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This article is about the american violinist.
For the accountant to Oskar Schindler, see Itzhak Stern
Isaac Stern (Ukrainian: Стерн Ісаак; July 21, 1920 – September 22,
2001) was a Ukrainian-born violin virtuoso. He was renowned for his recordings and for discovering new musical
Isaac Stern was born into a Jewish family in Kremenetz, Ukraine. He was fourteen months old when his
family moved to San
Francisco. He received his first music lessons from his mother
before enrolling at the San Francisco
Conservatory of Music in 1928 where he studied until 1931
before going on to study privately with Louis Persinger.
He returned to the San Francisco Conservatory to study with Naoum Blinder for
five years. He said he owed the most to Blinder.
At his public début on February 18, 1936, aged 15, he played the
Violin Concerto No. 3
in B minor of Camille Saint-Saëns with the San
Francisco Symphony under the direction of Pierre Monteux. Reflecting on his
background Stern once memorably quipped that cultural exchanges
between the US and Soviet Russia were simple affairs: "They send us
their Jews from Odessa, and we send them our Jews from Odessa."
Within musical circles, Stern became renowned both for his recordings and for championing certain
younger players. Among his discoveries were cellists Yo-Yo Ma and Jian
Wang, and violinists Itzhak Perlman and Pinchas
Zukerman. He also played a major role in saving New York City's Carnegie Hall from
demolition in 1960, which later had its main auditorium named in his honor.
Among his many recordings, Stern recorded concertos by Brahms, Bach, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, and Vivaldi and
modern works by Barber, Bartók, Stravinsky, Bernstein
and Dutilleux. The Dutilleux concerto,
entitled L'Arbre des Songes ['The Tree of Dreams'] was a
1985 commission by Stern himself. He also dubbed actors'
violin-playing in several films, one of which was Fiddler on
Stern served as musical advisor for the 1946 film, Humoresque, about a rising
violin star and his patron, played respectively by John Garfield and
In his autobiography written with Chaim Potok, My
First 79 Years, he cites Nathan Milstein and Arthur Grumiaux
as major influences on his style of playing.
He won Grammys for his work with Eugene Istomin and Leonard Rose in their
famous chamber music trio.
In 1979, eight years after Richard Nixon made the first official visit by a US
President to the
country, the People's Republic of
China offered Stern and pianist David Golub an unprecedented invitation to
tour the country. While there, he collaborated with the China
Central Symphony Society (now China National Symphony) under the
direction of Chinese Conductor Li Delun. Their visit was filmed and resulted
in the Oscar-winning documentary, From Mao to Mozart.
In 1987, Stern received the Grammy Award for Lifetime
His November 1948 marriage to ballerina Nora Kaye ended in divorce in 1949. On August
17, 1951, Stern married Vera Lindenblit. They had three children
together. Their marriage ended in divorce in 1994 after 43 years of
marriage. On January 23, 1997, Stern married his third wife, Linda
Reynolds, who survived him.
Isaac Stern died in New York City,
New York on September 22, 2001 of congestive heart failure at 81.
Stern's favorite instrument was the Ysaÿe
Guarneri del Gesù, one of the violins produced by the Cremonese luthier Giuseppe
Guarneri del Gesù.
Amongst other instruments, Stern played the 'Kruse-Vormbaum' Stradivarius (1728),
the 'ex-Stern' Bergonzi (1733), the 'Stern-Alard' Guarneri del Gesù
(1737), a Michele Angelo Bergonzi (1739-1757), the 'Arma Senkrah'
Guadagnini (1750), a Giovanni Guadagnini (1754), a J.
B. Vuillaume copy of the "Panette" Guarneri del Gesu of 1737
(c.1850), and the 'ex-Nicolas I' J.B. Vuillaume (1840). He also
owned two contemporary instruments by Samuel