October 8th, 2007
Isaac Stern
About Isaac Stern

Virtuoso violinist Isaac Stern is one of the twentieth century’s most renowned, celebrated and recorded musicians. He is widely recognized as an influential teacher, emissary, speaker, and humanitarian. He toured for the U.S.O. in World War II, opened the Soviet Union to cultural exchange during the Cold War, and helped save Carnegie Hall from the wrecker’s ball in 1960. Involved in both the politics and culture of Israel since its establishment, Stern’s influence reaches far beyond America.

Isaac Stern was born in Kreminiecz, Russia in 1920. Fleeing the Russian civil war, his parents arrived in San Francisco only ten months later. At the age of eight he was taken out of school in order to focus exclusively on the violin. His talent was overwhelming, and by the age of fifteen he had his recital debut in San Francisco. By the time he was seventeen he had performed on the radio, and by the time he was twenty-two he had performed at Carnegie Hall to stellar reviews.

Within a short while, Stern’s talents had brought him the recognition of the American classical music world, which hailed him as one of its greats. Throughout the late 1940s and early 1950s, he toured the United States and Europe, cementing his place among the masters of the violin. Both his technical skill and the range of his performed work made him an influential figure among the small world of classical violinists, and a star among the greater listening public.

Known for his great political involvement, Stern was a defender of Carnegie Hall (and its president for more than thirty years) and a founding member of the National Endowment for the Arts. Along with Leonard Bernstein, he performed a memorial concert in Israel following the Six Days War. Like a number of his performances, this concert was made into a popular documentary— A JOURNEY TO JERUSALEM.

Though known around the world for his brilliant and insightful renditions of Mozart, Beethoven, and Hayden, he has long been a champion of the composers of his time. Among those whose works he premiered are Bernstein, Penderecki, Rochberg, and Hindemith. Well into his seventies, Stern continued to tour and speak internationally. In 1999 he published a book (written with Chiam Potok), entitled MY FIRST 79 YEARS, and has just recently finished recording the complete violin sonatas of Mozart in four volumes.

Whether in personal interactions with students and friends, in his heroic actions for the betterment of domestic culture or in his role as an international cultural ambassador, Isaac Stern has consistently used his remarkable talents and varied interest to the world’s advantage. In recognition of this he has received many of the nation’s and the world’s highest honors including Commandeur de la legion d’honneur by order of the President of the French Republic, The Order of the Rising Sun (Japan’s highest award), the Commander’s Cross of the Danish government’s order of Dannebrog, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, awarded to him by President George Bush.

Isaac Stern passed away on September 22, 2001. He was 81.

  • Bill Trimble

    I have listened to Isaac Stern’s performance of Tchiakovsky’s violoin concerto more times than I can count. I have heard many other vilolinists play this composition, but no other has equaled that of Mr. Stern’s. I have been looking for a video of him playiong this beautiful vi\olin concerto. Can anyone help me find it? This is very important to me!

    Please reply,

    Bill Trimble

  • Lillian Spiller

    Bill I don’t have any information about a video but I wanted to respond just to tell you that I am also a HUGE fan of Stern’s recording of the violin concerto in D. It is my favorite piece of music in the world and Stern’s performance is the best. I was listening to it today and was again transported.

    I hope you find what you’re looking for – there are MANY Stern videos on YouTube but some reason I haven’t found the Tchaikovsky violin concerto – a sad omission.

    good luck – Lillian

  • masha protopopova

    you can check on youtube. i found a video there.

  • none

    though he was great, for someone who was Russian by birth and ethnicity, he did a disservice to this country and Russia by promoting Israel because he was not Israeli by birth or ethnicity and it was in this country that he was lauded for his abilities. it is like an Italian American born in Russia pledging loyalty to the Vatican instead of his own country.

  • Dr CB>Sherer

    The commentator “none” is incorrect,

    I was associated with Isaac Stern for over 30 years as his physician and friend. It is true that he visited Israel many times and was very loved and respected in this country. But he NEVER pledged any allegiance. here. He made great contributions to the field of music here, as he did elsewhere, from the USA to Russia, to China., most especially for youth. Countless musicians owe him thei musical development.r He was a proud Jew and he koved the people of Israel. He was not a citizen nor did he ask to be.

    You are confusing being a Jew and being an Israeli. One is a faith , the other a Nationality. Two-thirds of the world’s Jews are not Israelis.

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