The Lives of Isaac Stern

Norton. Jun. 2020. 256p. ISBN 9780393634617. $30. MUSIC
This year marks the centennial of Isaac Stern (1920–2001), one of the great American violinists of the 20th century, a man known as much for his role in saving Carnegie Hall as for his music making there and around the world. Schoenbaum (The Violin: A Social History of the World’s Most Versatile Instrument) combed through Stern’s papers at the Library of Congress to create a rich portrait encompassing four areas of his life: immigrant, musician, public citizen, and chairman of the board. Stern was born in Krzemieniec, Poland (now Ukraine), in 1920, and soon after, his family immigrated to the United States. He received his earliest musical instruction from his mother and later studied with Louis Persinger and Naoum Blinder. In 1951, Stern became the first American violinist to tour the Soviet Union, and in 1979, he and pianist David Golub appeared throughout the People’s Republic of China. He maintained close ties with Israel, having initially performed there in 1949. Stern was the recipient of numerous awards, including the Kennedy Center Honors, the National Medal of Arts, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
VERDICT Music lovers will enjoy this celebration of a musical and cultural treasure. [See Prepub Alert, 12/9/20.]

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