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#465564 - 09/23/01 06:47 AM The world lost Isaac Stern...  
Joined: May 2001
Posts: 2,506
AndrewG Offline
2000 Post Club Member
AndrewG  Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Joined: May 2001
Posts: 2,506
Denver, Colorado
We just lost another great American icon, the great violinist Isaac Stern. I grew up on his numerous recordings. I think a violinist of his statue deserves a spot on this forum. If not, Frank, please remove it.

From today's New York Times:

September 23, 2001

Violinist Isaac Stern Dies at 81; Led Efforts
to Save Carnegie Hall


Isaac Stern, a violinist who in his prime was considered one of the great
instrumentalists of the 20th century, and who also became an important
power broker in the classical music world after he led a successful campaign
to save Carnegie Hall from destruction, died at a Manhattan hospital
yesterday. He was 81 and lived in Manhattan and Gaylordsville, Conn..

A spokeswoman for Carnegie Hall said the cause of death was heart failure.

The American classical music world has produced few images as
characteristic as that of Mr. Stern, a violin in his hand and a pair of horn-
rimmed eyeglasses perched atop his head. It was the image of a musician at
work — typically rehearsing and persuading rather than performing, casual
rather than formal, engaged rather than passive. Countless photographs and
caricatures, and miles of film and videotape, captured Mr. Stern preparing
for concerts, coaching young ensembles during his master classes, or
proclaiming the glories of Carnegie Hall, of which he was president.

He was, in fact, nearly as well- known for his devotion to Carnegie Hall as
for his violin playing. He gave more than 200 performances there, the first in
1943. When the hall was about to be demolished to make way for an office
tower in 1960 — the prevailing wisdom was that Lincoln Center, then under
construction, would replace Carnegie — Mr. Stern helped start a drive
among musicians and the musical public that saved the hall. He was then
elected president of the Carnegie Hall Corporation, which runs the hall.

In that capacity, he played a central role in the restoration of the building in
1986, and in the celebration of its centenary in 1991. In 1997, the main
concert hall was named the Isaac Stern Auditorium in honor of his efforts.

Mr. Stern was neither a child prodigy nor a flashy virtuoso, but he built his
reputation in the mid-1940's with a rich tone and emotional interpretive style.
He was passionate about a range of works that began with Baroque sonatas
and concertos, encompassed the full Romantic and early 20th century
repertory, and included works composed with his warm, rounded sound in

That sound was captured in a vast discography that documented the full
scope of his repertory. It was also heard in movie theaters: In 1946, Mr.
Stern played on the soundtrack of "Humoresque," and when John Garfield
was shown performing, it was Mr. Stern's hands that were seen on the
screen. He played the Belgian violin virtuoso Eugène Ysäye in the film
"Tonight We Sing" in 1952, and in 1970 he played on the soundtrack for
"Fiddler on the Roof." He was also the subject of several documentaries,
including "From Mao to Mozart: Isaac Stern in China," which followed him
on tour in 1979 and won an Academy Award for best full-length
documentary in 1981.

In the early 1960's, when comparatively few soloists devoted time to
chamber music, he teamed up with the pianist Eugene Istomin and the cellist
Leonard Rose to perform and record as a trio. He later undertook
partnerships with the flutist Jean-Pierre Rampal, the cellist Yo-Yo Ma, the
pianist Emanuel Ax and several other musicians.

In his capacity not only as the president of Carnegie Hall, but also as an
adviser to the powerful ICM management agency, the chairman of the
America-Israel Cultural Foundation and chairman and music advisor of the
Jerusalem Music Center, he was able to encourage and open doors for
young musicians he considered exceptionally talented. Mr. Ma, Mr. Ax, the
violinists Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman, Shlomo Mintz, Sergiu Luca,
Joseph Swenson and Cho-Liang Lin and the pianist Yefim Bronfman were
all given a crucial push by Mr. Stern early in their careers.

Inevitably, that ability to create opportunities caused bitterness among
musicians who were unable to join his circle. But Mr. Stern took their
criticism in stride.

"I didn't make power, I was granted power, as any person who is successful
in public life is granted it," he told The New York Times Magazine in 1979.
"What I am, I think, more than anything else, is a willing and capable

A Promising Newcomer

Isaac Stern was born on July 21, 1920 in Kremenets in what is now
Ukraine, but grew up in San Francisco, where his parents, Solomon and
Clara Stern, settled in 1921. His mother had studied voice at the St.
Petersburg Conservatory, and began teaching him the piano when he was 6
years old. He began to take violin lessons after hearing a friend who lived
across the street playing the instrument.

He progressed quickly. After two years, with financial support from a
wealthy patroness who heard him perform, he began studying at the San
Francisco Conservatory, where his principal teacher was Naoum Blinder,
the concertmaster of the San Francisco Symphony. He later studied briefly,
in New York, with Louis Persinger, who had been Yehudi Menuhin's
teacher, but always regarded Mr. Blinder as his principal influence, saying
that what he admired in him was a teaching style that valued instinctive
musicianship over scales and technical exercises.

In 1936, when he was 16, he made his debut with the San Francisco
Symphony, collaborating with Mr. Blinder on the Bach Double Concerto
under the baton of Pierre Monteux. A few months later he played the
Tchaikovsky Concerto with Otto Klemperer and the Los Angeles
Philharmonic. He made his New York debut with a recital at Town Hall in
1937. The reviews were respectful, and several described Mr. Stern as a
promising newcomer who was likely to be heard from again. Olin Downes,
writing in The New York Times, praised the "extent of his technique and his
spirited, straightforward playing," but complained that "his bow presses too
hard and vibrates the string too little," and that he was frequently strident in
the upper registers.

"When the reviews came out I was in a state of shock," Mr. Stern told The
New York Times in 1984. "I remember getting on one of those New York
double-decker buses and riding around for five hours, thinking of my future.
Should I take a safe job as a concertmaster of an orchestra? I had an offer. I
didn't know what to do. Finally I said to myself, `Dammit, I want to play!' So
I came back to New York the next year and got rave reviews, and maybe I
didn't even play as well."

By 1939, the legendary impresario Sol Hurok was representing Mr. Stern
who came to consider Hurok as a father figure. Within a decade, Hurok
helped Mr. Stern become one of the busiest musicians of his day. In 1949,
he played 120 concerts in a seven month tour of the United States, Europe
and South America. Still, Hurok later said he wished he could curb Mr.
Stern's desire to be constantly onstage, as well as his penchant for getting
involved in causes of various kinds, musical and political.

"Stern is a man who cannot rest," Hurok told The New York Times in 1959.
"I have begged him not to play so much. I tell him, `the less you play, the
longer you will play.' It does no good. When he is not playing the violin he is
on the telephone. I would like to abolish the telephone. It would add 10
years to his life."

Mr. Stern's association with Hurok, which lasted until the manager's death in
1974, was one of several long-lasting relationships that dated back to the
early years of his career. In 1940, he began giving recitals with Alexander
Zakin, who remained his regular accompanist in concert and on recordings
until 1973. He made his first recordings for Columbia in 1945 — his debut
was the Wieniawski Concerto No. 2 with the New York Philharmonic and
Efrem Kurtz — and continued to recorded exclusively for that label in its
various incarnations (as CBS Masterworks and Sony Classical) for the rest
of his career.

In 1984, CBS Masterworks named Mr. Stern its first Artist Laureate, and
kept much of his catalogue consistently in print. Sony Classical celebrated his
50th anniversary with the label in 1995 by releasing a 44 CD collection of his
recordings under the title "Isaac Stern: A Life in Music."

Mr. Stern's Carnegie Hall debut in 1943 was the start of his long love affair
with that hall. And his New York Philharmonic debut in 1944 was the first of
more than 100 performances with the orchestra. One particularly notable
performance was a televised concert celebrating Mr. Stern's 60th birthday,
in 1980. With Zubin Mehta conducting, Mr. Stern played a marathon
program that included performances of double and triple concertos by Bach,
Vivaldi and Mozart, with Mr. Perlman and Mr. Zukerman, as well as the
Brahms Violin Concerto.

By 1950, Mr. Stern had established himself as one of the best young
violinists on the concert circuit, and the first American- trained violinist to
gain so great a measure of international respect. He had, by then, performed
with all the major American orchestras. During World War II, he performed
for Allied troops in Greenland, Iceland and the South Pacific. He undertook
at 10-week tour of Australia in 1947, and made his European debut at the
Lucerne Festival the following year.

In 1948, Mr. Stern married Nora Kaye, a dancer. That marriage ended in
divorce. So did his second marriage, to Vera Lindenblit, whom he married in
1951, and with whom he had three children, Shira, Michael and David. In
1996, Mr. Stern married Linda Reynolds, who survives him, as do his
children and five grandchildren.

An Artist of the World
Mr. Stern was always outspoken about what he considered the necessary
interchange between art and politics. In his earliest interviews, he argued that
there should be a government department that supports the arts, and in the
1960's, he played an advisory role in the creation of the National
Endowment for the Arts. When arts support was in danger of being cut in
1970, he appeared before Congress and told the legislatures that the United
States ran the risk of becoming "an industrial complex without a soul."

He toured the Soviet Union with great fanfare in 1951 — the first American
violinist to do so — but engaged Nikita Krushchev in a debate about open
artistic exchanges between the Soviet Union and the West. In 1967, he said
that he would not tour the Soviet Union again until artists were allowed to
come and go freely. He also boycotted a music festival in Athens in 1967, to
protest the Greek military junta, and when the United Nations Educational
Scientific and Cultural Organization suspended its programs in Israel in 1974,
he organized a musicians' boycott of Unesco events.

He also avoided performing in Germany, declining invitations on the grounds
that he did not feel right performing music in the country where the Holocaust
was planned and executed. He partly relented in 1999. That April, he gave a
nine-day series of master classes in Cologne. But he did not perform himself,
and he made a point of encouraging the students to think not only about the
technicalities of performing, but about an artist's responsibility "to continue
the search for beauty and humanity."

"With my visit, I forgive nothing," he said, adding "but it isn't very human not
to give people a chance to change."

Despite his own refusal to perform in Germany, he supported Mr. Perlman
and Mr. Zukerman in performing there because he believed it was important
for Israeli musicians to establish an artistic presence there. He devoted
considerable effort, in fact, to helping Israel develop a cultural life. In 1964,
he became chairman of the America-Israel Cultural Foundation, which
supports young musicians in their studies and raises money for Israeli cultural
organizations. He also founded Jerusalem Music Center in 1973.

Mr. Stern performed in Israel regularly, and was often on hand at important
moment's in the country's history. His performance of the Mendelssohn
Concerto with Leonard Bernstein and the Israel Philharmonic on Mount
Scopus soon after the Six Day War, in 1967, was the focus of the film
"Journey to Israel." During the Yom Kippur War in 1973, he canceled
several engagements and rushed to Israel to perform in hospitals, often at
patients' bedsides, and for troops in the Negev, where he wove the melody
of "Hatikva," the Israeli national anthem, into his performances of the
Mendelssohn Concerto. And during the Gulf War, in 1991, when a missile
attack interrupted one of his performances, he donned a gas mask and
played a Bach unaccompanied Sarabande.

His other main passion was Carnegie Hall. When the hall was in danger of
being torn down, he organized the Citizens' Committee to Save Carnegie
Hall, along with a list of supporters that included Eleanor Roosevelt, Fritz
Kreisler, Jascha Heifetz, Arthur Rubinstein, Dame Myra Hess, Van Cliburn,
Leopold Stokowski, Marian Anderson, Fritz Reiner and many other
musicians and philanthropists.

"Simply for reasons of sentiment and piety, it would be wanton to destroy it,"
he said of Carnegie Hall at the time. "Think of Tchaikovsky conducting there
at the opening, in 1891! Think of Paderewski and Chaliapin! But there are
practical reasons, too, for not destroying it. The young people of this country
are demanding more and more music and producing more and more first-
rate musicians. How dare we take away from them, the music, and the
audiences of the future, one of the great music rooms of the world?"

Mr. Stern's efforts led to legislation that allowed the New York City to buy
the hall for $5 million, and when the Carnegie Hall Corporation was
established to administer it, Mr. Stern was elected its first president, a
position he held until his death..

At the time of the Carnegie Hall battle, Mr. Stern was 40 years old and at
the height of his powers. Harold C. Schonberg, reviewing one of his
performances in The New York Times in 1962 put his artistry in perspective.

"Mr. Stern's playing," Mr. Schonberg wrote, "is a perfect illustration of the
fact that a big tone can be delicately and even vigorously colored without
recourse to a heavy vibrato. There are also a few other features of his
playing that differ from the masters of yore. His rhythm is unflagging and his
tempos on the fast side. He is not a musician who dawdles over a phrase;
there are no intermissions, no time out during a piece for a meditative
dissertation on the beauties of a specific passage. And by holding to a clean
musical line, Mr. Stern makes his interpretations that much more beautiful."

During the 1960's, Mr. Stern made chamber music a central component of
his repertory. The Istomin-Stern-Rose Trio made its debut in Israel in 1961
and its first New York performances the following year. The group made
classic recordings of the centerpieces of the trio repertory, including all the
Beethoven, Schubert and Mendelssohn Trios. After Rose died in 1984, Mr.
Stern formed a new trio with Mr. Ax and Mr. Ma, with the violinist Jaime
Laredo sometimes rounding out the ensemble.

Mr. Stern's other collaborations include appearances with Benny Goodman
and his sextet in 1963, frequent performances and recordings with Mr.
Rampal, and occasional collaborations, some also recorded, with the pianists
Daniel Barenboim, Peter Serkin, Joseph Kalichstein and Mr. Bronfman; the
violinists David Oistrakh, Midori, Mr. Lin, Mr. Zukerman and Mr. Perlman;
the violist Michael Tree and the cellists Pablo Casals, Sharon Robinson,
Matt Haimovitz and Peter Wiley.

He was also an engaging teacher, and in recent years he gave a regular series
of master classes and workshops for young chamber ensembles at Carnegie

"You cannot force someone to think as you do, or to feel as you do," he said
of his teaching in 1995. "But you can teach them to think a little better, to
think a little more. To listen a little more critically. To listen to what they're
really doing, not what they think they're doing. To have more respect for the
necessary lengthy internal and external collusion between the performer and
the composer."

Mr. Stern was also more devoted to contemporary works than many soloists
of his stature. He included the Bartok, Prokofiev, Berg and Barber
concertos in his repertory long before they were commonly played. He never
commissioned new works, explaining that he did not want to be obligated to
play the pieces if they turned out badly, and arguing that he was more
interested in whether he liked a work than in giving its first performance. Still,
several works were commissioned by orchestras and other organizations on
his behalf, including concertos by Krzyzstof Penderecki, Henri Dutilleux,
George Rochberg and Peter Maxwell Davies.

Mr. Stern gave the world premieres of those works, as well as Leonard
Bernstein's "Serenade" and William Schuman's Violin Concerto, and he
recorded all but the Schuman. He also gave the American premieres of the
Bartok Concerto No. 1 and the Hindemith Concerto, and made the first
recordings of both. And he collaborated with Copland and Stravinsky on
recordings of their violin works.

There were times, in the last decades of his career, when Mr. Stern's concert
performances were less consistently polished than they had been, and
suggested that he was devoting greater attention to his other preoccupations
— running Carnegie Hall, campaigning for increased government support for
the arts and education, and seeking out new talent to lend his support to —
than to practicing. When critics addressed these questions, Mr. Stern
responded testily. "Whether I'm capable of the same uncaring, unworried
pyrotechnics of 30 years ago doesn't make any difference," he said. "What
has happened is that my music-making has deepened, and that cannot be

Nevertheless, he cut back substantially on his performances in the 1990's,
and when he did perform, it was more often than not in chamber music rather
than as a soloist. He published an autobiography, "My First 79 Years,"
written with the novelist Chaim Potok, in 1999, and in September 2000,
Carnegie Hall honored him with a weekend-long celebration of his 80th
birthday that included an exhibition of materials from his personal archives,
screenings of documentaries about him and a compilation of clips from films
in which he appeared, a day of chamber music and educational concerts, and
a birthday concert at which more than a dozen of his colleagues and protégés

Mr. Stern received many honors and awards, including the first Albert
Schweitzer Award (1974), the Kennedy Center Honors Award (1984), a
Lifetime Achievement Grammy (1987) and an Emmy for Outstanding
Individual Classical Music Performance (1987). He received the
Commander's Cross of the Order of the Dannebrog, from Denmark (1985),
the Wolf Prize, from Israel (1987) and was made a Commandeur of the
French Legion d'Honneur (1990).

"I have been very fortunate in 60 years of performance," he said in 1995, "to
have learned what it means to be an eternal student, an eternal optimist —
because you hope the next time will always be a little better — and eternally
in love with music. Also, as I said to a young player the other day, you have
no idea of what you don't know. Now it's time that you begin to learn. And
you should get up every morning and say thank God, thank the Lord, thank
whomever you want, thank you, thank you, for making me a musician."

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#465565 - 09/23/01 10:08 AM Re: The world lost Isaac Stern...  
Joined: May 2001
Posts: 116
Alex Offline
Full Member
Alex  Offline
Full Member

Joined: May 2001
Posts: 116
Plano, tx

I agree with you that we lost an icon yesterday. And, I think the tribute is appropriate here. What I always got when listening to Maestro Stern was his joy of music (to steal a title by another Maestro). I can't think of another performer (except perhaps Arthur Rubinstein - sorry if I spelled this wrong) who could communicate such joy.

#465566 - 09/23/01 09:01 PM Re: The world lost Isaac Stern...  
Joined: May 2001
Posts: 5,737
Brendan Offline
Brendan  Offline

Joined: May 2001
Posts: 5,737
McAllen, TX
"...and you should get up every morning and say thank God, thank the Lord, thank
whomever you want, thank you, thank you, for making me a musician."

A praise, indeed, that too frequently gets lost in the shuffle, and one that anyone who loves music should remind themselves of frequently.

Words such as "he will be missed" don't convey anything. What has been lost is something far greater than any language can articulate.

#465567 - 09/24/01 02:51 PM Re: The world lost Isaac Stern...  
Joined: May 2001
Posts: 21,041
BruceD Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member
BruceD  Offline

Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Joined: May 2001
Posts: 21,041
Victoria, BC
What strikes me about what (little) I know about Stern's life is his selflessness. A great violinist, yes, who derived and gave immense pleasure from his art. But he seemed even more devoted to causes beyond himself. It was he who saved Carnegie Hall - almost single-handed - for the world, and his tireless efforts at sharing his music by teaching others is the stuff of legend!

What a legacy to leave us.

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#465568 - 09/24/01 03:28 PM Re: The world lost Isaac Stern...  
Joined: Jul 2001
Posts: 276
ZeldaHanson Offline
Full Member
ZeldaHanson  Offline
Full Member

Joined: Jul 2001
Posts: 276
Cape Cod, MA, USA
It wasn't selflessness. What a horrible thing to call the act. It was selfish (in the best sense of the word) because he did it to benefit himself also.


Glenn Gould in regards to music:

The problem begins when one forgets the artificiality of it all, when one neglects to pay homage to those designations that to our minds-to our reflect senses, perhaps-make of music an analyzable commodity. The trouble begins when we start to become so impressed by the strategies of ours systematized thought that we forget that it does relate to an obverse, that it is hewn from negation, that it is but a very small security against the void of negation which surrounds it.
#465569 - 09/24/01 05:26 PM Re: The world lost Isaac Stern...  
Joined: May 2001
Posts: 5,737
Brendan Offline
Brendan  Offline

Joined: May 2001
Posts: 5,737
McAllen, TX
You read too much Rand.

#465570 - 09/24/01 06:31 PM Re: The world lost Isaac Stern...  
Joined: Jul 2001
Posts: 276
ZeldaHanson Offline
Full Member
ZeldaHanson  Offline
Full Member

Joined: Jul 2001
Posts: 276
Cape Cod, MA, USA
Never can one read too much Rand!!!
Har dee har.


Glenn Gould in regards to music:

The problem begins when one forgets the artificiality of it all, when one neglects to pay homage to those designations that to our minds-to our reflect senses, perhaps-make of music an analyzable commodity. The trouble begins when we start to become so impressed by the strategies of ours systematized thought that we forget that it does relate to an obverse, that it is hewn from negation, that it is but a very small security against the void of negation which surrounds it.

Moderated by  Brendan, Kreisler 

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