American Masters – Isaac Stern: Life’s Virtuoso [VHS]

$19.98

This American Masters production celebrating Isaac Stern is more a profile of the man than the musician. Fans hoping to hear Stern performing will have to settle for the briefest snippets of fiddling: a bar or two from Mendelssohn, a fragment of Rimsky-Korsakov, a taste of Beethoven. Though each of these begins enticingly, they all […]

This American Masters production celebrating Isaac Stern is more a profile of the man than the musician. Fans hoping to hear Stern performing will have to settle for the briefest snippets of fiddling: a bar or two from Mendelssohn, a fragment of Rimsky-Korsakov, a taste of Beethoven. Though each of these begins enticingly, they all quickly fade into the background, little more than aural wallpaper behind the comments and testimonials from such notables as Pinchas Zukerman, Yo-Yo Ma, and Itzhak Perlman–as well as some less-expected commentators such as Gregory Peck and Jimmy Connors. But the portrait that all give of this marvelous octogenarian is almost as dazzling and multifaceted as hearing him play. After all, master violinist is only one of the hats Stern can wear with aplomb. There’s also the flashy celebrity who provided the music for Hollywood films like Fiddler on the Roof and Humoresque and who could share the stage as easily with Jack Benny as Eugene Ormandy; the musical emissary who sought to bridge cold war divides with music, touring the Soviet Union and communist China as soon as he was allowed (as recorded in the 1980 documentary From Mao to Mozart); the beloved teacher, demanding but genuinely respectful toward young performers; even the hard-driving fundraiser who kept Carnegie Hall from being torn down. Through it all, Stern has carried himself with a no-nonsense humility, born of his profound love of humanity and devotion to his craft that is never less than inspiring. Footage (again, far from enough!) of Stern performing in Israel during the Gulf War, ignoring the whine of the air-raid sirens and the anxious surreality of an audience decked out in their gas masks, rapturous as he unfolds the serene music of Bach, raises the inspirational to the magnificent. –Bruce Reid

South America

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