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My First 79 Years: Isaac Stern
ISBN 0306810069 / 9780306810060 / 0-306-81006-9
Publisher Da Capo Press
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The conductor George Szell once told Isaac Stern that if he spent less time doing other things and more time practicing he could be "the greatest violinist in the world." Since those "other things" included saving Carnegie Hall from the wrecker's ball, generously sponsoring young artists like Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman, and touring the world as an ambassador of American classical performance, music lovers can only be grateful that Stern settled for being one of the world's great violinists. His appealing memoir reveals a well-rounded man with a gusto for life beyond the concert hall that made his passion for music all the more fulfilling. Born on the Russian-Polish border in 1920, Stern grew up in San Francisco and by age 6 already displayed a precocious musical gift. His assessment of his abilities is refreshingly free of false modesty, while his enthusiastic appreciation for such fellow artists as Pablo Casals, Leonard Bernstein, and Rudolf Serkin keeps him from seeming like an egomaniac. Perhaps because of the contributions of coauthor Chaim Potok (author of The Chosen and other novels), the prose here is smoother and less self-conscious than in many performers' memoirs. It limns a vigorous, busy life dedicated to the idea that music has the power to break down barriers between people and nations. --Wendy Smith [via]