Sunday, March 20, 2011

Isaac Stern – Bach Violin Concerti

   Isaac Stern is one of very few greatest violinists of XX century. He started very early as 15 years old, debuted with San Francisco Symphony Orchestra under Pierre Monteux playing Saint-Saëns’ 3rd Violin Concerto. As world known virtuoso he confess in his style he was follower of Nathan Milstein and Arthur Grumiaux to whom he owed his sublime phrase, both elegant and emotional. He is well known as performer of main works of classical and romantic repertoire, but he was also known for his visionary renditions of contemporary works by Barber, Bartók, Bernstein, Dutilleux and Stravinsky.
   He is not only virtuoso and groundbreaking interpreter of most advanced violin literature. After he made an entrance in some movie and television projects he became popular among people who did not attend to listen professional music. One of his highly recognizable showing in popular culture was recording of violin music for the movie Fiddler on the roof. In fact in this and other movies he was only dubbing actors playing the role of violinist. He show himself in 1999 movie by Wes Craven Music of the Heart where also Itzhak Perlman and Guarneri Quartet can bee seen. Naturally he was featured in numerous documentaries and concert recordings. In 1997 main hall of Carnegie Hall was named Isaac Stern Auditorium to commemorate the leading role of violinist in rescuing this institution from demolition.

Isaac Stern in Bach's Concerti

   Concerti by Johann Sebastian Bach recorded in February and June 1966 are Concerto for Violin and Strings A Minor BWV 1041, Concerto for Violin and Strings E Major BWV 1042 and Concerto for Violin, Oboe and Strings C Minor BWV 1060. The double concerto was played both by violinist Isaac Stern and oboist Harold Gomberg. The A Minor Concerto Stern played with strings of London Symphony Orchestra conducted by soloist himself. In the next two concerti soloists were accompanied by musicians of New York Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Leonard Bernstein, who was also playing the basso continuo parts on harpsichord.
   Published by CBS, record with three Bach’s concerti shortly became the milestone in traditional way of reading the greatest works of baroque era. Rooted in romantic esthetics, widely vibrant phrases and strong dynamics made this music more intention of twentieth century vision than eighteenth century representation. The question of difference between Stern’s renditions and later models of reading baroque music is baseless. And even if one can ask how much these interpretations made possible the revolution of original instruments and new technical attitude of seventies and beyond, there are no controversy between the opposites. Decades after performances we can admit all were wrong as well as all have right for their mistakes. Creating work of art can’t be safe or easy. Especially if it looks like that.

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