Celebrating the centenary of the great Isaac Stern with glorious Mendelssohn from the maestro

21 July 2020, 00:00 | Updated: 21 July 2020, 08:39

Isaac Stern Menselssohn
Isaac Stern Menselssohn. Picture: YouTube

By Kyle Macdonald

One of the great violinists of the 20th century was born 100 years ago today, and the magic of his playing is just as enchanting and compelling as ever.

Great violinist Isaac Stern – born 100 years ago today (Tuesday 21 July 2020) – once said that he wished “to use the violin to make music, never to use music just to play the violin.” His playing was never flashy, but more singing with the joy of music.

We love this footage of him playing Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, recorded in 1972 at The Concertgebouw in Amsterdam.

Watch as every note sings through the whole instrument and is full of emotion, joy, certainty, and his unique voice. What a violinist – and what a human.

Read more: Yo-Yo Ma’s Bach video is the most beautiful thing we’ve ever seen >

Stern was born on 21 July 1920 in Kremenets, Poland, into a Jewish family. When he was 14 months old, his family moved to San Francisco in the United States. His mother gave him his first lessons in music, with his talent taking him to the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

The violinist went on to find enormous fame as a soloist and chamber player. He toured the world, starred in countless recordings and broadcasts. Every full of command, charm and character.

Isaac Stern, pictured in Vogue 1946
Isaac Stern, pictured in Vogue 1946. Picture: Getty

He was never all about the solos and the glory, and was equally renowned and beloved the things he did away from the spotlight. He was a champion of civic causes, he helped nurture the careers of Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman, and Yo-Yo Ma, and he also played a key role in saving New York City’s Carnegie Hall from demolition in the 1960s. What a legend.

Stern sadly passed away in 2001, but his incredible legacy lives on in so many ways.

On the 100th anniversary of his birth, we’re remembering him with a two-hour special of The Classic FM Concert with John Suchet. We’ll be telling the story of his life and playing some of his greatest recordings.

Listen to the Classic FM Concert with John Suchet live at 8pm BST tonight (Tuesday 21 July), or catch up afterwards on Global Player.