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He had spent quite a lot of time with the instrument over the years, and knew its potential. First I played a few notes, and then I handed the violin over to Martin.As he played, I was astonished by the difference just a few feet made!I had the feeling, trying to draw sound out of the low register, that I was rousing a sleeping animal, one that wasn't at all pleased at my intrusion.Piecing together a puzzle I felt as though I'd been handed a fragment of a treasure map, then had it snatched away after an hour. I was eight years old when Milstein gave his last recital, at the age of eighty-two, so in a parallel life I might have seen him in person.
I was set to play a brief string quartet program with my wife Akiko and two other Philharmonic colleagues later that day.Here was the same Passione G that I'd been playing on for years, but on The Milstein, it sounded under-powered, even muffled.Interesting to be sure, but not of a piece with the rest of the instrument.I was tantalized by what the complete picture might reveal. But I knew someone who actually had: my grandfather!As a flutist in the Philadelphia Orchestra from 1949-1962, he had seen most of the giants of the era."Milstein just looked like he was born to it," he told me.
And just as I’d noticed years ago, with even a bit too much bow pressure, it shut down completely.