Stern, Isaac

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Stern, Isaac,

1920–2001, American violinist, b. Kremenets, in what is now Ukraine. Brought to the United States as an infant, Stern began piano lessons at the age of six and violin lessons at eight. He studied at the San Francisco Conservatory and made his debut at 11 with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. After his New York debut in 1937 at Town Hall, Stern made extensive and brilliantly successful world tours. He was particularly noted for his warm, rich tone in a repertoire that ranged from the Baroque to the Romantic and the modern. He recorded widely and was an active and enthusiastic teacher, known for his spirited encouragement of young musicians. In 1960 he led a successful campaign to save Carnegie Hall, the great New York City performance space, which was threatened with demolition. He subsequently served as president of the hall, a position he held until his death. Stern is considered one of the 20th cent.'s leading virtuosos.


See his autobiography, My First 79 Years (with Chaim Potok, 1999); From Mao to Mozart: Isaac Stern in China (documentary film, 1980).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Stern, Isaac


Born July 21, 1920, in Kremenets, Ukrainian SSR. American violinist.

Stern studied with L. Persinger in New York City and with N. Blinder at the San Francisco Conservatory. He made his debut in 1931 in San Francisco; after appearing in New York in 1937, he toured many countries, including the USSR (for the first time in 1956). He participates in European and American music festivals. Since the 1950’s, Stern has been regarded as one of the world’s greatest violinists. The distinguishing features of his performing style are simplicity and nobility of interpretation, beauty of tone, and impeccable virtuosity. Stern favors works in the major forms, such as sonatas and concerti.


Barinova, G. “Isaak Stern.” Sovetskaia muzyka, 1956, no. 7.
lampol’skii. I. “Isaak Stern.” Sovetskaia muzyka, 1960, no. 7.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Stern, Isaac

(1920–  ) violinist; born in Kremenets, Russia. Brought in infancy to the U.S.A. by his family, he grew up in San Francisco and took up the violin at age eight, later studying at the city's conservatory (1928–31) and debuting with the orchestra at age 11. After years of further study and growth, he achieved an outstanding success at his Carnegie Hall debut in 1943. He went on to a career in the highest rank of international violinists—the only one to have been entirely trained in America. From 1961 he often played chamber music with pianist Eugene Istomin and cellist Leonard Rose; for many years he was president of New York's Carnegie Hall, which he helped save from demolition. An intense and individual player, he both mastered the standard repertoire and introduced many new works. As a cultural ambassador he made tours of Russia in 1956 and of China in 1979.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
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