Isaac Stern (Ukrainian: Ісаак Штерн, Russian: Исаа́к Штерн; 21 July 1920 – 22 September 2001) was a Soviet-born violinist and conductor. He was renowned for his recordings and for discovering new musical talent.
Stern's November 1948 marriage to ballerina Nora Kaye ended in divorce in 1949. On 17 August 1951, he married Vera Lindenblit. They had three children together, including Michael. Their marriage ended in divorce in 1994 after 43 years. On 23 January 1997, Stern married his third wife, Linda Reynolds, who survived him.
In 1940, Stern began performing with Russian-born pianist Alexander Zakin, collaborating until 1977. Within musical circles, Stern became renowned both for his recordings and for championing certain younger players. Among his discoveries were cellists Yo-Yo Ma and Jian Wang, and violinists Itzhak Perlman and Pinchas Zukerman. In the 1960s, he also played a major role in saving New York City's Carnegie Hall from demolition, which later named its main auditorium in his honor.
Stern served as musical advisor for the 1946 film, Humoresque, about a rising violin star and his patron, played respectively by John Garfield and Joan Crawford. In 1999, he appeared in the film Music of the Heart, along with Itzhak Perlman and several other famed violinists, with a youth orchestra led by Meryl Streep; the film was based on the true story of a gifted violin teacher in Harlem who eventually took her musicians to play a concert in Carnegie Hall.
Stern was alleged to have used his fame and influence to prejudice the careers of other US violinists and attempted to destroy the pianist Mordecai Shehori and others. The most specific and detailed accusation was made in July 2014 by the violinist Aaron Rosand, who said Stern sabotaged his progress after Rosand refused to study with him.
Ties to Israel
Stern maintained close ties with Israel. Stern began performing in the country in 1949. In 1973, he performed for wounded Israeli soldiers during the Yom Kippur War. During the 1991 Gulf War and Iraq's Scud missile attacks on Israel, he played in the Jerusalem Theater. During his performance, an air raid siren sounded, causing the audience to panic. Stern then stepped onto the stage and began playing a movement of Bach. The audience then calmed down, donned gas masks, and sat throughout the rest of his performance. Stern was a supporter of several educational projects in Israel, among them the America-Israel Foundation and the Jerusalem Music Center.
Among other instruments, Stern played the "Kruse-Vormbaum" Stradivarius (1728), the "ex-Stern" Bergonzi (1733), the "Stern-Alard" Guarneri del Gesù (1737), a Michele Angelo Bergonzi (1739–1757), the "Arma Senkrah" Guadagnini (1750), a Giovanni Guadagnini (1754), a J. B. Vuillaume copy of the "Panette" Guarneri del Gesu of 1737 (c.1850), and the "ex-Nicolas I" J.B. Vuillaume (1840). He also owned two contemporary instruments by Samuel Zygmuntowicz.
In 2001, Stern's collection of instruments, bows and musical ephemera was sold through Tarisio Auctions. The May 2003 auction set a number of world records and was at the time the second highest grossing violin auction of all time, with total sales of over $3.3M.