World-Renowned Jewish Violinist, Isaac Stern, is born, 1920
Updated: Jul 22, 2021
On This Day in Jewish History, July 21st, 1920
Isaac Stern brought his virtuoso command of the Ysaye Guarnerius violin to the world. His first concert in Israel, a nation to which he was devoted throughout his professional life, was performed in 1949. He appeared on stage in the Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War in 1951 and was the first American violinist to play there. In 1979, he toured the People’s Republic of China, a trip captured by the documentary From Mao to Mozart: Isaac Stern in China directed by Murray Lerner. But as devoted to the international scene as he was, Stern also thrilled audiences across the United States. Moreover, his leadership of the Citizens’ Committee to Save Carnegie Hall made a crucial contribution to saving the concert hall and national treasure. He was president of the Carnegie Hall Corporation and the concert hall’s main auditorium is named in his honor. Audiences also enjoyed Stern’s violin while going to the movies. He played on the soundtrack of the 1946 Warner Bros. film, Humoresque, dubbing the violin performed by John Garfield’s character. Even more, perhaps, heard him on the soundtrack of the 1971 Fiddler on the Roof, for which his solos set the emotional tone for key parts of the film.
Over his career, Stern nurtured the talents of a younger generation, mentoring masters such as Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma and Jian Wang. But he was not above small generous acts for his admirers. After a performance in Madison, Wisconsin in 1979, he played along when an audience member, also named Stern, who had sent a note backstage, told his date the virtuoso was his uncle. Isaac greeted the man as though he were a long lost relative. Stern was married three times and was the father of three children. He died, at the age of 80, in New York City, in 2001.