Isaac Stern

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Isaac Stern (Russian: Исаак Стерн; 21 July 1920, Kremenets – 22 September 2001) was a Ukrainian-born violin virtuoso. He was renowned for his recordings and for discovering new musical talent.



Isaac Stern was born into a Jewish family in Kremenets, 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.[1] He returned to the San Francisco Conservatory to study with Naoum Blinder for five years. He said he owed the most to Blinder.[2] At his public début on February 18, 1936, aged 15, he played Saint-Saëns' Violin Concerto No. 3 in B minor 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."[3]

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.[4]

Among his many recordings, Stern recorded concertos by Brahms, Bach, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, and Vivaldi and modern works by Barber, Bartók, Stravinsky, Bernstein, Rochberg, 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 the Roof.

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