Jay, my late mentor in the music-criticism racket, Harold C. Schonberg of the New York Times, had an illustrative story about Jascha Heifetz’s, shall we say, severity. From his book, The Glorious Ones:
Heifetz developed a mania for exactness and promptness as he grew older. One had to be on time, and there was a joke to the effect that Heifetz himself had to make an appointment to see Heifetz. He gave a party once for his students. They assembled outside the electric gate of his home. It opened at 4 p.m. and promptly closed. Those who arrived at 4:01 never did get in. Raymond Kendall . . . believed that the man was “tortured by a thousand demons.” Perfection exacts a toll . . .
The violinist Daniil Karpolowsky has theorized about the difference between Heifetz and [Fritz] Kreisler. The latter would come out with the attitude that he was going to play for 2,000 friends. Heifetz “always came out like a killer. He believed that out of the 2,000 people in the hall, 1,999 had come to hear him play a wrong note.”
By the way, I didn’t know that Heifetz could sing, too. What an amazing man.