What Isaac Stern really thought of Aaron Rosand

What Isaac Stern really thought of Aaron Rosand


norman lebrecht

February 15, 2017

More than two years ago on Slipped Disc, the violinist Aaron Rosand accused the late Isaac Stern of sabotaging his career. ‘I offended him early on when I refused his offers to coach me,’ wrote Rosand, proceeding to list a number of occasions when his path had been blocked by his senior colleague.

Now, correspondence has come to light in the Stern papers at the Library of Congress which shows Stern, late in life, heaping effusive praise on Rosand in letters to the Los Angeles patron and Heifetz friend, Richard Colburn.

Asking Colburn for a copy of a Rosand recording of the Ysaye sonatas he had heard in Colburn’s office in 1993, Stern writes: ‘From what I could hear briefly it was playing of an extraordinary quality. I have known him for many years and would like to congratulate him personally.’

After hearing the record, Stern wrote again to Colburn: ‘I found the playing extraordinary, particularly in the virtuoso works by Ysaye and others. The Bach is well played but somewhat romanticised. But it is played with so much authority, thought and cleanliness that it makes its own valid points.’

These do not sound like the comments of a lifelong adversary. But then life is seldom cast in black and white.





  • Malcolm Kottler says:

    Stern writes: “I have known him for many years and would like to congratulate him personally.”

    Did he do so? Aaron Rosand should be able to tell us.

  • boringfileclerk says:

    Aaron Rosand was and is the better artist and gentleman. History will vindicate his musical legacy.

  • Bruce says:

    Well of course he thought Rosand was good. You don’t have to bother sabotaging the career of someone bad — if they really are bad, they will do that for themselves.

  • Robert Holmén says:

    Since that reappraisal came “late in life” it doesn’t necessarily disprove earlier incidents with Rosand.

  • Myrtar says:

    Not a single Stern’s violin concerto recording is considered the “definitive” recording. He is out-done by several violinists that came before, during and after his generation. The test of time won’t be kind on his recordings.

    • Felix Ang says:

      Barber with Bernstein

    • Daniel F. says:

      You may be right with respect to concerto recordings, but two recordings of Stern performing chamber music in the early 1950’s really stand out for me: the Brahms B Major Trio, and the Schubert C Major Quintent, both with various Casals “all-star” ensembles. That Stern was too small to credit Casals with having an enormous influence on his playing (as distinct, perhaps, from his “career”) in his memoir truly speaks for itself, as does (on the other side of a complicated coin) his heroic and successful effort to save Carnegie Hall from the wrecking ball.

    • Steve P says:

      I always enjoyed his Mendelssohn.

    • David R. says:

      Maybe not by you, but that of course tells us more about your musical acumen (or lack thereof).
      Not a single one of his recordings is inferior to those of his contemporaries, and they’re definitely superior to anything that came before or after, with the notable exception of Fritz Kreisler. The only other musicians who could hold a candle to Stern were Menuhin and Grumiaux, and to a lesser Szeryng and Oistrakh. Rosand was an excellent violinist, outstanding even, but he was never a particularly interesting musical personality.
      Unlike you and the other commenters here, I think on the contrary that provided people are still playing recordings of classical musics in fifty years, they’ll listen to Stern.

  • MacroV says:

    Of course Stern would have thought highly of Rosand; hat’s what made him a rival. Though you’d think the world was big enough for the two of them. In any case, the reported sabotage didn’t happen in 1993, but in the early 1960s.

  • Nick says:

    In his autobiography Walk on the Wild Side, Earl Wild spends some time discussing Stern and those he deliberately snubbed, including Colburn’s friend, Heifetz!

  • Raphael Klayman says:

    And Salieri admired Mozart!