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Medal by Gerta Ries Wiener (1982), Isaac Stern, Violin virtuoso.

Isaac Stern (1920 - 2001)

Virtuoso violinist Isaac Stern was born in Kreminiesz, Russia on July 21, 1920. When just a year old, his family emigrated to the United States and settled in San Francisco. Stern took up the violin at the age of eight, and within three years was a soloist with the San Francisco Symphony.

Stern's memorable Carnegie Hall debut was made in 1943. In 1960, thanks largely to his efforts, historic Carnegie Hall (opened May 5, 1891) was saved from demolition ... and he continued to serve as its president for over three decades.

Isaac Stern has appeared in concerts throughout the world, playing his 1740 Guarneri, and has gained recognition as an unofficial "United States Musical Ambassador." Antonio Stradivari made about 1,100 violins during his lifetime, in the 17th and early 18th centuries, of which about 550 survive. But the instrument preferred by Stern is one of just 150 violins made by Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesu during the same period. Strads are described as sounding sweet and golden, while Guarneriuses are more dusky or earthy and sensuous.

A movie about Stern's trip to China, "From Mao to Mozart," won an Academy Award. Stern found time to play a role in the Broadway show "Tonight We Sing" in 1952; he also inaugurated the Mann Auditorium in Tel Aviv (1957) and founded the Jerusalem Music Centre in 1973. In addition, Stern has served as the president of the American-Israel Cultural Foundation, and was appointed in 1965 as a member of the National Council on Arts.

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