Isaac Stern: Generosity of Spirit
In celebration of Isaac Stern’s centenary this month,Tully Potter surveys the great violinist’s many and varied chamber music collaborations
Isaac Stern was not only a great violinist, he was a celebrity who would probably be remembered just for his campaign to save Carnegie Hall. If the violin is his main claim on posterity, I have come to realise that the Stern recordings that mean most to me are all chamber music performances. So as The Strad has often celebrated Stern the soloist, for the centenary of his birth I want to reconsider him through the prism of ensemble playing.
He was a keen chamber musician from 1933, when he was 13. His main teacher, Naoum Blinder (1889–1965), concertmaster of the San Francisco Symphony, led a string quartet that had Willem Dehé and then his brother Boris Blinder as cellist, and the boy would listen to them play. The young Stern himself made music with other prominent West Coast musicians, such as violinists Mafalda Guarnaldi and Frank Houser, violist Al White, cellist Herman Reinberg and pianist Lev Schorr.