Shlomo Mintz’s playing is surprisingly old-fashioned, possibly due to his initial training with Ilona Fehér who represented the modernising end of the Joachim-Hubay line. Through Fehér he met Isaac Stern who arranged his Carnegie Hall début and placed him with Dorothy DeLay at the Juilliard School. Mintz’s career includes conducting and teaching alongside solo violin performance. He has held various high-profile artistic directorships and conductorships, gives masterclasses around the world, has served on the juries of numerous major competitions, and has followed Stern’s pioneering example in providing pedagogic opportunities for young violinists through his Keshet Eilon International Violin Mastercourse in Israel.
His style recalls players a generation older who cemented the principles of modern violin playing: rich, full-bodied tone with ever-present and sumptuous vibrato; an assertive approach relying heavily upon the bite that can be achieved with modern strings, and a powerful bow stroke. Particularly idiomatic is Mintz’s firm execution at the starts of phrases, suggestive of the influence of his various mentors. This is heard to good effect in Prokofiev’s Concerto No. 2 (1999) where Mintz, arguably too sugary in some repertoire, creates a suitable edge to this work, whilst his L’Histoire du Soldat (1997) capitalises on this mixture of tonal strength and articulation. There is some restraint and a cleaner sound in the Mozart K. 216 Concerto (2005), but elsewhere Mintz is unusual in his time for not really adapting his approach according to repertoire. His 1984 Bach D minor Sonata (the famous Chaconne in particular) is thus an acquired taste. All movements are very steady, rhythmically orthodox and untouched by knowledge of period style, with some chord playing which some may praise as vibrant but others may criticise as harsh. The same might be said of his 1982 Paganini 24 Caprices (although the first has a wonderful sense of poise and fleetness of bowing) whilst the Mendelssohn Concerto is exceptionally slow and ponderous in Mintz’s famous 1980 début LP pairing with the Bruch. Mintz recorded all the Brahms violin and viola sonatas in 2003 and his ‘F-A-E’ Scherzo is included here as testimony not only to this major undertaking, but also to a style of Brahms performance that has been overtaken by developing knowledge of historical performing practice.
© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Milsom (A–Z of String Players, Naxos 8.558081-84)