On July 21, 2020, we commemorate the centennial of legendary Russian-born American violinist Isaac Stern.

Stern first appeared with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on January 11 and 12, 1940, in Orchestra Hall. Second music director Frederick Stock conducted an all-Sibelius program, and nineteen-year-old Stern was soloist in the Violin Concerto.

According to the Chicago Daily News, “Dr. Frederick Stock had been invited to conduct the Sibelius concert with the Helsingfors Orchestra [arranged when Stock visited Sibelius in Finland the previous summer] as a special feature of the Olympic Games.* But Finland has had to abandon peacetime pursuits and now Isaac [Stern] can thank the Russian regime for both his American citizenship and the chance to play the Sibelius D minor concerto with one of the world’s great orchestras.”

“True to the topsy-turvy condition of the world we live in, while the Finns are playing havoc with the Russians, at home a Russian-born violinist, young Isaac Stern, was the sensation of Mr. Stock’s memorable Sibelius concert at Orchestra Hall last night,” wrote Claudia Cassidy in the Journal of Commerce. “[Stern] has a commanding and comprehensive technique, a bold and beautiful tone never blatant and he has an urgent intensity of projection that seems to start in his firmly planted heels and flow like fire into the hands that make his music. . . . Stock’s accompaniment was brilliant in the perceptive richness that makes so many soloists prefer him to any other conductor.”

Over the course of nearly sixty years, Stern was one of the most frequent guests with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra—in Orchestra Hall, the Ravinia Festival, the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee, and in Carnegie Hall, performing under six music directors (Stock, Rafael Kubelík, Fritz Reiner, Jean Martinon, Sir Georg Solti, and Daniel Barenboim) and numerous guest conductors—and in recital at Orchestra Hall.

For a complete list of his performances with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, click here: Remembering Isaac Stern.

TOP: Isaac Stern in 1945 | Hulton Archive, Getty Images photo