Issac Stern - History

Issac Stern - History

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Issac Stern



Steinem In 1972

Isaac Stern was born on July 21, 1920 in Krzemieniec (Poland Russia) and moved to San Francisco with his parents when he was 14 months old. His mother was his first teacher but at the age of 8 he began studying at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

A musical prodigy who debuted at age 11, Isaac Stern has had a spectacular career as a concert violinist. By his early 20's, Isaac Stern had been hailed as one of the world's great virtuosi. In the course of his career, Stern has performed with every major orchestra and at all major music festivals. He has maintained close musical ties with Israel, serving as a principal officer of the America-Israel Cultural Foundation and cofounding the Israel Music Center.

Stern had long association with Carnegie Hall in New York and has been a leader in the movement to save and restore the venerable music mecca.


My First 79 Years

Legendary Violinist Isaac Stern's Legacy Lives On After 100 Years

July 21 is the centennial of the birth of Isaac Stern. The violinist worked with his contemporaries, like Igor Stravinsky and Leonard Bernstein, and went on to mentor the next generation of musicians. Keystone/Getty Images hide caption

July 21 is the centennial of the birth of Isaac Stern. The violinist worked with his contemporaries, like Igor Stravinsky and Leonard Bernstein, and went on to mentor the next generation of musicians.

The tombstone on Isaac Stern's grave reads simply "Isaac Stern, Fiddler," but the violinist was much more than that: He was an educator who mentored generations of musicians, including Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman, and he was an activist who helped save Carnegie Hall from the wrecker's ball.

Isaac Stern was born on the shifting border between Poland and Ukraine 100 years ago on July 21, 1920. As an infant, his parents brought him to the U.S., where they settled in San Francisco.

"He had no aspirations to play music at all until, as he tells it, some kid across the street was playing and he wanted to play," says his son, Michael Stern. His father was 8 years old at the time.

Recognizing his talent, Stern's mother pulled him out of school. He made his public debut with the San Francisco Symphony when he was 15 and two years later, he was performing in New York.

Deceptive Cadence

120 Years At Carnegie Hall

"I went out early the next morning. I bought the papers and read the reviews with my mother," Stern wrote in his autobiography, My First 79 Years. "We were bitterly disappointed. I was being patted on the head by some of New York's most eminent critics. My playing was erratic. That I oughta go back to San Francisco and practice some more."

"And that's what he did," says Carnegie Hall archivist Gino Francesconi.

Stern returned to acclaim a few years later and launched a remarkable career performing recitals and chamber music, playing with major symphony orchestras. He played the classics, but also worked with contemporary composers including Igor Stravinsky and Leonard Bernstein.

"Isaac, my Isaac, whatever happens tonight, fair or foul or flop, I want you to know how much I will always cherish your work on our Serenade," reads a note Bernstein wrote to Stern on a piece of hotel stationary before the premiere of his piece, Serenade (after Plato's Symposium). "Nobody can play like you and nobody can play the piece as you can."

Throughout his career, Stern practiced relentlessly – even while watching football games on TV. But his musicianship wasn't just about technique. In the process of learning how to be a great musician, he says, the real question that needs to be answered is not how to play well, but why one chooses to play at all.

"Why do you play? Why do you want to be a musician? What do you want to say?" he said in conversation with NPR's Diane Rehm in 1999. "Only a human being can speak with a certain individual voice. And that's what every musician has to learn."

Stern wanted to impart what he'd learned to the next generation.

"He wasn't somebody who was just playing the violin, he took interest in the world," says the violinist Midori, who was mentored by Stern. "He took interest in his community. He took interest in people like us, the younger generation. And he was so committed to giving himself and becoming involved, taking action where he felt that it was necessary."

When he wasn't able to join the army because of flat feet during World War II, Stern joined the United Service Organizations and played for the troops. And when Carnegie Hall was scheduled to be demolished in 1960, he was instrumental in saving it, says his son, Michael.

"I think it gave him an enormous sense of pride that he could give back both to the city and to the country, something which he felt was so important and that was so important to him," Michael Stern says.

Isaac Stern went on to serve as president of Carnegie Hall for 40 years, and he was very much an American musician, says his other son, David — who, like his brother, became a conductor.

"The Americans who managed to come through and start on their own — in their own way, like my father — could invent everything," David Stern says. "They didn't have this burden of having to continue a tradition. And this was really the chance to say, I am an American artist. And that freedom you hear in his playing."

As someone who started with nothing and devoted his life to giving back to the country he called home, Isaac Stern said he never stopped learning.

"In eight decades, I feel that I am still a student. And that's what's wonderful. The wonderful thing is to search and sometimes find."

Unpacking the many lives of Isaac Stern

David Schoenbaum spent nine months digging through dozens of boxes of personal papers belonging to the world-famous violinist Isaac Stern in the archives of the Library of Congress.

Among the thousands of artifacts, Schoenbaum discovered 18 invitations to the White House correspondence with Britain’s Prince Charles, Henry Kissinger and a fifth grader from Oregon and a calorie-logging calendar Stern discarded after two days.

Schoenbaum’s extensive research ultimately produced his newest book, The Lives of Isaac Stern, a close examination of the very public activities of one of the most famous violin players to ever live.

“Every day was a surprise,” the author said of his time in the archives, noting that the trove of documents had never been sorted or catalogued. “I had no idea what I would find when I opened one of those boxes.” What emerged was a chronicle that led Schoenbaum, 85, to divide his book, and Stern’s life, into four categories: immigrant, professional, public citizen and chairman of the board.

“There was a personal history and a professional history and a public history and a philanthropic history,” he said. “He did more and different than any other player I guess since [19th-century Hungarian violinist] Joseph Joachim.”

Stern, who died in 2001, was born in what is now Ukraine, and moved with his Jewish parents to San Francisco when he was a baby. At age 8 he began studying the violin, at 10 made his debut with the San Francisco Symphony and by 18 he was criss-crossing the United States on tour. At 23 he took the stage triumphantly at Carnegie Hall — an event he referred to as his “professional bar mitzvah” in the 1999 memoir he wrote with Chaim Potok.

While Stern quickly became one of the most in-demand violinists around the world, Schoenbaum focuses much of the book on his societal and philanthropic ventures, including his love for and extensive ties to the State of Israel, “where audience after audience overflowed the available space,” he writes. “The self-assured informality of Israeli audiences in shorts and khaki shirts, score in hand, immediately enchanted him.”

Isaac Stern on his way to a concert in Caesarea, Israel, in 1961.

“At some point he counted up his visits to Israel and it was in the hundreds,” Schoenbaum told JI. “He was attached to the place… it captured his imagination for the same reason it captured the imagination of all American Jewish liberals. It was just a very appealing kind of place,” he added. “Of course he was received like a national hero.”

Stern visited so often that he became the centerpiece of a full-page ad for El Al in 1993. He met with Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, developed a close friendship with Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek, and repeatedly canceled concerts elsewhere to rush to Israel and entertain its war-weary citizens, in 1967, again in 1973 — and at an infamous 1991 concert interrupted by an air raid siren, and carried out with the audience wearing gas masks.

Beyond his concerts there, he also left a legacy in the Jerusalem Music Centre, the institution he dreamed up, fundraised for and inaugurated in 1973. He served as president of the America-Israel Cultural Foundation, was a founding member of the National Council on the Arts, and led a campaign to save Carnegie Hall in the 1960s, becoming president of the Carnegie Hall Corporation from 1960 until his death.

Schoenbaum, a prolific author whose most recent book was a 700-page treatise titled The Violin, was very familiar with Stern’s star turns and extensive time in the spotlight. But even he was surprised at the breadth and variety of the violinist’s public connections.

“What impressed me is the number of people he knew and connected with,” Schoenbaum said, “and the sheer physical range of his life.” Stern “knew people you wouldn’t imagine, and was quite generous about maintaining connections over the decades,” he said. He played for presidents and prime ministers and hobnobbed with Frank Sinatra, the philosopher Isaiah Berlin and Abe Saperstein, the founder and coach of the Harlem Globetrotters, but also kept in touch with the conductor of the local orchestra in Sioux City, Iowa, and answered mail sent by curious schoolchildren.

In 1993, he reached out to a veritable who’s who of prominent figures to drum up support for Kollek ahead of his final and unsuccessful run for mayor of Jerusalem. Stern hit up actor Kirk Douglas, philanthropist Charles Bronfman, publisher Marty Peretz, banker Felix Rohatyn and future World Bank Group president James Wolfensohn for donations.

“He would have been a success in business, he would have been a success in politics, he would have been a success in diplomacy,” said Schoenbaum. “He was just that kind of guy.”

And Stern did lead a diplomatic life of sorts, often touring the world as a performer with a barely disguised agenda. In 1956, Stern became the first American musician to perform in the Soviet Union, in 1961 he was sent by the State Department to perform in Iran and in 1979 he toured China, just as the country was opening up to the Western world.

But there was one place Stern steadfastly refused to take the stage throughout his life: Germany. He famously never held a concert there, citing the painful and visceral atrocities of the Holocaust. He did, however, encourage other artists to perform there, and held a series of master classes in Cologne in 1999, two years before his death.

Schoenbaum, who has written extensively about Germany, only glancingly references Stern’s complicated relationship with the country in the book.

“It came up in every interview. He was always asked about it and he always said the same thing,” Schoenbaum told JI. “He liked to like his audience.”

In 1986, however, he made headlines when he chose to play at a Harlem church despite more than a third of the accompanying New York Philharmonic boycotting the concert because a minister at the church had refused to denounce Louis Farrakhan over his many antisemitic remarks.

By the time he died in 2001, Stern had become a household name, racking up accolades, awards, achievements and even the presidential medal of freedom. His music can be heard in the iconic 1970 film “Fiddler on the Roof” and a documentary about his visit to China won an Academy Award in 1981.

But he never quite forgot his humble roots. After all, at his 80th birthday party, his friend — former MLB commissioner Fay Vincent — recalled: “He once told me to think of him as a fat little kid from San Francisco who loved Joe DiMaggio.”

Preservation History Database

Isaac Stern, an award-winning violinist and conductor, was a key figure in saving Carnegie Hall from demolition and developing it into the multi-purpose concert venue and education center that it is today.


Involvement in Preservation Campaigns & Related Activities

Archives, Personal Files, Ephemera & Oral Histories

Isaac Stern, an award-winning violinist and conductor, was born in the Soviet Ukraine (now part of Poland) on July 21, 1920. After moving to San Francisco when he was 14 months old, he began his musical training, first under his mother and later at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Widely known for his recordings, performances, and adeptness in discovering new musical talent, Stern was also influential in spearheading the campaign to save Carnegie Hall from demolition in the 1950s (culminating in a legislative bill protecting the building in 1960). 1 Stern’s involvement with the Hall began after his debut there in 1943 and lasted until his death in New York City on September 22, 2001, at the age of 81. 2

In 1955 the owner of Carnegie Hall put the building up for sale and rumors spread that a real estate development company planned to demolish the Hall and replace it with a high-rise office building. In 1956 Isaac Stern helped form the Committee to Save Carnegie Hall, which successfully blocked the sale of the building, though their methods were undisclosed. However, on January 5, 1960, the owner once again announced that Carnegie Hall would be demolished after the New York Philharmonic, the Hall’s major tenant, decided to move to the newly-constructed Lincoln Center. Many famous musicians, including Stern, joined the overwhelming support for the protection of the building. Citing his recent series of appearances at Carnegie Hall in a discussion advocating for the building's protection with philanthropist Jacob M. Kaplan, Stern mentioned how sad he was that these performances could be his last at the venue. This meeting led to a new effort funded by Kaplan and spearheaded by Stern to save the hall from demolition. 3 With Kaplan’s financial and administrative assistance, and support from New York State Senator MacNeil Mitchell, Stern became a vital force in rallying support, enlisting other major supporters that included Eleanor Roosevelt, Fritz Kreisler, Jascha Heifetz, Arthur Rubinstein, Dame Myra Hess, Van Cliburn, Leopold Stokowski, Marian Anderson, Fritz Reiner, and many other musicians and philanthropists. 4

Stern gathered civic leaders at his home in January 1960 to organize the Citizens Committee for Carnegie Hall. Their strategy was to create a not-for-profit entity to save, preserve, and operate the hall by attaining timely government intervention. 5 Another obstacle involved addressing concerns that the City would not be able to support two concert halls, Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. The committee eventually convinced Mayor Robert F. Wagner that Carnegie Hall should "be saved to serve as a national center for teaching music and the development of young artists" and that it would not compete with Lincoln Center. 6 The 1956 Bard Act provided a strong legal base, and the 1960 Carnegie Hall Bill (passed by Senator MacNeil Mitchell and championed by Stern) also helped save the building by permitting New York City to acquire buildings with "special character, or special historical or aesthetic interest or value," by purchase or condemnation. Stern and the committee did not go public with these efforts until they had convinced a majority of the council and garnered their support for the Bill. 7 On June 10, 1960 the New York City Board of Estimate approved the City's purchase of Carnegie Hall for $5 million, providing another $100,000 for improvements. 8 New York City remains the owner of the structure. After the legislation was passed, and the Carnegie Hall Corporation was chartered, Stern was elected as president, a position he held until his death. 9 In this role Stern was involved in campaigning for funds and running the hall. As an integral part of the corporation, Isaac Stern also played a central role in a major restoration in 1986 and in the celebration of its centenary in 1991. The main concert hall was renamed the Isaac Stern Auditorium in honor of his efforts in 1997. 10

Isaac Stearns, I

Isaac Stearns' pedigree has not been ascertained, but his wife was the daughter of John and Margaret Barker of Stoke Nayland, Suffolk, England, and the baptism of three of the Stearns children appears on the register of that parish.[2] In 1640 "Isaacke Sterne of Watertown in New England planter sometimes of Stoke Nayland in the County of Suffolke tayler and Mary his wife daughter of John Barker late of Stoke Nayland aforesaid clothier deceased" made a letter of attorney to Thomas Gilson of Sudbury, Suffolk, baker, to receive and recover from ? Munnings of Gaynes Colne, Essex, the sum of five pounds due to Mary "by some bond covenant or agreement made by the said Munnings before or upon his marriage with Margaret Barker mother of the said Mary".[7/2912] On April 8, 1630 Isaac Stearns and his family embarked at Yarmouth, England in the "Arabella" and arrived in Salem June 12, 1630. Isaac was in the company of Sir Richard Saltonstall, Governor Winthrop, Reverend George Phillips, and many others. Not satisfied with conditions at Salem, the company soon proceeded to Charlestown and Watertown. This is how Isaac Stearns came to be among the first settlers in Watertown, near Mount Auburn.[2/622]

Isaac was admitted a freeman on May 18, 1631, the earliest date of any such admission. On December 5, 1638 he and John Page were fined five shillings for "turning the way about" (i.e. for diverting a highway). In 1647 he and John Biscoe were appointed by the Selectmen "to consider how the bridge over the river shall be built, and to agree with the workmen for doing it, according to their best discretion".[5/1:11] Isaac Stearns held several town offices. He was a selectman for Watertown in 1648,[5/1:10] 1659,[5/1:59] 1670,[5/1:95] and 1671.[5/1:102] He was a constable in 1652,[5/1:24] 1660,[5/1:65] and 1661.[5/1:72] Isaac was also surveyor of highways in 1663.[5/1:75]

Isaac had extensive land holdings. The first inventory of grants and possessions in Watertown, taken in or before 1639, reveals he had 461 acres at the time. These included 1) a homestall of ten acres bounded on the west with the highway, east with Pequusset Meadow, north with John Warren, and south with John Biscoe 2) ten acres of upland bounded south by John Biscoe, north by John Warren, east with Pequusset Meadow, and west with the way leading to Concord 3) two acres in Pequusset Meadow bounded east by William Hammond, west with his own upland, north by John Warren, and south by Edmund James 4) Two acres in Pond Meadow bounded east by John Page and south by Robert Lockwood. This land was bought from Richard Kimball 5) four acres in little Plaine Meadow bounded north and east by John Whitney and south by John Page. Two of these acres were bought from John Thompson and Garret Church 6) a homestall of three acres bounded east by William Paine, west by John Goffe, north with Pond lane, and south by the highway 7) fifty acres of upland being a great Divident in the fourth division and the 15th lot 8) twenty-seven acres of upland beyond the further plain, lot number 4 9) twelve acres of plowland in the further plain, lot 67 10) twelve acres of meadow in the remote meadows, lot 5 11) ten acres of meadow in the remote meadows, lot 6, bought from Thomas Rucks 12) sixty acres of upland being a great Divident in the third division, lot 25, bought of Thomas Rucks and 13) a farm of 259 acres of upland in the third division.[6/1:22] Isaac may have disposed of some of his lands by 1644 when the second inventory was taken or they were left out as some others appear to have been. His homestall had increased to twelve acres, but possessions 4 and 11-13 were gone as were the two acres bought of Thompson and Church. Thomas Boyden had replaced Edmund James as the neighbor on the south of the two acres in Pequusset meadow and the 12 acres of plowland were described as bounded north with the highway, south with the river, east by John Kingsbury, and west by Miles Nutt.[6/1:7778] The list of his possessions in the third inventory, taken about 1646, only listed three lots totaling 72 acres.[6/1:117]

Isaac's will was dated June 14, 1671 and mentions wife Mary, sons John, Isaac, and Samuel, daughters Mary Learned (deceased), Sarah Stone, Elizabeth Manning, and Abigail Morse, grand child Isaac Learned, and kinsman Charles Stearns. It was witnessed by William Bond, Sr. and John Biscoe, Sr..[4/4:142] Apparently Isaac Stearns was a man of some affluence as his estate was appraised at 524.04.08 even after he had given sizable gifts to each of his seven children. The inventory was taken June 28, 1671 by William Bond, Sr., John Biscoe, Sr., and Henry Freeman and included 14 lots of land of 467 acres.[4/4:144]

Charles Stearns was admitted freeman in Watertown May 6, 1646. He was elected constable of Watertown in 1680-1 but refused to take the oath and moved soon after to Lynn, MA. Charles named sons Isaac, John, and Samuel. One tradition was that three brothers, Daniel, Isaac, and Shubael, came to Massachusetts in 1630. Daniel died unmarried, and Shubael died leaving sons Charles and Nathaniel, 8 or 10 years old, who were cared for by their uncle Isaac.[8/3435] Nathaniel moved to Dedham.[8/342]

Some well known descendants of Isaac Stearns include Clara Barton, Brigham Young, Robert Goddard the rocket man, John "Johnny Appleseed" Chapman, and US President Richard Nixon.

Early in the morning of April 8, 1630, Isaac Stearns and family, Sir Richard Saltonstall and family, Rev. George Phillips, Gov. Winthrop and many others embarked at Yarmouth, England in the good ship Arabella and arrived in Salem, Massachusetts, on the 12th of June. The passengers not being satisfied with Salem as possessing the desirable advantages for permanent settlement, soon proceeded to Charlestown and were among the first settlers of Watertown, Massachusetts. He was admitted Freeman May, 18 1631, which is the earliest date of any such admission, and he was Selectman several years.

In 1647, he was appointed Selectman 'to consider how the bridge over the river shall be built, and to agree with the workmen for doing it, according to their best discretion. This is the first mention of a bridge over the Charles River at Watertown.

His craft was that of a tailor, and he was educated enough to sign his name.

Genealogies of the Families and Descendants of the Early Settlers of Watertown, Massachusetts, published 1855

The following resources are used: Genealogies of the Families and Descendants of the Early Settlers of Watertown, MA, (1855: 2nd ed., Boston 1860 [herinafter Bond], 450-552). Stearns Genealogy: v. 1, Genealogy and Memoirs of Isaac Stearns and His Descendants v II, Genealogy and Memoirs of Charles and Nathaniel Stearns. (1901 [hereinafter Van Wagenen], v. I or Van Wagenen, v. II])

Isaac and Mary (Barker) Stearns, as the name was written in the early records, came to New England in 1630 with the Winthrop Fleet. He settled in Watertown, near Mt. Auburn, was made a freeman in 1631 (Bond, 451). Sometime between June 1638 and July 1641, he obtained the services of Thomas Lechford, Atty of Boston, to recover a legacy due to his wife, Mary (Barker Stearns, daughter of 'John Barker, late of Stoke Nayland. Clothier, deceased' (Edward Everett Hale, Jr. et. al., eds.,m Note-Book Kept by Thomas Lechford, Esq. [Camden, ME Picton Press, 188]. 291-292. The money was due from a bond made at the time of w3idow Margaret (--------) Bariker's marriage to a ------ Munnings of Gaynes Colne, Co. Essex, England.

Isaac, early identified as a 'taylor', was a Watertown Selectman for several years, and in 1647 was appointed with Mr. Biscoe 'to consider how the bridge over the river [The Charles] shall be built' (Bond, 451). The births of only 3 of his children are recorded in the Watertown, records. It is likely that his older children were born in England. The Parish Register of Nayland shows baptismal records for Mary, dau. of Isaac Sternes, 6 Jan 1626 and Anna, 5 Oct 1628 [Hannah and Anna were often used interchangeably in the early days], (Bond, 451-452)

Issac died in Watertown 19 June 1671, leaving widow Mary his will, written and signed just 5 days before his death, is in Middlesex County Court Records. In it he names 'beloved wife' Mary his grandchildren, the children of his son, John who predeceased him the children of daughter, Mary Lernot [Learned] his daughters Sarah Stone, Elizabeth Manning, and Abigail Morse his 'kinsman' Charles Sternes. His sons, Isaac and Samuel, were executors (Bond, 452).

Ancestral File Number: 4W2L-P9

Copy of Archive Record in FHL, Salt Lake City, UT, in possession of

Bingham, which cites as sources, "Watertown Vital Records", pp 3, 4, 5,

"Cambridge Vital Records", p 371 "Stearns Genealogical Memoirs" by Van

Isaac Stearns came to America in 1630, possibly in the same ship as Gov. Winthrop and Sir Richard Saltonstall, and settled in Watertown, near Mount Auburn. He was admitted a freeman in 1631, which is the earliest date of any such admission, and he was Selectman several years. The births of only 3 of his children are recorded in the town records. His pedigree has not been ascertained, nor is it certainly known what town he came from, but it is very probably that he came from the Parish of Nayland

MARRIAGE: New England Marriages: Prior to 1700 (C. A. Torrey) p. 703

Came To America In The Ship, The Planter

Immigraged 1630 on "Arabella"

He came with his wife, Mary Barker, and two children, Mary and Hannah, in 1630 on the Ship Arabella to Salem, Essex, Massachusetts.

April 8, 1630, Isaac Stearns and family, Sir Richard Staltonstall and family, Rev. George Phillips, Gov. Winthrop and many others embarked at Yarmouth, England, in the good ship Arrabella and arrived in Salem, Mass., on the 12th of June. The passengers not being satisfied with Salem as possessing the desirable advantages for a permanent settlement soon proceeded from Salem to Charlestown and were among the first settlers of Watertown, near Mount Auburn, Mass.

"Baptized, Jan. 6, 1626, Mary, dau. of Isaac Sternes. "Baptized, Oct. 5, 1628, Anna, dau. of Isaac Sternes." The names and ages of these two daughters seem to correspond with the supposed ages of the eldest two girls of the first Isaac Stearns, of Watertown for, in the early records, Anna and Hannah were often used, the one for the other.

1622, marriage of Isaac Sternes and Mary Barker. 1623, baptism of child of same. 1626, baptism of child of same. 1628, baptism of child of same.

his estate was in comparative affluence for those early times, fourteen lots or parcels of land, amounting to 467 acres, with a due quantity of stock and farming utensils, provisions and household goods.

Birth:  1597, England Death:  Jun. 19, 1671 Watertown Middlesex County Massachusetts, USA

Born by about 1600 based on estimated date of marriage. A tailor who came to Massachusetts Bay in 1630 from Nayland with Wissington, in Suffolk. Settled in Watertown MA & died there, 19 June 1671. Married Stoke by Nayland 20 May 1622 Mary Barker, daughter of John and Margaret (Walter) Barker of Stoke Nayland. On 23 May 1665 "Goodwife Stearns Senior" was one of several Watertown residents warned to town meeting to answer for not "attending their seats in the meetinghouse appointed them by the town." She died at Watertown on 23 April 1677. Charles Stearns, who was at Watertown as early as 1646 & who had a son named Isaac, was called kinsman in the will of Isaac Stearns. Source: Anderson's Winthrop Fleet.

A FINDaGRAVE contributor adds to Isaac Stearns' and Mary Barker's children--their son Isaac Stearns II was born 6 Jan 1632/33 and died 29 Aug 1676. He married Sarah Beers. I hope to add bio's for Isaac and Sarah. Their info can be found in Bond's genealogy of Watertown, p. 453.    Family links:  Parents: William Stearns (1566 - 1632) Emma Ransford Stearns (1570 - ____)   Born by about 1600 based on estimated date of marriage. A tailor who came to Massachusetts Bay in 1630 from Nayland with Wissington, in Suffolk. Settled in Watertown MA & died there, 19 June 1671. Married Stoke by Nayland 20 May 1622 Mary Barker, daughter of John and Margaret (Walter) Barker of Stoke Nayland. On 23 May 1665 "Goodwife Stearns Senior" was one of several Watertown residents warned to town meeting to answer for not "attending their seats in the meetinghouse appointed them by the town." She died at Watertown on 23 April 1677.

Charles Stearns, who was at Watertown as early as 1646 & who had a son named Isaac, was called kinsman in the will of Isaac Stearns.

Source: Anderson's Winthrop Fleet.

A Find-A-Grave contributor adds to Isaac Stearns' and Mary Barker's children--their son Isaac Stearns II was born 6 Jan 1632/33 and died 29 Aug 1676. He married Sarah Beers. I hope to add bio's for Isaac and Sarah. Their info can be found in Bond's genealogy of Watertown, p. 453.

Isaac Stearns was born about 1590 of Higham Suffolk England. He died at Watertown MA. The first four children were born in England and the rest Watertown MA. Dates for first 2 children are baptismal dates. 1 ISAAC STEARNS, or Sternes, b. in England, -- md., 1622, Mary Barker, dau. of John and Margaret Barker, of Stoke, Nayland, Suffolk, England. "This is proved correct by an entry in Thomas Lechford's Note Book, pages 291, 292." Isaac Sternes d., June 19, 1671, and his widow d., Apr. 2, 1677 eight children. 2 MARY STEARNS, bapt. Jan. 6, 1626, in the Parish of Nayland, Suffolk, England md., (1) July 9, 1646, in Woburn, Mass., Isaac Learned md., (2) June 9, 1662, John Burge, of Weymouth.3 HANNAH STEARNS, bapt., Oct. 5, 1628, in England md., Dec. 25, 1650, in Watertown, Mass., Henry Freeman buried, June 17, 1656 d.s.p.4 JOHN STEARNS (10), b. perhaps in 1631, in Watertown, Mass., or, perhaps, the child who was batised in 1623 of Billerica. 5 ISAAC STEARNS, JR., (17), b. Jan. 6, 1633 admitted freeman, 1665 d., Aug. 29, 1676.6 SARAH STEARNS, b., Sept. 22, 1635, in Watertown, Mass., md. June 7 1655, Dea. Samuel Stone, of Cambridge. She d. Oct. 4, 1700, and he d. Sept. 27, 1715.7 SAMUEL STEARNS (24), b. Apr. 24, 1638 d. Aug. 3, 1683.8 ELIZABETH STEARNS, b. --, 1640 md., Apr. 13, 1664, Samuel Manning, b. July 21, 1644, son of William Manning, of Cambridge, Mass. She d. June 23, 1671, leaving two sons.9 ABIGAIL STEARNS, b. -- md. Apr. 27, 1666, Dea. John Morse, b. Feb. 28, 1639. She d. Oct 16, 1690.

Isaac Stearns came to America in 1630 on Arabella with Gov Winthrop and Sir Richard Saltonstall. Settled in Watertown Mass. near Mt Auburn. In Winthrop's journal & records, name is spelled Sterne. Came from Nayland in Suffolk, England. In 1647 selected to consider how bridge over river Charles to be built at Watertown. WikiTree

Born by about 1600 based on estimated date of marriage. A tailor who came to Massachusetts Bay in 1630 from Nayland with Wissington, in Suffolk. Settled in Watertown MA & died there, 19 June 1671. Married Stoke by Nayland 20 May 1622 Mary Barker, daughter of John and Margaret (Walter) Barker of Stoke Nayland. On 23 May 1665 "Goodwife Stearns Senior" was one of several Watertown residents warned to town meeting to answer for not "attending their seats in the meetinghouse appointed them by the town." She died at Watertown on 23 April 1677. Charles Stearns, who was at Watertown as early as 1646 & who had a son named Isaac, was called kinsman in the will of Isaac Stearns. Source: Anderson's Winthrop Fleet.

A FINDaGRAVE contributor adds to Isaac Stearns' and Mary Barker's children--their son Isaac Stearns II was born 6 Jan 1632/33 and died 29 Aug 1676. He married Sarah Beers. I hope to add bio's for Isaac and Sarah. Their info can be found in Bond's genealogy of Watertown, p. 453.

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Isaac Stern was born in the town of Kreminiecz, then part of Soviet Ukraine. This was the birthplace of his mother, Clara Stern, who had studied voice at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. His father, Solomon, was an artist from Kiev who made a living as a house painter.

When Isaac was less than a year old, the family emigrated to the United States, settling in San Francisco. (Both parents would lose their entire families in the Holocaust.) They were middle-class, and completely secularized in their Jewishness: Isaac was brought up in a home with no adherence to Jewish ritual, and, like his father, he did not have a bar mitzvah.

At age six, Isaac began learning piano with his mother, and switched to the violin two years later. His most important teacher was Naoum Blinder, with whom he also played the Bach Double Concerto in his first professional performance, with the San Francisco Symphony, in 1936.

The following year, Stern debuted in New York, at Town Hall. Although the reviews were largely positive, they were also condescending, emphasizing his potential rather than his virtuosity. The 17-year-old Stern had come to New York with the intention of staying, but returned to San Francisco instead and applied himself to practicing “day and night,” as he wrote in his memoir.

Location, location, location

Practice, of course, is the way to Carnegie Hall, and it was Stern’s debut performance there, in 1943, in tandem with pianist Alexander Zakin, that was really the turning point of his career. Writing in the New York Herald Tribune, composer and critic Virgil Thomson, for example, now called him “one of the world’s master fiddle players.”

His dream of being a violin soloist, rather than a “mere” player in an orchestra, had come to fruition. He was represented by the impresario Sol Hurok, and soon was making highly regarded recordings.

Stern himself never claimed to have outstanding technical skills, but he brought a great deal of feeling and intelligence to his playing. In explaining why he could not bring himself to perform in Germany, for example, Stern wrote how, when he played, "I am engaging in a dialogue between myself and my listeners. It's as if I'm making love to the audience. . . My visceral memories of that dreadful, inhuman Nazi period make it impossible for me to talk to and make love to audiences of Germans.” He called it “my personal burden.” (Stern did lead nine days of master classes in Cologne, in 1999.)

When New York was building Lincoln Center for the Arts, in 1960, it was assumed that it no longer had a need for Carnegie Hall. Isaac Stern disagreed, and undertook a one-man struggle to have it declared a national landmark. Two decades later, as president of the Carnegie Hall Corporation, he oversaw its complete overhaul.

Critical voices

In an article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on the 100th birthday of the Geigers on July 22, 2020, the music critic Jürgen Kesting describes Isaac Stern as a "power man and power violinist" under the heading "Not always on the straight path" and explains this in detail. "At the Leventritt Competition in 1967, the jury awarded the Korean Kyung Wha Chung the first prize. Stern protégé Pinchas Zukerman had not made it to the final. Stern urged the jury to let Zukerman play again and ensured that the first place was divided It is also widely documented that he put obstacles in the way of colleagues and rivals: including Henrik Szeryng from Poland and Aaron Rosand from America, who is one of the rare “fiddler's fiddlers.” For the blog of the English journalist Norman Lebrecht, Rosand described - "My Life with Isaac Stern" - his painful experiences "

Not only his accumulation of offices, his often poor preparation for concerts and his intonation problems are described in detail.

Oral Histories

Violinist Isaac Stern recounts the process of saving Carnegie Hall from demolition through the passage of the Carnegie Hall Bill in 1960.

With the construction of Lincoln Center and the New York Philharmonic moving to the new hall there, Carnegie Hall was about to become obsolete. At the time a privately owned building, the owner planned to sell it to a developer who had plans to demolish it and build a large office building in it’s place. Once it became public that the building was threatened, the Committee to Save Carnegie Hall was formed. Aided by Jacob M. Kaplan, who donated money, office space, and political connections to the cause, they were able to begin lobbying for the Carnegie Hall Bill, which was passed by both the New York City Council and the New York State Legislature, allowing the city to purchase the building. Once the hall was saved, the Carnegie Hall Corporation oversaw its management. Stern speaks about the early years of managing Carnegie Hall and the various arrangements between the city and the corporation, resulting eventually in the rental agreement. He also details the process of surveying and then fundraising to do the necessary repairs to Carnegie Hall in the 1980s.

Isaac Stern’s Great Leap Forward Reverberates

THIRTY years ago this summer the violinist Isaac Stern created a sensation when he came to China for a series of concerts and master classes.

His visit, richly documented in the Academy Award-winning film “From Mao to Mozart: Isaac Stern in China” (directed by Murray Lerner and supervised by Allan Miller), was credited with giving a boost to classical music here and helping foster cultural exchanges between China and the West.

This October Beijing will commemorate that visit with a concert by the China Philharmonic to honor Mr. Stern, who died in 2001 at 81, and to pay tribute to the remarkable strides this country has made in music since then.

Among those expected to perform will be Wang Jian, whose performance as a 10-year-old in the film eventually led him to Yale University, the Julliard School, Carnegie Hall and an acclaimed career as an international recording and performing artist.

“We’ve come a long way since then,” Mr. Wang, now 40, said recently. Back then, when Stern came, “this was the only chance we had to hear a great master,” he said. “People were fighting to get into the rehearsals.”

Other young musicians like Li Weigang, Vera Tsu, Tang Yun and Ho Hongying who performed for Mr. Stern in 1979 have also gone on to perform in the world’s great concert halls.

Since the days of Stern’s historic visit, interest in and access to classical music has mushroomed in China. There are major orchestras in many cities, and an estimated 40 million students across the country study the violin or the piano. But there are not yet enough dedicated fans to support classical careers within the country, which is why, even today, Chinese musicians go abroad and now populate the world’s leading orchestras, opera houses and music schools.

The Chinese composer Tan Dun and pianist Lang Lang are international recording stars. And last month the 19-year-old Zhang Haochen, born in China, shared the top prize at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth.

Few could have imagined such triumphs in 1979, when Beijing was a sea of bicycles and Mao suits, and the tallest building in Shanghai was a mere 24 stories.

Stern arrived here at a critical moment in the country’s history, just as it was beginning to emerge from decades of self-imposed isolation, eager to turn the page.

The United States and China had just resumed diplomatic relations, and on his arrival with his family and the American pianist David Golub in June, Stern announced that the trip was less a concert tour than a “how do you do?” — using music as a kind of passport to meet the Chinese people.

And so over the next two weeks Stern — followed by a large film crew — played the gray-haired philosopher with an easy smile and a deft hand at the violin. In Beijing he performed with the Central Philharmonic and toured China’s top music academy, the Central Conservatory of Music. He played the César Franck Sonata in A before a full house at the Shanghai Concert Hall, but only after averting disaster. A day before the concert the piano prepared for Mr. Golub was deemed unplayable. At the last minute a suitable piano was found at a radio station.

Everywhere Stern went the reception was enormous. Music lovers traveled by train from distant provinces in China to catch a glimpse of one of the 20th century’s great instrumentalists. Even rehearsals were packed with standing-room-only crowds that seemed to hang on Stern’s every word.

One of the spectators in Beijing that summer was Zhao Pingguo, then an instructor at the Central Conservatory and later one of the earliest teachers of China’s piano master Lang Lang. Today, at 75, he is retired.

“I went to almost every rehearsal and performance Stern gave,” Professor Zhao said in a recent interview. “Friends and professors around me all talked about his visit. We were quite convinced that China was going to change dramatically.”

One highlight of the two-week visit was a series of performances by some of China’s best young musicians.

Mr. Wang, then a cello prodigy, played an Eccles sonata Li Weigang, whose parents were both musicians, played Paganini’s “Witches Dance” and the 12-year-old Ho Hongying, wearing a school uniform punctuated by a red scarf, played a Tartini sonata in G minor.

“That was my exam piece,” said Ms. Ho, now concertmaster of the City Chamber Orchestra in Hong Kong. “I was so nervous. There were 3,000 people in a hall that is supposed to hold 1,800. It was so packed.”

But Stern and Golub noticed something peculiar about the sessions. Younger students who were 8, 9, 10 or 11 were impressive. But those older than 17 lacked something. What, the Americans asked, happened in between?

The answer came from Tan Shuzhen, then 72 and the deputy director of the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, who said that during the decade-long Cultural Revolution China had tried to wipe out traces of Western influence. Music schools closed, teachers of Western music were harshly criticized, beaten and even jailed. And the playing of Western music was outlawed.

Conditions were so psychologically brutal, Mr. Tan said, that 17 instructors at the Shanghai Conservatory committed suicide.

Mr. Tan, who taught violin, said he spent 14 months starting in 1968 largely confined to a tiny, dark closet under a stairwell at the Conservatory. He suffered regular beatings and denunciations before being released to work as a janitor charged with cleaning the school’s toilets.

In one of the most powerful scenes in the documentary, “From Mao to Mozart,” Mr. Tan described the time his daughter and 7-year-old granddaughter had come to see him and he was briefly allowed out of confinement. He broke into tears when the young girl called out to him, “Grandpa.”

“We were treated as criminals because we taught them Western music,” he said in the film.

When the Cultural Revolution came to an end with Mao’s death in 1976, music schools reopened, and the ban on playing Western music was lifted. Tens of thousands of young people applied to the top music schools, including many children who had had been playing Western music in secret.

One of those was Li Weigang, now a distinguished violinist who played for Stern in 1979 and later helped form the Shanghai Quartet.

“Like everyone else we played in secret,” he said recently. “Or we played scales. No one knew what we were doing.”

For Stern the biggest disappointment of the 1979 visit seemed to be the feeling that China’s musicians, while technically adept, were stiff and colorless. He pressed them to play with more passion and to feel the emotion of the music.

“You must always listen as if you are hearing something very beautiful, and then you must learn how to do it in here,” Stern said while instructing Ho Hongying. “Think in here,” he said gently tapping on her head, “and play here,” he said pointing to the violin.

Many musicians now say Stern’s visit had a profound impact on the teaching of classical music in China. In the years after his visit other maestros and virtuosos arrived for similar tours, including the conductor Kurt Masur and the violinist Yehudi Menuhin.

And many of the talented children who performed for Mr. Stern during that sultry summer of 1979 subsequently studied abroad.

Tang Yun trained with Dorothy DeLay at the Julliard School and is now a member of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Vera Tsu also studied at Julliard and now performs in Beijing. And Pan Chun, who delighted Mr. Stern by performing Mozart’s “Variations on ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,’ ” later studied in Russia. He is now a professor at the Central Conservatory in Beijing.

Wang Jian’s journey out of China was particularly dramatic. An American businessman with roots in China named Sau Wing-Lam saw the film and a few years later arranged for the young Mr. Wang to travel to the United States and study music at Yale University.

“He wrote to my parents and said, ‘Your son can choose any school, I will give him a cello,’ ” Mr. Wang recalled in a recent interview. “It’s the same cello I have today.”

That rare cello was produced in Italy, in 1662, Mr. Wang said.

In 1999, three years before his death, Stern returned to China and marveled at the changes he found in the quality of the students and the instruction.

While hardly representative of the spirit of his trip, one comment that Stern made during the 1979 visit stands out. At an athletic center in Shanghai he expressed amazement at the sheer ability and concentration of the young people he saw, and then joked, “Well, they can’t play Mozart.”

Stern’s son Michael, now a conductor, said the comment was misconstrued. But whether it was or not, one thing is certain: The musicians in China today can play Mozart, and Brahms and Mendelssohn and Debussy.


Good for Mordecai that he was strong willed and that his love for music prevailed. After reading this however, one wonders how many talents did this kind of ‘authority’ ruin in the end…and who are the Isaac Stern’s of various instruments today?

Why don’t everyone tell their stories of how Stern ruined their career.
People like Aaron Rosand and Mordecai Shehori should look in a mirror and blame the person they see as the person responsible for their lack of career, instead of blaming a person who is no longer with us to defend himself.

Truth too painful for you, eh?

Reality too painful for you?
Be happy with the careers you had, and know you got exactly what you deserved.

This post highlights perhaps the most insidious aspect of being a victim of bullying — namely, that the victim is supposed to be completely isolated without a voice, and that speaking up will only bring shame. In the case of those who were bullied and silenced by Mr. Stern, it is unfortunate that he is unable to hear the anguish of those he tried to silence. As this practice of banning and shunning performers is certainly not isolated, we can hope others will be courageous enough to speak up while a bully is still alive.

Once again, I am shocked. Truly.

==Instead of practicing his great violins in his gorgeous Studio on 81st Street and amazing country house in Connecticut

That’s a fair point. I read in interview once that he spent an inordinate number of hours, even right before going on stage talking to his brokers and equity salesman. He loved $$ which gave him even less time to practise.

He could play stupendously well despite being kept being busy in other areas…. .

Isaac Stern was one of the highest paid soloists of his day earning as much as $20,000 per set of concerts with orchestra. I once happened, completely by accident in a storage room rummaging around for a tape, on a contract from 1975 or so that read an astonishing $22,000 paid to Isaac Stern for three (or was it four?) concerts with the orchestra (one of the top tier but not top five in the US):

According to the website “Measuring Worth” – In 2013, the relative value of $22,000 from 1975 ranges from $74,600.00 to $219,000.00.

As a Jewish friend quipped: “two Jews, three opinions”.

Rosand’s account contained a couple of instances of “three jews, two opinions,” Rosand becoming the odd man out. Why Stern commanded so much deference from the rich and powerful is an interesting question in itself.

Hey Isaac, don’t complain to us just because the Prince of Darkness makes you share a bunk with Josef Stalin. You can go back to managing your banjo orchestra now.

Luck Isaac didn’t live in the U.R.S.S.. He could have been the official censor, and probably Shostakovich would have been executed.

We should not accept all criticisms of Stern without considering them carefully. I had trouble making it through this entire essay after this at the opening: “Maybe I upset him because I had a more intellectual and artistic approach to music?” And later: “Instead of practicing his great violins in his gorgeous Studio on 81st Street and amazing country house in Connecticut, he spent all day on the phone and in meetings, practically betraying his profession.”

The need to portray Stern not just as a tyrant, but also as a second rate musician, colors some (but not all) criticism of him that I’ve seen recently. Forgive my skepticism.

I don’t see the two comments referred to by Jama11 as suggesting his conclusion that Stern was a second rate musician. There have been enough posts about Stern being a first-rate musician and performer, as mentioned by Aaron Rosand in his comments made 4 days ago – “Isaac was a powerful player, and a superb musician with a beautiful tone.”

But I believe that comment refers specifically to the first half of his career. The issue pointed out by many posters in several threads is that as he became more immersed in power and musical politics, his playing deteriorated. It is a fact well known to many in the profession that he just did not practise as he should have – as any performer must. Inevitably this affected his playing with the result that his standard of performance fell considerably below that from earlier in the career.

Way are you skeptical? After all, the expositions come from two distinguished and well respected musicians. What would they have to gain by recounting any lies? You just can’t handle the truth.

I have heard other stories of this kind. Even if Stern truly felt that Shehori didn’t have the goods to be a concert pianist, what right did he have to try to destroy someone’s career? It seems that his power was out of control.

Too bad too be true. He couldn’t have veen satan incarnate.

I used to admire Stern highly. Oh to know the ENTIRE story! I’ve had someone take an extreme dislike to me without any explanation. Turns out I’d been maliciously slandered by a third party, also for reasons unknown. Some people are just paranoid NUTZ! Trust your own perceptions. Don’t listen to gossip. Keep your own counsel. And “hold your judgement for yourself, lest you wind up on this road,” (Bob Dylan).

Well, Mr. Shehori — the close relationship you pursued with the Stern family ultimately back-fired on you, and that’s something that only you could explain. Surely you had an agenda for ingratiating yourself with the Sterns (as did everybody else), and it’s well known that you had far more success with Vera than with Isaac — so that was certainly the source of Isaac’s animosity towards you. Vera championed you publicly & aggressively, but as everyone knows, her musical knowledge was shallow at best, so her opinions were fueled by personal feelings rather than any artistic expertise. That Isaac didn’t agree with Vera’s opinion of your work created friction between them, and it was embarrassing for Stern, as he was concerned that Vera’s overt enthusiasm for you would be interpreted as coming from Stern himself — which was not the case. Stern’s behavior as you describe it is not defensible, but you might ask yourself in what ways you may have contributed to this situation.

omg, seriously.
Have you ever heard Shehori play the piano?
Bravo, for him to speak up and tell his story.
And YOU. You are no one if you have no ears to know that Mr. Shehori is one of the greatest pianists of our day and we are damn lucky to have had the opportunity in our lives to hear him play. He is a brave man and a creative human being bringing only a positive force and life to our planet. You my dear, are only a philistine who no one will remember.

Stern was friendly with Henry Kissinger and once lobbied for money to buy Leah jets for Israel.

Mark Stratford I thought Stern was a life-long Democrat. What was he doing with Kissinger? Mind you, you get some strange bedfellows in politics, and in his own little way, the man was in politics. It’s a real pity he didn’t just stick to playing the violin.

…as distinct from Rachel or Rebecca jets?

What ‘chutzpa’ to try to interfere in someone’s life and career! I would say though, as per the above few details, “Cherchez la femme” in this case. Men are not usually as thoroughly vindictive and petty besides.
Also another point, as for visibly peacenik musicians: “Follow the money trail”.
C’est tout!

Adding to the brouhaha surrounding Isaac Stern within these columns, I put forth here my own personal recollections regarding the violinist, improbable but successful entrepreneur, and ambitious leader of the pro-Israel Kosher Nostra.

I relate first at how during the Fifties when I assisted in the administration of the Los Angeles Music Festival led by Hollywood composer, Franz Waxman, he recounted his experiences with Stern in the Forties. When he was composer of the film music for “Humoresque” and the studio heads wanted a stellar violinist to play the solos for the male star, John Garfield, they first approached Jascha Heifetz whose demand for a fee of around $100,000 far exceeded the budget next in line of consideration was Yehudi Menuhin whose fee would have been somewhere in the vicinity of $80,000, but, alas, contractual commitments elsewhere precluded his possibility of accepting the film assignment. Waxman stepped into the mix with the suggestion of hiring a young violinist from San Francisco just making a name for himself, Isaac Stern. Stern was delighted to accept an actual fee of $20,000 and was signed on. (Here both John Waxman, Franz Waxman’s son, and I differ with Aaron Rosand’s inaccurate claim that Stern’s fee was $7,500.) The lustre of being associated with a major Hollywood movie of the era, most certainly added to the growing fame of the youthful violinist. Later during the early Fifties, Waxman, counting on how much he had done to assist Stern was hoping Stern would be a guest artist on the summertime Los Angeles Music Festival held annually at Royce Hall on the UCLA campus. Waxman telephoned repeatedly to Stern in New York City. He was never able to speak to Stern but only to Stern’s wife Vera who would cover when answering each call. She would say that Isaac was not then available but would get back to Waxman. Such was not to be case, however, and Waxman remained thoroughly disappointed in the violinist he had once championed and the violinist’s apparent lack of gratitude.

I was to have my own encounters with Isaac Stern as my career path led me into the offices of the late, great impresario,Sol Hurok during the Sixties (until 1972) where I eventually became a Vice-President of Hurok Concerts, Inc. Originally a practicing musician trained at the Curtis Institute of Music, my responsibilities at the Hurok organization were highly varied and I contracted all of the orchestras for such as the Bolshoi Ballet, Kirov Ballet, and the Royal Ballet, etc. For all of these, I hired the first class and as yet unknown concert violinist Guy Lumia as Concertmaster responsible for all of the traditional ballet violin solos. James Levine subsequently took Lumia on as Associate Concertmaster of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. Without resistance from Isaac, who held a definite sway over such matters, I was able to add Guy Lumia to the Hurok roster of artists. However, I encountered very strong opposition from Isaac when I wished to add virtuoso violinists Glenn Dicterow, then based in Los Angeles, and Aaron Rosand to the Hurok roster. (Here again, I differ with Aaron Rosand’s recollections and my request for Rosand’s addition to the Hurok roster was made at an earlier time when Sheldon Gold held no authority to make such a request . He was then a regional sales rep for the firm’s roster. Gold’s asking must have been made years later than mine when he did hold an executive position after my departure.) Isaac insisted that the office only push the young Israelis, Itzhak Perlman from 1962 and Pinchas Zuckerman from 1968, allowing the office latitude to be “nice” to our Soviet violinists, David Oistrakh and Leonid Kogan. At around the same time, Sol Hurok himself shared in the Stern dilemma when stellar pianist Artur Rubinstein made a direct request of the impresario that he add violinist Henryk Szeryng be accommodated on the roster. Despite Szeryng’s artistic merits, Isaac hit the ceiling angrily. But a rare personal request from Rubinstein, in this case to assist a fellow Polish man, could not be denied by Hurok. Szeryng, naturally, knew of Isaac’s displeasure and would not speak to Stern for 11 years.

There are those who question how Isaac wielded such a good deal of power within the Hurok structure, especially as regards violinists. The inconsistent cold war politics of the era made the contractual commitments of the Soviet violinists a rather tenuous affair. If those artists could not appear as announced, Hurok needed a “name” to quickly replace them and Stern filled that bill. Although the brilliant violinist Nathan Milstein was on the roster, he lived abroad and would only travel by boat to America. So it was that Sol Hurok had to depend solely on Stern to always be a handy replacement as the insurance policy for the Hurok lucrative subscription series held annually in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. Isaac held that card and often dealt it lethally.

Still, later, having left the Hurok fold, I had contracted with Valery and Galina Panov to represent their interests once they had emigrated from Russia to Israel. Other Israeli political interests entered into the picture and engaged American legal counsel to wrest the Panovs from their contractual commitment to me. Isaac sent an emissary in the form of his personal friend Martin Feinstein, head of the Hurok publicity office, to offer me a substantial monetary sum to cease and desist with regard to pursuing the Panovs legally because they were then a major tool being used as a source of fund raising for a variety of pro-Israel organizations. I refused the offer and lost the lawsuit in an obviously biased New York City pro-Israel courtroom. This was circa 1976/77 and I did not speak to Isaac Stern for many years after. I only encountered him once again at a music industry party and we exchanged civilities.

My memoir, It’s Not All Song and Dance, A Life Behind the Scenes in the Performing Arts, (Limelight Editions, 2005) recounts a good portion of the foregoing at length.

Here is Maxim’s book. I’m definitely tempted after reading his great post here.

Watch the video: Isaac Stern, Lifes Virtuoso (August 2022).