Isaac Stern was many things. Also a great violinist?
From my Wall Street Journal review this weekend of a centennial Isaac Stern biography:
The jury’s still out on Isaac Stern. America’s highest paid violinist and politically the most powerful during his lifetime, Stern (who died in 2001, at age 81) is credited with saving Carnegie Hall from the wrecking ball and being the first American musician to tour in China. As reward for his efforts, he got his name up in perpetuity on Carnegie’s main auditorium and an international violin competition in Shanghai.
The memory of a great violinist tends to fade in a generation. Yet Stern’s footprint in history just seems to grow and grow, without anyone being prepared to swear that he belongs among the greats. The competition in his time was, let me remind you, tough. Jascha Heifetz, Stern once said, played 10% better than anyone else; Nathan Milstein was twice as elegant, Yehudi Menuhin a pained wearer of the world’s woes, David Oistrakh impeccable, Ida Haendel irresistible, Ivry Gitlis more Jewish—and violinists in those days were all Jewish. Yet Stern, alone among them, has his name on the hall of eternal fame, his plaque almost as big as Andrew Carnegie’s….