They send us their Jews from Odessa

A tweet from Steven Isserlis reminded us of Isaac Stern’s famous aphorism when he became the first US violinist to visit the Soviet Union and David Oistrakh was allowed to play in the US.

Stern, who was born in Ukraine with family in Odessa, said that cultural diplomacy was a simple matter: ‘They send us their Jews from Odessa, and we send them our Jews from Odessa.’

Today, Steven tweets from Madrid:


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  • Who says Isaac Stern was the first US violinist to visit the Soviet Union? Jascha Heifetz toured the Soviet Union in 1934. In one concert with the Moscow State Symphony he played concertos by Mozart, Brahms and Mendelssohn. True, Heifetz was not American born but neither was Stern. Yehudi Menuhin toured Russia in 1945, and Menuhin was born in the USA. I believe Albert Spalding toured in the Soviet Union before any of them and you can hardly find a more American violinist than he. I suspect there were other “American” violinists who played in one part or another of the USSR before Isaac Stern did. I would be prepared to concede that Stern might have been the first during the Cold War.

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