Issac Stern, violin with The Boston Symphony – Seiji Ozawa, conductor – November 11, 1978 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
Issac Stern in concert tonight – with the Boston Symphony, led by Music Director Seiji Ozawa in an all-Tchaikovsky concert, recorded on November 11, 1978 and aired some weeks later.
The program starts with the complete 1st act of Swan Lake (one act each week), followed by a performance of the violin concert with Stern as soloist.
Issac Stern was not only a superlative musician, one of the greatest violinists of the 20th century; he was also the consummate humanitarian, passionately involved in causes both global and local. Some saw his extramusical activities as sapping concentration from his violin playing; others saw his musicianship as gaining from his involvement with society at large. In truth, the two were inseparable. Stern the man and Stern the musician nourished one another, resulting in a larger-than-life figure who brought the same unquenchable energy to every facet of his existence.
Born in Kremenets, Ukraine, Stern was taken to San Francisco when less than a year old. There he received his entire musical training: at the San Francisco Conservatory (1928-31), then with Louis Persinger (who also taught Yehudi Menuhin), and with his main teacher, Naoum Blinder (1932-37). Unlike Menuhin, Stern was not a prodigy. Although he made his recital debut at 15, and came to national attention at the age of 16 through a broadcast performance of the Brahms concerto with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra conducted by Pierre Monteux, New York critics found him merely “promising” after his debut there, aged 17.
Many of Stern’s recordings from the late 1940s and 1950s are still available, and they demonstrate vividly why he took the music world by storm. Immediately apparent is his astonishing vigor, an unremitting intensity derived from sheer joy in music-making. This is fresh, unmannered playing, pouring forth as naturally as speech. The rhythmic drive is irresistible, resulting in a latent, quivering energy even in lyrical passages. The approach to the instrument is big and bold, characterized by incisive, sharply etched articulation and forceful bowstrokes. The tone is frighteningly robust and full-bodied, but clearly focused due to a narrow and rapid vibrato.
Stern, like Menuhin, was of a generation that saw music and humanity as indivisible: he gave us more than half a century of glorious, spirited music-making.
Caveat Alert: A momentary glitch around 1 hour 27 minutes in (drops to mono for about 10 seconds). Otherwise . . .
But enjoy the concert anyway.
As you know, we’ve suspended indefinitely our ads in order to make Past Daily a better experience for you without all the distractions and pop-ups. Because of that, we’re relying more on your support through Patreon to keep us up and running every day. For as little as $5.00 a month you can make a huge difference as well as be able to download all of our posts for free (news, history, music). You’ll see a banner just below. Click on that and become a subscriber – it’s easy, painless and does a world of good.