Isaac Stern

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Isaac Stern, 1980
Isaac Stern, 1979

Isaac Stern (born July 21, 1920 in Kremenez , Ukraine ; † September 22, 2001 in New York ) was one of the most important violinists of the 20th century and one of the most sought-after musicians in the world in his time.


In 1921 his parents, Solomon and Clara Stern, emigrated to the United States, where he grew up. The mother had studied singing at the St. Petersburg Conservatory and gave Isaac piano lessons from the age of seven. He heard a boy in the neighborhood play the violin, and the violin became his instrument.

With the help of a patron, he attended the San Francisco Conservatory. Here he first studied with Robert Pollack, Nathan Abas and Naum Blinder . He made his debut in 1936 with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra under Pierre Monteux with the Third Violin Concerto by Camille Saint-Saëns . A few months later he played Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto with the Los Angeles Philharmonic under Otto Klemperer . In 1937 he performed on the East Coast at Town Hall in New York. Here he took lessons from Louis Persinger , with whom Yehudi Menuhin also had lessons.

In 1939, the legendary impresario and manager Sol Hurok had adopted Sterns, who saw him as a father figure. Within ten years, Stern became one of the busiest musicians of his time. In 1949 he gave 120 concerts on a seven-month tour through the USA, Europe and South America.

In 1960 the dilapidated Carnegie Hall was to be demolished and an office building was to be built on this site. Stern led a group that campaigned for the preservation of the building, which was built in 1891 and so steeped in history. She managed to convince the city of New York to buy the building for a sum of five million dollars and lease it to a non-profit organization, of which he became president. In 1962, Carnegie Hall was listed as a Historic Monument. He also campaigned for the restoration in 1986 and the great hall was named “Isaac Stern Auditorium” as a thank you. In 1991 the 100th anniversary was celebrated with a big concert.

Outside of the classical music business, he became known for his documentary Von Mao zu Mozart - Isaac Stern in China ( From Mao to Mozart ), which reports on his trip to the People's Republic of China as a teacher and interpreter and which won the 1981 Academy Award for the best uncut documentary received.

Stern performed frequently in Israel . He founded the Jerusalem Music Center in 1973 and was chairman of the American-Israeli cultural foundation. His chamber music partners included the cellist Leonard Rose , with whom he recorded numerous chamber music works and concerts such as the Brahms Double Concerto for Violin and Violoncello op.102, and Eugene Istomin , with whom he and Leonard Rose formed a piano trio, and Emanuel Ax , Wilhelm Kempff and Yo-Yo Ma .

Isaac Stern's repertoire included many works of violin literature from the pre-classical , Viennese classical and romantic periods , especially works by Johannes Brahms, Beethoven and Mendelssohn as well as works by Samuel Barber , Béla Bartók , Igor Stravinsky , Paul Hindemith and Leonard Bernstein among modern composers .

Stern supported and promoted the next generation of musicians, including the violinists Itzhak Perlman and Pinchas Zukerman , the cellist Yo-Yo Ma, and the pianist Yefim Bronfman .

Isaac Stern was at home on all international concert platforms and gave up to 200 concerts a year. He was one of the last great violinists of his generation.

Critical voices

In an article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on the 100th birthday of the Geigers on July 22, 2020, the music critic Jürgen Kesting describes Isaac Stern as a "power man and power violinist" under the heading "Not always on the straight path" and explains this in detail. "At the Leventritt Competition in 1967, the jury awarded the Korean Kyung Wha Chung the first prize. Stern protégé Pinchas Zukerman had not made it to the final. Stern urged the jury to let Zukerman play again and ensured that the first place was divided It is also widely documented that he put obstacles in the way of colleagues and rivals: including Henrik Szeryng from Poland and Aaron Rosand from America, who is one of the rare “fiddler's fiddlers.” For the blog of the English journalist Norman Lebrecht, Rosand described - "My Life with Isaac Stern" - his painful experiences "

Not only his accumulation of offices, his often poor preparation for concerts and his intonation problems are described in detail.



Stern owned and played several famous violins:

  • Guarneri del Gesù (1737) The Vicomte de Panette bought Isaac Stern in 1947 and sold it in 1994. The current owner, David Fulton, loaned it to Vadim Repin in 1996 for recordings of Ravel and Medtner Sonatas.
  • Guarneri del Gesù (1740), which once belonged to Eugène Ysaÿe, has a label signed by Eugène Ysaÿe, which read : This violin was the faithful companion of my career . ("This violin has been a loyal companion in my career"). Stern bought the violin in 1965 and sold it in 1998. From 1937 to 1958 it belonged to Charles Munch . She has already been played by Yehudi Menuhin and Ivry Gitlis. It was shown in the Guarneri del Gesù Exhibition in New York in 1994.
  • Carlo Bergonzi (1733) belonged to Stern in 1975 and then to Paavo Berglund .
  • Giovanni Battista Guadagnini (1750). Owned by Stern from 1943 to 1997.
  • Stradivari (1721) The Kruse , or Kreutzer Stradivarius
  • GB Guadagnini (1754), now owned by Boris Belkin.
  • The Tsar 1998 owned by Oliver Jaques, Zurich

The New York violin maker Samuel Zygmuntowicz is said to have made a copy of the Vuillaume .


Web links

Commons : Isaac Stern  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Isaac Stern recital program, 1931. In: . San Francisco Conservatory of Music, April 9, 2014, accessed March 6, 2018 .
  2. Isaac Stern, Chaim Potok: My First 79 Years. In: . Retrieved March 6, 2018 .
  3. Member History: Isaac Stern. American Philosophical Society, accessed February 9, 2019 .