Great Conversations in Music
A Series of Films Hosted by Eugene Istomin
Remembering Eugene Istomin
Eugene Istomin was born in New York in 1925 of Russian émigré singers. From his earliest public appearance at the age of 6, he went on to become one of America's most respected pianists, excelling both as a soloist and interpreter of chamber music. His recordings with Isaac Stern and Leonard Rose, the renowned Istomin-Stern-Rose Trio, remain an important pedagogical model of the artistry and technique of ensemble playing.
In 1950, Istomin joined with others to donate their talents to one of the most important musical events of the century: the return of Pablo Casals to the concert stage. Then in self-imposed artistic exile in protest of the Franco regime in his native Spain, Casals performed with generous artists like Istomin to celebrate the Bach bicentennial; honorary chair of the American committee for this historic event was Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge, a noted patron of chamber music and one of the most influential and devoted patrons of the Music Division of the Library of Congress.
In time, Istomin, too, would develop a link to the Library. Having experienced the power of the medium of television in the 1950s as one of the first serious musicians to be broadcast in recital, it comes as no surprise that this seasoned master and educator would accept the Library of Congress's commission to create the series "Great Conversations in Music." Drawing on friendships made in more than 50 years as a professional musician, Istomin introduced audiences to the internal workings of the music world in intimate dialogues with fellow pianists, composers, virtuoso instrumentalists, and conductors.
Istomin died in Washington, D.C., in 2003, shortly after completing "Great Conversations." Important in perpetuating his legacy is his widow, Marta Casals Istomin. Today, Istomin's career stands as a narrative of the development of an American artistic tradition. His dedication as a performer and educator remains tangible through his recordings, the students whose lives he touched in myriad master classes, and in this special series of "Conversations."