Isaac Stern - Recital

A rewarding reminder of a master violinist at the peak of his powers

Author: 
Jeremy Nicholas

Isaac Stern - Recital

  • Sonata (Sonatina) for Violin and Piano
  • (3) Sonatas and 3 Partitas, Partita No. 2 in D minor, BWV1004, Chaconne
  • Adagio for Violin and Orchestra
  • Rondo for Violin and Orchestra
  • Scherzo, 'FAE Sonata'

Recorded in the Montreal studios of Radio Canada, this recital from nearly four decades ago finds Stern at the peak of his powers. Indeed, this is an altogether engaging, intimate Sunday evening recital, a rewarding reminder of a man for whom music and humanity went hand in hand.

Stern’s partner is Alexander Zakin (1903-90). As VAI do not deign to provide any information about him, let me tell you that he was Russian-born (Tobolsk), a pupil of Michalowski (no less) from 1911 to 1914, then of Leonid Nicolaiev, Egon Petri and Leonid Kreutzer. He was Stern’s regular accompanist from 1940 to 1973, which explains the osmotic communication between the two. Stern stands downstage and slightly behind Zakin, making it necessary for the latter to have eyes in the back of his head for upbeats and important cues. There’s something pleasurable – and rather touching – about watching this well-oiled machine at work.

But this is Stern’s show – no doubt about that. Zakin, visually and sonically, is the man who fills in the bits when the violin isn’t playing. Thankfully, this imbalance is not marked enough to mar one’s enjoyment of the lovely little Schubert Sonatina of 1818, the Mozart Adagio (the original slow movement for the A major Concerto) or the Rondo in C. One misses the ringing power of the piano in the Brahms, though Zakin is no shrinking violet over his contribution.

The centrepiece, of course, is the mighty Bach Chaconne. Prefaced by Stern’s spoken introduction, it is a finely graded performance that builds inexorably in a masterly fashion, played almost entirely with eyes closed. It seems singularly apt.

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