Coinciding with the 90th Anniversary of Isaac Stern’s birth, Sony Masterworks releases Carnegie Hall Presents Isaac Stern: Keeping the Doors Open – available November 30, 2010 – focusing on the violinist as the primary catalyst fifty years ago in the movement to save Carnegie Hall from demolition. Stern’s Citizens Committee to Save Carnegie Hall paved the way for the beloved venue to survive at a time when its future seemed bleak. One hundred and twenty years since it was founded, “America’s Concert Hall” remains as essential as ever, a testament to Stern’s energy and commitment.
Keeping the Doors Open highlights Stern’s singular place in history as not only one of the finest artists of the twentieth century, but also indefatigable colleague, teacher and mentor. Carnegie Hall’s triumphant opening night concert in Autumn 1960, just after Stern had successfully corralled the likes of Eleanor Roosevelt, Leonard Bernstein, Pablo Casals, Vladimir Horowitz, Dame Myra Hess and Jascha Heifitz in his efforts to save the hall, included Stern as a soloist with Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic. Surprisingly, however, although Isaac Stern’s name is now synonymous with Carnegie Hall, he rarely recorded in the concert hall, so the centerpiece of Keeping the Doors Open is Stern’s rarely heard 1967 performance of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op. 64 with frequent Stern collaborator Leonard Bernstein conducting the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, in its digital debut. The stirring rendition was recorded from live concerts in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv celebrating Israel’s victory in the Six-Day War just one month before and originally released on a long out-of-print Columbia Masterworks LP entitled Hatikvah on Mt. Scopus. The Mendelssohn Concerto was a fundamental part of Stern’s repertoire, and he performed it at Carnegie Hall on many occasions – including at least once with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.
Bernstein and Stern were also among a constellation of musical celebrities on the roster of the “Concert of the Century,” a legendary benefit concert at Carnegie Hall taking place in 1976 to mark the venue’s 85th anniversary. Keeping the Doors Open features a splendid recording from that iconic concert: the first movement (Pezzo elegiaco) of the Tchaikovsky Piano Trio performed by “dream team” Stern, Vladimir Horowitz and Mstislav Rostropovich. A Gramophone review from 1976 calls the piece “one of those performances of a lifetime that is impossible to forget … The effect is quite breathtaking, the detail, power and spontaneity of the playing a marvel.”
The album’s booklet highlights photos and memorabilia from the era, and an illuminating essay by Jackson Braider details the intimate connections between Isaac Stern and the hall he championed.