High explosive: Aaron Rosand accuses Isaac Stern of sabotaging his careermain
Six weeks ago, we discussed on Slipped Disc one of the persistent slurs on the great violinist Isaac Stern – that he used his prestige and power to disable some of his American rivals. On the evidence available, we determined that this was unlikely.
That conclusion drew us into a renewed correspondence with the outstanding violinist, Aaron Rosand. Aaron maintains his career was blighted by Stern. We asked for evidence.
Aaron sat down and wrote the following memoir for www.slippedisc.com. It contains uncomfortable reminiscences. Read objectively, it reveals a complex, contentious relationship, founded on a degree of mutual respect. Read on, share this post (and respect the copyright notice at the foot of the page). This memoir offers a vital insight into the inner workings of the American strings world.
Aaron begins: ‘I have kept this to myself for too many years. Again I want to thank you for your article that incited my bitter memories of the unknown Isaac Stern who did as much harm as he did good.’
UPDATE: Artist claims Stern tried to expel him from US. Click here.
My Life with Isaac Stern
by Aaron Rosand
Max Adler (a wealthy benefactor) introduced me to Isaac in 1946 in his Chicago home and played a recorded live performance of Tchaikovsky concerto that I had done with the Louisville Symphony. He seemed impressed but couldn’t resist making critical comments. We kept in touch, and I visited him in Hollywood later that year after a concert that I played in Tulare, CA. He was doing the musical background for the movie “Humoresque” that was a big break for his career. Heifetz was the first call, but he asked for $150,000.00. Isaac got the chance for $7,500.
I was introduced to Franz Waxman, who wrote the musical score for the movie, in Isaac’s rented home (formerly the home of Marilyn Davies). Waxman heard me perform soon afterwards and proposed a plan to record four Russian concertos; Tchaikovsky, Glazunov, Khachaturian, and Khrennikov, with the Leningrad Philharmonic that he was going to conduct the following year. His idea was for an American violinist to be the first to record with a Russian orchestra after the war, perhaps a good will gesture. When Isaac learned of this, he informed Sol Hurok who immediately scuttled the plan on the grounds that he was presenting the orchestra on tour and that he would cancel the tour if they did not use one of his artists.
In 1950, I secretly married Eileen Flissler. She was a brilliant pianist and can be heard in our early recordings of the Beethoven and Brahms complete. On occasion, we visited and performed in Stern’s New York apartment where he had frequent musical gatherings. Isaac was very envious of our relationship and informed Max Adler of our marriage. Adler who had (other) ideas for me and his granddaughter promptly cut his support. I had to give up the violin that he had loaned to Rembert Wurlitzer, a New York violin dealer. Wurlitzer was very kind to me for the next six years in letting me use great violins that kept me going.
In 1951, Issac married Vera Lindenblit, who came to America to promote Israeli bonds. He used this connection to his advantage in making contact with the wealthy Jewish community, many of whom were sitting on the boards of major orchestras and in Hollywood.
Several years went by when I did not see or contact him. In 1956, needing a violin that I could call my voice, I ventured to buy the ex-Kochanski Guarnerius. It was considered one of the best violins in existence. I was too proud and unsuccessful as a fundraiser and set my mind to do it by myself. In order to get bank credit, I needed a steady salary, and I accepted a position for the CBS Broadcasting Network that guaranteed a weekly paycheck and gave me free time to continue my concert career. Shumsky, Ricci, Spivakovsky, Mischakoff did the same for other networks. My first bank call was to the Chase Manhattan bank where I personally knew the vice president Frederic R. Mann from my students days at the Curtis Institute. He was dating a harp player who happened to be the best friend of my first wife. We shared many interesting evenings together. This, by the way, is the Frederic R Mann of the FRM Auditorium in Tel Aviv Israel.
His immediate response to my call was “Sure Aaron I will call you back in an hour.” He called me back in a rage using unprintable language saying that “Isaac wants that violin and I am not going to help you.” And so, I began to understand the real Godfather in support of Israeli Artists.
In 1957, a surprise call from Isaac inquiring if I had read an article in the NY Times the previous day, concerning the first Tchaikovsky competition to be held in Moscow in 1958. The article mentioned that any American artist who could pass the first stage would have expenses paid by the Rusian government. Isaac said that there was a committee meeting, and it was decided that I would be the logical candidate to be sent to the competition. Isaac had already organized a music advisory board that consisted of John Majeski of Musical America, William Schuman Director of the Juilliard School and other prominent musical figures. I told Isaac that I was over age in 1958. The age limit was 30 and I would be 31. “No concern” was his reply.
“We will fix your passport. We know that you are working for CBS and we’ll pay your salary for three months if you just stay at home and practice with Eileen prior to the competition date. I’ll coach you during that time.” I thanked him for the offer but turned it down, not
wanting to hurt my career if I did not win a first prize. I recollect that the majority of judges were Russian, and I did not think the competition would be fair.
The Ford Foundation Grant in 1959; according to two eyewitnesses at a meeting to give grants to American artists, my name was high on the list. When my name came up Isaac Stern who by this time was a master spokesperson and sitting on many boards, announced that I had gone commercial in working for CBS and not worthy of an award. The witnesses were Marks Levine director of National Concert and Artist Corporation and John Majeski who related the incident to me and were shocked, because they considered Isaac to be my friend. I lost the opportunity to premiere an American composer concerto (to be determined) with several major orchestras.
In 1960, my New York premiere of Samuel Barber’s concerto with the NY Philharmonic – Leonard Bernstein had chosen me to be one of the first soloists of his tenure as conductor of the NY Philharmonic. Being an American he thought it fitting that I do the Barber, which was relatively unknown at the time. He planned to record it with me five to six weeks after the concert. A fuming Isaac Stern was waiting in the wings when we walked off stage after the first performance. He never shook my hand, grabbed Bernstein and took him to his dressingroom. I walked out alone for the bows and from then on Bernstein attitude towards me changed. Isaac hurriedly learned the concerto and recorded it five weeks later for Columbia Records. The entire orchestra knew about this and spread the word “earn with Stern” as Isaac always went overtime in sessions that he paid for. Isaac did his own editing and splicing to correct his intonation. The Beethoven for example had close to 400 splices a fact well known in the recording business.
Leonard Bernstein apologized to me 25 years later over several glasses of Scotch. We participated in a Curtis Institute Anniversary concert in 1986. He told me that Isaac had threatened to cancel his five concerto recordings with the NY Philharmonic if he recorded the Barber concerto with me. In 1961, my career began to move forward with major orchestral engagements and conductors such as Vladimir Golshman, Izler Solomon,Blomstedt, Walter Hendl, etc. Peculiarly, at gatherings after concerts, conductors and board members always mentioned that Isaac Stern had called that day to send regards. Isaac knew my exact schedule and in his own clever way tried to poison my success by saying that I had become commercial. His faint praise was very damaging with many noted conductors.
Around this time I came to know Henryk Szeryng, and through my good friend Sheldon Gold, who was working for Sol Hurok, I was able to salvage his career in America. Hurok was going to drop him from his roster, undoubtedly through the instigation of Issac Stern, and I was able to convince Sheldon that Szeryng was one of the great players of our time. Sheldon Gold kept him going and Szeryng repaid me by introducing me to his manager Maurice Dandelot, one of the premier impresarios in Europe. It was a prophecy fulfilled as Nathan Milstein seven to eight years earlier had told me to go to Europe to be appreciated. In his words, “You are too good violinist but you are American and will not be recognized here. Go to Vienna and you will be king in ten years.”
1962-1975 I had a very busy concert career in Europe. During this period I had another call from Columbia Records. Two of the producers, Tom Frost, and Lou (?) decided that I should do a virtuoso disc that would be called “The Relentless Virtuoso”. Once again, Isaac interfered and promoted Pinchas Zukerman who was just beginning his career in America. The project was abandoned and the only disc I ever made for Columbia was in an album of black composers which I recorded< with the London Symphony Orchestra in 1975. It is a very difficult technical work similar to Wieniawski’s F Sharp Minor Concerto that both Stern and Zukerman would not attempt to play.
I rarely encountered Isaac for a number of years. In the early 80s I was on tour in Korea and went to an embarrassing performance in Seoul of Isaac playing the Mendelssohn Concerto with the orchestra. Seeing him backstage really surprised him, and he was full of excuses and
apologetic for his poor performance. There were several large gatherings where we crossed paths and he was unfriendly. Then one day, years later, out of the blue he called me in a tone of voice that I had never heard from him, to say that he had never done anything to hurt me and that I had hurt myself. It was a lengthy call, very unlike him, in an attempt to atone for all the harm he had perpetrated over the years.
I have never disclosed what I am writing to you. It would only have sounded like sour grapes and bitterness. But as you asked for my history with Isaac Stern I feel it necessary to speak the truth and clear my conscience.
Isaac was a powerful player, and a superb musician with a beautiful tone. He did not have a virtuoso technique but whatever he did was convincing in bull like fashion. He was extremely smart, ruthless, very articulate, political, a genius at fundraising (Carnegie Hall is an example) and generous when he benefitted from it. I am not convinced that he used his own money on behalf of talents he believed in. He was power hungry and always wanted to remain in control. I offended him early on when I refused his offers to coach me.
(c) Aaron Rosand/www.slippedisc.com
==Isaac hurriedly learned the Barber concerto and recorded it five weeks later
Yeah, I’ve heard that frightful recording and it sounds like Stern barely knew the piece.
Many thanks for posting this
Maybe, but it’s still the best recording of that concerto.
You’ve heard them all, right?
The fact is it is one of the best recordings of the Barber. It is not important to label it the best.
The best recording of the Barber concerto that I’ve heard is performed by Nadja Solerno-Sonnenburg.
Agree with Jeraldine. The film about her performing this piece is very powerful.
That’s the one I would pick. The trouble with Stern is his intonation. If it weren’t so poor, he would have been one of my favourite violinists. My favourites in order are, Heifetz, Rosand, Perlman, and the probably Joshua Bell. But there are many others on my list, who see to have been forgotten by the record labels.
I had the feeling when reading Stern’s autobiography “My First 79 Years” that this book was just the tip of the iceberg. The book was too self-aggrandizing and impure. Rosand’s remembrance of the conniving Stern ought to, along with other musicians memories of the man, be published in a book entitled, “My First Ignoble 79 Years.”
I don’t think a person as yourself who attempts to defame a dead colleague, (who had the respect of Nathan Milstein, Jascha Heifetz, Von Karajan, Ozawa etc.) deserves a respectful response.
After reading this thread through, it appears that you, Del Gesu, are hot headed and looking to fight. I will say that I understand and respect the defense of your violin heroes. There is nothing wrong with that. What is wrong is that Stern, whose education stopped at the high-school level, got caught up controlling other peoples lives. Far more than any other violinist of his time. Did Heifetz and the rest know about it? The top of this world is awfully small – Of course they did. Did they have to tip-toe around him? Of course some had to. Was Stern a huge talent? Yes, he was. Was he virtuous, someone to admire like Artur Rubinstein or Gregor Piatigorsky? My answer to that is unequivocally NO and musical historians, of which there are plenty, have taken note. Take Stern’s “My First 79 Years” with a grain of salt, my friend.
Let me chime one last time: it might be a matter of details but I could name hundreds of great people whose education stopped at high-school level. Serkin for example. As for Rubinstein and Piatigorsky being virtous, you should ask Casals about the former and Furtwangler about the latter. When you play like Stern, you can’t not be virtuous. And everybody has defects.
Dave, You write: “As for Rubinstein and Piatigorsky being virtuous, you should ask Casals about the former and Furtwangler about the latter?” It would be great to be able to ask Casals or Furtwängler questions, but I don’t know how to do it. I would be interested in any references you can supply to published statements by Furtwängler about Piatigorsky’s not being virtuous.
I can’t quote a direct reference but Furtwangler felt bitterly toward him for signing the petition against his coming to Chicago. Don’t know if Piatigorsky, who was a friend and had been helped by Furtwangler, actually signed it, but the latter believed it.
Yet you respond. Lol
What about the Stravinsky violin concerto ? The composer had been conducting it all over Europe with Samuel Dushkin and then when the first recording was made, that was with Stern (who clearly wasn’t up to the job).
About Stravinsky’s first recording, it was Dushkin with Igor and the Lamoureux orchestra,X/28&29/1935. I’ve the CD.
Mark – interesting you should mention the Stravinsky. My beloved teacher, the late Zvi Zeitllin, once told me that HE had been discussing recording the Stravinsky with Bernstein. Zvi performed it with the NY Phil in 1961 although not with Bernstein. He told me that at the last performance he saw Isaac Stern backstage with the score of the Stravinsky. At that point he knew that plans for his recording had likely changed. Stern’s recording of the Stravinsky was released in 1962.
That’s interesting about the Mendelssohn in Korea being so bad that Stern himself was embarrassed. The man had no self-criticism at all. There was a Beethoven Concerto in London which should have made him hang the fiddle up for good.
I mean, look at Heifetz who retired at his very peak.
I had the pleasure of working with both Aaron Rosand and Isaac Stern in my violinist life. They are both great musicians but Aaron Rosand is a far superior violinist. Always. I had wondered why he didn’t get more recognition in US, especially during a period that would have mattered most to his career. Clearly this article shows the ugly politics of Isaac Stern. So disappointing…
It’s about time. Thank you for hosting this bit of memoir, Norman. And thank you Mr. Rosand for your exquisite playing and your fearless honesty.
Another violinist that endured Stern’s might was Erick Friedman!
Thank God, artists such as Rosand and Friedman carried on to great sucess and a legacy of students from the masters!
I once heard that Ivor Galamian was warned not to promote Kyung Wha Chung for the Leventritt competition (late 1960s), as it was a done deal that Stern had his student Zukerman as the winner.
As it happened, KWC entered and came joint first with PZ.
Incidentally it’s quite striking that Bernstein stopped working with Stern at some point. Of course Lenny wrote that wonderful Senerade for him and they recorded the classic concertos. But their musical relationship seemed to end and bernsteni worked more and more with Francescatti, Ferras and the young Kremer & Belkin
About Chung and Zukerman: Zukerman was eliminated before the finals. Isaac Stern forced the Jury to let him play again (really they should try it at the Olympics) Then the jury chose Chung as the winner but Stern forced them to split the first prize.
This is how powerful and shameless he was.
Uh, there was that final basketball game of the 1972 Olympics, about which there is a detailed Wikipedia article. In any event, the information you provide about the Leventritt competition is much appreciated. I’m sure it has already been said elsewhere on these threads that there is a depressing logic in which lesser musicians are promoted by powerful performers (or composers) who are themselves not the best, while the greatest talents are blocked. I think Boulez did this as a conductor vis-à-vis the composers who were competitive with him. I believe there were much better ones among his contemporaries whose music he never recorded.
Wow this is quite shocking and surprising. After all these years I had an image of Stern as a statesman of and ambassador for music. How wrong I was. Time to delete his admittedly wonderful recording of the Berg from my library?
I actually like a lot of Stern’s recordings but his Berg is the worst I’ve ever heard. Get another–any other–and you can do better.
In a way, it is sad that what many in the profession knew only too well is now becoming public. As I wrote in your earlier thread, “I once presented Aaron Rosand . . . In my view, he should have appeared far more often in all the major concert halls than he did.” And as Earl Wild wrote in his autobiography, Elman, Heifetz and Ricci joined Rosand on the Stern list. Presumably these great artists were just the tip of what is clearly a rather nasty iceberg.
After his concerto with my orchestra, I went to congratulate Mr Rosand. I saw his double case across the room and asked if his other violin was an Oddone. He was shocked , and said no one had ever done that trick before, he made me feel so good, I left the hall beaming…
I have heard many stories about Isaac Stern from other violinist etc. My Violin teacher Erick Friedman, that I knew very well since 1981 till he passed away, was a victim of Isaac Stern’s jealousy. The reason I believe this is I have heard these stories from many different musicians that did not even know each other. But the sad fact is Isaac Sterns playing began to reflect his behavior and he could never ever play as beautifully as Erick Friedman did. My teacher was a great admirer of Aaron Rosand as a person and Violinist. Ivry Gitlis was also a victim of Stern’s envy.
May 17, 1986: Stern played the Beethoven Concerto at Carnegie Hall with the Cleveland Orchestra. I will never forget such a laughable, inept performance. At the end of every phrase, he stumbled forward and his body trembled, as though he had just “channeled” such an utterly spiritual profundity, or that God Himself were speaking directly through him. His playing had devolved into ridiculous caricature, with intonation that would have earned him rejection from a community music school in the provinces. But of course, his uncritical audience — having been served with the emperor’s clothes — went wild for it. It can well be said that the Great Stern “died” by 1960 — because from then on he simply rode his power & fame while his playing deteriorated.
Love your commentary, I liked Stern in The Movie Humoresque, but always felt that he imitated or tried to imitate Heifetz. I believe like “The Picture Of Dorian Grey” Isaac Stern’s playing eventually reflected the state of his soul. It was reported that he tried to get the first Viola player of a very well known Orchestra fired. The story was that Stern was playing a concert his string broke, he snatched the concertmaster’s violin in a rude manner, and proceeded to play rather badly. The Viola player told Stern, You played like a pig” Stern tried to get him fired but the Violist had tenure. Isaac Scratch was a common nickname by many of my friends.
Stern never tried to imitate Heifetz, Stern is one of the very few violinists who had his own distinctive sound. Also, don’t believe everything you hear, or read.
I heard Stern (with Bernstein and the Israel Philharmonic) play the Beethoven concerto at Carnegie Hall around 1972 or 73 or so with a fellow music student. It was the first (and only) time that I had heard Stern play live. When he first came out on stage I was really taken aback that he walked up to the music stand and stared at it, but after the violin entrance to the first movement it became clear that he hadn’t looked at the piece or practiced in a very long time.
His performance was at a level where you wouldn’t even dare to bring it to a lesson. It was particularly offensive when you think of how much everyone had paid for a ticket. He played with the same involvement with which someone might practice while watching the TV. My friend wanted to leave in the middle of the first movement, but I wanted to stay to hear the rest of the concert. The ironic thing is that, after all those years, I have no recollection of what was on the rest of the concert but I still have the sound of his playing the introductory octaves in my ear. We both involuntarily bust out laughing at the time and were lucky that we weren’t thrown out of the hall.
Yeah, I was at that concert. As you say, his pathetic playing and pompous behavior were disgusting.
==as though he had just “channeled” such an utterly spiritual profundity
Yes, describes it well. Towards the end of his life, Menuhin did something similar with the Beethoven concerto. Apparently there were some Abbey Road sessions of the work (something like the 5th time Menuhin had recorded it) and the recording label refused to release it.
===Lenny wrote that wonderful Serenade for [Stern]
Yes, and why didn’t he play it more often ?
As an enthusiastic violinist, I was among those, back in the seventies in Hungary, listening to the great violinists, often having difficult times to get hold of recordings. I remember listening to Rabin, Perlman or Gitlis for the first time, and being lucky to have Szering, Menuhin, Oistrakh and many more at our Liszt Academy. But I don’t remember knowing the name of Aaron Rosand. I heard of him much later, and when I’ve got a recording with him, I guess of the Brahms concerto, I started to think how is this possible, such a great violinist and I’ve never really heard of him. This was about 20 years ago, when a friend of my in Osaka/Japan told me many things about him, she knew him very well personally and she did a lot for him, helping organizing his concerts in Japan.
And just a word, going back to the Stern years; I also remember, especially his last few years, how strongly I was wondering about his intonation, and general imperfection. I thought well, he is getting older, but I was never really convinced with his earlier recordings either.
Thanks for posting this, with special thanks to Mr. Rosand!
One slight correction: the concert with LB and the Curtis Orchestra was in April 1984 celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the school founded in 1924. AR played St-Saens No. 3 brilliantly during this memorable concert in the Academy of Music.
Hello, i think you were a member of Curtis if I am not mistaken? I wonder wht you thought of Isaak Stern and his playing, I would be interested to know
My experience was unlike the other respondees. I was not his protege, but he did everything he could to help me in any arena that I was not competing with Perlman or Zukerman.
At various times I used or did not use a shoulder rest….never a comment
He never asked me to play for him….
He was a larger-than life stage personality..not necessarily a likable one, but there are lots of successful entertainers like that. I was impressed with his willingness to sacrifice his career and best interests to help his proteges. I believe he became more interested in aiding their success, than in the practice necessary to preserve his own playing at a high level.
It is nice to finally see a comment that does not tear down Mr. Stern as a person or player. I did not know him personally. He was never a hero of mine but it seems sour to me to malign him 15 years after his passing. Mr. Rosand’s reasons are none of my concern but why must this thread devolve into “I heard Isaac play like crap in 19**”?
Sadly, yours is the first classy comment I’ve seen.
Yes, I have had a certain connection with Curtis over the years…
Some of the greatest live performance of the standard violin concertos (Beethoven, Bruch, Mozart among them) that I ever had the privilege to hear were with Stern, Ormandy and Philadelphia in the 1960s when I was barely 20 years old. Since I knew Isaac Stern personally, and have known Aaron Rosand for over 33 years, and consider him a friend and colleague, I am not about to enter into comparisons or a diatribe concerning their artistic strengths and/or personal foibles (many of us have a few of each). Here are two great artists who will forever mark the history of violin playing, world-wide. Let’s remember them both for that.
My final words on this topic…
Things like this and a lot worse happen very regularly in nowadays’ musical world.
It’s a shark pond, a kind of Wild West territory…. behind the glamorous façade that is presented to audiences. But with some diplomacy and ethical standards, also the talents who really deserve their career, can make it. Only, it takes longer.
This is certainly revealing. Of course, it not surprising to learn that the corporate classical industry was not devoid of subterfuge and politics. Sadly, it is a shame that the careers of some great violinists were either stifled or hindered by either jealousy or opportunistic politicking by those whose talents were beginning to wane. It has always been a mystery to me why Maestro Rosand’s career was relegated mostly to second tier recording labels (Turnabout, Vox etc. etc.) Fortunately, for us, this did appear to offer Mr. Rosand the artistic opportunity and liberty to fill some much needed gaps in the recorded repertoire with some sterling performances. Which is probably why my collection favors Mr. Rosand far more than it does Mr. Stern. It’s also a relief to me to read/hear others finally note the obvious performing deficiencies within the recordings both Stern and Menuhin made in the 60s and 70s (Stern 80s). I used to listen to some of those critically acclaimed recordings (often mystified) and believed something was deficient with my hearing. What a relief to learn my hearing was/is intact.
There is a recording of Menuhin with a string quintet playing a quarter tone version of Brahms’ first string sextet.
I found this horrifying, all the more so as I suspect it is all true. When an artist becomes a political animal, something goes askew.
was fortunate to drive Aaron around Los Angeles late 90s. I asked Aaron about what I heard about Stern keeping Him out of New York. He responded in such a kind way, that one would have never known how he was hurt. I sometimes wonder if by not being given the “golden road”, and making him earn every concert, it deepened his Art of violin playing to a higher level, because he had no other choice but to prove slanderous lies false. I think every major violinist I encountered in my life had utmost respect for Rosand. And with his playing, he acquired most likely the greatest violin on face of the earth to enable his talent. Aaron shared with me that Emil Hermann had offered Aaron 25% of the sales price, to walk away from purchasing the violin, so the Russian government could purchase for Leonid Kogan. I’m glad he stuck it out. It was courage that helped me through almost the same trial of buying the Rotondo of 1710, which I loaned to play on. He said ” I have an immediate affinity to this violin”. I offered to let him preform his recital on it and he replied, ” You know, I do have a good violin. “;) Thank You Aaron for all of Your inspiration over the decades.i was born the year you acquired the “Kochanski”.
True or not, that isn’t evidence but detailed accusation.
Extraordinary and wonderful playing in the YouTube example. I’d be interested to see informed comment about the intonation.
Stern was a [redacted: abuse] ! He both behaved as one AND played like one. Never practiced, played to captive audiences – many wanted to walk out but felt intimmidated…
I personally had some unpleasant encounters with him, or with his [redacted] behavior to colleagues. One of the worst cases was when he as the driver of his car was responsible for a bad accident in NY, skidding on an icy road, and causing the terrible injuries to the passengers with him who had happened to be employees of the Jerusalem Music Center of which he was chairman. He was also “somewhat tipsy”… One of the injured ended up paralysed for life. Stern never went to visit her, and severed all ties with her, disregarding his responsibility for what had happened, and REFUSING to compensate her.
I feel so sorry for Aaron Rosand, and for all the many others that were put down by that [redacted]. Iam not at all sure he has a place in heaven…
My own teacher, Robert Gerle, in his autobiography “Playing It by Heart” said as much about Stern’s influence or lack thereof on his career. He believe that Stern scuttled his (Gerle’s) contract with Hurok. Gerle was among the first major violinists to record the Barber concerto in modern stereophonic techniques, almost a year before Stern’s recording was released. Many critics considered Gerle’s recording to be superior though it was on Westminster, a far lesser label than any of the CBS related ones. Gerle, while Jewish, [His birth surname was Grosz] had suffered directly during his youth because of this when Hungary was under the Nazis – he was born in 1924…four years later than Stern, and was a mid-late teen in most of the war. He was pressed into forced labor squads. When the Russians took over Budapest near the end of the war, they almost executed him and his cohorts for they thought they were Nazis who were hiding. He bailed out himself and his companions by proving to a Russian officer that he was really a violinist by playing snatches of the Tchaikovsky concerto. He did not particularly identify himself as Jewish afterwards, and in fact I was unaware of this until I read his biography. [His adopted surname,
Gerle….Hungarian for “Dove”, was borrowed from the brand name of his father’s perfumery according to Gerle’s bio.] Gerle became a respected teacher. I had him when he was in his late 40’s and studied in his masterclass….most unusual in that I was older than his other students (30) established in a profession (civil servant) totally unrelated to music…and had utterly no plans to go into music as a profession. I was the only one in the class who did not do so. Sadly, Gerle’s career was scuttled by Parkinson’s disease though he continued to teach for nearly the rest of his life.
I also studied with Robert Gerle in the mid-to-late 60s. I was also aware of the story of how he was almost subject to a firing squad when the Russians found him and some friends hiding in the basement of a home when they overran the Nazis in Hungary. To prove he was indeed a violinist, the Russian officer who found them and rounded them up saw him holding his violin case and ordered him to play, shouting, “Tchaikovsky Konzert!” In the cold, with his fingers frozen, he took out the violin and played the opening bars of the concerto, an act that saved not only his life, but also the lives of the friends who were with him. He later found out that the Russian officer had been a trombone student at the Moscow Conservatory. Moving on to Aaron Rosand, I had the honor of playing the Chausson Concerto for Violin, Piano and String Quartet with him around 2003 or 2004. He was already in his late 70s and I must say he played like a God. It was some of the most thrilling violin playing I’ve ever heard. How could someone of this level of violin playing and artistry not have had a big career here in the US? I don’t doubt for a minute the stories regarding him and Stern. I have always been an avid fan of Rosand’s recordings. His playing is always nuanced and elegant.
Could it really be that Norman Lebrecht, super-sleuth of the music world and a journalist who as plugged in as anyone to its workings and scandals, seems genuinely shocked, SHOCKED (I say) that the iconic Isaac Stern could have caused various injustices. Well, thanks to Aaron Rosand, who I can’t see having any motivation to defame the man, we now have one fairly plausible-sounding account.
Interesting to read that Stern’s Beethoven Concerto with Bernstein – which I’ve always thought was lovely – required 400 edits. He should have applied the same method to his later version with Barenboim and the NYPO, though, as it is pretty dreadful.
Nothing could top the number of edits that were made for the Stern-Istomin Beethoven Violin Sonatas recording from 1985. Literally THOUSANDS of edits. That it was even releasable was due to the magic of the producer, Steve Epstein.
I suspect even many in the music business are unaware of the huge number of edits in quite a number of noted recordings. I recall one of London’s finest producers telling me of an unknown conductor who had paid the costs for him and the LSO to produce a recording of a Russian symphony in the 1980s. The conductor was barely passable and the resultant recording was at first deemed impossible to release. As the Former CBS Records Executive mentions in relation to the Beethoven Sonatas, the symphony recording underwent massive editing at considerable extra cost. Yet it then went on to win a major award and continues to be recommended!
It surprised me that a number of recordings coming recently from the same label seemed to have had so much detail removed that what is left can sound brilliantly clean at first hearing, but on second hearing is revealed to be empty and unsatisfying — more music without a soul…:-0
The overwhelming number of positive responses to Aaron’s words from so many says it all.
As a longtime friend and devotee of his superior brand of artistry, I personally know him to be both modest and honest to a fault. He speaks nothing less than the emes here (truth, in Yiddish). He has confided to me mere hints of Stern’s appalling behavior and his efforts to sabotage Rosand’s hard-fought rise to the top. But Aaron (Archie, to his close friends) was determined to rise above those shameful acts and with the qualities I mentioned, he has most certainly done so. One of my students, a member of a major symphony orchestra, told me of how Stern repeatedly embarrassed himself (and everyone else involved) with his poor, obviously unready performances. The so-called “Kosher Nostra” was of his doing, because of his determination to be the one calling the shots by making or wrecking the careers of others. I’m reminded of a book called “What Makes Sammy Run” which tells of a ruthless character, leaving a trail of destruction behind him . How insecure can one be, isn’t enough enough?
Archie has risen above this repulsive behavior, nevertheless, and continues to stand proud among his peers and his students. Thanks for giving us the emes at last, Archie; we deserve it.
I knkw both great violinist and don’t doubt Mr. ROSAND accounts.
I onlywant to say all those gossips about Mr. STERN editings etc are fruit of gossip and evy.
Editing is an art cultivated since tape have been in recording procces, and everybody is edit in the recording procces even life recording with several performances.
Sure Mr. STERN and Mr. MENUHIM and any aging virtuoso will decay examples like Milstein or Rosand are very rare and even those ones don’t play as perfect as in their prime.
I m so sorry for all bad actions Mr Stern have done but I can say with menhe was a marvellous person and as a violinist just a handful have fly as high as Mr. STERN.
Just listen to him in his big opus of great recordings and jjst enjoy his talent.
I studied with the very fine American violinist Harry Shub for a number of years – whose technical and tonal powers were critically renowned, and all but forgotten today (his uncle was Paul Kochansky the previous owner of Rosand’s del Gesu). He sadly became a recluse in Manhattan – secretly teaching some big Juilliard talents on the side, confounding Miss Delay with fingerings and bowings here-to-fore unseen! Harry would often praise Aaron’s wonderful playing and described many of the same Stern events covered in Mr. Rosand’s article. Shub was also a victim of Sterns power-mongering in the early 60’s – and had a good career in Europe away from Stern’s sphere of influence. Oscar Shumky, a magnificant musician, supremely gifted violinist, had a career that was almost totally Euro-centric thanks to Stern if the stories are even 10% correct. In his prime – Isaac was amazing, but playing the violin was just the tip of the iceberg. Aaron Rosand is one of this country’s finest violinists will always represent the crossroads of the Golden era of Kreisler and that of the modern American violinist (what-ever THAT! means…) Thank goodness for Rosand’s prolific recordings and wonderful output of young violinists. His will be a legacy that lasts a long time.
I also had a negative experience with Mr. Stein. We were waiting foe 40 minutes outside the door of Grady Gammage at ASU after his performance. There were 8 of us. We were teachers and students who had come to hear him. He walked right past us. Didn’t give us a second glance. We begged…”Mistro, can you not give us. A couple of minutes to sign outr programs..?” He ignored us and his accompanist said, he was hungry and apologized for the slight.
I never purchased another album nor would go out of my way again to watch or hear Stern. He is and was a Putz!
If I were a performer or anyone else with a degree of fame, I would dread reading comments like this. On a tour where I was playing three or four nights a week in many different cities, the one forgettable night I don’t offer a kindly word to some random fan sticks out in that fan’s mind for the rest of his life, and results in bitter online rantings decades later.
What a fantastic collection of stories here. And an interesting demonstration of the importance of ethics in connection with music. Destructive behavior to others eventually damages one’s talents…. Stern has been punished for his bad deeds. Great to sometimes see a glimmer of justice in the world, if ever so slight.
Mr. Rosand played a Symphony Espagnole with the Syracuse Symphony in the late 70’s (?) that was exquisite in every way. In his hands, the piece was witty, profound, lyrical, and noble. It was an incredibly inspiring experience to hear it, close up. I will always be grateful that I was in that orchestra for those performances. Wish we had more recordings of his! What a unique, wonderful artist!
Lindsay, Is it possible that there is recording of the Lalo performance in the WCNY archives. Was Christopher Keene conducting? All praise to Aaron Rosand aside, the stories regarding Stern’s conduct and “modus operandi” are not exactly a shock to anybody who has inhabited the string playing universe in the last 40 years. I have heard stories of Heifetz doing unpublicized acts of kindness for his students, but I have not heard that about Stern. His charity was self referential.
Andy..the last part of your post is not correct. Stern would do anything for his proteges. He sacrificed his career for Perlman and Zukerman..”If you want me to solo with your orchestra you have to hire one of them too.” Whether cause and effect I don’t know, but he stopped practicing and his playing went downhill at the same time that he became predominantly interested in helping his favorites and saving Carnegie. That led to hiring Perlman/Zukerman without hiring him.
While Stern certainly opened doors for Perlman and Zukerman, I think that the doors would have stayed open simply on the basis of their playing.
I had heard some years ago that Stern had withdrawn his “patronage” from Shlomo Mintz. Is there anything to that? That question came to mind because Shlomo just performed in Bogota a month ago. Unfortunately, I did not hear the concert because I was in Cartagena that week.
I did not at all mean that Perlman and Zukerman needed Stern’s help very long.
I do know another prominent Israeli violinist whom Stern first helped then withdrew all support, so SM well could be an additional such example.
In SM’s case as in Aaron’s the rejection could have been tied to a negligent, even seemingly rude, response to Stern’s overtures. I do know from a personal conversation Szeryng was upset and hurt at one point that SM had never in any way acknowledged his help in obtaining an elite violin.
Seeking recording recommendations featuring Mr. Rosand. Eager to read your responses. Thank you.
On Rosand, I can recommend “Romances for violin and piano”,with Huge Sung on a Vox Classic, and a real great Brahms-Joachim 21 Hungarian Dances. But it was on a OOP Biddulph, and difficult to find.
Sergei-I believe you can find all of Rosand’s recordings and order them directly on his website, http://www.aaronrosand.com.
Great to know. Will investigate. Thank you.
For my birthday, one of my friends who is currently studying with Mr. Rosand gave me a copy of his recently released DVD collection called “Aaron Rosand: A Musical Memoir in Live Performances.” It’s 3 DVDS and 1 CD and features live, unedited performances of the Maestro from the late 1950s to early 2000s. It’s a rare treasure and I believe it should be a part of everyone’s collection.
I never like Stern. Not even on his prime. Have recordings of maybe a hundred violinists, but nothing by him.
Interesting online New York Times article from 1982:
The name of Stern is nowhere mentioned. About not having a career in the US Rosand said:
”Some of this was my fault. I didn’t know how to push myself. I always believed that if you worked hard, things would come your way. But I lived in an ivory tower. I was a musical recluse. I didn’t make the phone calls, I didn’t write the letters. This, plus the fact that I was proudly presenting myself as an American-born, American-trained artist didn’t help at all. Indeed, it was detrimental. In the business, I didn’t have a thick enough accent. Well, I realized something had to be done.”
1976? Aaron came to preform at Royce Hall in Los Angeles, with Henri Temianka, conducting. He played the Tartini Devils Trill, with Orchestra. Then he preformed the Paginini D major violin Concerto. For encores, He performed the Ysaye Ballad and 24th Paginini Caprice, everything impeccable intonation. I was sitting in the front row with my violin teacher, Robert Lipsett. One of the best concerts in Los Angeles I have heard.
I am not surprised, Isaac was a tyrant.
With insufficient room to ramble here, I have a few choice tidbits to offer concerning Rosand and myself on pages 299/300 of my memoir, “The Viola in My Life”. One of them concerns how I was on hand to “save” his priceless ex-Kochanski del Jesu of 1741 from utter destruction after an accident that occurred during an outdoor park concert. And his healthy appetite upon his return from the hospital, luckily only slightly injured. If there is one of his CDs that I most cherish, it is the recital that he and his pianist/wife Eileen Flissler performed on a typically freezing Chicago day in 1970, the program comprising works by Bloch, Enescu, Paganini, Mendelssohn, Ravel, and Milstein’s Chopin arrangement. Don’t deny yourself; it is a marvel of warmth and virtuosity that virtually lit up the hall.
AR’s performance at Curtis of the Respighi Sonata still sticks with me to this day. As a student then (in the 90s), I always loved to see him in those halls… My breath would catch a little every time we passed as I knew I was in the presence of a great artist. As my mother is a violinist, I entered school having heard of his playing through her. This tale is so depressing!
How interesting it is to read all these comments. I have always been a great admirer of Aaron Rosand’s playing and artistry and have never understood why he didn’t have a much bigger career in the US. Now I know and am not the least bit surprised by the reasons given. I’d first like to comment on the post by John Teske: Robert Gerle was also my. Violin teacher when I attended the Mannes College of Music in the ’60s. I think I remember some side comment he made once about his career being sabotaged by Stern back then. Returning to Rosand, I had the privilege of playing with him (I also played a chamber music concert with Stern back in the early 80s) about 10 years ago in a little festival In which I participate in Cape Cod. We played the Chausson Concerto for Violin, Piano and String Quartet. Aaron was already in his 70s and played like a God: technically assured and musically compelling. His performance literally took our collective breath away. It was one of the highlights of my musical career. He was also a great colleague, with none of the superiority complex exhibited by the other violinist central to this discussion. I don’t doubt that any of the claims made by Rosand are true. Stern was infamous for throwing his weight around to promote himself and those in his circle at the expense of many truly worthy artists. I totally agree with my friend and colleague Bernie Zaslav in his assessment of the great artistry of Aaron Rosand. Bernie: as always, you’re right on the money.
As I recall Archie in my life, a few more of my 88-year old synapses have lit up. I happened to be subbing with the Met Opera orchestra many years ago for a concert that had Archie doing the Tchaikovsky with, as I recall, Alfred Wallenstein conducting. Since our soloist hadn’t arrived as yet (?), we were rehearsing the tutti as our conductor was rapidly getting pissed. Suddenly the rehearsal room door flung open, a del Jesu emerged hurriedly from a fiddle case, and our conductor’s brows descended to their proper level, as the most perfectly played solo part floated over the room.
That ex-Kochanski fiddle of his was a wonder. When you stood two feet from Archie as he played, you thought it sounded pretty edgy. And when you got to the back of the hall, pure velvet emerged.
On another occasion, Archie, myself, and my pianist/wife Naomi were dining at some New York cabaret on West 59th Street, with a Gipsy fiddler making his living in the background. At a particular point, our fiddler, ever so slightly, bent the most ravishing note. It was a moment not to be forgotten and not dropping the conversation, six eyes met in pure joy.
These are my own personal memories and you’re welcome to them.
Bernard Zaslav I love your commentary so poetic.
Angela, thanks for the bouquet. May I therefore suggest unashamedly that you might enjoy my memoir, “The Viola in My Life: An Alto Rhapsody” which includes 2 CDs of viola/piano and quartet literature from my discography. No
“overcoming overwhelming odds” but rather the happy tale of an incredibly fortunate violist who lived in the pre-digital era.
Bernard Zaslav, I will definitely purchase it. Your commentary is just beautiful. Rosand is such a great artist. I am glad he was able to rise above the wicked & petty antics which exist in all spheres of life. How beautiful your story of the gypsy violinist. I really enjoyed that. You must be a great Violist.!!!
I’ve been an admirer of Mr. Rosand for many years. I’m pleased that he acknowledges the pianistic talent of his first wife, Eileen Flissler. It strikes me that HER career seems to have escaped proper notice in our collective memory of under-appreciated artists. I’ve been listening to her playing on old recordings and am as equally impressed by her musicianship and technique as I am her former husband’s. I’m also disheartened that so little information about her is available. She, too, deserved much more recognition during her lifetime.
That’s pretty low from Aaron. Stern was much greater a violinist.
You therefore presume to judge that the comments made by the vast majority of other posters on this thread are inaccurate and biased. Having presented both, there is no doubt whatsoever in my mind that by the 1980s when I could first make a comparison Rosand was significantly the better player. But the issue here is far less about standard of performance. It has much more to do with the excess of power and influence wielded behind the scenes by one professional musician specifically to ensure that a great many others did not enjoy the careers they deserved.
I totally agree with Nick, and definitely disagree with Bob regarding the comparison of the two players. I worked with both in a chamber music setting, and I can personally attest to Rosand’s virtuosity and artistry.
I do not agree that it’s low for Aaron Rosand to be truthful, as far as violin playing goes, I actually did like Stern when he was younger, he became very Sloppy & Scratchy when he got older, and that was the reason his nickname was Isaac Scratch. The stories I heard were from various different musicians, one being my teacher Erick Friedman, who I know was a much greater Violinist then Stern, no comparison tone technique etc. What Aaron has stated is quite well known in the “Music Business”.
It’s overwhelming to hear so many accounts of one person’s corrupted nature and neglect to their own craft. With all his machinations, it’s sad that Mr. Stern wouldn’t have realized that recordings (even heavily edited ones) don’t lie and carry a devastating, indisputable and enduring legacy. He may have hampered and destroyed careers, but his loss of artistic conscience proved to be truly self-destructive and hampered whatever contribution he could have given to the art.
It reminds us how the “emperor’s new clothes” syndrome continues to exist in our culture. From the world of fine instruments to the world of fine music and musicians, we continue to have to deal with so many wrongs and getting caught in many webs of deception.
I just wished Mr. Lebrecht had chosen the words “set the record straight” rather than “accuses Stern” for the title of this article.
Just so. I also prefer “set the record straight”.
The last time I looked,my records were round?
Facts please, facts.
There can be no argument that Isaac Stern would do anything to advance his favorites, be they Zukerman, Perlman, Midori or Ma. However, I am unconvinced that he had the destructive power ascribed to him by so many. Why should Bernstein, the most potent musical power of his time, have been threatened by Stern refusing to record concertos with him? Why would Hurok be afraid of him?
The Leventritt story supports my suspicions. Isaac Stern may have done everything in his power to have Zukerman win; however, Szigeti was as adamant for Ms Chung as Stern was for Mr Zukerman and a stalemate ensued. Szigeti (my personal favorite of his generation) never became a household name but was apparently an equal power to Stern.
In the matter of his self-criticism, I once asked Isaac Stern to give a class at my summer workshop after a scrappy Bruch Concerto with the Rochester Philharmonic. He responded to me, “After that performance, I think I better spend some of the summer practicing”
Mr. Castleman, good to read your thoughts. Aaron Rosand is a consummate musician in the most idealistic sense of the word, as was Robert Gerle, whom I had the privilege to know in his later years. And as are you, Mr. Castleman. I appreciate your vigorous involvement with American music, and new music altogether.
According to a deceased violinist that I personally knew, one of the things that Stern demanded from violinists that he taught or mentored was for them to wear foam shoulder pads. If the violinist flat our rejected Stern, that is enough to be an act of treason. What the violinist is supposed to do was to try it out, tell Stern that it will be helpful and that it will be a new routine during practice, and show appreciation for his advice.
Another violinist in which his career was destroyed by Stern was Philippe Hirschhorn, who is one of the greatest violinist that I have ever heard and one that not many people know about. He is someone who didn’t want to try out the shoulder pad.
I ran into Ivry Gitlis first wife while I was swimming, I did not know her or Mr.Ivry Gitlis.
We started a conversation, which led to Violin, She told me how Isaac Stern sabotaged Gitlis Career. It was tragic, I remembered hearing similar stories from Violin teachers etc.
I do not believe Ivry Gitlis knew till later on. Stern gained control in Israel and NYC . Another fine Violinist that Stern prevented from playing here was Uto Ughi. Aaron Rosand is a great artist incredible violinist.
In March 2001, Eric Friedman ,at that time Professor at Yale, said to me: “Stern destroyed many talented musicians. He also was against me because I was close to Heifitz… “1
Erick Friedman suffered a lot from Isaac Stern. I knew Erick Friedman from 1981 till he past away. Many people were very jealous of Erick the fact that he was the star pupil of Heifetz. Such a talented Violinist. Isaac Stern was extremely jealous of Erick Friedman. I told Erick that perhaps Stern was jealous that Erick was taller & better looking.
This explains something that was a bit of a mystery — namely, why these extraordinary Heifetz proteges seemed to have muted rather than meteoric careers. It is humbling to think that even those given such a priceless legacy as studying with Heifetz might be vulnerable to politics and bullying…
Eugene Fodor was another victim of Stern’s machinations. Heifetz told Erick Friedman, that if he had to have a career today, and he was speaking in Erick’s time he would quit. Fodor Gitlis, Another violin teacher at Mannes College told me that Stern prevented Uto Ughi from playing here. What a shame. I had never heard of him until this teacher at Mannes mentioned him. Ughi is a huge Violinist in Italy wonderful player especially in his prime. Still great artist. I doubt Ughi cared at all about Stern. Stern career was so managerial that he sacrificed his violin playing. Uto Ughi has been a driving force in the musical world promoting Classical music just an amazing musician
I am delighted to have some new homework; namely, to find and listen to the cds of all those voices subdued by the bullying of Mr. Stern.
And while it is fair to say that there were undoubtedly other factors entering into the career of each of these violinists, it is also evident that some people are bullies and others are not.
I have always thought that character comes through the sound of our instrument in such a way that others can hear it. So it may be that those who chose to remain gentle will, in the end, have the more enduring legacy…
Further confirmation of what I’ve been hearing about Stern for 30+ years. I’ve never cared for his playing and long since disposed of most of his recordings that were in my collection – the few I have are part of boxed sets devoted to other artists. Give me Heifetz, Perlman, Kremer, Milstein, or Kreisler any day!
For years I have heard that at some point Mr. Stern became less than helpful to the great violinist, Shlomo Mintz. Nothing in Aaron Rosand’s letter surprises me. Mr. Stern would have left a far greater legacy had he spent more time practicing in what should have been the prime of his career.
It breaks my heart to read about this horrible tragedy! Thanks to Great Maestro for sharing the truth about this corruption! What unspeakable loss for the world this Stern personality and his likes have caused and continue to cause. I was personally victimized and quickly became a social outcast in the opera business in my country after confronting the major music personality about moral issues, who is now artistic director of the national opera. This person has been calling a director repeatedly to not cast me in a TV project and deprived me of a major stifend above the heads of other jury members after the decision was made. I know these facts from reliable sources. I see it happening everywhere, talents being rejected because they will not compromise their art for the sake of power struggle and will not compromise integrity.
Chimes with what David Nadien hints at in a filmed interview, talking about when he won the Leventritt prize: “Toscanini was for me, and not even Isaac Stern could veto that”. Nadien was a very great violin talent.
To Charles Castleman: hi, Charlie! Good to see you posting here. With regard to your comments as to why Bernstein or Hurok would be afraid of Stern’s power, he had a lot of important connections and was a big draw, hence sold-out houses. Neither of them could risk alienating him. To Harry Collier: David Nadien was indeed a great violinist and artist. What a loss for the music world that he passed away recently. One can hear his artistry on YouTube, and one truly great example is his playing of a solo from Swan Lake with the NY Philharmonic.
The truly great players mentioned here (and making comments here) prove in spades that legacy is a complicated thing. How you live your life in relation to others in the business (and outside of the business) clings to your name like gum on a shoe. While nobody is perfect, and everyone’s life is filled with a “cocktail” of sorrows, what happens when a fiddle player puts bow to string reveals his or her inner life beyond those sorrows. Aaron Rosand, in specific and in particular, thrills me every time I hear one of his recordings because his tremendous love of what is important in music. I could see how Rosand could be threatening to someone eager to be considered the successor to Heifetz. Perhaps a new Lebrecht book could come out of the workings of Stern’s musical underworld and the way its victims managed to survive and flourish (sometimes) outside of Stern’s empire.
I appreciate Mr. Rosand’s objectivity in the face of such prolonged unjust treatment by Mr. Stern. I quit listening to Mr. Stern after meeting him long ago and hearing him premiere a Penderecki piece with the MO. It seemed he was more interested in trying stare down my dress than in music. It was my impression that there was just nothing artistic about him. Hopefully Mr. Rosand can benefit from the knowledge that if someone of Mr. Stern’s supposed stature carried on a campaign against him that Mr. Rosand’s talent surely presented a considerable threat.
Stare down your dress Pamela Brown that’s just so funny. You are right Stern being intimidated by Rosand speaks volumes on his great artistry.
I didn’t know Stern intimately, but as longtime concertmaster of the Mostly Mozart Festival Orch. at Lincoln Center and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orch. I worked with him many times. Of course, one hears stories, and there probably is smoke floating around, and yes it is true that as the years went by he practiced less and less; but when he was in his prime Stern was a stunning virtuoso and later developed into one of the great musical artists of the 20th. century. There was more than one memorable performance that will remain in my memory forever. Unfortunately, many people find it necessary to caste blame in any convenient direction rather than face up to their own limitations. Stern walked the walk and we talk about it.
…. more and more and more and more! This **** of a violinist has ****** so many great collegues. It should be *** to ***** after all he has done, and his name should be *********** for all time.
The recorings of the Beethoven as presented in the article are superb. No **** can diminish or refute that.
maybe perfect because edited wit more than 400 cuts…
I remain a great fan of the Istomin-Stern-Rose (my teacher) Trio. They were the highest paid piano trio of the 1960s and the recordings they made during their zenith are superlative that continue to sparkle.
Yet, relationship between the trio’s string players was rocky at best in 1983, one year before Rose’s untimely death at 66 years of age.
Rose recounts in his memoir (courtesy of “Leonard Rose: America’s Golden Age and Its First Cellist p.273)
“I have always loved Isaac for many reasons, but in particular, his friendship and loyalty. I still love him and always will, despite what I am to relate. About a year ago, Isaac told me he had a letter from Eugene to the effect that Eugene wanted to record the Beethoven Sonatas. Isaac Stern—being so powerful, important, and a very great artist—could have recorded the Beethoven Sonatas with Jesus Christ himself, if he were available. The same is certainly not true of me in 1983. I attempted to request that Isaac not record these sonatas with Eugene, reminding Isaac of Eugene’s literally screwing me out of recording the cello sonatas in 1970. I spoke to completely deaf ears. Isaac and Eugene finished the recordings a few months ago. Oh, I blame Eugene for his total lack of collegial consideration years ago; but, Isaac, where was your loyalty when I wanted it so badly? I shall never again mention it to you, but I’m hurt!”
“Perhaps a new Lebrecht book could come out of the workings of Stern’s musical underworld . . .”
After books about conductors, the recording industry and agents and the specific effects of commercialisation of the music industry, I am sure there will be a market for one with a focus on the artists and the negative influence some have wielded. Look under the surface and it is not just the effect on careers. I believe there will be enough information out there to expose specific examples of corruption, tax avoidance and under-the-table payments.
Agreed that there is much to be told about the underworld of classical music — the bullies and their victims. It would be healing to those involved were they to speak their truth to an empathetic audience.
Well…. we have the snake pit of the central performance culture (this thread)…. but at its margins the crocodile pond of the new music scene…. where the last remnants of totalitarian ideologies still flutter while the world has moved-on… where incompetence and ignorance reign supreme… and where backhand power politics created stories even more sensational than the Stern case, and not backed-up by artistic achievement. Because of lacking the traditional fundaments of the regular music culture, the absence of values and standards opened the gates to the worst possible parasitism. I would like to say: read my book! ( http://www.johnborstlap.com ) – but that would be exploiting this site.
Oh my! My dear friends, Andrew and Joshua, shared many similar stories! What a piece of work!
“I was introduced to Franz Waxman, who wrote the musical score for the movie, in Isaac’s rented home (formerly the home of Marilyn Davies).”
MARION Davies, Aaron.
Between 1926 and 1945, more or less, young Menuhin was IMO one of the greatest violinist alive. From that date, he were only down, and ended very badly. But as a person and as an artist, he was very much better than Stern could ever be.
You are 100% correct in regards to Menuhin. His early recordings of the Elgar and Paganini are quite stunning. Unfortunately, by the 70s, he was more “miss” than “hit”. But, again, those early recordings? Wow!
David Nadien: another “victim”.
A good example illustrating one disastrous effect of Aaron Rosand’s treatment by Isaac Stern can be read in an amazon.com review of his recording of the Khatchaturian and Sibelius concertos. The author is from France and I suspect his comments are fairly typical of the average music lover without much inside knowledge of the music business.
“I tend to be sceptical of “cult artists” whose fringe reputation seems to be in proportion to the rarity of their recordings, never for major labels and always with improbable, third-rate orchestras. If they are so great, why don’t they record with the Berlin Phil and Rattle, and for EMI or DG, or even Chandos?
“Like Ruggiero Ricci (who after starting out for Decca continued his recording career on LP for labels such as Vox and with orchestras like the Luxembourg Philharmonic or the Bochum Symphony), Aaron Rosand is such a cult figure and this disc – two warhorses of the 20th Century Violin Concerto litterature, played with as outlandish an orchestra as the Malaysian Philharmonic – is a good illustration.”
Ricci had no problem on record with second or even third rate orchestras and conductors, if he could play what he wont to play. I’ve recordings by him with Berlin Municipal O.,U.S.Army Airforce S.O., Academic S.O.,Polish National O….
This is now becoming addictive. Who knew?
Yes, Stern was a powerful musician and a strong violinist in his early years, but those years take the tool, earlier for some than others.My last public performance in 204 told me it was time to hang it up, so instead of going into a depression, I wrote my memoir of the long happy life I have lived as a pioneering solo and quartet violist. Stern, and a few others I will leave unnamed, saw it differently, but acting badly is always to be shameful.
I was rehearsing in a studio on W. 59th as a member of the Symphony of the Air with Stern as soloist, when a door at the back of the hall opened with a bang and a female voice called out, in no uncertain terms, “Isaac, come park the car right now.” “Take five,” said the conductor and we watched in fascination as Isaac meekly put away his fiddle to do as bidden.
So there was somebody who had the power over the powerbroker after all.
I endorse the previous comments about Eileen Flissler. She was every bit Archie’s equal in her musicianship and virtuosity, as can be evidenced in their Beethoven sonata recordings, still unmatched in my opinion.
Ooops, low vision and age is my excuse. Should read as follows:
This is now becoming addictive. Who knew?
Yes, Stern was a powerful musician and a strong violinist in his early years, but those years take the toll, earlier for some than others.My last public performance in 2004 told me it was time to hang it up (macular degeneration, et al) so instead of going into a depression, I spent the next five years writing my memoir about my long happy life as a pioneering solo and quartet violist. Stern, and a few others I will leave unnamed, saw it differently, but acting badly is always shameful.
I was rehearsing in a studio on W. 59th as a member of the Symphony of the Air with Stern as soloist, when a door at the back of the hall opened with a bang and a female voice called out, in no uncertain terms, “Isaac, come park the car right now.” “Take five,” said the conductor and we watched in fascination as Isaac meekly put away his fiddle to do as bidden.
So there was somebody who had the power over the powerbroker after all.
I heartily second all the previous comments about Eileen Flissler. She was every bit Archie’s equal in her musicianship and virtuosity, as can be evidenced in their Beethoven sonata recordings, still unmatched in my opinion.
Thank you! I think it is remarkable that Mr. Rosand finally made public his experiences. Although I heard some remarkable performances from Isaac Stern, and do think he should be remembered as a fine artist, his wheelings and dealings were well known. The Levintritt competition was delayed at his urging to give Shomo Mintz more time to prepare, although it ended up not happening. His earlier support (much deserved) of Pinchas Zukerman was very valuable and ultimately very expensive too.
I suspect Rosand was not the only violinist impeded by Stern’s influence. Rumor has it that Oscar Shumsky, in the USA, and Ivry Gitlis, Arthur Grumiaux, and Philippe Hirschhorn all found doors closed by him. Rumor is rumor, but I still entertain suspicion.
I really think most comments you can read on this page should be taken with a grain (or even a fistful) of salt. I was friends with people who were very close to Grumiaux and I know for a fact that DESPITE Stern’s offer to HELP him have a career in the US, it failed to materialize because he was terrified of flying.
As for Philippe Hirschhorn, Stern, I believe, withdrew his support when Hirschhorn refused to do his military service, which everybody had, and still has, to do in Israel.
Shumsky was a marvellous violinist, but old-style and shmaltzy. Friedmann was a rather uninspiring virtuoso who had a beautiful sound but not much else. Gitlis was particularly eccentric. The list goes on, and there are plenty of reasons why those people wouldn’t have had the careers they thought they deserved.
I suspect that was probably Vera Stern, his strong-willed second wife. Few people would consider addressing him as “Isaac” in public in such a commanding voice.
Yes indeed, it was the strong-willed Vera. Goes in the family?You probably know the story about how he insisted on secretly playing the violin solo from the pit for the ballet being danced by his first wife – Nora Kaye, was it? She complained later that it was too damned fast and balled him out afterward.
Bernard Zaslav you are a wealth of knowledge, I will be purchasing your book. Hearing all these stories about Stern is sad, because some of his early recordings were very beautiful. Imagine if he had not stopped these great violinist from performing. The story I heard about Ivry Gitlis was so awful, according to his wife he played a beautiful recital in Carnegie Hall standing ovation. The next day in the papers many of the critics gave him bad reviews everyone was shocked, she said it was orchestrated by Stern. Gitlis did not find out till later, Stern talked him into going to Paris. Gitlis was so broken by the Stern experience, he was also under Hurok at one time. Victor Borg actually helped Gitlis according to his wife supported him financially during a bad time. Her description of the compassion Borg displayed was very moving. I believed her because of my Violin Teacher Erick Friedman who told me many stories of how Stern went out of his way to destroy his career. Interesting how Hurok was involved with the Friedman fiasco in Moscow.
Yehudi Menuhin’ s views on the place of woman artists ( paraphrase as published in the NY Times)…womens place is in the home or in the fields.
One of my teachers attended a concerto performance of Stern’s years ago. He said that just before the cadenza, one of the strings broke on Stern’s violin. Stern continued playing on the concertmaster’s violin, as he changed the broken string. When you perform on an instrument that you’re not used to playing (plus being visibly nervous and shaken by what just happened) you tend to elicit a bit of sympathy from the audience for sounding badly. My teacher said, “I would’ve felt badly for him…if I hadn’t already seen this terrible ‘accident’ happen to him 4 times before.” I remember seeing Stern on the Dick Cavett show. During the interview, Cavett improptly asked Stern to play a popular tune. Stern sat staring into space. Cavett said, “Do you know the tune I mean?” Stern replied, “Oh yes, I’m hearing it in my head right, but I know some of my students are watching this and I don’t want them to hear me make a mistake.”
Back in the early 1970’s, I played in a community orchestra in a NY suburb and Mr. Rosand was playing the Tschaikowsky concerto. I’ll never forget him striding onto the stage for the rehearsal with a giant cigar hanging from his mouth and a huge smile on his face. His playing was magical and he won the hearts of every musician and audience member with that concert.
I think there’s a lot of misunderstanding, misinformation, jealousy and bitterness in this whole story. Stern, while certainly territorial, tough, etc. etc. cannot be the kind of monster described in the article and especially in the comments. Had he been interested only in his career as is suggested, he’d never have played so well. He never would have been the great, great musician he was. Casals wasn’t fond of him for no reason. The part where you write that he would be the next Heifetz is utter nonsense, and Stern didn’t even attempt to, never really playing the kind of repertoire that made Heifetz’s glory.
Rosand is certainly a superlative violinist, Friedman, as well. But Stern is clearly a different kind of musician and he certainly recognized artistry in others. Contrary to what’s been written above, he did try to help people like Grumiaux develop a career in the US. In any event, Grumiaux was dead afraid of flying, and according to Stern, his wife asked concert organizers for exorbitant fees. Someone mentioned Uto Ughi. Well, Uto’s problems were violinistic problems, or rather nervous problems. In one instance, a concert with Wolfgang Sawallisch where he’d be playing the Brahms concerto had to be cancelled or something because he just couldn’t play it anymore (this happened in the 80ies).
I’m a bit shocked by certain things Rosand asserts – and I do believe in his honesty – but this has given the opportunity for the ever present mediocre, quite possibly the in-some-way-slighted mediocre, to indulge in some pseudo-moralizing Stern-bashing. There even seems to be a Rosand groupie phenomenon going on here.
In nearly all the comments I read, I see “professionals” pontificating, displaying their “knowledge” about this or that, showing contempt for an “uninformed” or “amateur” album reviewer on Amazon, asserting “this recording by Joe Sch. was released 6 months before Stern’s and all critics/experts actually found it to be much ‘superior’ to fat Isaac’s version” etc.
To all of you attacking Stern’s musicianship and fiddler’s ability, I think I can say in all certainty that you have no real understanding of music. I’m not surprised. Most professionals don’t.
Ughi just played the Brahms recently LOL!. That s not true at all. He is a great violinist I wish he had played in The NYC, he played every where else. My teacher thought he was a great artist and violinist. Stern never had that great artistry Rosand Milstein etc. had. He climbed the corporate ladder of control became known as a control freak. Early Stern I liked, later on IN PERSON he scratched a lot, and was very un prepared. He certainly should have cancelled many those concerts. Personally I doubt Ughi cares or even wanted to play here who knows he is huge in Italy.
Some guy even wrote (I paraphrase slightly) “something always bothered me in those famous recordings of Stern’s (and Menuhin’s for that matter), now I know my ears were right. Now I can rest assured they were at fault”. What can you say after such a perfect expression of ignorance?
Dave, your paraphrase sounded eerily reflective of my post. I assure you, my opinion was certainly not one made from ignorance. I once made a career working as a technician for professional musicians. So, I am very familiar with much of both the studio and editing process. As far as classical music is concerned, I have listened to (in full or in part) well over 10,000 classical recordings. That’s just the last 17 years. I cant recall how many prior to that. Over 5,000 of those having been part of my personal collection. That’s just the cds and those I listened to in full. At one point, I indulged in novelty and used to win bets by having people play random violin recordings and telling them which violinist we were hearing. Admittedly, that’s not too impressive. However, it’s an ability, I came to find out, that isn’t ubiquitous among classical listeners and shows a developed ear. For the past 15 years, collecting recordings of rare and obscure violin repertoire has been my specialty. I stand by my remarks based on the fact that quite a few recordings made by both Stern and Menuhin from the 60s on have been over hyped by various review publications such as the now defunct “Penguin”, Fanfare, BBC and the like. Now, I am not going to single out particular recordings and spend time slagging them. I am also not very comfortable offering this partial resume. But I am comfortable with seeing that I am not alone in my impressions of some of their favored recordings. If that somehow bruises someone’s delicate disposition, so be it. But there is no evidence that my opinion stems from any form academic or musical ignorance.
I’m happy for you, Nick, but that kind of an ability, however impressive or at least noteworthy, has less to do with music than circus tricks. And artistic acuity, little to do with academic knowledge. Stern’s playing was sometimes scratchy, out of tune, what you will, but always dead right musically. Menuhin had problems which you can hear in nearly all his recordings, even when he was younger, but it was always “something”.
This post seems to illustrate another aspect of this issue of bullying — namely, that the public is being taught to think with their heads instead of with their ears. No matter how much hype is given about any performer, or recording, all anyone needs to do is listen for themselves. Those who are part of the bullying, however, will tend to try to stop that.
It’s the issue of the “Emperor’s new clothes”.
I actually like it when people think with their heads. What annoys me is when people listen with their eyes and think with their feet.
Angela. I enjoyed your comments about my lifelong dear friend, Erick Friedman. I first met Erick at Princeton University, after he had returned from the Russian competition.
I was 17 years old at the time and for all the years since until his untimely death at age 64, we often discussed the unpleasant truisms expressed here by yourself and so many others. As a matter of fact, my exposure to all of this influenced me to become a surgeon, although my first true love was always playing the violin.
I also have had the great pleasure of knowing Aaron for many years and the late, truly great, Ruggiero Ricci for even a longer period of time. My experiences with them all echoed the same conclusions expressed here. Thank you for bringing these experiences to light.
Thank you Kenneth, wonderful to hear about your friendship. Erick was an extraordinary gifted, violinist, and a victim of the horrible politics that have perverted the music world. He was completely set up at the Tchaikovsky Competition. I was lucky enough to be friendly with Erick’s best friend Stanley Babin a great Pianist. Stanley Babin and Erick would play at The Monomoy theatre in Chatham ma. I was privileged to turn pages, for Stanley Babin at the rehearsal of Brahms Violin Sonata with Erick. Erick Friedman was so amazed by Stanley’s playing, he stopped and said, You should have played this with Heifetz I was only 17 years old but this really moved me it spoke volumes about Erick Friedman, who was a good soul.. He worshipped Stanley. Stanley turned to him and said, “I am very happy to play with you and when you play well you are second to no one.” Someone commented on The Violinist Uto Ughi, who has a huge career in Europe just played in Moscow. His live performances speak volumes. Uto Ughi is an incredible violinist and very very famous in Italy. He has played all over Europe I doubt highly he was too nervous to play in NY, All violinist regard him with very high esteem. I heard Stern prevented Ughi from Playing here. Ughi’s legacy is much bigger then Stern’s. I say for me Erick was second to no one. May he rest in peace and I am sure he is playing with the Angels. Erick had a great sense of humor. I loved him dearly!
I first met Aaron Rosand in 1968 when he was hired to play the big solos in Swan Lake with the American Ballet Theatre orchestra at the Metropolitan Opera House. Hearing him warm up, to me, was like hearing Heifetz. I was impressed beyond words. Since, as the principal cellist, I had a solo that served as a duet with him; I was extremely intimidated. Aaron put me totally at ease, and when I asked him to use a mute he simply marked it in his part and used it in that part of the solo. To me, it speaks volumes about his character. At that time, he was a very important violinist, and I was doing my first major season with the ABT orchestra.
Isaac Stern did not destroy Erick Friedman’s career. It was his unfortunate and ill advised decision to enter the 1966 International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow that had a lasting negative effect on Erick’s solo career. At the time he entered the competition, he already had a recording contract with RCA and had performed successfully with several major orchestras in the United States. It was the unexpected loss of the competition that, in part, killed his career, not Isaac.
Sorry I believe Erick Friedman, since I heard this from many others. Also Erick certainly shouldn’t have entered the Tchaikovsky competition. But he was set up. Sorry it was too obvious. The Hurok Story with David Oistrakh. Erick played later on in Israel and was invited back. I remember it and STERN stopped it. Sterns control was well known in the music world. A very great pianist from Israel spoke about this. There was also Earl Wilde. Who was an amazing pianist. His legacy is astounding. Erick Friedman was not a liar.
I do not want to create a controversy about a close childhood friend, but the truth is a cautionary tale far from what has been discussed here.
Eric(k) Friedman’s career was a casualty of well-meaning but overzealous rich parents.\ Just as one example (I could give several more):
Preceding his Boston Symphony Orchestra solo debut, his parents blanketed the Boston area media with a PR campaign “Come and hear the world’s greatest violinist.” That is dangerous anywhere but disastrous in Boston. My parents went to the concert and said he played beautifully. However, everyone there (including BSO members) obviously had chips on their shoulders from the ad campaign, and his reviews were horrible,
He entered Tchaikovsky Competition out of desperation because his career had begin to wane (largely because of similar episodes) –winning Tchaikovsky seemed a way to resuscitate it. There was voluminous (paid) press about his entering the contest, again probably ill-advised. The Russians were not afraid of him because his career seemed in decline..a fear which would have been necessary for them to consider giving him a top prize ( I need not elaborate about the politics of that competition)
a sad story!! and he and his parents never figured out what was happening
Not to disagree but Erick’s parents were hardly rich he came from Newark NJ. We always joked about it. His best friend was under the Columbia Mat with him. Stanley Babin. So the politics of music business were well known. Russia saw Heifetz as a person who defected. As far as Erick’ parents I can only say his mother was very much like Michael Rabin’s mother. and she was Rabin’s mothers best friend, I met Erick’s Father liked him very much at a concert, when Erick played with Dimitri Scourgos a Greek pianist. Erick’s career was definitely effected by many things, But I am glad I had the privilege of knowing and studying with him and beyond his great violin playing was a fact that he was a very nice person.
I tried posting earlier, but it would not go through, so I will try once again.
I’m responding to the disgusting Charles Castleman post above, disrespecting his late ‘childhood friend’ Erick Friedman with slanderous allegations about Friedman and his family.
I have to say,I find it rather ironic also that a man who is as self-congratulatory as Castleman, is taking exception to someone who uses advertising to promote a concert.
A simple search of Google will yield comprehensive newspaper archives of Erick Friedman from the 60’s (including the Boston Globe & NY Times) further disproving these ridiculous assertions by Castleman.
If Erick Friedman was so disliked in Boston after debuting with the BSO, why did he appear with the orchestra numerous times, and later make a recording of the Prokofiev D Major Concerto with the BSO conducted by Erich Leinsdorf for RCA? Utter nonsense!
Maybe Castleman is a little frustrated he isn’t ever mentioned along the likes of Aaron Rosand or Erick Friedman as a top US violinist?
Let’s be honest while Erick Friedman was busy recording for major labels with legendary artists such as his teacher Jascha Heifetz, touring with the world’s great orchestras, winning Grammy Awards, heading the violin faculty at a NYC conservatory and Ivy League School, Castleman was busy riding his bicycle around upstate NY reading sonnets to high school kids at his ‘Quartet Program’ summer camp.
The truth hurts. Sorry! If you can’t take the heat as they say, get out of the kitchen!
So the only personal attack on anyone other than Isaac Stern in this exchange is by the only person too paranoid to sign his/her real name to it
I don’t think a person as yourself who attempts to defame a dead colleague, deserves a respectful response. Best of luck to and your students, because they’ll need it with a teacher like you.
Of course, if you were capable of comprehending my post, you would realize nothing in it in any way impugns Eric.
I have been corrected..his parents were not rich…they probably spent their life savings on a bad PR agent….sadder still.
I said his career was in trouble (not that it deserved to be in trouble!!). In 1965, the year before he entered Tchaikovsky, he soloed with Boston Symphony Orchestra, but was not not even mentioned among the year’s violin soloists, playing not on any subscription series, but at the Statler Hilton Ballroom. Do you think that pleased him?
You cannot have it both ways. Did he continue to have a great career or did Isaac Stern ruin it?
‘Of course, if you were capable of comprehending my post, you would realize nothing in it in any way impugns Eric.’
Well I didn’t get a fancy BS Harvard degree like you, but I along with everyone else can see you sure did try to use some defamatory innuendo suggesting his parents funded his career and made up PR campaigns (which do not exist).
Can you physically produce any of these ‘PR campaigns’ or ‘horrific reviews’ you talk about?
‘I have been corrected..his parents were not rich…they probably spent their life savings on a bad PR agent….sadder still.’
Let me guess, you spend your life savings creating your (vanity project) recordings?
I didn’t see that at all. The subject of Castleman’s comment was not Erick Friedman’s career, or merits, or violinistic abilities, but the reasons of his career’s decline.
Dear Chinese cigar box violin,
[redacted: abuse] I only will respond to one of your ridiculous comments and be done with you.
My “vanity”recordings were released by SONY, NONESUCH, NEWPORTCLASSIC, and MUSIC AND ARTS (also Aaron Rosand’s label). I was paid to record each of them.
YOU sir are [redated: defamation] making up defamatory stories about a dead ‘friend’. [redacted]. You cannot support your argument about these false PR campaign or bad reviews with any physical evidence.
You got paid for your recordings? Congratulations! So you and your minion students bought them?
A little news for you, Strads don’t cover bad intonation. I guess a little splicing can?
The pair of you: keep it polite, please, and stop trolling each other.
I haven’t seen anything by Charles Castleman here that can be described as “disgusting”. I see nothing there other than descriptions of what he felt happened to the careers of certain players being discussed here. I saw absolutely no vindictiveness. Del Gesu, your attacks do not promote hearty, honest debate, but just create an ugly atmosphere in which such debate becomes impossible. Go ahead and disagree with Charles, but I’m sure that most of us here would not want to read such vitriol. If you have a personal beef with Charlie, take it to him one on one in private and don’t hide behind your screen name here on a public forum. This is not a forum for gladiator contests.
I too was generally taken aback by what Charles Castleman had to say about Erick Friedman and his family. I generally agree with what ‘Del Gesu’ has to say minus the ad hominem attacks.
I too would be interested in seeing if Mr. Castleman can come up with physical proof of these ads.
The fact is Erick Friedman had a very distinguished career, and had the respect many of the great string players and musicians of the world I have known. I seem to recall Erick Friedman in the 70’s played with the Berlin Philharmonic and Herbert Von Karajan, and 6 violin concertos with the American Symphony at Carnegie. I think we mortals would be all too happy to have such a ‘decline’ in our careers.
To start, I hope you understand that being in the field, too close to the people discussed all my life, that my subjective opinion of my colleagues’ playing is not of great value to anyone else, and I will not submit it. What can be of value is my experience with non-musical factors in career building .
Eric’s career was waning in 1965 as evidenced by his demotion by the BSO to a non-subscription artist despite his great history, his champion Leinsdorf, and his fine playing. Inability to book better than that can lead to dismissal from a top management. I know from Eric himself(at the time) that he entered Tchaikovsky to give a “shot in the arm” to his career. Was his career really in that shape or was this a local problem?
As you said, the career did come back. However, what we are discussing is not whether Eric had a good career, but if there were circumstances preventing it from being yet better. I was in Boston visiting family before the concerts when I heard negative comments about his pre-publicity from BSO players. My parents confirmed that Eric played beautifully, but was not treated well afterwards. I am proposing that perhaps bad PR was an important factor.
I am not proposing that Boston newspaper reviews played a significant role. After a certain career stage reviews are useful indicators of where one stands, but not very relevant to anything else. I mentioned them as an indicator of public antipathy.
Del Gesu was probably very close to Erick, and His students are very loyal to him. Erick was a devoted teacher, I can understand how they feel. I recall when I was very young,and how I was hypersensitive to anyone who criticized Erick. He was unique. I must add I was around when he took care of his Mom in 2000 or 2001. He took very good care of her. He had a lot of compassion, and that was quite astounding to me,. He really was a good soul. I don’t think Erick cared much about fame, I think he did this for his parents. Erick had a beautiful Singing Voice loved Opera. He was a brilliant person. Great personality. It is sad that Isaac Stern, according to many, caused harm to others, But there are worse things in the world, I still look at Rosand Friedman and so many other violinist in awe. being so fortunate to play the violin so well. To be so gifted. Music is such a beautiful language, and to speak that language as beautifully as Rosand does would be enough for me. God knows that Rosand is a great Violinist. Not a bad audience.
What an apt and beautiful note. I only can add that I knew Eric’s mother well when he was young—a wonderful caring woman!
I never knew Erick’s Mother but saw her once at his concert backstage. Erick told me some stories about her they were funny. I do remember his father was a very handsome man and seemed very proud of his son. I saw him when he was quite elderly. I am glad that his Mom was nice. She must have been he seemed to take very good care of her. All our lives were made richer by these great artist. Its nice to hear nice things about Erick and his family. I am sure he loved them very much.
Charles Castleman Didn’t even know you played Violin gorgeous Franck Just listened to it.
I just want to share something that I experienced yesterday while driving up here in Cape Cod: I turned on the radio and they were playing a recording of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto. Although I arrived at my destination before the recording came to an end, I sat in the car to the very end, as the playing was first-rate on every level and I simply had to know who the violinist was. The sound was gorgeous and full, the intonation spotless and the musicianship beyond reproach. It was simply gorgeous playing. At the end, the announcer said, “That was Isaac Stern with Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra” (perhaps the best accompanying orchestra and conductor at the time). Yes, Stern did not practice much toward the end of his career, and it certainly showed, but when he was younger, he truly was among the greats. That sound track he played for the film, Humoresque, is also stunningly beautiful playing.
I know that recording and its beautiful, you are right very clean playing and great energy. I also did like Stern in The Film Humoresque . But the stories I heard about him really influenced by opinion of him. Erick did think Stern was an excellent Violinist when he was young. He was always fair.
I was 20 years old and, after 3 years of study at the New England Conservatory, for various rather unpleasant reasons, I found myself at my uncle’s house in Phoenix Arizona . I auditioned for a position at the Phoenix Symphony which was for 1 season as part time associate concertmaster. I would end up sitting 3rd chair for about half of the 33 week season. The other half I was at the back of the firsts, outside 8th stand. Eduardo Mata was the Music Director and Max Wexler was the concertmaster. This was in 1975. I was understandably very excited to see that Stern was coming to play the Beethoven. At the first rehearsal, the concertmaster set up so that the first stand was where the first stand of 2nds usually are, leaving me to face the soloist in the 3rd chair. When I queried Max about this prior to the rehearsal he said. “Stern is a jerk, I want nothing to do with him” and “I’m sitting over there to keep out of his way.” It was coincidental, but I had played concertmaster on the Beethoven for 2 violinists at NEC for their graduate recitals during the previous spring and so felt very well prepared to deal with the piece, and was looking forward to seeing Stern close up, performing it. I could hear Stern in the artist room warming up and it did not sound very good. It sounded like he had not practiced and he was “cramming”. I went onstage to discover the setup and sat down to warm up myself. When rehearsal started and Stern entered the hall he walked over and shook hands with Mata, then turned to me and glared at me in a most unpleasant way. I looked at that age like I was around 16 and was a slightly cocky kid and I remember being quite perplexed by this. Why on earth is the great Stern glaring at me? Nonetheless, I continued to look directly back at him, right into his eyes. Mata began the concerto and I began to play, all the while looking right at Stern and he glaring at me. As I had performed the piece many times in the recent past I had no difficulty in playing the entire tutti from memory, while Stern kind of huffed and puffed in front of me all the while staring and glaring right into my eyes. I was able to see the conductor peripherally with ease and so I just looked right back. I certainly had experience in dealing with big personality violinists, having played in masterclasses for Tibor Varga, Joseph Silverstein and Henryk Szeryng, but this just felt all wrong, I was a young, bright eyed and bushy tailed fan, having a particular fondness for his Barber recording among others. As Stern entered with the solo line he continued to face me directly and played very aggressively all the while glaring at me as if I had done something awful. I knew I hadn’t and was actually getting really pissed off by this time. “Who treats people like this, that they don’t even know?” was going through that part on the brain not directly involved with playing the tutti. So I just kept staring into his raging eyes and began to wonder just how this was going to end and becoming convinced that this must be some kind of twisted test. “Should I stop staring back?” “Is this a test?” “What have I done to deserve this?” Time passed, understandably, very slowly. I kept looking into him and as he came to the passage of 16ths about a minute in, he began to have a little trouble moving his fingers with the bow. He turned immediately a beet red and a bead of sweat began to trickle down his cheek. Nonetheless he continued to glare into me. Within a few more bars the breakdown was nearly complete and I saw not the glaring rage of moments ago, but a glimmer of terror, as he faltered, like a great live Humpty Dumpty on the edge of precipice. Then, seeing a look of absolute terror in his eyes, I smiled. Not a full smile but more of what those who know me well call the Joe Scheer smirk. At this point he broke eye contact and did something really remarkable. He turned away very quickly, and with his 4rth finger, yanked violently on his E string and immediately demanded an “A” from the oboe saying “Give me an A, my violin is out of tune”, all the while scrapping viciously on the open strings as if to illustrate the point. He did not look at me again at any time for the rest of the run. Several violinists in the orchestra had been watching this with concern and amusement, one in particular asking at the break, “What the fuck just happened?” I was already well aware of the reputation of Stern as a powerful force in the violin world and after that I avoided him. I figured I would just have to make my way without his help, since I was certain that after this brief yet powerfully unpleasant encounter that he would always remember me.
Hi, I posted a question on your original post because I was wondering if the possible reason Stern was glaring at you had to do with your being or seeming so young.
Can you tell me exactly where you were sitting? This is fascinating as all these years I never really considered anger as being a possible motivating force in performing.
I wouldn’t try it though as to me it is against the whole spirit of music. Thanks.
Max Wexler, the concertmaster, had moved the 1st stand of 1st violins over to where the 1st stand of 2nds usually sits. As the 3rd chair player this left a gap between myself and the conductor for the soloist. It probably appeared to the audience that I was the concertmaster. It my have appeared that way to Stern as well. As I mentioned, Max was not interested in having any contact with Stern at all. I did indeed look very young, I have some photos taken when I was 30 in which I look to be about 16. I was always carded in liquor stores, well into my 30’s. I never met him again although I heard him several times both in recital and with the Boston Symphony. I have no idea why he behaved the way he did.
Thanks, he was probably thinking who is this upstart and why don’t I have control over him. I wrote in another post that I felt a strong whiff of Lady Macbeth behind the scenes. I won’t go into the reasons just now. He seemed like a jolly old guy at the Hiroshima Message for Peace Concert in 1985. He didn’t want the concert to be recorded but was upset afterwards when it wasn’t. Oh well.
lol! funny. When I was a young violinist, I heard of Stern but was not that impressed for some reason. But my teacher, from way back when in the good old days of New York, was impressed with him.
I was always taught my teacher (another one), to use discernment about true musicianship and being a violinist’s violinist.
Just from what I am hearing of this recording it sounds like Rosand was definately one of those. Thanks for sharing.
[…] In my naivete I sincerely believed that because my musical situation was so unusual I had myself triggered the bullying reactions of so many “professionals”, it was not until recently that a door opened into the deep abyss that the students of Heifetz seemed to have faced. It is a thread on the Slipped Disc blog, that has turned out to be insightful and informative, and terrifyingly real: https://slippedisc.com/2014/07/high-explosive-aaron-rosand-accuses-isaac-stern-of-sabotaging-his-care… […]
Now that I know what Dave was alluding to, I can recommend Terry King’s biography of Piatigorsky: Gregor Piatigorsky, The Life and Career of the Virtuoso Cellist. King discusses the anti-Furtwängler protests after WWII, including the opposition in 1948 to Furtwängler’s appointment as director of the Chicago Symphony. Furtwängler was indeed upset when informed that Piatigorsky was involved in the opposition. However, King gives the evidence to show that Piatigorsky’s name was used without his permission, and that he never participated in any of the protests. Although Piatigorsky never discussed any of this with Furtwängler, Furtwängler did come to the conclusion that Piatigorsky had not opposed him. Long after Furtwängler’s death, Piatigorsky stated the truth to Furtwängler’s widow. For details see pp. 154-158 (and p. 342 in the footnotes) in King’s biography of Piatigorsky. A second source on Piatigorsky and Furtwängler is Daniel Gillis’s book Furtwängler and America (chapter V, and in particular pp. 104 and 125-126 for Piatigorsky). There are two separate issues here: (1) what were Piatigorsky’s views and actions with regard to Furtwängler? The evidence is clear on this; (2) if someone opposed Furtwängler after WWII, including threats never to perform with an orchestra if it hired Furtwängler, should such a position be regarded as not being virtuous? Dave clearly thinks it is not being virtuous. There were many then–I suspect some today, over 60 years later–who would not agree.
Virtue? A fig. What do you know about it? Point one, I’ll leave to you. But for point 2, I stand with Menuhin. And doing that to a friend would be worse than just “not virtuous”.
Great story bout Stern!! LOL!! you told it so well. I wonder did your paths ever cross again!!
Letter to Aaron Rosand: As a professional violinist for 6 decades I completely support your comments regarding Stern. Through dialog with the great Mischa Elman and his wife Helen, it was clear that the treatment of you by the so-called “magnanimous soul” was less than professional, honest or ethical. Thank you for bringing out the truth.
Your points are well taken concerning the Stern bashing. But the overwhelming comments in defense of Aaron Rosand led me to come to my own conclusion as to who I prefer as a violinist. (as to Stern and accusations against him as to his behavior toward other artists, I will forgo on a future thread)
I assume that you are a violinist and speak of the instrument with due authority.
I decide to go the route of Youtube and look for the same compositions played by Stern and Rosand. The first I found was the Sarasate Gypsy Aires played by Stern and then by Rosand. Not to be impressed with a technical composition only, I searched for the the other side of the spectrum. The works that most violinist agree separates the men from the boys,- the Bach Unaccompanied Sonatas and Partitas and come to your own conclusion. I might add that the Rosand recordings on Audiofon are live performances with no splicing as told to me by the sound engineer. I would suggest that you listen to Stern and Rosand doing the Chaconne. I don’t think that Stern ever recorded them. If you or anyone would take the time to listen to these, I would be interested in your response
I think the best Chaconne I heard was with Stern. There’s a great video somewhere on youtube in which he plays it.
Szeryng’s versions are also very impressive – few violinists have had such bow control, especially for chords.
There’s a video of Rosand playing it, which I don’t care much for, but of course he’s noticeably older than Stern is in the video mentioned above. I’ll always stand up for Stern because of how he plays. I love his music making just like I love Casals’, Rose’s or Fleisher’s. As I said in an earlier comment, when you play like that, you have to be a good man. But I might be naive.
Try Igor Bezrodny, it’s out of this world:
As I am unable to listen to anyone but Heifetz playing the Bach Chaconne, I am afraid I would be no help at all…:-0
You do not have to be a good man or a good woman to play a great piece of music like the Bach Chaccone beautifully. You do not even need to be a good man or woman to write something great. You just need to have talent (or aptitude) and be good at what you do.
Szeryng was extremely arrogant, but I still love his recordings. I actually love some of Stern’s recordings (particularly his recording made in concert with Myra Hess).
Right on, Elaine (oh – and hi!). Wagner was not a good man, but, oh – what music!
Each player has a voice. Some we may feel compatible with; others not. I don’t know if it has anything to do with good or bad character per se, but there are some who tend to make me nauseous no matter how ‘well’ they play.
Given the length of this thread, responding to comments made dozens of posts earlier may be confusing. So this is a response to that of Charles Castleman made on July 27, 2014 at 10:32 pm
in response to the original post by Lindsay Groves on July 9 @ 1:34 am.
Mr Castleman writes: “Stern would do anything for his proteges. He sacrificed his career for Perlman and Zukerman”.
Stern certainly played a major role in bringing Perlman and Zukerman to the US, getting them in to Juilliard and placing them with the Hurok Agency. On the one occasion I met and had a lengthy chat with him, he told me he had gone to Hurok’s office, told Hurok that he would have to pay their families $100 a week but only he, Stern, would decide which engagements they played until they had completed their studies around the mid-1960s.
However, to take that act of kindness to its extreme and even suggest that Stern “sacrificed his career for Perlman and Zukerman” is, with respect, utterly untrue. Stern was definitely not in the business of helping develop any artist’s career at the expense of his own. Not long after these two artists began working full-time on the concert circuit, they did not need any help from anyone! From that point, all three were effectively in competition with one another.
Remember, too, that Stern’s relationship with both must have come under a degree of considerable strain following the death of Shelly Gold in 1985. Both artists then decided to leave ICM Artists (which had arisen from the ashes of the Hurok Empire) even though Stern’s own manager and friend, Lee Lamont, became the new President. Indeed it was a commonly held belief that Stern all but controlled the goings on at ICMA.
Stern helped a lot of careers just as he damaged the prospects of others. He sacrificed his career for no-one.
I stand corrected. Nick, you write with authority and make sense. My information is 2nd hand at best, though from a manager of one of the most major orchestras. Also, I was not implying that Perlman and Zukerman needed help.
I do still think it possible that Stern lost interest in practicing when he became more interested in having an impact in ways beyond his own performance
[…] 87, recently made waves when he wrote a memoir for Norman Lebrecht’s online column, Slipped Disc, in which he accused Isaac Stern of sabotaging his career, laying out some very detailed claims. […]
This remembrance by Rosand is certainly interesting reading. Is there an alternate reality where we would have seen numerous Rosand recordings on Columbia instead of Vox? In his book “Indivisible by Four” Arnold Steinhardt says all of those stories of some classical recordings having dozens of edits are all true–but I didn’t know about Stern’s 400 editing cuts on the Beethoven! I heard Rosand do the Walton Concerto with the Rochester Philharmonic in 1972 when I was an Eastman student. It was absolutely flawless and great. Then he did an encore–a somewhat weird Paganini 24th caprice that had some changes to make it sound more romantic. I didn’t like it at all, and I could see why Rosand didn’t have a big career in America. People just didn’t want to hear that old-fashioned style of playing. In the early 60’s there were some really fine violinists who didn’t end up with big careers–Erick Friedman, Jaime Laredo, Charles Treger, and perhaps Rosand also, to mention a few. They all seemed to be upstaged by the new Israeli violinists Perlman and Zukerman, and Kyung Wha-Chung. I’m curious if there are a lot of editing cuts in Stern’s Franck Sonata and Dvorak Concerto and Lalo Symphonie Espagnole, because those are great recordings.
Yes, nowadays anything that sound as romantic is anathema. If Kreisler try to give a recital today, the public probably would protest loudly and leave the theatre. An interpretation should be done with surgery precision and without any sign of sentimentality.
I come to this discussion a bit late. First you don’t bash a dead person who cannot defend himself –more so, without tangible proof. There is a lot of hear-saying and rumors and innuendos in this long thread. With Rosand’s account we Stern as this mix of mediocre violinist/son of a bitch person, which only shows he cannot separate the two: you can have a great person who sucks as musician and a bastard who is outstanding (Rosand wants Stern to play both).
Then we get this thread of Rosand’s fans and understandably many of inaccuracies, like Stern played out of tune here or this and that this or that recording had editing –as if one can cheat his way into the wonderful Stern renderings of for instance, Bartok violin concertos or Prokofiev violin concertos, or his live videos. The Rosand-fans verdict is that Stern had super powers to hypnotize people for 50 years. What we listen to is not actually what he plays. True, Stern did not have the perfection of his early and mid career, but that’s no surprise. Kreisler and Menuhin also didn’t play at the level of his earlier and mid years.
Not surprising.I would like to add 2 things:
When I was younger,I liked,enjoyed and respected Stern’s playing of the Prokofieff concertos,Brahms Sonatas,and demonstrations of Bach solo works that I heard him play at a Master Class in Jerusalem in 1967.As time went on,I perceive his playing as cold as repugnant-including the composers that I listed above.
Isaac Stern drove a car involved in a serious accident that left one of the passengers crippled for life.He refused to admit any responsibility,and in his defense(apparently already a bit “dotty”),claimed that he attracted larger audiences than the wounded passenger.
Yeah,one more thing:during a master class in Jerusalem,he worked with the Yuval Trio,who were less than cooperative with his suggestions.He informed them that they could forget about playing concerts in the US. A “beautiful soul.”I believe that he is best relegated to oblivion.
The only recording by Stern that I am still able to listen to is the Schubert C major quintet with Casals.
Well,here is a refutation of much that I have written before.
In talking-the guy is wise,intelligent,inspired and inspiring.Apparently,either a gifted politician,or someone who could have developed much more as a player and took the route to fame and ego.
Great phrasing,he actually plays better when demonstrating for pupils than in most of his concerts.I still can not retract my statement of the difficulty that I have listening to his playing,which aside from the marvelous clear and intelligent presentation and phrasing ,is that of a cold human being.And yet,when he talks,he is not cold at all.I guess that he got derailed somewhere.
Have a listen to the Istomin-Stern-Rose recording of Mendelssohn C minor trio. Stern’s playing is inspired and exquisite. I have seldom heard better violin playing. His love for Mendelssohn jumps out at you. There is a reason Zukerman once mentioned him as one of the three greatest violinists to have existed. In his prime (which may have been a narrow window) he was marvelous. We all realize he hung in there too long – did he really have much of a choice? In his advanced age, he was still one of the highest draws and highest paid.
Thanks,Steven.Unable to find the C minor on youtube-did listen to a bit of the second mvt. of the D minor.Wonderful playing! Still quite clear that the marvelous intellectual baggage outweighs the energy of complete emotional identification,but the sound is beautiful,much warmer and more refined than in most of Stern’s other recordings that I have heard.I will try to get the C minor,and I thank you for your recommendation.
BTW,I heard Zukerman live when he was 13,and it was breathtaking.
Steven,Can you confirm my guess that Leonard Rose plays the cello solo on the recording of Villa Lobos’ BB no. 5 with Bidu Sayao?Thanks,Raanan
With seven members of the New York Philharmonic, Leonard Rose’s (playing the solo) name first appeared on this 1945 recording with the composer conducting. The 78 proved to be the single disc sensation of Columbia Records for two years. It led to his signing a long-term contract with the record company in 1949. Grammy Awards didn’t exist yet, but this recording’s classic status was retroactively confirmed in 1984, the year of Rose’s death, when it was voted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
I’m reading through the comments and am in disbelief. This appears to have become a reason for various posters to pile on to soil the memory of one of the previous century’s most best known violinists. Are all or most of the stories they tell true or false? Only they know. What’s next to accuse Isaac Stern of? The Cuban Missile Crisis? The Vietnam War? I’m not going to state unequivocally that Isaac Stern was an angel. He had a long career. Obviously, not everyone who came into contact with him will have something positive to say about him. Like anyone, I’m sure he had his off days, his personality flaws, and they showed themselves during the course of his time as a professional violinist. Is Isaac Stern my favorite violinist? No, he isn’t. For most violin works, I rather listen to Szeryng and Grumiaux. I do still enjoy the recordings he made with Pablo Casals (who had a large effect on him), the Istomin/Rose/Trio as well as the Mozart Concertos with Szell. I also have a fondness for his first recordings of the Bruch G Minor, Lalo Symphonie Espagnole and Dvorak Concerto. Stern recounted, rather humorously, Szell’s criticism of him, something to the effect he could’ve been one of the world’s finest violinists if only he practiced more.
I always respected Stern for fighting to keep Carnegie Hall around as well as his humanitarian efforts.
I don’t think Aaron Rosand makes himself look any better by claiming Isaac Stern ruined his career. Some here have attested to Rosand’s under appreciated artistry. He certainly wouldn’t have been the first classical musician to have to wait to be fully appreciated until very late in his life or even after he passed away. I’m sure we can all name people like that. But do we have to scapegoat another, far more famous musician, with some unsupportable low blows, in order to add voice to the lesser known musician’s “side?”
I was impressed with Stern’s playing until I noticed that he spent as much time staring down my dress as he did looking at the conductor. I was not a fan as a result.
When a boatload of well known violinists were asked to name their top three violinists, Pinchas Zukerman included Isaac Stern on his list. Stern was an exceptional artist with character flaws that were to say the least abrasive.
It is a political world, in the music world. It is unfortunate how people want the glory and power, those that are too self involved. Stern was a good player as you said. He was not harmed by the truth/your truth and I feel it is good to speak out and defend your points. You are a fine player, I enjoy your playing very much!
Oistrakh is where it’s at anyways. This was a sad story.
Many years ago, I explored the possibility of writing a biography of Isaac. I met with many high-level musicians and music administrators who all said that if I wrote the book, I’d never work in music again. I had to drop the project.