Isaac Stern (July 21, 1920 - September
22, 2001) was a violinist, widely considered one of the finest of
the twentieth century.
Born in Kremenetz in Ukraine, he and his family moved to San Francisco
when he was a year old. He had his first music lessons from his
mother, and entered the San Francisco Conservatory at a very early
age in 1928. There he studied the violin. He was proud to have
been the student of Nahum Blinder. His public debut came on February
18, 1936, when he played the Violin Concerto No. 3 by Camille Saint-Saëns
with the San Francisco Symphony conducted by Pierre Monteux.
In 1979 the Chinese government invited him on a teaching tour
of the country, and the resulting film, From Mao to Mozart by producer-director
Murray Lerner, won the 1980 Oscar for best documentary.
Stern was famous for his great recordings and his championing
of younger players (among his discoveries were Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak
Perlman, and Pinchas Zukerman). He also played a principal role
in saving Carnegie Hall from the wrecking ball in 1960; the main
auditorium at Carnegie is now named after him.
Stern recorded concertos by Brahms, Beethoven and Mendelssohn among others, as well as more modern works by Samuel Barber, Béla
Bartók, Igor Stravinsky, and Leonard Bernstein. He also
dubbed several actors pretending to play the violin in films, Fiddler
on the Roof being one example of his work.