Legendary Ukrainian violinist and teacher Abram Shtern passed away last week at the age of 96. Shtern was concertmaster and professor in Kiev before emigrating to the United States in 1990 and settling in Los Angeles. He represented one of the last direct links to the tradition of Leopold Auer, the teacher of Heifetz, Milstein and others.
For much of his career, Shtern stayed out of the spotlight, but he was deeply respected within the violin world. Isaac Stern said:
Oh, how he played! This man never leaves behind what the music means and such enthusiasm – he not only loves music but also he lives FOR music! He is an incredible master-musician.
Here is a 1971 recording of Abram Shtern playing the solo from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake:
These informal clips give a sense of Shtern’s rich, singing tone and extraordinary technique. Notice his masterful, seamless bow control. This video, from Shtern’s 75th birthday, highlights his roots in Klezmer fiddling. Here is a profile featuring more background on Abram Shtern’s life.