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Eugene Istomin (Piano)

Born: November 26, 1925 - New York City, NY, USA
Died: October 10, 2003 - Washington D.C., USA

The American pianist, Eugene George Istomin, was born of Russian-Jewish parents. His earliest public performances were from age 6 with his mother Under the tutelage of Kiriena Siloti, Istomin was prepared for entry into the Curtis Institute at 12. His instructors there included such rigorous concert pianists as Mieczyslaw Horszowski and Rudolf Serkin. In 1943, at 18, he won two important awards, both leading to appearances with orchestras ranking among America's top five. With the Philadelphia Youth Award, he won an engagement with the Philadelphia Orchestra directed by Eugene Ormandy. Istomin's performance of Chopin's Second Piano Concerto was awarded high praise by both the audience and critics. The more prestigious Leventritt Award resulted in a performance of the Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2 with Artur Rodzinski and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, an occasion for which he won further accolades from listeners and press alike. With these two successes, offers from other major American orchestras followed and his career moved forward quickly as both an orchestral soloist and a recitalist. Performances with the Busch Chamber Players were applauded and his first recording, Bach's D minor Concerto played with the Busch ensemble, created something of a stir in chamber music circles.

Eugene Istomin's European tour of 1950 found him performing with major French orchestras and giving recitals in Switzerland and Italy. It also introduced him to the Pablo Casals Festival in Prades. For each of the following years, he appeared at the French festival, frequently together with the great cellist. Istomin was much appreciated by Pablo Casals, who pronounced him "destined for a great career." When Pablo Casals established a new festival in San Juan, Puerto Rico, the young pianist became one of its leading artists, once again proving himself a superior collaborator. Critic Howard Taubman described him as a "revelation," praising his singing tone and noting, "not once did he forget that he was part of an intimate chamber music group."

Eugene Istomin returned from his first European tour in 1950 a well-established artist and continued to involve himself in music activities of high purpose. Subsequent trips were planned and he performed throughout Europe and America. In 1956, he embarked upon an extended junket to the Far East, giving some 30 concerts through the joint sponsorship of the Sangyo Keizai Shimbun and the American National Theatre and Academy's International Exchange Program. Once again, the reviews were enthusiastic as were the responses of audiences throughout the tour. He commissioned and premiered Roger Sessions' piano concerto in 1956. Several other composers, including Henri Dutilleux and Ned Rorem, wrote music for him.

Eugene Istomin, known more for his poise and refinement than for heaven-storming bravura, made himself an important figure both as a solo artist and as a chamber player of rare discretion and musicality. In 1961 he assembled the Istomin/Stern/Rose Trio, prevailing upon two colleagues, violonist Isaac Stern and cellist Leonard Rose, with whom he felt an ease and musical kinship. The trio was recognized for the directness and honesty of its interpretations, always heartfelt. The three made a number of praise-worthy recordings, concentrating on late Classical and Romantic-age composers particularly of music by L.v. Beethoven, Brahms and Schubert. He also played with them in orchestral music, with conductors such as Eugene Ormandy, Bruno Walter and also as a soloist. He won a Grammy Award in 1970 with the trio, for their recordings of L.v. Beethoven. Several recordings made during the Prades Festivals of the early 1950's have seen release on CD. He also made recordings for the Reference label in the 1990's, all reflecting the pianist's thoughtful musicality and attention to detail.

Eugene Istomin's connection with Pablo Casals continued even after the cellist/humanitarian's death. He married Marta Montañez Martinez (Marta Casals Istomin), the widow of Pablo Casals, in February 1975. She is a former president of the Manhattan School of Music and former artistic director of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. He moved to Washington in 1980. In the 1980's and 1990's he gave recital tours in which he toured 30 American cities with his own pianos and piano tuner. He received the French Legion d'Honneur in 2001.

Source: All Music Guide Website (Author: Erik Eriksson); Wikipedia Website
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (January 2007)

Eugene Istomin: Short Biography | Recordings of Instrumental Works

Links to other Sites

Eugin Istomin (Official Website)
Eugene Istomin (AMG)
Eugene Istomin (Wikipedia)
Eugene Istomin (Sony - BMG)

Eugene Istomin Dies; Well-Traveled Concert Pianist (Wahington Post)
Remembering Eugene Istomin: Great Conversations in Music (I Hear America Singing, Library of Congress)

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Last update: June 22, 2007 08:07:05