March 10, 2022

My brother, Victor, was born on this day, March 10,1943. Ordinarily, I’d call Victor to wish him happy birthday and to talk as we’ve done regularly throughout our lives. But Victor passed away last July 30th. He was 78 years old.

Victor was my kid brother, six years younger than I, and it never entered my mind that he would leave this earth before me. The oldest should go first in an orderly world, you’d think, but Victor suffered from an incurable Parkinson’s-like disease offering no cure and only a debilitating downward journey that in his case lasted seven years.

For our entire lives, Victor and I got along wonderfully—whether operating our toy train set as kids, playing ping-pong as teenagers, hiking in the mountains as adults, or making music together throughout our lives. Our loving relationship was due in large part to Victor’s gentle nature, his humor, and his respect and ready acceptance of people just as they are.

Our parents were passionate music lovers, and so it was inevitable that we were both encouraged to learn an instrument. I took up the violin at age six, and Victor the piano at age seven. Hardly less surprising was the fact that both of us became professional musicians. Mom and Dad must have passed on their music-loving genes to us, and, just as importantly, we were marinated in music growing up. Our parents took us to concerts regularly, the radio in the house was always on the classical music station, and Dad often brought home recordings of some of the great musicians of the day for us to listen to.

Still, despite having the same parents and growing up with many of the same musical influences, Victor and I became very different musicians. I never wanted to compose music and undoubtedly would have had little gift if I had tried. But not Victor. At age nine or ten, two works I was practicing at the time must have caught his attention: Bach’s so-called “Air on the G String,” an arrangement for violin and piano of the second movement of his Third Orchestral Suite, and “The Hot Canary,” a popular novelty piece. Victor’s response was to present me with “Hot Air on the G String.” The melody was slightly jazzy, but surprisingly well crafted. Could my brother have sensed that this duality—the popular versus the serious—was a harbinger of his future as a composer?

Victor rapidly developed into an excellent pianist and musician. Home from school, I would often stop my own practicing to listen admiringly to his growing authority and sensitivity as he worked through such monumental works as Beethoven’s Eroica Variations and his Sonata Opus 31 No. 3. Victor soloed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra at age fifteen, and upon graduation from high school was invited by the renowned piano pedagogue Rosina Lhévinne to study with her at the Juilliard School of Music. I imagine Victor felt pressure to follow the well-worn path for aspiring young musicians living in Southern California to go East and study at one of the distinguished music conservatories. I, his older brother, had done so, as had many of his fellow piano student friends.

However, Victor rejected that path. He had grown into not only a person of talent and thoughtfulness, but also someone already keenly aware of his comfort zone. For example, after a superb performance of the Brahms D Minor Piano Concerto with one of the Los Angeles orchestras, Victor announced, “I had no memory lapses, but all I could think of was that I might. And so that’s it. I will never, never, ever play music by memory again.” And for the rest of his life he never did.

Another example: Victor and I hiked summer after summer in the Sierra Nevada mountains—sometimes alone, sometimes with a friend or two. Once, when it looked like we’d arrive at our planned campsite long after dark, our group suggested leaving the trail and taking an uncharted shortcut over the mountain saddle just above us. Victor, however, was uneasy about scrambling over unknown terrain. “You all go,” he said. “I’ll sleep on this side of the mountain and meet you tomorrow morning.” When Victor showed up for breakfast the next day, I asked him whether he wasn’t scared sleeping alone in the wilderness, as I certainly would have been, with bears and other assorted wild creatures roaming around. “Nah,” he said, “sleeping alone is fine, but climbing into the unknown without a path—now that really makes me nervous”.

And so, Victor turned down Rosina Lhévinne’s offer to study with her at Juilliard. He told me that New York City was too crazy a place and that having to deal with all the competition at such a high-powered music school was simply not for him.

Remaining in Los Angeles turned out to be a good choice. Victor continued his studies with Aube Tzerko, a charismatic piano teacher in the area. The name “Aube Tzerko” struck me as so odd that I once asked Victor about it. He explained with relish that Tzerko had traveled to Berlin as a young man in order to study with Arthur Schnabel. But when he introduced himself to the great pianist as Abraham Kotzer, Schnabel burst out laughing. “Kotzer” means “one who vomits” in the German language. In an instant, Abraham became Aube and the scrambled letters in Kotzer emerged as Tzerko.

Victor also studied composition with Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco and Henri Lazorof at UCLA, where he earned an M.A. in composition. These distinguished teachers undoubtedly presented him with a solid if traditional education, but Victor was already headed down his own distinct path.

If parents have a lot to do with how their children turn out, I’d lay some of the responsibility for my brother’s personality on our dad, Mischa Steinhardt. Dad loved to pun and play with words. Perhaps this was due to the fact that he spoke Yiddish, Hebrew, Polish, Russian, and English. Victor and I as kids would roll our eyes when we passed a cemetery and heard Dad say, “You know, people are dying to get in.” Or, another of dad’s favorites on Independence Day, “If you drink a fifth on the fourth, you may not go forth on the fifth.”

Undoubtedly, a lot of Dad’s wordplay resurfaced in Victor. If I suggested a rehearsal time for an upcoming recital, Victor might respond with, “Let’s not rehearse. Let’s hearse, and if it doesn’t go well then we can re-hearse.” Once, when the University of Oregon was looking for a violinist to fill an open position in the music department—a place where Victor taught for much of his adult life—I suggested the violinist Andor Toth to my brother for consideration. “Wait a minute, Is Andor one or two words?” he asked. And for his occasional visits with our family, Victor’s puns were so numerous that our young son Alexej put a quota on them. “One hundred puns and you’re out of here, Victor,” he would threaten in mock seriousness.

And so, Dad’s sense of play rubbed off on Victor, and Victor’s rubbed off on his musical compositions. When does funny become serious, or serious funny, you might ask. Victor’s “Seventeen Variations in the Form of a Limerick” appears to be an elaborate joke, but in reality it is an ambitious and highly imaginative work. On the other hand, what about his “Sonata Boogie for Violin and Piano,” and “Ein Heldenboogie for Solo Piano?” Are those works serious? Yes. Are they humorous? Yes. Victor once told me what he loved about out-of-tune train whistles was that you often couldn’t tell whether the chord was minor or major. It was that sense of in-between that tickled him. Even so, there was no in-between to Victor’s “Tango for Violin and Piano,” which makes you want to weep as it comes to an end, or his short “Arietta for Viola and Piano,” which begins imaginatively with all four of the viola’s open strings and then bursts into vibrant and heartfelt song.

Victor Steinhardt

Victor Steinhardt

Of course, there was no question about such pieces for piano as “Dog Walk,” “The Love Pickle,” and “Octaboogie.” Victor was simply having fun. At one point, he set out to expand the concept of entertainment by intentionally writing an utterly silly piece for violin and piano. And our dad unwittingly played a part. When we were growing up, Mom would often ask, “Mischa, what do you want for dinner?” “Gedaemte gedullas” (Yiddish for steamed shoe leather) was Dad’s answer. The title of Victor’s experiment in tomfoolery was a foregone conclusion. He called it “Gedaemte Gedullas.”

From 1968 to 2007 Victor was a professor of piano at the University of Oregon in Eugene. He was beloved as both teacher and music colleague. Along with teaching, Victor often performed over the years as a soloist, and with a long and impressive list of chamber music collaborators. They included cellists Leonard Rose, Jules Eskin, and Ron Leonard; violinists Ida Kevafian, Josef Suk, and Pamela Frank; violist Michael Tree; clarinetists David Shifrin and Michael Anderson; flutist Ransom Wilson; and the Penderecki, Peterson, Los Angeles, Lafayette, and Guarneri String Quartets.

But I’ve left out one collaborator—Victor’s brother, Arnold. Victor and I first performed together in a recital on January 17, 1960. I remember that the program announcement caused me great embarrassment: The San Gabriel Philharmonic-Artists Association presents Arnold Steinhardt, violinist, accompanied by his brother Victor Steinhardt. My kid brother was only seventeen at the time but he was already no mere accompanist. Among music by Stravinsky, Roy Harris, and Schubert, the program included Beethoven’s Spring Sonata.

Victor and I performed together frequently through the years and made records as well. He was a superb pianist and musician, and a joy to work with. In rehearsal Victor was never shy in offering thoughtful musical ideas, but he was also willing to accept mine, and always with grace and good humor. In all the years we played together, I do not recall a single argument.

I spent a good amount of time with Victor and his loving and deeply devoted wife of thirty years, Betsy Parker, during the last days of my brother’s life. Naturally, Victor and I spoke of his illness, his approaching death, and how his beloved Betsy might fare after he was gone. And in so many words and gestures we were able to express our deep love for one another and for the blessed gift it had been throughout our lives. But our conversations often drifted into something oddly normal, as if the last consequential event in Victor’s life, looming with great speed toward him, was still at a respectable distance. We reminisced about events in our childhood, about Andy and Rafi, their beloved dachshunds, and about music, musicians, and composers. We talked with no apparent rhyme or reason about Mozart, Debussy, Shostakovich, and Victor’s own music. At one point I told Victor I’d recently read that John Cage was a great expert on fungi. “Really?” Victor said, “I didn’t realize he was such a fun guy”.

Victor’s disease had often been grueling, but as his death came nearer, a calm settled over him. At one point, in a pensive mood, Victor said to me that no matter how hard I tried I could not be him, and no matter how hard he tried he could not be me. On the face of it, those words seemed almost laughably obvious, and yet I thought I could see what he was getting at. We had made our different journeys through life, and Victor had come to the realization with a certain amount of assurance, acceptance, and even a measure of satisfaction that yes, this was who he was, and this was who he was meant to be.

In those final days Victor lovingly greeted dear friends who came from all over to spend a last cherished bit of time with him, and when the end finally came, with Betsy and me holding his hands, Victor left this earth peacefully.

A couple of days before Victor passed away, something unexpected crossed my mind. “Victor, you’re going to die, and then I’m going to die. But if there turns out to be some kind of life after death, what music would you like to play with me?” Victor thought for a moment, smiled, and said, “Let’s play Schubert’s Fantasy for Violin and Piano again.” The Fantasy, a work filled with haunting mystery and ineffable beauty, is notoriously difficult for the violinist but especially so for the pianist. Victor had performed the Fantasy masterfully. I smiled back at my brother and said, “You’re on.”

Now, with Victor gone I sometimes think back on that conversation and realize I had missed a golden opportunity to steal one of his lines. “You’re on, Victor, but let’s not rehearse. Let’s hearse, and if it doesn’t go well then we can re-hearse.”

Arietta by Victor Steinhardt, performed by the Steinhardt brothers.


  1. From Sandra Hyslop on March 10, 2022

    Dear Arnold,

    Your beautiful memories, your tribute to your family, and especially to your brother, fill me with aching peace and humble gratitude for the gift of music in our lives. Thank you for this. I will always remember the first time I heard Victor perform, in Portland, around 1957, 1958. What a joy.

    With sincere thanks,

  2. From Scott on March 10, 2022

    What a lovely, lovely tribute. And Arietta is absolutely beautiful.

  3. From HARVEY on March 10, 2022

    A beautiful memorial. You were very lucky to have such a beloved and dear brother. The memories live on. Your story got me ferklempt.


  4. From David Lakes on March 10, 2022

    I wish that all siblings could have such lifelong nourishing love and acceptance. Thanks for the wonderful tribute to your brother.

  5. From J. Gomez on March 10, 2022

    Thank you for sharing! It was a very touching article. I am very sorry for your loss. It is my first time writing even though I have been reading you for years now. Thank you so much for sharing a lot of wisdom and fun stories. You are an inspiration for other musicians. By the end of the piece you got me crying, what a wonderful brother you had. Thank you for everything.

  6. From seungja kimn on March 10, 2022

    beautiful memories and beautiful life.
    Especially with the Schubert Fantasy.
    Thank you for sharing the memory of your brother.

  7. From Jon Pendrous on March 10, 2022

    OMG, you kept quiet about how good a viola player you were. I don’t blame you!

  8. From Fran Berge on March 10, 2022

    Thank you so much for this fine, warm and interesting account of your relationship. I enjoyed listening to your brother’s compositions, which I was not aware of. And I wonder, (as a violinist)if it is possible to buy the sheet music for some of these violin/vla & pno works. ?

  9. From Lavinia Adler on March 10, 2022

    This was a lovely remembrance. I feel that Victor is still with us.

  10. From rosemary perkins on March 10, 2022

    How lucky you both were. And how generous you are to share his memory–along with those death-defying puns!

  11. From Francis Kuttner on March 10, 2022

    Arnold. Thank you so much for this loving tribute to your brother Victor. Through you kind
    and loving reminisces, and the superb photo,I almost feel that
    I’ve met him.
    My love to you and Dodo from Cambridge, where I will be until late Fall.

  12. From Margot Blum Schevill on March 10, 2022

    As always, your provocative comments led me to remember my relationship with my older brother, Jim Helmuth. He never learned to sigh read music, preferred to play by ear, and what an ear he had. He was an engineer, inventor, and teller of jokes every Sunday evening when we talked on the telephone. I am lucky as his daughter is closed to me, and I can talk about Jim with her.

  13. From Peter Weinberg on March 10, 2022

    That was very moving. Thank you for writing it.

  14. From Beatrice Prentice on March 10, 2022

    I was very touched by the beautiful tribute you wrote about your brother. I also enjoyed your brother’s playfulness with words. He, like you, was successful in the world of music.
    I attended the HS of Music and Art and studied piano with Paul Wittgenstein. I enjoy your anecdotes aoooooo much.I also struggled to get to Tanglewood in 1947 so I could be with
    my boyfriend, Charlie. WE were surrounded such musicians like
    Leonard Bernstein, Lukas Foss, Serge K. Jasha Heifitz etc.
    I am so delighted with your newsletters. They are beautiful and filled with great anecdotes.
    May the memory of your brother be for a blessing.

  15. From Ted Lorraine on March 10, 2022

    Dear Arnold
    I send my condolences to you from one who also has lost a dear and wonderful younger brother.
    I also send condolences to you for University of Oregon piano professor Victor Steinhardt on behalf of his mature student, my late wife Emily Rhodes Parker Lorraine (1925-2007), a Eugene OR piano teacher who, with Dean Robert Trotter’s help, returned to U of O 1968-70 to complete her interrupted B.M. degree, studying piano with Victor, whom she appreciated.

    When I finished my urban planning degree at U of O in 1969, I moved to Schenectady NY, and I spoke to you in Union College Chapel in February? 1970 after Guarneri’s amazing, gripping Beethoven Op.130/133 performance, mentioning to you that Emily studies with Victor.

    In Emily’s Los Alamos NM years (early 1960s) she studied with Ralph Berkowitz in Albuquerque whom she introduced me to after our marriage in 1970. Ralph showed and told us his analysis of Bach’s Chaconne from Violin Partita. Ralph’s art-making, displayed on his home’s walls, and everything about Ralph, fascinated.

    In 1998, I became Artistic Director of the San Jose [CA] Chamber Music Society [SJCMS] concert series, and in April 2006 was happy to learn of our shared high regard for and enjoyment of Ralph Berkowitz when SJCMS presented you with pianist Lydia Artymiw — and during the post-concert Q&A, you said your book on the violin was about to be published and dwelt on the Bach Chaconne – and I said: “Stop the presses! You must include Ralph Berkowitz’ analysis of it!”, and you replied: “Keep the presses rolling – because Ralph’s analysis is at the core of my discussion of the Chaconne!” I treasure that memory.

    I’m glad I got to hear the Guarneri later at Sunset Center in Carmel and at U.C. Santa Cruz while reading your book Indivisible by Four.

    Thank you, Arnold, for sharing this moving story of, and tribute to, Victor and brotherhood. You helped me know and greater to appreciate Victor – and you. and brought to life Ralph, and Emily. Those dear to us are ever with us in memory, until we get to ‘hearse’ and be with them again hopefully.
    with best wishes.
    Ted Lorraine, (still) Artistic Director, San Jose Chamber Music Society [1998-].

  16. From Donald Clarke on March 10, 2022

    What a lovely piece about Victor. Thank you for sharing it!

  17. From Sandra Goldberg on March 10, 2022

    We are so sorry to hear about Victor. We met him at the Grand Teton Music Festival in 1996.
    He gave a wonderful performance (I think it was Sonata Boogie) with violinist Kathryn Lucktenberg. When we told him we had a trio with violin, clarinet and piano he was so kind to send us the music to Running Blue later on.
    With our condolences and warm greetings from Sandy Goldberg and Robert Hairgrove in Winterthur, Switzerland

  18. From Christine (Bock) Howard on March 10, 2022

    It was sad to hear of your loss. Your brother sounded like a dear brother but also dear friend and companion. Please accept my condolences.

  19. From Katie W. Green on March 10, 2022

    Enormously touching. I shall send it on to a good friend, a musical one, whose equally musical husband died two days ago. She will love it.

  20. From Elisabeth Spanhoff on March 10, 2022

    Thank you for this. I was a classmate of Victor’s during his years at Mount St. Mary’s. He was brilliant in class, and his playing immediately drew me in. He was a formidable musical force. I tried to attend all his performances, even some at UCLA. When we talked, which was infrequent, he enjoyed teasing me and said things to try to shock me. I often wondered why. You’ve answered that question for me. I was sorry to learn the manner of his passing. Thank you for your remembrance. I’m sorry I never heard you two play together, though, happily, I did hear you and the Guarneri play to a select group in Baton Rouge shortly before the quartet disbanded.

  21. From Martha Potter Kim on March 10, 2022

    What a touching memoir, and the viola piano duet sheer loveliness. As is true I n my own birth family, it is as though you had the same brain but you used it differently. There’s nothing quite like sibling closeness. Fortunately you have these great memories to warm you in the years ahead. My deepest sympathies to you for this great loss.

  22. From Bob on March 10, 2022

    Dear Mr Steinhardt,

    I enjoyed every aspect — from the corny to the sublime — of this entertaining and moving tribute to your late, beloved brother Victor. But I was most struck by your and Victor’s selection of Schubert’s Fantasy, whose beauty is, as you say, ineffable. For what it’s worth, I’m entranced by the 2015 Chamber Music Society performance by the young duo Benjamin Beilman (violin) and Juho Pohjonen (piano), available on YouTube. As always, I look forward to your next essay. My thanks and best wishes.

  23. From Howard Epstein on March 10, 2022

    What a beautiful tribute. Reading this was like having dear Victor, if only for a moment, back with us again. Thanks Arnold.

  24. From Marion Berghahn on March 10, 2022

    What a precious, touching story!

  25. From John Yeh on March 10, 2022

    What a wonderful loving tribute to your brother! And beautiful performances of his music Arietta and Gedemptegullas. Hilarious about Aube Tzerko; I had no idea! Happy Birthday, Victor! Thanks for sharing these great stories, Arnold!

  26. From Calvin Yue on March 10, 2022

    Thank you for sharing the wonderful stories. It’s wonderful to cherish his wonderful influence as he forged his own paths.

  27. From Masami Hida on March 11, 2022

    My heart breaks for the pain you must have gone through this past year. Your writing is always so beautiful and sincere, and the wonderful relationship with your amazing brother really shines through. Thank you for this.

  28. From Hiroshi and Danny on March 11, 2022

    We have good memories of meeting your brother at Curtis when you both were recording. He was a very special person, it was clear. By the way, Victor’s birthday is the same as Danny’s. Warm regards to you, Arnold. ~Hiroshi

  29. From Johannes on March 12, 2022

    Thank you, Arnold – that is just so moving. I love every pun and every detail you recall, and its just wonderful to be allowed a peek into your close relationship this way.
    My own memories of Victor are much hazier, forged largely during the semester I spent as a 16-year-old in Eugene, taking lessons for which I was apparently notoriously late, as teenagers sometimes are. So Victor decided, as I know you also remember, to get my attention by scheduling the lessons to begin not on the hour, but at 2 minutes past: on the off-beat, so to speak. No wonder, I guess, that the ensuing lessons were spent on Chopin and Joplin: syncopation for the win!
    And now I’m going to go hearse the Maple Leaf Rag that he taught me at a lesson that would have begun one spring afternoon in 1984 at his house in Eugene at 3:02pm. And if it doesn’t go well, I’ll remember what Victor told me about maintaining the steady bass, and re-hearse.

  30. From DANIEL LEVY on March 12, 2022

    Your comments about Victor brought back wonderful memories of weeks spent in Eugene during the Bach Festival when my wife (Jane Levy) played viola in the modern and baroque orchestras. I often saw Victor in the lobby of the Hult prior to the concerts. I attended a recital that you played with Victor. One summer, friends from Pasadena joined us for the festivities. Helene and I had played the four-hand piano literature for many years. I called Victor and he graciously offered to let us use his studio for a few hours. I am so sorry to read of his passing.

    Best wishes,

    Daniel Levy
    Pasadena Ca

  31. From Hava Beller on March 12, 2022

    Oh Arnold your brother’s music is so heartbreakingly beautiful, floating, painfully urgently on, impacted by your own words at the opening – (Today is my brother’s birthday …)Breathtaking!
    Within your words, your brother is very much alive. Much love, Hava

  32. From Nancy Virkhaus on March 13, 2022

    I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of your brother. Your writing is so poignant; he sounds like someone I would have wanted to know and spend time with. God bless you, Mr. Steinhardt.
    Nancy V

  33. From Rick Nelson on March 13, 2022

    Thank you so much for introducing us to your dear brother and for offering a glimpse of your times together. May his memory be a blessing.

  34. From Sharon Schuman on March 15, 2022

    What a lovely tribute, Arnold. I have been thinking of Victor as I practice the Spring Sonata, which he performed also with me, and which I will dedicate to him when I perform it in May. I really miss him and all the qualities you describe so well.

  35. From Harvey Stuart Traison on March 17, 2022

    Dear Arnold,

    Thank you for sharing this intimate reflection of your family life and fond memories of making music with your brother. I look forward to saying hello in person at Marlboro this summer.
    Harvey Traison

  36. From Philip Bayles on March 17, 2022

    Victor Steinhardt and I were friends for 50 years. We
    arrived in Eugene about the same time and shared ping
    pong and pokers games, puns, and beer, and lots and
    lots of music.

    He was a terrific piano player, and over the years I had
    the honor to conduct my various community ensembles with
    Victor as our soloist. Bach in Ashland with the Northwest
    Bach Ensemble, Dittersdorf with the Emerald
    Chamber Players, Emperor early on at the WOW hall, and
    years later again in the Wildish with the Riverside Chamber

    We spent many hours assisting each other with our
    compositions and preparations for upcoming performances.
    I enjoyed his concerts with other artists especially brother

    I particularly regret that due my own sequestration for
    the pandemic, I was not even aware that he was in his final days,
    and never had a final visit.

    I will miss you Victor, and leave you with a question you posed
    more than once:

    “Would you rather ride your bicycle in the summer
    or in the country?”

  37. From Donna Alpert on March 18, 2022

    Thank you for that moving tribute. How fortunate for each of you to have that brother with whom a lifetime of so much pleasure was shared. And what a treat to have the opportunity to hear both of you on this recording of Arietta. Thank you for sharing it.

  38. From Philip Bayles on March 18, 2022

    Victor Steinhardt and I were friends for 50 years. We
    arrived in Eugene about the same time and shared ping
    pong and pokers games, puns, and beer, and lots and
    lots of music.

    He was a terrific piano player, and over the years i had
    the honor to conduct my various community ensembles with
    Victor as our soloist. Bach in Ashland with the Northwest
    Bach Ensemble, Dittersdorf with the Emerald
    Chamber Players, Emperor early on at the WOW hall, and
    years later again in the Wildish with the Riverside Chamber

    We spent many hours assisting each other with our
    compositions and preparations for upcoming performances.
    I enjoyed his concerts with other artists especially brother

    I particularly regret that due my own sequestration for
    the pandemic, I was not even aware that he was in his final days,
    and never had a final visit.

    I will miss you Victor, and leave you with a question you posed
    more than once:

    “Would you rather ride your bicycle in the summer
    or in the country?”

    Philip Bayles

  39. From Mohini S Iyer on March 25, 2022

    I really loved reading this and missed Victor very much. I was a student of Dr. Parker’s and when I came for my lessons, Victor sometimes opened the door and I was very little and he was very tall and he always smiled at me with twinkling eyes. Sometimes to help me gain confidence, Dr Parker would make me play for Victor and he would sit there and patiently listen to my baby pieces and clap cheerfully at the end. I also remember as I had my lesson I would hear Victor play in his studio — it was so beautiful and inspiring. And finally, my nickname is Momo and one day Victor said to me — you know what I realized your name backward reads owow!

  40. From Benjamin on April 1, 2022

    Today is your birthday, dear Arnold, and all my thoughts and warm wishes whir across the big pond to you. Lovley, to listen to your and Victors Sonata Boogie over and over again, and sad to realize that Victor left us. The sense for witty wordgames passed on to your children: I remember writing a letter together with Natasha in Chatham once and she suggested that we use mostly words that have to be looked up in a dictionary. Thus, I learned a lot!

  41. From carol olicker on April 1, 2022

    wonderful moving tribute that left me in tears at the end..such brilliant writing and deep feeling…I fell in love with your brother thru the punning..of course I, like so many,always had a crush on you. I was fortunate to be at Harpur College and SUNY at Buffalo when the Guarneri was in residence at both places and performed the complete cycle of Beethoven’s String Quartets. I never missed a performance, and bought the score and one of my peak experiences in life was to follow the scores while listening to your have delivered so much bliss to so many, and it sounds like your brother did too..To say thank you is not enough but I do thank you

  42. From Jonathan Winer on April 26, 2022

    Can words bring a man back to life? Only a fraction of the man, in glimpses, when the words are well chosen, but there is pith even in the fraction. Your Victorious portrait is gay and luminous, and moved me as has for more than 40 years your music. Thank you for all of your violin dreams, and for the memories of your brother.

  43. From Rachel Petite on June 17, 2022

    Dear Mr. Steinhardt,
    I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your younger brother. What a beautiful tribute. I am sorry he suffered with Parkinsons. I used to play for patients- I did that for four years, and it was the Parkinsons’ patients I had the most compassion for. Them and their families.

  44. From Brendan Joyce on September 12, 2022

    Somehow I missed this story when you first published it, Arnold. I wonder if you remember when I organized for you and Victor to visit Brigham Young Uni for a recital and masterclasses. I had a job there for a year. I enjoyed meeting Victor and I bought and have played the Sonataboogie and the Gedempta… a number of times. I have the Tango there so perhaps I’ll dig it out. The photograph commemorating that moment in time in Utah with the mountains as backdrop and my friends Claudine and Paul continues to grace my studio (and looking at it now really ages me!). I’m grateful for those few days and the students there were inspired by your visit.

  45. From martha katz on April 2, 2023

    Thank you Arnold, fun reading and my birthday is March 10, 1943.All the very best, you were our inspiration.

  46. From Derek D HERFORTH on June 26, 2023

    As an undergrad at UCLA (linguistics major, but semi-serious horn tooter), I encountered Victor as an energetic, very supportive, ‘older-brother-type’ mentor-pianist to would-be budding musicians around Schoenberg Hall. (This must have been very shortly before he departed for Oregon.) When we took “units” in “wind chamber music”, Victor was often the in-house accompanist, always ready to contribute to our student strivings, unobtrusively, even when there was a prominent, seasoned wind player the likes of Mitchell Lurie in charge of the “unit”.
    I’d grown up in Cleveland, attended Severance Hall during my high-school years when brother Arnold sat next to Rafael Druian at the head of the first violins. Perhaps mentioning this to Victor might have earned me some special consideration? In any case, I had the privilege of performing the Brahms Horn Trio with Victor and violinist Carol Zeavin at a noon concert there at Schoenberg, date March 5, 1968 — perhaps the peak achievement of my (in the end amateur) musical career. Victor will always be very fondly remembered.


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June 2, 2024

A Dangerous Profession?

If I think of life’s most dangerous professions, a few come easily to mind: firefighter, soldier, mountain climber, race car driver, bullfighter. But what about playing the violin for a living? Is it my imagination, or do I hear loud guffaws from you readers? Yeah, right. The fiddle is so heavy that lifting it might [...]

May 1, 2024

A Violin Goes to the Emergency Room

When Helena, my new student at the Curtis Institute of Music, arrived for her first lesson with me, I happened to be facing the other way when she began tuning her violin. But the sound of  its open strings was so distinctive, and, for lack of a better word, golden, that I wheeled around and [...]

April 1, 2024

Arnold Steinhardt Speaks With Dr. Arnie

S: I’m looking forward to our conversation today, Dr. Arnie, but a year has passed since your last appearance on my blog, and I’m wondering how you’ve been. Dr. A: How’ve I been? You created me, Steinhardt, you tell me how I’ve been. It reminds me of the old joke about two psychiatrists who meet [...]

March 10, 2024


My bother Victor was born on this day, March 10, 1943. Victor, my kid brother, died over two years ago, and I miss him. I miss his gentleness, his thoughtfulness, his wacky sense of humor, his outrageous puns, and the superb pianist, musician, and composer that he was. And I miss making music with Victor. [...]

February 21, 2024

Andrés Segovia

The Spanish virtuoso classical guitarist Andrés Segovia was born on this day, February 21, 1893. Segovia’s first music lessons were on the violin, but he soon gravitated to the guitar—at first mainly self-taught. His first public performance age sixteen was in Granada, and subsequent performances on the international stage coincided with a renewed interest in [...]

January 4, 2024

The Beauty, The Power of Music

My friend the pianist Mary Joe Pagano, founder and artistic director of The Chamber Music Center of New York, is always on the lookout for talented, young musicians. Recently she told me, excitedly, about the Galvin Cello Quartet, and sent me a link to their web site. The Quartet’s cellists, Sihao He, Sydney Lee, Haddon [...]

November 30, 2023

Who Can Tell

Do you remember your very first solo car drive? The excitement, the tinge of trepidation, yet a newfound feeling of independence and freedom? I certainly do. Although only sixteen or seventeen at the time, my parents trusted me enough to let me drive the family car all by myself (a 1947 Chevy). Where does a [...]

November 2, 2023

Living With Mozart

Ever since 1959, my first summer as a participant at the Marlboro Music Festival, I have always been given more than adequate sleeping accommodations. One summer in the 1960s, however, for reasons unknown to me, the Festival was short of beds. They asked me whether I’d be willing to sleep on a makeshift mattress temporarily, [...]

October 4, 2023

Arnie Black

I met Arnie Black shortly after moving to New York City in 1964, and we quickly became friends. Arnie was a musician who wore many musical hats. He was a fine violinist, holding positions such as assistant concertmaster of the National Symphony Orchestra and concertmaster of the Baltimore Symphony. He was composer in residence in [...]

September 5, 2023

Joseph Szigeti

The Hungarian violinist Joseph Szigeti was born on this day, September 5, 1892. He began violin lessons at age seven, and because of his great aptitude for the instrument was soon accepted into the class of the renowned violin pedagogue Jenö Hubay. Portrait of Hungarian violinist Joseph Szigeti with his teacher, Jenő Hubay, circa 1910 [...]

August 1, 2023

A Violinist’s Violin, Part Two

The first performance with my “new” violin was at a Guarneri String Quartet concert in Ann Arbor, Michigan. My old friend the violinist Charles Avsharian came backstage afterward to say hello. “Is that Joe Roisman’s fiddle you’re playing on?” he asked. I smiled. “Word seems to travel fast.”  Charlie looked at me blankly. “What word?” [...]
Budapest String Quartet

July 5, 2023

A Violinist’s Violin, Part One

In 1972, after one of our Guarneri String Quartet concerts, Mischa Schneider, cellist of the Budapest String Quartet and our longtime friend and mentor, came backstage to greet us. Looking thoughtful, he turned to me. “Arnold, your wiolin is veek. Maybe I can do zumzing,” he volunteered. Mischa, who was born in Vilna, Lithuania, had [...]

June 15, 2023


Recently, an employee from a local energy company came over to the house to discuss the possibility of installing solar panels. Once the location, number, and cost had been established, the conversation drifted to the more personal. The man asked me what kind of work I did, and I told him I was a musician, [...]

April 1, 2023

Dr. Arnie’s Very Interesting Recital

“What the. . . ?” I said to myself. All the cats and horses in the neighborhood had started to meow and neigh as soon as I began practicing the violin. And the more I practiced, the louder and more raucous the meowing and neighing became. I have to admit, it freaked me out. So [...]
Viktor Ullmann

March 9, 2023


In 1999 our old friends John Shattuck, then the U.S. Ambassador to the Czech Republic, and his wife Ellen Hume, invited me, my wife Dorothea, and my brother Victor to spend a week with them at their Prague residence. The days there were filled with many rich and memorable experiences. My pianist brother Victor and [...]

February 16, 2023

The King of Swing

On January 16, 1938, clarinetist Benny Goodman, known as the King of Swing, and his band performed in a sold-out Carnegie Hall. They opened the concert with “Don’t Be that Way”, “Sometimes I’m Happy”, and “One O’Clock Jump”, and ended it with “Sing, Sing, Sing (with a Swing)”. The event was regarded as the most [...]

January 27, 2023

Life and Death, and Music

I’ve often heard that New Yorkers, living cheek to jowl with their neighbors, tend to keep to themselves. But that certainly wasn’t our experience when my wife Dorothea and I moved into apartment 11A of a building on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in late 1972. We quickly got to know several of the [...]

December 13, 2022

Israel Beilin

Israel Beilin was born in Imperial Russia on May 11, 1888. He was one of eight children of Lena Lipkin Beilin and Moses Beilin, an itinerant cantor. On September 14,1893, the family arrived at Ellis Island, New York. Young Israel, age five, was put in a holding pen along with his brother and five sisters [...]

November 10, 2022

A Chance Encounter

Wherever you choose to fly these days, the plane will most likely be full. Even the red-eye to New York City that I sometimes take, which arrives at an ungodly early hour, almost never has an empty seat. But not that long ago, planes sometimes flew with relatively few passengers. I remember once taking an [...]

October 19, 2022


In the summer of 1965, one year after our Guarneri String Quartet had formed, we toured Europe for the first time. Boarding TWA flight 10 to Geneva at what was then known as New York City’s Idlewild Airport, I remember not only being elated that we’d actually survived as a quartet for an entire year, [...]

September 12, 2022


Tom Heimberg and I have been friends since we both played violin in our junior high school orchestra. Tom eventually switched to viola and came of age playing in the San Francisco Symphony. Later, he joined the San Francisco Opera Orchestra, and finally became its personnel manager. Just about every time I came to the [...]

August 23, 2022

George Nash Smith

Over the last several million years, two tectonic plates, one slowly grinding underneath the other, lifted up a huge block of the earth’s crust and tilted it westward. That giant upheaval forged the present-day Sierra Nevada Mountains. I’m most grateful for what those immense tectonic plates accomplished. They provided me, my brother Victor, and occasionally [...]

July 14, 2022

Where Do We Go When We Die

In a talk entitled “Where Do We Go When We Die,” the Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh drew an image of a burning candle and then asked whether it goes somewhere when it dies. Through the heat and light the candle gives off, he answered, it continues to rest in us, in the cosmos. The [...]

June 7, 2022

What Makes a Great Teacher?

At the first lesson of the young pianist Josef Hofmann, his teacher, the legendary pianist Anton Rubinstein, told his student that he would talk about music and technique, but never play for him. Rubinstein wanted Hofmann to develop unencumbered his own musical personality. On the other hand, as a teenager studying with the violin virtuoso [...]

May 2, 2022

Michael Rabin

The violinist Michael Rabin was born on this day, May 2, 1936. His pianist mother, Jeanne, and violinist father, George, quickly realized Michael’s musical talent. It was said that Michael could beat time with a wooden stick at the age of one, and at three he already possessed perfect pitch. Soon after that, Michael started [...]

April 1, 2022

Ask Dr. Arnie

Dear Readers, After abandoning what would have been a spectacular career as an eight-handed violinist, I have instead devoted myself as Dr. Arnie to serve music in an entirely different way. Today, and today only, I will happily answer your most pressing questions about music. Dear Dr. Arnie, I love listening to string quartets but [...]
Victor Steinhardt

March 10, 2022


My brother, Victor, was born on this day, March 10,1943. Ordinarily, I’d call Victor to wish him happy birthday and to talk as we’ve done regularly throughout our lives. But Victor passed away last July 30th. He was 78 years old. Victor was my kid brother, six years younger than I, and it never entered [...]
Star Axis

February 11, 2022

Stairway to the Stars

Have you ever heard of precession? I certainly never had until my friend, the photographer Ed Ranney, took me along on a photo expedition to Star Axis, situated on a mesa in the high desert of New Mexico. Precession is a change in the orientation of the rotational axis of a rotating body. You might [...]

January 10, 2022


I’m glad Christmas is over. Now don’t get me wrong. It’s not the religious holiday I’m talking about. It’s the music. But it’s not only the music. For example, I love “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” and the way good old Bing Crosby does it. But must I hear the song at my local [...]

December 1, 2021


As I passed the Curtis Institute of Music’s basement bulletin board, an announcement caught my eye: Viola auditions will be held next month for the 1958 Pablo Casals Festival Orchestra. Please contact Alexander Schneider. I was intrigued. The cellist Pablo Casals was a towering figure both in the musical world and because of his stand [...]

October 31, 2021

Conspiracy Theory

In the interest of full disclosure, to date I’ve received both Pfizer vaccinations. Some of you may believe they came with a tracking chip now imbedded in my body, compliments of Bill Gates. Bill, I practiced the fiddle this morning, then went to the grocery store for potato chips, and got a haircut in the [...]

October 12, 2021

The World of Miniatures

Do you know the Souvenir of Drdla? I’d guess probably not, unless you’re of a certain age (old). I’m of that certain age, and I played the Souvenir as a teenager, but it was already going out of style. For the generation of violinists before mine, however, it was almost a requirement to play this [...]

September 13, 2021

A Musician’s Curse

What do you have to do to become a musician? Naturally, a love of music and a generous amount of talent are givens. Then comes a lifetime examining such items as melody, harmony, structure, and style. Basically, it is the never-ending process of opening one’s ears to the magic of music. I suppose professionals have [...]

August 11, 2021

Mike Robyn

Something deeply personal inevitably takes place between a performer and his audience.  You might call it an act of generosity rather than a concert performance, or, put differently, the need to share thoughts and feelings about a work of music with others rather than simply keeping it to oneself. The pianist Arthur Rubinstein told a [...]

July 2, 2021

The Poster

I recently came across a poster advertising the very first professional concert of our Guarneri String Quartet. I tend to hang on to things that seem meaningful to me—letters, photos, articles, newspaper clippings, concert programs, mementos, and everything and anything else that catches my fancy. Sooner or later, however, my collection of “meaningful” items overflows [...]

June 10, 2021

Tempo, Friend or Foe

What are the most basic things that must be accomplished in order to master a work of music? I think even contentious Democrats and Republicans can agree that the first order of business regarding everything from Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony to “Tea for Two” is, plain and simple, just learn the notes. Next come the rhythms [...]

May 5, 2021

Ach, you made a mess of it

Have you ever regretted something you’ve done or said? I certainly have. Out of the clear blue, an unpleasant or embarrassing or foolish moment from the past will pop into my brain. How could I have done or said that, I’d think, shaking my head sorrowfully. Since whatever had happened, unfortunately, couldn’t ever be erased [...]

April 1, 2021

Sale! Sale! Sale!

Dr. Arnie’s Fiddle-4-Fun Emporium announces: SALE ON STRADIVARIUS VIOLINS! TODAY ONLY! Think of it. You’ve always wanted a Stradivarius but could never afford one. Today, and today only, these remarkable violins are now on sale at   the unbelievably low price of $29.95. You heard that right, folks, only $29.95. Unlike 17th and 18th century Stradivarius [...]
Colorado Symphony

March 10, 2021

A Chance Encounter

It wasn’t even Halloween, but the strange creature coming toward me had a grayish ball for a head and funny little reddish things sticking out all over. Uninvited, it abruptly sat down across the table from me and began to speak. “Well, I’ve just infected another one, so I thought I’d relax for a while [...]

February 8, 2021


Shortly after my first teacher taught me, age six, the basic positions of the violin, he placed a page on my music stand with what appeared before my innocent eyes to be groups of lines with indecipherable black dots scattered willy-nilly over them. He then explained that these groups of five lines were called staves, [...]

January 5, 2021

Erica Morini

Today, January 5th, is the birthday of violinist Erica Morini. Born in Vienna in 1904, she first studied the violin with her father, Oscar Morini, and later at the Vienna Conservatory with Otakar Šev?ík. Morini made her debut at age eleven with the Leipzig Gewandhaus and Berlin Phiharmonic orchestras under Arthur Nikisch. She was immediately [...]

December 14, 2020

Music in the Time of Biden and Harris

On January 20, 2021, Joseph R. Biden, Jr., and Kamala Harris will assume the offices of president and vice president of the United States. There will be new faces, new ideas, new policies, and undoubtedly a different personal style of governing. And there will inevitably be different music at the White House. I have not the [...]

October 31, 2020

Halloween Special

The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out. The worms play pinochle on your snout. Your stomach turns to an icy green and pus shoots out like white whipped cream. You wipe it up with a slice of bread, and that’s what you eat when you are dead. So, folks, have I gotten you into [...]

October 29, 2020

All Hands On Deck

Dear Readers, Following up on my last post, Music in the Time of Trump: With the election 5 days away, this feels like an all-hands-on-deck moment. So I’ve just signed up to help get out the vote by working a phone bank. I’ll be doing this through Swing Left starting tomorrow. Can I invite, inspire, coax, cajole, [...]

October 1, 2020

Music in the Time of Trump

The night that Donald Trump was elected president of the United States, I couldn’t sleep. That Republicans nominated him as a candidate was shocking enough, but the fact that so many Americans had voted for a man deeply unfit for the presidency was incomprehensible. Since then, no matter how incompetent, ignorant, racist, unethical, mean spirited, [...]

September 2, 2020

Practice? MMMaybe Not

If I don’t practice for one day, I know it; two days, the critics know it; three days, the public knows it. —Jascha Heifetz; But Mr. Heifetz, what about four days, or four weeks, or, gasp, even longer? During a busy performing schedule, I would sometimes take a day off here and there; and in [...]

August 3, 2020

Practice, Practice, and (ugh), More Practice

I hated practicing the violin as a kid. Not that I didn’t love the sound of the instrument or the music I played. It’s just that at that early age, I preferred to be out with my neighborhood friends playing ball or cops and robbers in the fields nearby. When my parents threatened to cut [...]

July 1, 2020


At a very early age, my grandson, Julian began to ask me questions. “Nunu”, he asked (my grandkids call me Nunu), “how old are you”? That was soon followed by, “Nunu, how old will you be when you die”? As Julian got older, he often asked other types of questions I could not answer and [...]

June 1, 2020

Serial Numbers

All kinds of things have serial numbers. I imagine that dozens of objects in my own home have them- my toaster must have one, and my TV set, washing machine, microwave, electric tooth brush, telephone, and on and on. Thinking about it, however, I have to ask the obvious: what are serial numbers good for? [...]
Kreutzer Sonata, painting by René François Xavier Prinet

May 1, 2020

The Kreutzer Sonata

On May 24th, 1803, one of Ludwig van Beethoven’s most renowned and revered works, the Kreutzer Sonata, Opus 47, for Violin and Piano, was performed for the first time. The Sonata’s three movements run the gamut from ardent lyricism to high-wire virtuosity. During that first performance, George Bridgetower, the brilliant Afro-European violinist for whom it [...]
Swami Arnie in deep meditation.

April 1, 2020

Zen and the Art of String Quartet Maintenance

String quartets- good, bad, or worse- a hearty welcome to our twelve step program from me, Swami Arnie. Without a doubt, you will want to participate in this remarkable, one of a kind workshop that takes place today, and only today. Objective: To make each of you better instrumentalists, better musicians, better string quartet players, [...]

February 28, 2020


Amir, a salesman from a local blind and shade store, came up to our house some time ago in order to advise my wife, Dorothea, and me about some kind of window covering.  Well into our discussion, Amir somehow learned that I was a violinist.  With that, all talk about blinds and shades abruptly came [...]

February 3, 2020

Ludwig van Beethoven: Space Traveler, Human Heart Explorer

Dear “In the Key of Strawberry” readers, After having written a monthly blog about music for some ten years, I’ve taken the last year and a half off in order to do other things- namely, to move from New York City to Santa Fe, New Mexico, from sea level to high desert at 7,200 feet [...]

August 8, 2018


In all the forty-five years that our Guarneri String Quartet performed in public, and during the nine years since we retired, I don’t believe I’ve dreamt of the quartet more than a handful of times. This might seem odd to string quartet aficionados who know how much must go into a performance: practice and more [...]

June 20, 2018

Symphonies, Guns, and Beer?

I often feel anxious for young musicians, even the most gifted of them, as their graduation from music school approaches. In the months before, so many still don’t know what their future holds. Will a top prize in a competition garner the beginnings of a solo career? Or might a successful audition lead to a [...]
Arthur Rubinstein(a),1971

May 8, 2018

An Arthurian Tale

As a teenager growing up in Los Angeles, some fifteen years before our Guarneri String Quartet would perform and record with the pianist Arthur Rubinstein, I had a brief preview of Rubinstein’s personality. My violin teacher, Peter Meremblum, had founded and led a very well-known young people’s orchestra in which I played. The Southern California [...]
Arthur Rubinstein in 1971. Photo © Dorothea von Haeften

April 1, 2018

Arthur and Sergei

Today, April 1st, is the pianist and composer Sergei Rachmaninoff’s birthday. Which reminds me of a story. “Which reminds me of a story,” said the pianist Arthur Rubinstein, turning to us, the Guarneri String Quartet, while remaining seated at the piano. We four happily put down our instruments, having just been bathed in Rubinstein’s ravishing [...]

March 6, 2018


How well can you really know a musician as a person based solely on his or her performance? You might walk away from such an occasion with some sense of the musician’s intelligence, emotional depth, taste and style. But could you honestly say, despite the innermost thoughts and feelings communicated during the concert, that you [...]

February 1, 2018

What’s In a Name

My mother, who attended one of our Guarneri String Quartet concerts some time ago, told me afterwards of a conversation she overheard in the ladies room during intermission. “Are any of the Guarneri members Jewish?” one woman asked another. “No,” responded her friend. “Arnold Steinhardt is of German origin, John Dalley, English, Michael Tree, Scottish, [...]
Mel Torme

December 24, 2017

The Christmas Song

Christmas seems to come earlier and earlier. Already before Thanksgiving had arrived this year, the holiday lights were strung and the usual Yuletide songs had invaded every conceivable public space. Perhaps because I’m a musician, a shudder runs through me when I once again have to hear after a blissful year’s absence, the inane Winter [...]

December 4, 2017


A fellow goes up to the airline counter and asks to be booked to Buenos Aires, Caracas, Singapore, and then Honolulu. “I’m sorry, sir,” the agent says, “We don’t fly to any of those places.” “Funny,” responds the traveler, “you sent my luggage to all those places the last time I flew with you.” For [...]

October 31, 2017

Halloween Special

Hello People. Dr. Arnie here, once again. Today is Halloween, and a perfect time for me to spread the word about my latest, favorite subject—Cryogenics. You all know what I’m talking about: the study of things at very low temperatures. Actually, it’s not exactly things that I had in mind. Recently, I read about the [...]
Andrew Carnegie

October 4, 2017

Andrew Carnegie

How do you get to Carnegie Hall? I know. I know. Practice. Or take the subway. Or hail a cab. Or if the year is 1891, take the trolley from 14th Street, the center of town, to the end of the line and walk two blocks north to 57th Street and 7th Avenue. You’ll find [...]
Jules Eskin

September 6, 2017


My dear friend Jules Eskin passed away last November at the age of eighty-five. I first met Jules when he became principal cellist of the Cleveland Orchestra in 1961. I had already been in the orchestra as assistant concertmaster for two years. At twenty-two years old, I was the youngest member of the orchestra, and [...]

August 8, 2017

Cécile Chaminade

Today, August 8th, is Cécile Chaminade’s birthday. What? You’ve never heard of Cécile Chaminade? But how is that possible? Chaminade was one of the most successful pianists and composers of the turn of the nineteenth/twentieth century. Born in Paris, France, in 1857, Chaminade composed more than 350 works, including two piano trios, a choral symphony, [...]
Uncle Sacha vants you.

July 7, 2017

The Bartók Project

When I was still a teenager, a friend coaxed me into a record store with the sole purpose of having me listen to something he considered of utmost importance. In those days, every record on sale had a sample that one could hear in a private booth. My friend refused to divulge anything as he [...]

June 2, 2017

I Love You

Over the past few years, I’ve begun to depend more and more on my smart phone. At first it was just for telephoning, emails, and for taking photos. But more recently, I’ve begun using it for all kinds of useful things: weather reports, the news, messages, driving directions, as a metronome, playing scrabble, and even [...]
Floating violinist surrounded by floating people.

May 3, 2017

Ultimate Goals

Violin auditions were once again held this winter at the Curtis Institute of Music. Over a period of three days, the faculty listened to violinists from all over the world play the required music by Bach, Mozart, Paganini, and a concerto of their choice. Many of these young musicians performed with great sensitivity and technical [...]

April 1, 2017

Four Play

A message from Dr. Arnie about string quartets: Dear Friends, I know, I know. String quartets are a troublesome business. Take Franz Schubert’s Death and the Maiden Quartet in which a poor young girl has to die despite desperately pleading for her life. Just terrible if you ask me, and by the way, my condolences [...]

March 6, 2017

Speak, Piano

Many years ago, my wife, Dorothea, and I visited her friend, Gottliebe von Lehndorff, in Peterskirchen, a town not far from Munich, Germany. A single, shattering event had originally brought the two women’s lives together. Both Dorothea’s father, Hans Bernd von Haeften, and Gottliebe’s husband, Heinrich von Lehndorff, had been involved in the failed July [...]

February 2, 2017

Separation Anxiety

Several months ago, Soovin Kim, the artistic director of the Lake Champlain Chamber Music Festival, asked me to participate in the Beethoven Project, a series of concerts each featuring a late Beethoven string quartet and preceded by a talk about the work.  Soovin had invited the Parker String Quartet to perform one of those five [...]

December 24, 2016

Santa Claus

I recently learned some unexpected things about Santa Claus. First of all, he played the violin. That shouldn’t have been a surprise. Lots of famous people have played the violin. Albert Einstein, Casanova, Paul Klee, Thomas Jefferson, and Benito Mussolini all played the violin, so why not Santa Claus. I also learned that Santa didn’t [...]
John Koutroubas at the counter.

December 7, 2016

Little Pete’s

They say that nothing lasts forever. But some things do last longer than others. And once in a while, something manages to last a very long time. I’m thinking of Little Pete’s diner on the corner of 17th and Chancellor Streets in downtown Philadelphia. I first discovered the place in the fall of 1954 when, [...]

November 8, 2016

Music From Marlboro, the Fiftieth Anniversary

If anyone were to ask me what the single most significant musical influence of my life was, the answer would be unequivocal: The Marlboro Music School. In the many summers I spent there as a young adult, I was able to study, perform, and listen to the great chamber music repertoire shoulder to shoulder with [...]

October 5, 2016


Just a few years ago, at two different schools, I coached students who had banded together in the hope of becoming professional string quartets. Each quartet consisted of strong players and gifted musicians, and they not only played well together but, most importantly, each quartet had something personal and meaningful to express in their music-making [...]

September 9, 2016

A Visitor

As in so many years past, I was once again a participant at Marlboro Music this summer. Marlboro has achieved a reputation of such stellar quality that music lovers from the earth’s four corners flock to this festival nestled in the hills of Southern Vermont. Even luminaries known the world over occasionally appear at Marlboro [...]
Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers

August 3, 2016

Where are the Dancers?

A friend, who was a professional ballet dancer for many years, was taken as a child by his mother to a symphony orchestra concert. Up to then, his musical experience had been largely limited to the piano accompaniment provided during his dance classes and the ballet performances he occasionally attended. He sat patiently for a [...]
Scott Peacock

July 6, 2016

The Chocolate Cake (A Second Helping)

I very much enjoy writing my monthly blogs, which are more or less on the subject of music. And I’m always gratified and encouraged to continue by the many reader comments. An unexpected and delightful surprise—a fringe benefit, you might say—are the stories that come back to me in response. For example, when I wrote [...]

June 3, 2016

The Chocolate Cake

My wife, Dorothea: So, how was the concert tour?” Her husband, Arnold: “Great. After the concert in Rome, I had a plate of gnocchi with Gorgonzola sauce that was to die from. And in Vienna, you wouldn’t believe how sensational the Salzburger Nockerl was.” Dorothea: “I’m glad. But what about the concerts? How did they [...]

May 4, 2016

The Homecoming

Kirk Browning, an American television director and producer with hundreds of productions to his credit had decided to move into smaller quarters. Our mutual friend, Virginia, was there to assist as Kirk regretfully disposed of many of the awards, trophies, and memorabilia that he had amassed over a lifetime of professional work. At one point, [...]

April 1, 2016

Dr. Arnie Returns

By overwhelming popular demand, the distinguished musicologist Dr. Arnie has once again agreed to answer your most pressing questions about music, musicians, and maybe even the meaning of life:   Dear Dr. Arnie, Do you have to speak French to play the French horn well? Dear Concerned, Of course not. How do these preposterous rumors [...]

March 3, 2016


Our dog, Tessa, died in the middle of a blizzard in New York City this January. Almost twelve years old and certainly slowing down with age, Tessa no longer frolicked joyfully in the park as she once had, and lately climbing steps of any kind had become painfully difficult for her. Still, her death was [...]
Final curtain

February 4, 2016


No one ever dies in chamber music. The thought occurred to me while I was on the way to the opera. People die right and left in opera. Madame Butterfly, Tosca, Carmen, Romeo and Juliet—they all die. I’ve played in a professional string quartet most of my life, but nobody dies there. Yes, there are [...]

January 7, 2016

A Heavenly Length

Franz Schubert’s sublime Two Cello Quintet in C major is probably on every chamber music lover’s short list of most beloved works. Certainly, it is on mine. Recently, I had the memorable experience of hearing the Quintet performed glowingly not once but twice within hardly more than a week. The first performance, by the Dover [...]

December 4, 2015

String Quartet Fever

Here’s a riddle that made the rounds a few years ago: What is one Russian? An anarchist. What are two Russians? A chess game. What are three Russians? A revolution. What are four Russians? The Budapest String Quartet. If the first three parts of this playful riddle attributed to the violinist Jascha Heifetz are open [...]

November 1, 2015

More Than a Music Festival

Late last summer, I traveled to Poland for a chamber music festival that took place in a small town called Krzizowa, or Kreisau as it was known as part of Germany until the Second World War ended. Knowing beforehand something of its background and the people involved, I eagerly looked forward to the festival. It [...]

October 2, 2015

Mozart’s Baby

There is an often repeated and certainly justified belief that only a truly experienced professional string quartet can do justice to the masterpieces of the quartet repertoire. After all, its four members would have had the time to know each other’s musical personality intimately; to learn how to work well together; to spend the many [...]
Floating violinist surrounded by floating people.

September 4, 2015


Last March, the Curtis Institute of Music violin faculty, of which I am a member, listened to over one hundred violinists from all over the world audition to become students at the school.  There were only two or three openings for the next school year and many of the young violinists played remarkably well, which [...]

August 1, 2015


Will Hagen, an impressively gifted young violinist, has just won third prize in the 2015 Queen Elisabeth Competition for classical violinists. Named after Queen Elisabeth of Belgium and established in memory of her good friend concert violinist Eugene Ysaÿe, the Queen Elisabeth Competition is considered one of the most challenging and prestigious in the world. [...]

July 1, 2015

Speak, Living Room

A few months ago, just after finishing a recording project, Lorraine Feather, jazz singer, and lyricist, and Dave Grusin, pianist and composer, went out to dinner with Dave’s wife, Nan Newton. Nan, who had never met Lorraine before, soon learned that the singer had spent the earliest years of her childhood on Manhattan’s Upper West [...]

June 1, 2015

The World of the String Quartet

Last year, the Curtis Institute of Music, where I was once a student and where I now teach, asked me to participate in an internet course about the string quartet. Curtis, partnering with the online educational platform Coursera, has already had impressive success with two previous online courses: a survey of classical music co-hosted by [...]

May 1, 2015

Bob Simon

Bob Simon and I unknowingly walked off with each other’s nearly identical coats several months ago. Once the error was discovered, we met days later in my apartment for the great coat exchange and had a good laugh about the situation. That done, Bob and I sat down at my dining room table and talked [...]

April 1, 2015

Arnie’s Fables

Aesop’s Fables are known throughout the world. Aesop is said to have been a Phrygian slave who lived in ancient Greece and whose fables have endured because of the great wisdom embedded in them. Legend has it that Aesop’s life ended when he either jumped or was thrown from a cliff. Sadly, another set of [...]

March 1, 2015

John Cage and His String Quartet in Four Parts

John Cage once said, “I have nothing to say, and I’m saying it.” I burst out laughing when I first read this. Just imagine Ludwig van Beethoven announcing to the world, “I have nothing to say,” in which case he might have put down his pen and paper and taken a walk in the woods, [...]

February 3, 2015


I have never studied or performed Bach’s Sonata in C Minor for Violin and Keyboard, but I thought it would make a lovely opening number for a planned recital this spring. So in the next few days, I began by reading the first movement through, making some preliminary phrasing decisions and then figuring out possible [...]

January 1, 2015

A Tale of Two Coats

It’s January. It’s cold out there. It’s time for a coat story. Friends of ours recently invited my wife, Dorothea, and me to dinner at their New York City apartment. We hung our coats along with many others on one of several racks in the lobby, and after a lovely evening of fine food and [...]

December 1, 2014

Fifteen Seconds of Fame

The American poet, Galway Kinnell, died last October. I had the pleasure of knowing him and seeing him occasionally during the years he lived in New York City. One evening, Galway and his wife to be, Barbara, invited me and several other friends to dinner. Introductions were made all around and a superb meal along [...]

November 1, 2014


November is hunting season in upstate New York where my wife, Dorothea, and I have a home. And if it’s hunting season, then it’s time for our hunters to show up. Several decades ago, three men—let’s call them Andrew, Bob, and Charlie—knocked on our door and politely introduced themselves. They told us that they worked [...]

October 1, 2014

The Silent Note

Do you remember the phrase in that old Coca Cola commercial, “The pause that refreshes?” It did nothing for me at the time because I don’t even like the drink. Still, the commercial initiated something quite unintended. Rather than coaxing me to go around the corner and buy a bottle of Coke, the single word [...]

September 1, 2014


Ninety-seven young violinists showed up at the Curtis Institute of Music’s annual violin auditions last spring with the hopes of becoming students at the school next fall. Thirteen made the semifinal round and of those, five were chosen by us, the violin faculty. Some who auditioned were still diamonds in the rough. Others already played [...]

August 1, 2014


It’s that time of year again.  I’ve worked hard for it, I deserve it, and nothing’s going to stop me from it.  Yes, I’m packing up my violin and bow, putting them in the closet, and then I’m not going to practice for a while. Just for a few days. Well, maybe a week. Mmm, [...]

June 2, 2014

Kissing Cousins?

Story #1 My old Ford Mustang convertible needed a paint job several years ago so I took it to the local body shop in upstate New York where I live. Once all the details had been discussed with the shop owner (let’s call him Norm), I remembered something that had always bothered me. The first [...]

May 1, 2014

In the Ear of the Beholder

“Here’s a challenge for you,” a friend posed over dinner some time ago.  “Name the four great child prodigy classical music composers.”  He leaned back, smiling smugly in the knowledge that I probably wouldn’t be able to guess them all.  Two were obvious: “Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, of course, and Felix Mendelssohn,” I blurted out.  My [...]

April 1, 2014

News Bulletin

In The Key of Strawberry is pleased to post “Dear Dr. Arnie,” the syndicated musician’s advice column hosted by the legendary Dr. Arnie. Examples of his advice, featured below, will undoubtedly be of invaluable help to musicians of every persuasion. Dear Dr. Arnie, I have an orchestra audition coming up next month and worrying about [...]

February 24, 2014


Last summer I was once again a participant in the Marlboro Music Festival.  As always, the school generously provided my wife, Dorothea, and me with a house off campus.    This time we were given the former home of David Soyer, the cellist of our Guarneri String Quartet for thirty-seven of its forty-five-year existence.   Dave passed [...]

February 1, 2014

Violin Collection

I own three violins. I have a Lorenzo Storioni made in Cremona, Italy around 1785.  This violin’s sound is dark and husky.  Its varnish is lustrous, and the swirling patterns of its wood grain are remarkably beautiful. I also have a violin made for me in 2006 by Samuel Zygmuntowicz, a distinguished American string instrument [...]

January 1, 2014

Me and my Violin

Marc Lifschey, one of the greatest oboists of his era, once told me that after retiring as a performer and teacher, he had sold his oboe. On the face of it, giving up an instrument you no longer use seems perfectly reasonable, but nevertheless I was taken aback.  Marc was not merely an excellent oboist; he [...]

December 1, 2013

But the Melody Lingers On

About to walk across New York City’s Central Park on a sunny winter day, I suddenly heard the strains of Santa Claus is Coming to Town wafting out of a nearby workman’s truck radio.  What a silly melody, I thought to myself absentmindedly.  Twenty minutes later, I had crossed the park but to my consternation, [...]

November 1, 2013

And What Then?

I have a hard time getting my brain around abstractions.  So when I read with alarm about the latest debt limit crisis in the United States Congress and the possibility that Uncle Sam might actually close our government’s doors, I tried to imagine the situation in terms of my own profession—music—and, even more specifically, in [...]

October 1, 2013

Calling Planet Earth

Dear Key of Strawberry, Allow me to introduce myself.  My name is Brzjk and I live on planet Ulfz located many light years from you.  We have been aware for some time that life exists on your planet—I believe you call it Earth.  Nevertheless, we Ulfzians have been reluctant to make contact with you.  Quite [...]

September 1, 2013


One year into a 23-month mission, NASA‘s Mars rover Curiosity has assured its place in the history of planetary exploration as the most ambitious and one of the most successful attempts to date to explore the surface of another planet. Curiosity’s data allowed the mission’s science team to establish that Mars once had an environment [...]
Tom Heimberg

August 1, 2013


I met Tom Heimberg during junior high school recess when we were both twelve years old. The popular sport during recess was something we unofficially called Chinese handball—a game played with a rubber ball against an upright surface. Tom and I became quite professional at discussing topspin, slices, drop shots, and fake outs, but as [...]

July 8, 2013

Drunk as a Skunk

I know of no one among all my musician friends and colleagues who will drink anything alcoholic before performing. Even those who enjoy an occasional glass of wine, beer, or an enticing margarita are very, very careful to imbibe only after rather than before a concert. Simply put, it’s hard enough to play well while [...]

June 1, 2013


We were enjoying an after-concert snack at the hotel restaurant when David Soyer, our cellist in the Guarneri String Quartet, took a sip of his beer, leaned back expansively, and announced in a mock Eastern European accent, “I rub stick against rope.  Make many zlotys.” No, we weren’t somewhere in Poland where people deal in [...]

May 1, 2013


Little Suzy was in the midst of working on a piece with her piano teacher when she suddenly stopped playing, crossed out Johann Sebastian Bach’s name at the top of the page, and wrote her own name above it. “Why did you do that, Suzy?” her surprised teacher asked. “He’s not playing the piece. I [...]
Thou Shalt Not Steal

April 1, 2013

A Bible Story

I once stole a bible. It was wrong, I shouldn’t have done it, and part of me would like to forget that it ever happened. But this day, April Fools’ Day, seems as good a time as any to tell the story of my shameful deed. The theft took place when I was a young [...]

March 4, 2013


Rudolf Kolisch’s name came up while I was at the Marlboro Music Festival this summer. The distinguished violinist had been a Marlboro participant late in life. Along with his other remarkable accomplishments, Kolisch was the rare violinist who played the instrument “left-handed.” Because of a childhood injury to the middle finger of his left hand, [...]

February 2, 2013

Fritz Kreisler

“Did you ever get to perform the Fritz Kreisler String Quartet?”  I’ve been asked this question again and again over the years, undoubtedly in response to a scene in “High Fidelity,” the 1987 documentary about our Guarneri String Quartet. In that scene, I bring the Kreisler String Quartet in A Minor, a work I dearly [...]

December 28, 2012

The Interview

Giving interviews is something musicians have to do surprisingly often—we usually do them to stir up a little interest and sell a few tickets to our concerts. On one occasion last summer my radio interviewer had done his homework well. He knew a great deal about me, and the music I was going to perform [...]

November 22, 2012

An Open Letter to Sammy Rhodes

You think quitting smoking is hard? Try quitting a string quartet. My four-step program might help violist Samuel Rhodes, who just announced his retirement from the Juilliard String Quartet at the end of the season. The following is my letter to him. Dear Sammy, I read the news of your retirement from the Juilliard String [...]

September 7, 2012

A Night to Remember

Have you ever heard a performance that you will never forget no matter how long you live? I have. And have you ever gone out on a blind date with someone who is known to thousands, perhaps even millions of people—just about everyone except you? I have. Not only that, but both events happened on [...]
Arnold Giving Colbourn Commencement Speech

May 7, 2012

Colburn School Commencement Address

By Arnold Steinhardt Good morning. I’m honored to be speaking to you at this 2012 Colburn School commencement and equally honored to teach at the school. I was born and raised in Los Angeles and it pleases me immensely to know that Colburn, with its faculty of distinguished musicians, is now the pride of the [...]
The Steinhardt String Quartet, Press Poster

April 1, 2012

The Steinhardt String Quartet

Hartz-4-Artz your internet culture source April 1, 2012 From the Music Desk: Arnold Steinhardt To Form New String Quartet Arnold Steinhardt, first violinist of the Guarneri String Quartet that retired in 2009, has announced plans to form a new string quartet. Mr. Steinhardt recently told Hartz-4-Artz reporter N. Nam Trebor that he deeply misses the [...]
Arnold Steinhardt Sixth Grade Class Photo

March 1, 2012

Teach Me!

What makes a good teacher? For that matter, what makes a bad one? Some teachers merely pass on information. Others excite a student’s interest through their own love for the subject. Some teachers employ fear and intimidation. A very few manage to teach you how to become your own teacher. The craft (or is it [...]
Jascha Heifetz

February 2, 2012


Mr. Jascha Heifetz (born 1901, died 1987) Violin Virtuoso Section Heaven February 2, 2012 Dear Mr. Heifetz, Today, February 2nd, is your birthday. Happy birthday, sir, and my deepest thanks for the miracle of your artistry. I have listened to you play the violin throughout my entire life—actually my entire life plus nine months to [...]
The Arnold Steinhardt Metronome

January 5, 2012

You’re On Your Own

My daughter, Natasha, once came home from her weekly piano lesson and asked to use my metronome—a request from her teacher. I told Natasha that I didn’t own a metronome. At the next lesson, her teacher insisted I go out and buy one. The clerk at my local music store looked at me oddly as [...]
Meryl Streep as Roberta Guaspari

December 4, 2011


I began to study the violin with a series of teachers who taught music and the instrument, but who as time went by also saw fit to teach me the elusive craft of performance. Toscha Seidel, an early teacher, challenged me to break out of my shell and show the music’s emotional character. My next [...]
Rock Concert T-shirt

November 1, 2011


I had just settled down with my ice cream cone in front of Ralph’s Pretty Good Café when a garbage truck rumbled to a stop directly in front of me. To my consternation, the driver got out with the motor still running and noisily began to empty garbage cans into the truck. No, I said [...]
Manuscript of Beethoven's Grosse Fuge

October 3, 2011

Opus 130

Not long before I graduated from the Curtis Institute of Music in 1959, John Dalley, a fellow violin student, asked me whether I’d like to work on Beethoven’s late String Quartet in B Flat, Opus 130. The Paganini String Quartet had recently performed at the school, ending their program with another late Beethoven Quartet, Opus [...]
Arnold Steinhardt's Violin Case

September 9, 2011

My Violin Case

What’s a violin case for? Well, a violin for one. And bows to go along with it, of course. What else? Extra strings, rosin, and a mute. Also, a tuning fork and chin rest fastener. Oh, I almost forgot—music stored in the case cover pouch. That’s about it, right? Wrong. At least, forgive the pun, [...]
Rudolf Serkin, pianist, and Arnold Steinhardt, violinist, 1980

August 2, 2011

Marlboro at Sixty

The following article appeared in a booklet, “60th Anniversary Reflections on Marlboro Music”, that celebrated the event with a weekend gathering at Marlboro on July 9 and 10 of hundreds of participants past and present from all corners of the globe. In August, 1957, Jaime Laredo and I, two young violinists hoping for a career [...]
Stage F-F-Fright

July 1, 2011

Stage F-F-Fright

I must have been only seven or eight years old when I first performed in public. My teacher, Mr. Moldrem, had me play two melodies, one from the Beethoven Violin Concerto and the other from Brahms First Symphony. Moldrem, well known for his ability to teach youngsters, presented his students regularly in concerts. Before the [...]
Del Gesu Beare, Scrolls

June 6, 2011

An Old Friend

Sam, a widower in the autumn of his life, lost thirty pounds, had a face lift, dyed his hair, took elocution lessons, bought a smart new wardrobe, withdrew all the money from his bank, and flew to Miami for a brand new life. Soon after, Sam met a lovely woman at his hotel’s casino and [...]
Practice, Practice

May 3, 2011

Practice, Practice

After the Second World War, my parents were able to rent out a room attached to the back of our garage due to a severe housing shortage. The rumpus room, as they called it, was sparsely furnished, but that was enough for a succession of people to perch there for the time they needed to [...]
The Duo

April 1, 2011

The Duo

After forty-five years making music together, the Guarneri String Quartet played its very last concert on October 27, 2009. People often ask me whether I miss playing quartets. Of course I do. I miss not only the concerts, but also the camaraderie, the rehearsals, the traveling, the exotic food, and the interesting people along the [...]

March 1, 2011

A Meditation on the Meditation

In the ancient Egyptian city of Alexandria, the courtesan, Thaïs, reflects on her past life of worldly pleasure. Looking into the mirror, she worries that her beauty will soon fade. The monk, Athanaël, arrives at her palace, admonishing Thaïs that there is one kind of love she does not yet know. He exhorts her to [...]
Forty Year Story

February 3, 2011

Forty Year Story

In the spring of 1970, Judith Serkin, a cello student at the Curtis Institute of Music, told me that she and four other students at school, cellist Peter Wiley, violist Geraldine Lamboley, and violinists Lucy Chapman and Jill Levy, hoped to study Schubert’s Two Cello Quintet during the next semester. Judith asked whether I would [...]
Perfect Pitch Tablets from Tone Deaf Comics

January 3, 2011

Perfect What?

My daughter, Natasha, told me recently about a gifted young boy she knows who has learned to read at an early age and already plays the piano with astonishing originality. As if to offer a final and irrefutable proof of the boy’s extraordinary musical talent, Natasha added one more thing. “You know, he’s got perfect [...]
David Soyer

December 6, 2010


David Soyer, cellist and founding member of the Guarneri String Quartet, passed away on February 24, 2010—one day after his 86th birthday. Michael Tree, violist, and John Dalley and I, violinists, the other founding members, played in the quartet with Dave for almost forty years and we knew him for close to fifty. Peter Wiley, [...]
Paganini's Birthday

October 27, 2010

Paganini’s Birthday

Today, October 27th, is Niccolo Paganini’s birthday. Below is a reprint of an article I wrote on this occasion which appeared in the October issue of The Strad magazine. Next, as an attachment, is Caprice #24.25, my arrangement of Paganini’s 24th Caprice. Finally, I include a letter that to my great astonishment Paganini just wrote [...]
Photo from Opus

October 4, 2010


I saw Opus a while ago, a play by Michael Hollinger that deals with the inner workings of a string quartet. Since I have been a violinist in the Guarneri String Quartet for many decades, you can imagine that I awaited the opening curtain with some anticipation. The subject of my profession is not exactly [...]
Hermes/Mercury, God of Travel

September 6, 2010


I hear a lot of griping from my friends these days about travel. Trains are much more luxurious and dependable in Europe. Japanese taxi drivers wear white gloves and decorate their cars with curtains while in New York City, taxis are, well, let’s not even talk about it. And the deluxe plane travel of years [...]

August 2, 2010

In a Sentimental Mood

I recently heard an all-Stravinsky concert performed by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. A few days later, a review of the evening by Anthony Tommasini appeared in the April 23, 2010 edition of the New York Times. A comment he made about the orchestra’s rendition of The Firebird Suite caught my eye: “The Firebird’s Lullaby, [...]
Dinner Music

July 1, 2010

Dinner Music

Uncharacteristically early for an appointment, I slowed my pace up Manhattan’s Lexington Avenue. Better early than late, I thought, but what on earth was I to do with myself for the next 30 minutes. As I approached 86th St., the answer appeared almost by magic in the form of Papaya King, a hot dog stand [...]
Disney Hall

June 2, 2010

Something New, Something Old

I happened to be performing in Los Angeles just as the city’s new and glittering Disney Hall opened several years ago. A week earlier, I called my mother who was living in Southern California to tell her of my arrival. “Oh, wonderful,” she said. “You can take me to Disney Hall.” That was fine with [...]
Joe Vita

May 4, 2010

Joe Vita

I left the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University last year after having taught a graduate violin class there for over two decades. Among other things, I miss the lively conversations I often had with colleagues at student recitals, oral exams, juries, or over a pizza at the local Italian restaurant. Topic [...]
Twelve Note Story

April 23, 2010

Twelve Note Story

Take a deep breath and try to settle down. I know, I know. The task is daunting, but you’ve worked hard. Just be relaxed. Be focused. And now get practical. For starters, think of a good tempo. Not so easy based on the first two or three notes that are slow and deeply personal. Better [...]
News Alert

March 30, 2010

News Alert

The United States Bureau of Weights and Measures has just announced at a national news conference that chamber music may cause global warming. The issue first came to the bureau’s attention when directors of several distinguished music conservatories notified it of alarming and unexplained rises in temperature at odd times of the school day. Government [...]
Sophisticated Traveler

February 28, 2010

Sophisticated Traveler

I planned to take the 2 PM Eastern Airlines shuttle from New York City. That would have gotten me into Boston by three with plenty of time to grab a bite, take a taxi to Jordan Hall, change, practice some, and relax a bit before the Guarneri String Quartet concert at 8 PM. But an [...]
Grammy Award

January 18, 2010

Grammy Awards

The Guarneri String Quartet was nominated for a Grammy Award in the category of Best Chamber Music Performance this year for our Hungarian Album on RCA Red Seal. The CD consists of Ern? Dohnányi’s Quartets Nos. 2 and 3, and Zoltán Kodály’s Quartet No. 2, three works of striking beauty. The Grammy Awards (originally called [...]
Shall We Dance?

January 4, 2010

Shall We Dance?

Many years ago, I had occasion to play a Bach Partita for the pianist and scholar, Arthur Loesser. When I finished, Loesser asked me whether I knew how to dance the partita’s five movements. I vaguely knew that the movements were based on old dance forms, but I had assumed that the dance steps themselves [...]
Looking for Work

December 1, 2009

Looking for Work

The Guarneri String Quartet retired, yet Arnold Steinhardt continues to perform in public. Photo by Dorothea von Haeften. Violinist in Recently Retired String Quartet Looking for Work * Skills Proficient in chamber music. Works best with people willing to overlook occasional lapses in intonation, phrasing, and tone. Performs virtuoso solo works, but no higher than [...]
Birth Pains

November 4, 2009

Birth Pains

Mozart’s String Quartet, K. 421 in D Minor, occupies a special place in the hearts of the Guarneri String Quartet. It was the very first music we read through after deciding to form as a group. Why that work? Hard to remember after all these years, but I would guess that its emotion charged and [...]
The Guarneri Quartet

October 6, 2009

For the Very Last Time

On June 12, 2007, the Guarneri String Quartet sent out the following announcement: Dear Friends, We, the Guarneri String Quartet, have decided to retire at the end of the 2008-9 season, our forty-fifth year before the public. This has not only been a long journey, but a deeply satisfying one as well. What could be [...]
Gray's Papaya

September 1, 2009

Gray’s Papaya

“We’ll drive you home,” said Frank Salomon, an old friend and long-time presenter of the Peoples’ Symphony Concerts at Washington Irving High School. The Guarneri String Quartet had just finished a performance there, the last ever on the series before our retirement. Moments later, Frank behind the wheel, his wife Martha, my wife Dorothea, and [...]
Second Concert

August 3, 2009

Second Concert

The following is a slightly extended version of Second Concert, that appeared in the June publication of the new magazine Listen: Life with Classical Music. Our string quartet played a concert at Emory University in March of this year. Whenever I’m in Atlanta, I stay with my friends, Murphy Davis and Ed Loring, ministers who [...]
Arthur Rubinstein

July 7, 2009


A member of the audience, somebody I’d seen backstage more than once before, came up to me recently after a concert I had just played. He smiled broadly, shook my hand enthusiastically, and said, “Great concert… really.” In the midst of thanking him, that last word, “really,” finally registered. Really? Excuse me sir, but what [...]
Life, Death, Music

June 13, 2009

Life, Death, Music

Last summer, Emily Hsiao, a teenager whom I’d never met, e-mailed me. She asked whether the Guarneri Quartet would have time to listen to music students in her high school when we played in Ann Arbor, Michigan that winter. Only hours after my visit to the school, a brutal attack on one of those students [...]
Almost on the Riviera

May 11, 2009

Almost on the Riviera

Did you always believe what your parents told you when you were young? I certainly did. I may not have always had the good sense to obey them or heed their advice but their wisdom was unquestionable. Take education, for example. My parents believed mightily in the importance of formal knowledge and therefore the need [...]
The Abode

April 1, 2009

The Abode

Alter Bock, a dedicated amateur string quartet player, has just announced plans for the creation of a home for retired chamber musicians. “I’m concerned that these wonderful musicians I’ve heard and admired most of my life have a nice place to spend their golden years.” He spoke to me from the music room in his [...]
Yehudi Menuhin

March 5, 2009

Genie in a Bottle

I ran into the violinist, Jennifer Koh, not long ago. Jenny is a highly gifted young musician who happens to have a keen interest in string players of old. At some point, our conversation turned to Yehudi Menuhin, one of the great violinists of the twentieth century. We talked about Menuhin’s instantly recognizable style, the [...]
A Brush with Fame

February 8, 2009

The Brush With Fame

Ah, Los Angeles! So-called city of angels, a place where the sun shines almost always, where palm trees flourish, a place that knows no winter-in short the city where I was born and raised. But in my adolescence, Los Angeles was much more than a hedonist’s playground. Thanks to the movie industry, the balmy weather, [...]
New Years Thoughts

January 1, 2009

New Year’s Thoughts

A drawing in the New Yorker magazine several years ago depicted a tawdry back alley with a few empty cans and bottles strewn about. The caption above read: Life without Mozart. Its message apparently affected many of us. I saw the drawing on peoples’ desks, walls, and refrigerator doors for years afterward. As a member [...]
The Swan

December 1, 2008

The Swan

When I was eleven years old, my violin teacher assigned me The Swan by Camille Saint-Saëns. I had no idea that The Swan was a famous cello solo or that it was part of a much larger work, The Carnival of the Animals. I had never even heard of its composer, Saint-Saëns, or seen his [...]
Mr. Oliver

November 10, 2008

Mr. Oliver

I enrolled in a music appreciation class when I was a high school student. Near the beginning of the semester, the teacher of the class took ill and a substitute, Mr. Oliver, replaced him. Mr. Oliver knew his subject well. He played us everything on the school record player from Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony to Peruvian [...]
Tooth Talk

October 8, 2008

Tooth Talk

I was having my teeth cleaned by the dental hygienist the other day when she offhandedly asked whether my children were also in the music industry. Fortunately, with my mouth wide open and filled with dental gear, I was only capable of answering with a few rather inarticulate and muffled noises. Otherwise, I might have [...]
What Good is Music

September 11, 2008

What Good is Music?

[Originally written and published in September 2002]. I lost no loved ones on 11 September 2001, nor was my home destroyed or my work affected in any palpable way by the tragic attack on our nation; and yet, the events of that morning have prodded me to look inward and take personal inventory. As a [...]
A Tale of Three Violinists

August 10, 2008

A Tale of Three Violinists

I stood in the artist’s dressing room, warming up nervously before my sole rehearsal with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. For a twenty-two-year-old violinist just starting a career, performing Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto with this distinguished group of musicians was an important engagement. My palms were sweating, my heart beat rapidly, and I began to pace back [...]
Last Words to a Son

July 11, 2008

Last Words to a Son

Andrea, the head nurse at the assisted living home where my mother has lived for many years, called last month to tell me that mother had stopped eating, that she was drifting in and out of consciousness, and that she was failing rapidly. The next day, my son Alexej and I flew to Southern California [...]
A Dog's Tale

June 12, 2008

A Dog’s Tale

I’m a wonderful teacher. I know, you don’t have to tell me. It’s not nice to brag. But truth above all, I always say. Here. Let me show you why I’m so good. We have a dog named Tessa. As far as I can tell, Tessa doesn’t have much feeling for music one way or [...]
Remembering Izzy

May 10, 2008

Remembering Izzy

Photo by Allen Cohen Every one of us has to die. We know that. We also know that sooner or later all of us will be forgotten. Even Einstein. Even Beethoven. Nevertheless, we humans doggedly strive for meaning in our lives and harbor the secret (or not so secret) wish to accomplish something of sufficient [...]
A Noteworthy Day

March 2, 2008

A Noteworthy Day

I heard a great deal of music yesterday. Let me rephrase that. Yesterday, I heard a multitude of sounds—some longer, some shorter, higher or lower, louder or softer—as I made my way through my waking hours. The sounds appeared sometimes as individual tones and sometimes in groups of two and three. They often repeated themselves [...]
Solo Bow

February 2, 2008

Solo Bow

The Guarneri String Quartet played a concert in Wisconsin several years ago. Why do I remember that this particular concert was in Wisconsin? Probably because Wisconsin is a cheese-making state and a delicious selection of cheese was set out at the after-concert party. It’s funny what details remain vibrant in one’s mind, especially in light [...]
In the Key of Strawberry

January 1, 2008

In the Key of Strawberry

An unexpected thought interrupted the sentence I was reading in the morning newspaper, followed by several other thoughts in quick succession. I had just remembered last night’s dream: My wife, Dorothea, and I were riding on a bus in a foreign country. Through the window we espied an open-air flea market with an array of [...]
Hiroshi Iizuka

December 1, 2007

Cousin Sam

“How much time you giving me today, maestro?” This was more or less the way Sam began most of our phone conversations. Sam Schloss was my cousin, more specifically: my mother’s mother’s sister’s son. I would usually call him during a break in one of the open rehearsals the Guarneri String Quartet held during its [...]