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25 Best Female Violinists of All Time (Most Famous)

June 16, 2023
female violinists

With the violin’s long history, there’s no shortage of talented players but today we are highlighting the best female violinists.

We will touch on those who paved the path for future generations and take a look at modern-day prodigies and virtuosos.

Men dominated early orchestras.

From broken stigmas and stereotypes to broken records, female violinists have shaped the industry and broken through glass ceilings to do so.

So in homage, here is our rundown of the 25 best and most famous female violin players of all time.

1.  Rachel Barton Pine

Rachel Barton Pine is by no means the most famous female violinist, but she is one of the more interesting.

So she makes for a fascinating place to start.

The child prodigy was introduced to her instrument at the age of three and astoundingly performed her first concert with the Chicago String Ensemble when she was just ten!

The biggest thing that sets her apart from many female violinists is her versatile approach to genres. 

She doesn’t reserve her playing for the classical orchestral world. 

In a bold step away from Bach Sonatas and Paganini Caprices she joined Earthen Grave a thrash/doom metal band

Her violin playing adds a uniquely powerful edge.

The experimentation with genres not considered for the mellower stringed instrument inspired her to premier a “Shredding with the Symphony” program.

She gave the audience a program that showcased arrangements from Beethoven, Vivaldi, and Sibelius, alongside Rush, Van Halen, AC/DC, Metallica, and Led Zeppelin!

2. Hilary Hahn

Another great female violinist who does not shy away from the contemporary is Hilary Hahn.

She again began at a young age.

The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia accepted her at the age of ten.

There she studied chamber music under Felix Galimir and Gary Graffman.

Initially, this was the piano but she went on to become a talented violinist of high repute.

Her orchestral debut was with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. 

She has also played with the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, and New York Philharmonic.

Hilary Hanhn is also praised for commissioning a lot of new violin compositions.

She has recorded many film scores too.

She likes to use her classical training and modern influences to take the listener somewhere unexpected.

3. Ginette Neveu

Ginette Neveu learned to play the violin from her mother in her hometown Paris, France.

She was considered a child prodigy, eagerly soaking in everything her mother taught her.

She debuted at just seven years old and won first prize in the Henryk Wieniawski Violin Competition.

Winning at such a young age brought her celebrity status.

Her entire family was musically inclined, her brother was an acclaimed pianist and famed in his own right.

The two were signed and toured Europe playing together after World War II.

Neveu was invited into the Royal Box to meet Queen Elizabeth in person after performing a Beethoven concerto at the Royal Albert Hall.

Neveu played many big events and would have gone on to do so had she not tragically died in a plane crash at just 30 years old.

4. Viktoria Mullova

Viktoria Mullova picked up the violin at the age of four but growing up in Soviet Russia, she had little contact with modern music.

She studied under Leonid Kogan at the Moscow Conservatory and came first in the International Jean Sibelius Violin Competition in Helsinki.

She defected from the communist territory in 1983.

Moving gave her freedom and the music of the world outside fed her creativity.

Mullova has a great interpretive style.

Her virtuosic playing is impressive and she wows crowds with her pop and jazz compositions.

She has even been described as a “robot violinist” for her impressive feats.

5. Ida Haendel

Ida Haendel is another of the world’s best female violinists considered a child prodigy.

Her father was a violinist and exposed her and her older sister to the instrument as a toddler.

She performed from just five years of age winning the first Huberman Prize!

She caught the attention of pedagogues Carl Flesch and George Enescu who each taught the child.

Ida didn’t study classically, she had a natural talent and was eventually awarded an honorary doctorate.

Ida continued to leave people flabbergasted with her playing and went on doing so until a ripe old age.

She did her duty during World War II performing for troops and eventually went on to teach later in life.

Queen Elizabeth II rewarded her with a CBE.

6. Janine Jansen

Another renowned female violinist who also came from a musical family background is Janine Jansen 

Her mother, father, and her brother were all singers and instrumentalists but the most famous of the bunch was her uncle Peter Kooy, the singing bassist. 

Janine picked up the violin aged six and joined in complimenting her brother’s cello playing.

She studied under Coosje Wijzenbeek, Philippe Hirschhorn, and Boris Belkin.

The Dutch violinist’s first solo debut was with the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland.

Jansen has recorded many classical works with passionate delivery and fiery techniques.

7. Anne-Sophie Mutter

Unlike the majority we have already taken a look at Anne-Sophie Mutter didn’t have a musician in the family home. 

She did however go on to become a distinguished classical violinist nonetheless.

Born in Rheinfelden, Germany, Mutter was blessed with the opportunity to grow as a performer under the Austrian conductor Herbert von Karajan.

He organized for the child to join the Berlin Philharmonic.

Mutter left regular schooling to focus on her violin.

With a natural gift, she performed at the International Lucerne Festival in Switzerland when she was only thirteen.

She can tackle a contemporary piece with her own style but leans towards classical music. 

Many composers write original works for Mutter to solo. 

World-renowned film score composer John Williams is just one of many.

Her accolades include two Grammys and a Sonning Award.

8. Midori Gotō

Another child prodigy who left the orchestral world in awe of her natural capabilities is Midori Gotō.

She is famous for her earliest performance in her hometown Osaka, Japan.

The incident propelled her into the spotlight because the prodigy was just six years old at the time and played with the skill of a mature musician.

Midori played a Paganini caprice, no one could believe how well she understood the instrument.

The New York Philharmonic took her on at the age of eleven, and that took her into the public eye on an international level.

She has received numerous awards but the pressure of being in the spotlight may have been too much, too young.

In recent years, she has withdrawn from public performance battling anorexia.

9. Julia Fischer

German-born Julia Fischer is another celebrated classical female violinist; she has been named one of the 16 Violinists of the Century.

She was taught the piano from age four by her mother but wanted a second instrument and took up the violin alongside it.

She believes being able to play the piano cements her musical skills, giving her a better understanding of harmony, which is integral to orchestral and chamber performance.

The German soloist can expertly play both the violin and piano parts of any sonata giving her insight into the workings of a composition.

She won many prizes in her youth before debuting in a professional concert.

She was taught by Ana Chumachenco whom she later succeeded.

Her first performance was at the age of 13 and she became a teacher at 23.

Fischer is currently teaching at the Munich University of Music and Performing Arts between concerts. 

10. Nicola Benedetti

Nicola Benedetti grew up in North Ayrshire, Scotland, and is another of the world’s best violinists who get to play the child prodigy card.

She began playing aged four and by the age of eight was leading the National Children’s Orchestra of Great Britain.

She landed a place as a master performer at the age of fifteen after already having performed in some of the world’s most prestigious orchestras.

At sixteen she won the BBC Young Musician of the Year and has gone on to achieve many notable awards and prizes.

She was the youngest violinist to receive the Queen’s Medal for Music and has been made an MBE and CBE.

Her musical dedication got in the way of regular education but she graduated with an honorary doctorate from Glasgow Caledonian University.

11. Sarah Chang

Another modern child prodigy, Sarah Chang could play one-finger melodies at three years old.

She was taught by her South Korean immigrant parents at a very young age, her father was a violinist, and her mother a composer.

She auditioned and was accepted into Juilliard School aged five!

Her first two concert performances were with the Montreal Symphony and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. 

Sarah Chang was only six at the time of the first.

She then released her first album at ten.

She went on to be offered major roles in notable symphonies and orchestras as a celebrated soloist.

12. Lisa Batiashvili

Georgia SSR-born Lisa Batiashvili also benefited from a violin-playing father like Sarah Chang above. 

Her mother was a pianist and the pair taught her from the age of four.

The family relocated to Germany when Lisa was twelve years old where she studied under Ana Chumachenco like Julia Fischer.

She was one of the first of the BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artists.

She inspires composers with her silky sound and graceful style and has had many commissioned works written for her.

She went on to become an artist-in-residence with the New York Philharmonic and is also a chamber musician.

The violin she plays was made in 1739 and is one of the most expensive models in the world, a Joseph Guarneri “del Gesu”.

13. Maria Anna Mozart

Whether you are a musician or not you’ll recognize this name and you’d be right to wonder if there is a family tie.

Maria Anna Mozart was more affectionately known as Nannerl, the often overlooked sister of the historically iconic composer Wolfgang Mozart.

Although she played piano and harpsichord fr more often her violin playing captivated her brother. 

His sister was his muse from a young age and he wrote many concertos for her and with her in mind.

Some argue their relationship may have even been a little too close but authorities deny it.

Nannerl was a composer in her own right but her parent’s views wouldn’t allow her to pursue it professionally.

She hit eighteen and was pressured not to play or compose.

Many claim some of Wolfgang’s compositions were actually his sister’s works.

She may not have been the best violinist nor a famous one but she is certainly crucial in the history of the instrument in terms of the compositions written for it.

14. Mary Dickenson-Auner

Mary was born in Dublin, Ireland.

Her father was the co-founder of the Royal Irish Academy of Music.

She had a little head start in terms of contacts but her father died young and her mother moved her away to Germany.

She picked up the violin at the age of six and traveled to London to study at the Croydon Conservatory of Music to her mother’s initial dismay.

There was tension between Ireland and England at the time and she traveled to and from Dublin to London against her family’s wishes.

She memorably played the world premiere of Béla Bartók’s Violin Sonata No. 1.

She is also recognized for her polyphonic composition skills.

15. Fredell Lack

Another of the best female violinists to start her career early was Fredell Lack.

Her first concert performance as a soloist was with the Tulsa Philharmonic when she was eleven years old. 

She wowed the audience, she had been playing violin since the age of six.

Her first professional debut was aged seventeen, her capabilities were such that she earned a scholarship to Juilliard.

Fredell took a bronze medal and the Prize of Liège at the Queen Elisabeth Music Competition in Brussels in 1951.

She went on to teach and many of her former students hold awards as violinists of high acclaim.

16. Miri Ben Ari

Born in the Tel Aviv District of Israel Miri grew up playing classical music.

She served her mandatory military service playing for the Israel Defense Forces Orchestra.

While serving she had an impressionable jazz album and fell in love.

She went to the States in the hopes of a classical education but struggled to make rent and was constantly gigging to drum up the cash. 

This led to poor attendance and she was eventually kicked out.

In 1999 she released her first solo CD and began to make her own way in the world of violin.

Performing locally, Jay-Z noticed her talents and invited her to play at Hot 97’s annual Summer Jam concert. 

It was also around this time she met Wyclef Jean who was about to be the first Hip-Hop artist to perform at Carnegie.

He invited her to play violin and since then she has continued to work in the Hip-Hop style.

A songwriter in her own right, she won a Grammy for helping co-write “Jesus Walks” by Kanye.

She continues adding awards and prizes to her list of accomplishments to this day.

17. Vanessa-Mae

We are back to modern prodigies with the Singapore-born violinist Vanessa-Mae.

Like Lisa Batiashvilli she began learning the piano as a toddler which gave her some great musical and harmonic fundamentals.

Her British adoptive father gave her a violin at four and her obsession began later.

She debuted with the Philharmonia Orchestra at ten and then left to tour the world, learning, studying, and soloing her way under and alongside some of the best. 

She has the flexibility to compliment any classical work within an orchestral or chamber setting yet still has an edgier style that lends itself to contemporary music. 

She toured with Michael Jackson before he passed and has produced critically acclaimed albums that explore a variety of liberating genres.

18. Mari Samuelsen

Introduced to the violin at the age of three grew up in Norway and became one of the world’s most acclaimed virtuoso female violinists. 

Samuelsen studied with Arve Tellefsen, a famed Norwegian violinist, for ten years from the tender age of four. 

She also had the benefits of musical siblings, playing alongside her brother and sister.

The latter of the two is a celebrated cellist.

She has two master’s degrees from the Swiss Zurich University of the Arts and has played with some notable musicians.

She released her debut album in 2019 and despite playing predominantly classical music she is happy to cross the boundaries into other music genres.

19. Karen Briggs

Karen Briggs was born into a musical family in New York City.

She learned to play by ear and didn’t start taking any professional lessons until the age of twelve. 

Her journey to becoming a famed violinist was a little less conventional.

She was offered the opportunity to become a jazz violinist when she was fifteen.

She regularly played at the jazz club Marla’s Memory Lane.

She toured the U.S and Japan with a 100-piece ensemble group named Soul II Soul

Her unconventional contemporary path saw her play for Diana Ross, En Vogue, Wu-Tang Clan, and Chaka Khan.

20. Lindsey Stirling

Another less conventional, less classically trained female violinist who deserves just as much respect as the Juilliard graduates we have celebrated is Lindsey Stirling.

She earned her notoriety as a rising YouTube sensation.

Lindsey grew up in your average American working-class household. 

A lack of money meant they could only afford to pay for half-lessons. 

In spite of this Lindsey sought out other ways to learn and improve on her instrument.

Undeterred, she joined a rock band at sixteen and wrote original songs, and performed with them.

Stirling gained popularity online for the choreographed dances that accompanied her playing.

She is versatile in her playing because of the wider genres she experiments with.

21. Lucia Micarelli

Another versatile player with a more conventional virtuoso background is Lusic Micarelli.

Her family background is an Italian/Korean mix and she grew up in New York.

With a blend of cultures and an open mind, she plays a wild mixture of genres, everything from traditional jazz and folk to cajun and rock.

The variety of influences might lead you to believe she is not classically trained.

But she is a graduate of Juilliard.

Like many memorable violinists, she picked up her instrument before she finished kindergarten. 

The Honolulu Symphony Orchestra gave her her first debut at six years old.

But she was eager to carve out her own path away from the orchestra.

Her versatile style has seen her tour with a variety of artists.

She has accompanied Josh Groban and Jethro Tull.

She is also a keen actress.

The non-musically inclined might recognize her as the character Annie Talarico from the drama series Treme.

22. Anastasiya Petryshak

Our next entry for best female violinist is Anastasiya Petryshak, a Ukrainian classically-trained soloist. 

Like a handful of the other female virtuosos, we have highlighted that she started her musical journey on the ivories.

She began playing the piano at five and didn’t pick up the violin until a few years later.

The Walter Stauffer International Academy of Cremona accepted her at fifteen for Advanced Specialization in Violin.

She passed with the highest mark, honors, and honorable mentions.

Although still relatively young she is a seasoned performer.

When not performing she studies her instrument at every opportunity.

She attended the Italian Accademia Musicale Chigiana and has been training with Professor Rudolf Koelman since 2017. 

23. Arabella Steinbacher

Steinbacher, Like Julia Fischer, and Lisa Bachtiavelli studied her instrument with the legendary mentor Ana Chumachenco.

She is a German violinist with a finely-polished playing style grounded in her classical training at the Munich College of Music.

Her professionality has earned her a spot playing in a multitude of orchestras.

She has had a seat with the New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and the Cleveland Orchestra.

Steinbacher also has numerous awards and prizes to her name.9

24. Catherine Lara

French violinist Catherine Lara has a career that has endured five decades.

Playing since the age of five, she entered the Conservatoire de Versailles at eleven obtaining the first prize, and the 2nd prize for violin at the Conservatoire de Paris.

Following her early success, she started her own chamber orchestra named “Les Musiciens de Paris”.

They released music together, initially classical but Lara went on to experiment with rock music.

As a singer-songwriter/composer, she has created some interesting pop and pop-rock tracks.

Her violin always has a spot reserved.

She won a French Grammy Award with her breakthrough single “Nuit Magique”. 

25. Kyung-Wha Chung

Last on our list to leave you with is Kyung-Wha Chung from South Korea.

She had a large musical family and started taking piano lessons at the age of four.

When she was seven she took up the violin admiring her sister’s cello. 

She had more of an affection for the violin and made her first debut with the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra aged nine.

She went on to attend Julliard in New York.

In 1967 she tied for first prize in the Edgar Leventritt Competition. It was the first time there were joint winners.

This opened doors and brought her opportunities to perform in the U.S.

Her real big break came when she was asked to substitute for Itzhak Perlman with the London Symphony Orchestra.

Her performance landed her a record deal, and she went on to teach at Juilliard.

Best Female Violinists of All Time – Final Thoughts

So those were some of history’s most famous female violinists.

We have tried to highlight some of the more modern-day female violinists, those who are contributing to the evolution of the use of the instruments today.

Female violinists have been slowly infiltrating the limelight since the early 1700s.

But it has only been in the past few decades that we have seen women begin to dominate.

Many, as you will have noticed, were child prodigies.

So get a violin in your daughter’s or granddaughter’s hands.

You may also like: How to Play Violin

Will Fenton

Will, the founder of MIDDER, is a multifaceted individual with a deep passion for music and personal finance. As a self-proclaimed music and personal finance geek, he has a keen eye for futuristic technologies, especially those that empower creators and the public.

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