This in-depth investigation into three of the main aspects of violin playing as they have manifested different eras of the twentieth century reveals the importance for musicians to understand different stylistic trends, and aesthetic tastes. Both of these have been, and will always be, subject to constant metamorphosis.
In the early twentieth century, violin playing was characterised by a more extreme use of tempo changes to signal contrasts of mood or tension, the general adoption of faster tempos, a greater variety of tempo rubato, the sparing use of vibrato and the frequent use of portamento as a means of expression. In the middle and late decades of the twentieth century, a trend towards greater power, firmness, clarity, control, literalness and evenness of expression became the main hallmarks. There was an emphasis on a sense of proportion in tempo changes, continuous vibrato to gain a more powerful tone and discreet use of portamento for greater clarity. Indeed, a precise and ‘perfect’ style of playing prevailed right up until the 1980s. The name Heifetz became and remains synonymous with this type of violinistic perfection. For more than half a century, he has set standards of performance by which all violinists are measured.