The A to Z of Carnegie Hall: S is for Stern
Our A to Z of Carnegie Hall series rolls on with the letter S—for "Stern," Isaac Stern.
Violinist and Hall Savior
Even if he had played no role in the saving of Carnegie Hall from demolition, with more than 200 performances as recitalist and soloist stretching across six decades from 1943 through 2001, Isaac Stern would still be a major figure in the Hall's history. The list of conductors under whom he performed reads like a who's who from the latter half of the 20th century, among them Rodzinski, Mitropoulos, Stokowski, Szell, Walter, Ormandy, Bernstein, Schneider, Solti, Mehta, Barenboim, Rostropovich, Levine, Muti, Slatkin, Dutoit, and Ozawa.
Stern's association with Carnegie Hall is now often more closely associated with his successful campaign to save the Hall, which culminated in 1960 with the New York City Board of Estimate approving the purchase of Carnegie Hall for $5 million.
After having led the campaign to save the Hall, Stern continued to perform here regularly throughout the following four decades, his final performance taking place on June 9, 2001—a free concert as part of the Isaac Stern Chamber Music Workshop. Stern passed away just over three months later, on September 22, 2001. Having dedicated the main auditorium in his honor in 1997, the title of president of Carnegie Hall—an office Stern had held since the formation of The Carnegie Hall Corporation in 1960—was retired after his death.
Isaac Stern and Carnegie Hall in Pictures
Flyer for Isaac Stern's Carnegie Hall debut accompanied by pianist Alexander Zakin on January 8, 1943. Courtesy of the Carnegie Hall Archives.
Photograph autographed by Isaac Stern to Carnegie Hall in 1950. Courtesy of the Carnegie Hall Archives.
Isaac Stern on the phone with New York City's Mayor Wagner during the campaign to save Carnegie Hall in 1960. Courtesy of the Carnegie Hall Archives.
Isaac Stern joins Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic for the inaugural concert of the newly saved Hall's 1960–1961 season. When he appeared to perform Beethoven's Violin Concerto, the audience greeted Stern with a standing ovation, in recognition of his efforts to save the Hall from destruction. A moment of drama ensued when Stern's E-string snapped during the first movement of the concerto. Barely missing a beat, he swapped instruments with concertmaster John Corigliano, who restrung Stern's violin and returned it to him during an orchestral passage. Photo courtesy of the New York Philharmonic.
Flyer for Isaac Stern's recital with pianist Robert McDonald in 1997—the same year that the main auditorium was named in his honor. Courtesy of the Carnegie Hall Archives.
Isaac Stern photographed on the stage of Carnegie Hall around the time of his 80th birthday in 2000. Photo by Peter Rosen.
Ticket for the October 30, 2001, concert in memory of Isaac Stern, who had died the previous month. Courtesy of the Carnegie Hall Archives.
Isaac Stern's portrait now hangs in Carnegie Hall. Courtesy of the Carnegie Hall Archives.