’ll introduce you to 10 violinists that are at the top of their profession.
We created a list of the most iconic violin players in history. You will agree with most of them, but you might not like how they are ordered. This is because it is hard to say who is the best. We will listen to your comments if you want to tell us why we’re wrong.
Our choices are based on skill, not just time. You will see some modern players and older ones too. I am sure you are a classical fan to some degree, so you might also want to check out our Best Flute Players in the World list.
We have a list of the ten best professional violinists in history. If you don’t see your favorite here, keep looking down.
#10 - Joseph Joachim
ASSOCIATIONS: THE ROYAL CONSERVATORY OF MUSIC
Joseph Joachim studied the violin in his childhood. His first impressive performance was in London when he played a concerto by Beethoven at the age of 12. He would play this same concerto many years later at the Lower Rhine Music Festival event.
He wrote music for many composers. He made some of the pieces for Beethoven, Brahms, and Mozart. He also writes original compositions like some overtures for Shakespeare’s Hamlet (1853) and Henry IV (1854). He also writes a Violin Concerto in D Minor that is in the Hungarian Manner.
He was in a group called the Gewandhaus Orchestra. One time he was the first director of the Hochschule für ausübende Tonkunst, and he was president of Oxford & Cambridge Musical Club in 1899.
Trivia Facts: Joachim played many different violins and violas. He was successful, and the public called him the most famous violin player in Germany.
#9 - Sarah Chang
ASSOCIATIONS: NEW YORK PHILHARMONIC, CARNEGIE HALL
Since she was a child prodigy, Sarah Chang made her first significant steps as a violinist with two of the most prominent musical groups in the United States: New York Philharmonic and Philadelphia Orchestra.
She released her first album, Debut, in 1992. Later that year, she won awards for “Young Artist of the Year” and “Newcomer of the Year.” She made another award-winning album called Fantasia with cellist Julian Lloyd Webber.
Chang performed with many different orchestras. She played for the best orchestras in the world, including the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, and Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra. She has played at several venues, including Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center.
Trivia Facts: This person got accepted into Juilliard when she was five years old. She’s a music advocate of education in childhood. The violin she plays is the 1717 Guarneri del Gesù, which her mentor gave to her. She was ranked by Newsweek as one of the “Top Eight Achieving Females in the United States.”
#8 - Pablo de Sarasate
ASSOCIATIONS: CONSERVATOIRE DE PARIS
Pablo de Sarasate (1844-1908) was a violinist. He started his career in 1860 and had a lot of experience with music before that. He toured around and lived in Europe and North America, as well as South America.
The opera fantasies he did are just some of the pieces he did. Some have an orchestra and piano, like “Zigeunerweisen,” “Carmen Fantasy,” and “Spanish Dances.” The Spanish influence is also in his other inspired pieces, like Bizet’s Carmen and Lalo’s Symphonie Espagnole.
Sarasate traveled with a piano player named Berthe Marx. Berthe made the Spanish Dances for Sarasate to play on his violin. Sarasate also made arrangements for other composers’ music for the violin.
Trivia Facts: Sarasate is a famous musician who never married. He is in some Sherlock Holmes stories, including The Red-Headed League and Murder to Music. In A Study in Sable, Sarasate can control and gain dominance over ghosts by playing the violin and creating music.
#7 - Hilary Hahn
ASSOCIATIONS: LINCOLN CENTER’S’CHAMBER MUSIC SOCIETY
The interesting music career of Hilary Hahn started her career playing with several orchestras like the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Pittsburg Symphony Orchestra, and the New York Philharmonic. She played as a soloist at Carnegie Hall in 1996 when she was 16 years old.
She is a great violin player. She has been to many concerts, and she has composed music herself. She was the featured violinist for a movie soundtrack called The Village. She skyrocketed to fame, and it deserved it.
Hahn received a new milestone as she won a Grammy in 2009 for Best Instrumental Soloist Performance (With Orchestra). She also won another one in 2015 for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance. Some of her albums are “In 27 Pieces: The Hilary Hahn Encores” (2013) and “Hilary Hahn Plays Bach” (1997).
Trivia Facts: Hahn did some concerts and programs for the community and some groups. She learned German, French, and Japanese in college. Some of these were at Middlebury College. After she was done with her time there, she helped to make DeepMusic which can help musicians get creative with AI companies.
#6 - Niccolo Paganini
ASSOCIATIONS: REPUBLIC OF LUCCA’S FIRST VIOLIN
Niccolo Paganini was a famous violin player who was appointed the first violin of the Republic of Lucca in 1801. Then, when it became part of Napoleonic France, he continued to play the violin for the Baciocchi court until 1809.
He went on a tour as a freelance performer and had a big break at a concert in Milan’s La Scala. He toured every major city in Germany, Poland, and Bohemia from 1827-1831. Then he continued touring throughout Paris and Britain. And he spent some time in Italy too.
He wrote many pieces of music, including 24 Caprices for Solo Violin, six violin concertos, and 12 sonatas for violin, viola, and cello. He used to play the guitar more at home than in public concerts.
Trivia Facts: Although Paganini is known for playing the violin and the guitar. He talked to composer Hector Berlioz about it. The 1995 story of Don Nigro’s play is about how Paganini made a deal with the devil so he could be good at music.
#5 - Nathan Mironovich Milstein
ASSOCIATIONS: PHILADELPHIA ORCHESTRA, NEW YORK PHILHARMONIC
During his American debut, Nathan Mironovich Milstein (1904-1992) played with Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1927. He was already living in America when he performed and toured the Soviet Union and Western Europe with Vladimir Horowitz.
Milstein arranged and wrote cadenzas for his violin concertos. One of the most significant was Paganiniana. He also made arrangements for Bach’s violin solos. To celebrate his first American performance’s the 50th anniversary, he played at Carnegie Hall in 1979
In 1968, he got a Légion d’honneur award from France, and in 1975 he won a Grammy. President Reagan also awarded him with Kennedy Center honors.
Trivia Facts: Milstein received a violin from 1945 called the “Goldman” Stradivarius. He renamed it the “Maria Teresa” after his daughter and wife. He was a perfectionist who spent a lot of time interpreting his note flow. The public regarded him as an “exceptional interpreter.” But he retired sometime after July 1986, after breaking his left hand.
#4 - Friedrich-Max “Fritz” Kreisler
ASSOCIATIONS: BERLIN PHILHARMONIC
Fritz Kreisler was born in 1875. He made his first performance in America at Steinway Hall in 1888. He toured with Moriz Rosenthal from 1888-1889. Although he was turned down from the Vienna Philharmonic, he performed with the Berlin Philharmonic, and this led to more significant acclaim for him.
Kreisler wrote violin solos and encores that you can play. He also did different things for other composers’ violin concertos, like Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart, Viotti, and Paganini. Kreisler was asked to write an impressive piece for another composer called Edward Elgar’s Violin Concerto (1910).
Kreisler also wrote music for movies. One of them was called The King Steps Out. He also wrote the piece for shows, operettas, and revues. Kreisler had credits for Apple Blossoms, Continental Variety, Reunion in New York, and Rhapsody.
Trivia Facts: Kreisler owned many violins. He donated a Giuseppe Guarneri to the Library of Congress in 1952. People often listen to his recordings on LP or CD. During the time he was 12 years old, he won a Grand Prix de Rome gold medal in Paris. Kreisler also studied medicine and joined the army.
#3 - Itzhak Perlman
ASSOCIATIONS: DETROIT SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA, WESTCHESTER PHILHARMONIC
Itzhak Perlman was born in 1945. He played the violin on “The Ed Sullivan Show” a few times when he was young. He would play with orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. Although a soloist, Itzhak Perlman also performed with other people. He would perform with musicians like Yo-Yo Ma, Isaac Stern, and Yuri Temirkanov.
He won 16 Grammy Awards, 4 Emmy Awards, and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. In 1964 he also won the Leventritt Award. Among his notable performances include a White House State Dinner honoring Queen Elizabeth II and the inauguration of President Obama.
Perlman conducted the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the Westchester Philharmonic. He had been a music advisor to the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra from 2002 to 2004 and could likely climb up the list of best violinists even more.
Trivia Facts: In 1994, Perlman and his wife, Toby, founded the Perlman Music Program. He is also related to Howard Mandel. Perlman also organized many programs for people with disabilities all over the world. He has polio, which makes it hard for him to move around. So he usually plays music while sitting down.
#2 - David Fyodorovich Oistrakh
ASSOCIATIONS: MOSCOW CONSERVATORY, ROYAL CONCERTGEBOUW ORCHESTRA
In 1927, David Oistrakh performed his first recital in Moscow. Oistrakh became a professor at the Moscow Conservatory and played with his son Igor. They played Bach’s Double Concerto and Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante.
During World War II, he was known for playing his violin in the front lines for soldiers and factory workers. During the Battle of Stalingrad, he played Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto. After the war, Oistrakh traveled around Western Europe playing his violin.
Oistrakh is a famous violin player. He received a lot of prizes and honors, including the Stalin Prize in 1943, 2 Orders of Lenin in 1946 and 1966, and he was the People’s Artist of the USSR. Shostakovich and Khachaturian both wrote violin concertos for him.
Trivia Facts: David Oistrakh liked playing chess. He started liking it when Stalin’s government told its best people to play chess as a hobby. The asteroid 42516 is named after him and his son, Igor. His music legacy lives on through “The David Oistrakh Festival,” which is held every year in Estonia from late August to October.
#1 - Jascha Heifetz
ASSOCIATIONS: SAINT PETERSBURG CONSERVATORY, NEW SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
Jascha Heifetz was born in 1901. In 1917 he performed at Carnegie Hall and became a sensation, which inspired him to start playing new music. Jascha Heifetz played with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
During World War II, Heifetz performed as James Hoyl and played for Allied military camps throughout Europe. He’s also known for writing the song “When You Make Love to Me (Don’t Make Believe).” He was known for commissioning the Walton’s Violin Concerto and arranged Dinicu’s Hora Staccato during this time.
He mainly recorded his work with the company RCA Victor. He recorded pieces composed by Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, and Schubert.
Trivia Facts: Heifetz participated in many social movements later in his life. He also protested smog with his students at the University of Southern California and converted his car to an electric vehicle. He also advocated for a number to be established for emergencies, which is what 911 is now. The Los Angeles Times titled him the greatest violin virtuoso.
Runners Up: One of the Best Violinists in the World
It is tough to stop at ten players. There are many other violinists who deserve recognition for their skills. People will rank them differently. If you didn’t see your favorite player, check the following four runners-up and the honorable mentions below.
ASSOCIATIONS: ROYAL CONSERVATORY OF LIEGE, BRUSSELS CONSERVATOIRE
Eugene-August Ysaye (1858-1931) played the violin for the Royal Conservatory of Liège. He then became a musician in Berlin and traveled to other countries because Anton Rubinstein invited him to play with him. He also started the Ysaye Quartet in 1886 and toured Europe, Russia, and America.
Later in his life, he became more used to teaching at the Brussels Conservatoire. He also conducted. In 1929 he conducted pieces for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, including Lassen’s Festival Overture and Offenbach’s Orpheus in Hades.
Some of Ysaye’s best-known works are his Six Sonatas for Solo Violin, Sonata for Cello, and Sonata for Two Violins. He also wrote cadenzas for Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Brahms, and Mozart. One of the honors he received was Officer and Commander in the Order of Leopold in 1900 and 1919, respectively.
Trivia Facts: Many people thought of Ysaye as the “king of the violin.” And he was considered one of the first modern violinists. In 1931, he wrote an opera in Walloon language called Pier li Houyeû. He used vibrato and rubato in his music.
ASSOCIATIONS: QUINTETTE DU HOT CLUB, DJANGO REINHARDT
Stephane Grappelli (1908-1997) set up one of the first all-string jazz bands in 1934. The group was called the Quintette du Hot Club de France and had guitarist Django Reinhardt in it. This band’s music became popular and influenced this new type of music that is called “swing.”
When World War II began, the group had to stop playing. Django stayed in England, and Reinhardt went back to France. It was hard for him to play new music during the 1950s and 60s because bebop became popular.
Throughout his career, Grappelli released a lot of albums and collaborated with other talented artists. He collaborated with the Diz Disley Trio, Yehudi Menuhin, and Barney Kessel.
Trivia Facts: Many people think that Grappelli is a grandfather of jazz violinists. He played the violin in films from 1974 and 1990. In his teens, he played with music for silent films at the theater Gaumont. He was never married, but he had a daughter through an affair and shared his life with Jean Barclay, a close female friend.
ASSOCIATIONS: SAN FRANCISCO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA, BERLIN PHILHARMONIC
Yehudi Menuhin (1916-1999) first recorded his concerto in 1931. He also played other violin pieces like sonatas, partitas, and more. In 1944, he asked composer Béla Bartók to make the Sonata for Solo Violin because he was a fan of his work.
During World War II, Menuhin played his violin for soldiers from different countries during the war. In July 1945, he played for the people who were in prison camps for a long time after they had been freed in April 1945. He played for them at Bergen-Belsen.
Menuhin was honored with many awards and honors. He became the president of the International Music Council and Trinity College of Music. Menuhin is known for founding the Menuhin Festival Gstaad in 1957. He and his co-musician, Ravi Shankar, recorded their Grammy-winning album in 1967.
Trivia Facts: Menuhin liked yoga and met with a guy named Iyengar. He was in a film called Stage Door Canteen. Menuhin played violin solos of “Ave Maria” and “Flight of the Bumblebee.” And he was also the first conductor for the Asian Youth Orchestra in 1990.
Papa John Creach
ASSOCIATIONS: LOUIS ARMSTRONG, JEFFERSON AIRPLANE, HOT TUNA
Papa John Creach started playing the violin in bars in Chicago during the 1930s. He also played classical music. He formed a band called Chocolate Music Bars that played jazz, blues, and other types of music. Eventually, he joined Jefferson Airplane.
He played the violin for many groups, including Jefferson Airplane, Hot Tuna, Jefferson Starship, the San Francisco All-Stars, The Dinosaurs, and Steve Taylor. He also led his backing band, Zulu.
Creach released about 20 albums and toured with Jefferson Starship. He had a platinum-selling album in 1975, Red Octopus. Among his solo albums include: Papa John Creach, Filthy, Playing My Fiddle for You, I’m the Fiddle Man, Papa Blues.
Trivia Facts: Creach had a problem playing the jazz violin when he started. He found a solution by buying an electric violin in 1943. He also made some film appearances, like The Blue Gardenia with Nat King Cole. Creach was much older than the other musicians in his band.
Honorable Mentions: Best Violinists of All Time
How can we stop with the lists above? There are so many great violinists that have not been mentioned. There are lots of violinists with good chances of climbing the ranks into the lists above. Here they are:
- Joshua Bell (b. 1967)
- Anne-Sophie Mutter (b. 1963)
- Nigel Kennedy (b. 1956)
- Midori Goto (b. 1971)
- Viktoria Mullova (b. 1959)
- Gil Shaham (b. 1971)
- Ginette Neveu (1919-1949)
You can check out this link to learn more about the greatest violinists of all time.
Frequently Asked Questions about the Top Violinists
Undeniably, Itzhak Perlman is perhaps today’s most preeminent classical violinist. He is a teacher who also composes music and draws pictures. Lots of people want him to come to their concerts or parties because he is so good with the violin.
Superior hearing - is the ability to hear sound in a good way, feeling how one-note might be different than another—having an organic sense of how fast the tempo is supposed to go and how it relates to what you are playing.
Undoubtedly, Itzhak Perlman is one of the best violinists in the world today.
She plays the violin and is best known for trying to make classical music more accessible to a younger audience.
Joshua Bell is an American violinist and conductor who has a net worth of $15 million dollars.
Good habits start with good posture and good mechanics. You should hold the violin and bow in a way that feels right. You can have excellent posture if you practice playing the notes in tune. Choose good bowing patterns for each note of music, then repeat them until they are perfect. If you make a mistake, then play the correct version more times than the wrong version until it is perfect.
The violin is said to be the hardest instrument to play. You can learn violin in a few months if you have a good heart and dedication. After practicing for 1 hour a day for six months, you will be able to play simple songs within 4-5 months. If you're looking forward to be a self-taught violinist, you can probably do so in 6 months or more, as long as you are dedicated.
The owner of a rich American industrial family got this violin in 1990 before he passed it down to his granddaughter, Elizabeth Pitcairn. She still owns the violin today.
On October 5, 2019, Bell and his wife Larisa Martinez had a wedding at their home in Mount Kisco, New York.