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Isaac Stern

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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.


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