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Praise for Violin Dreams


“Reading Arnold Steinhardt’s Violin Dreams is a terrific way to find out what makes a violinist a violinist—especially a brilliant and great violinist. Anyone who would love to have been able to play the instrument (including present company) and relishes violin lore will have a great time with this book, following Steinhardt’s thread, woven of dreams of Bach’s Chaconne, through the history of a remarkable life in music.”

—William Bolcom, Composer and Pianist


“Bach and the violin are the themes around which Arnold Steinhardt weaves the entrancing story of his musical journey so far. There are marvelous stories here, a good deal of learning worn lightly, and a generous and openhearted outlook on art and life. Written with a charm and grace befitting a devotée of Fritz Kreisler, this is a delightful and deeply touching book.”

—Richard Goode, Pianist


“My heart soared while I read this book. I actually was moved both to laughter and tears. How can Arnold Steinhardt play the violin like an angel, and at the same time be such a hell of a writer? With his bow he gets to the heart of the Bach Chaconne but with words alone he can make you hear the subtlest of melodies. His search in these pages for the violin of his dreams is an exciting, emotional adventure, but his finest instrument, and the one he plays best, may be the one inside of him: the soul of an artist.”

—Alan Alda, Actor


“Arnold Steinhardt has written a rapturous, witty and passionate memoir of his life-long search for the perfect violin which is to Steinhardt what Lolita Is to Humbert, what Daisy is to Gatsby, what Heathcliff is to Cathy. Violin Dreams is not only the story of a man becoming an artist, it’s a history of twentieth century music. Steinhardt tells a tale as enormously satisfying and hypnotically compelling as any performance of the Guarneri Quartet.”

—John Guare, Playwright


The Buffalo News

“A book by Arnold Steinhardt is something to celebrate. Indivisible by Four, his account of life in the legendary Guarneri Quartet, was illuminating, introspective and at times hysterically funny. (Quartet, the book written about the Guarneri by a New Yorker writer, was pale in comparison.)

Violin Dreams is about Steinhardt's lifelong fixation on the violin. Unlike the quartet's adventures in Indivisible by Four, this is a solo odyssey, the account of a life lived in service to the violin and one piece in particular—the Chaconne from Bach's Partita for Solo Violin in D Minor, a masterpiece of the violin repertoire for which Steinhardt has deep awe.

Just as not everyone can make a violin sing, not everyone could make this subject matter sing. But Steinhardt's humor and humanity draw the reader in...”

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Education Update Online

“Even if you don’t recognize the name of the lead violinist and founding member of the world-renowned, 43-year-old Guarneri String Quartet, you’ll be absolutely delighted by this lively, down-to-earth autobiographical romp about how a kid from L.A., the son of Yiddish-speaking immigrants, who loved ball games, telling jokes and playing pranks, who disliked practicing and who would barge into his room with a body throw to the bed (once, breaking a bow his family could hardly afford), came to trust his ears and heart—and eventually soul—to evolve into a much-revered and admired soloist, orchestral and chamber music player, teacher, scholar and long-time lover of the violin...”

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L.A. Times CalendarLive.com

“MOST musical instruments are played at some degree of physical distance, writes Arnold Steinhardt in Violin Dreams. Pianos and organs remain at arm's length; most wind instruments are touched by fingers, tongue and lips alone. The violin, however, is cradled and massaged in a snug bodily embrace. Steinhardt treats his memoir much the same way...”

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Publishers Weekly

“Steinhardt (Indivisible by Four: A String Quartet in Pursuit of Harmony) turns this memoir about becoming a classical concert performer into an adventure. Beyond the specifics of a lifetime spent learning music (Steinhardt hated to practice but remembers swooning to Beethoven as a six-year-old), the first violinist of the celebrated Guarneri Quartet shapes his story with a series of almost mythical odysseys and visions that parallel his technical and intellectual progress. There is the search for the right teacher and the right violin, as well as quirky impressions of such virtuosos as Heifetz and Szigeti. But above all is Steinhardt's ultimate challenge: interpreting J.S. Bach's Chaconne, the most moving but inscrutable of all violin solos. Throughout, Bach is the standard by which Steinhardt measures himself, the artist whose "interlocking qualities of intelligence and sensitivity" he emulates. He knows Bach's history, deconstructs his music, even dreams about the man. When Steinhardt writes of his own fondness for mountain climbing or playfully labels an 18th-century instrument crafted by Sanctus Seraphim "the violin's answer to a fashion model-slender, high-arched, shapely," his subtext is, inevitably, the effect on playing Bach. Watching this accomplished violinist take on the master is riveting; the feeling of immediacy he creates in its telling is an opus at once heroic and brillante.”


Kirkus Review

“The Guarneri String Quartet’s first violinist details his six-decade romance with the instrument.

Steinhardt (Indivisible by Four, 1998) begins with a dream, or rather a nightmare, comically illustrating his fear that he doesn’t know enough about the violin, even though he has devoted his life to it. This passage also introduces readers to Bach’s Chaconne, the last movement of the D Minor Partita, often played as a violin solo. This piece, we later learn, inspired the author to become a violinist and has haunted him for most of his performing career. As he relates his path from awestruck child to conservatory student to touring performer, the Chaconne makes several appearances; each time, Steinhardt is able to use events in his live to gain new insight into the work, culminating with a breathtaking performance in an unlikely and exhilarating natural concert hall. The author provides an inside look at the demanding and tenuous life of a professional musician: hours of daily practice, chasing the dream of buying the perfect violin, the threat of a seemingly minor but career-ending injury always in the back of the mind. But Steinhardt merely narrates this tale. Its protagonists are the violins that enter and leave his life as he searches for the one instrument that will produce the sound he has spent a lifetime developing. He refers to his wife and children only a few times, usually in passing, while the markings, province and sound of the various violins fill paragraphs. Steinhardt’s passion is undeniably contagious; even the uninitiated will savor the technical sections for the revelations about the relationship between career performer and instrument. By the final chapter, readers may find themselves searching for used violins—or at least for recordings of Bach by some of the legendary artists Steinhardt invokes.

A backstage pass to the life of an accomplished solo and ensemble musician, held together by sheer love of music.”


The Seattle Times

Violin Dreams, Arnold Steinhardt: The first violinist of the renowned Guarneri String Quartet, Steinhardt also is a first-rate prose stylist, and this wonderfully affectionate memoir takes the reader along with the author on a journey illustrating Steinhardt's great love of his instrument. Steinhardt proves a natural storyteller and a vivid writer. The book is utterly authoritative and deeply touching at the same time: the work of a gifted man who has lived his whole life in music, yet still has the novice's unspoiled wonder at the beauty of the violin.”


Library Journal

“Steinhardt (Indivisible by Four: A String Quartet in Pursuit of Harmony) has been first violinist of the famed Guarneri String Quartet and a soloist of international renown for more than 40 years. In this highly entertaining memoir, he traces his development from child prodigy in 1940s Los Angeles to the superstar he is today. The many well–known musical personalities he mentions include George Szell, the autocratic, brilliant conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra; Eugène Ysaÿe and Pablo Casals, great virtuosos and pedagogs; and most poignantly, the aging Joseph Szigeti, who plays a private, transforming rendition of Bach's Chaconne in D Minor to an eavesdropping Steinhardt. Indeed, that encounter, one of the most famous and challenging works in solo violin literature, gets its own chapter. The dreams to which Steinhardt alludes in the title are his own, and in recounting them, he affords his readers glimpses into his fertile imagination, dry wit, and embracing humanity. Lovers of violin lore, chamber music, and classical music in general will find much to treasure here. Highly recommended. (The audio CD of Steinhardt performing Bach's Partita in D Minor 40 years ago and today not heard.)”

—Larry Lipkis, Moravian Coll., Bethlehem, PA


Curled Up With A Good Book

“I have always imagined that he who plays classical music, particularly he who, like Arnold Steinhardt, can glory in being first violinist for the Guarneri String Quartet, is not made as others are. His concerns are lofty, his passions refined. He would be the servant of the music he renders, the vessel through which Bach and Mozart flow. I was not surprised to have my preconceptions confirmed in reading Arnold Steinhardt’s musings and recollections about his life in the etheric realm of classical music...”

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Evansville Courier & Press

“One of my favorite ways of getting into the holiday mood is to listen to Christmas music. Music has the power to inspire the feelings of awe, peace and goodwill that come with the season. My heart lifts when I hear a good choir sing the old-time carols...And in keeping with the spirit of music, here are a few recent titles on the subject...Violin Dreams by Arnold Steinhardt (Houghlin Mifflin, 2006). This was a wonderful memoir of Steinhardt's musical life, his search for the perfect violin and his quest to perfect the playing of Bach's Chaconne (the last movement of the D Minor Partita)...”

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