The press reception of famous 19th-century violinists is an important resource for the historical study of performance. Comparing several reports across many years with surviving sound recordings provides some insight into what these recordings might have captured from the artistry of these players. At the same time such a comparison also informs about 19th-century expectations, concert practices and taste. Currently held received wisdom regarding the differences between these violinists gains a new perspective, too. For instance, Joachim is upheld as the ‘authoritative’ interpreter of the classics, especially Bach. But it turns out that, at least for Bernard Shaw, »Ysaÿe’s power of polyphonic playing enables him to challenge any comparison«. Intonation, tone quality and musicianship are all commented on and make the picture more in line with the evidence of the recordings than the black & white opinion that posits, for instance, a discriminating difference among the violinists in vibrato usage. Recordings are analysed with respect to interpretative style, tempo, vibrato, and violin tone.