A few days before leaving for Shanghai to attend the final of the Isaac Stern Violin Competition, impossible for me to not remember the only and highly memorable concert with Isaac Stern in Luxembourg. It took place in the early Seventies at the Grand Theatre with Music Director Louis de Froment conducting the RTL Symphony Orchestra and Isaac Stern playing the Brahms Violin Concerto. I remember an extraordinary spontaneous and dynamic performance with great textures from the solo violin and all the meaning and intensity the music deserved. Stern’s playing not only showed a great depth of understanding of the composer but also a stunning ability to translate the composer’s most personal meaning to the audience.

In 2018, with the second edition of the The Shanghai Isaac Stern International Violin Competition (SISIVC) one of Stern’s most important abilities – besides his musicality – is continued: the support of young musicians.

It is widely known that he helped Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman and Shlomo Mintz at the beginning of their career. As Peter Pastreich said in a tribute to Stern: « There were many other young music students who arrived in New York without friends or money who came to study with DeLay. Isaac found friends of his they could live with, sent them to his dentist at his expense, got them instruments and bows, and most important, listened to them play. Dorothy once said to me, ‘People know that when there’s any really talented kid, Isaac will want to know. He’ll always find time to listen. I love Isaac.' »

Isaac Stern

So, the Violin Competition in his name is a really good opportunity to continue this steady helpfulness.

SISIVC is a biennial competition. The inaugural sessions took place August–September 2016, offering $100,000 as the first place prize, the largest single cash prize ever in an international violin competition.

The competition was set up by the Shanghai Symphony in honour of Isaac Stern and his significant contribution to classical music in China.

The SISIVC website explains this: « Not long after the establishment of Sino-American relations, renowned violinist Isaac Stern paid his first trip to China in 1979. That historic visit came to be immortalised in the Oscar-winning documentary From Mao to Mozart, a moving work that captured perfectly the musical culture of China at that time. Concerts aside, Stern also spent time during his visit at China’s Central Conservatory of Music and the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, imparting with singular diligence his wisdom to Chinese students along the way. Throughout the length of his exceptional career, he was just as at home cultivating talent off the stage as he was showcasing his own upon it. Throughout the latter half of the last century, his brilliance shone through the talents he helped to forge. This prize has taken its name from Stern to commemorate the human spirit that infused every single thread of his extraordinary career. »

The inaugural SISIVC’s final round included concertos played with the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra conducted by Michael Stern. The winner of the First Prize was Mayu Kishima (Japan).

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