Isaac Stern’s China Tour

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Isaac Stern with the Central Philharmonic Orchestra
In Beijing, Stern appeared with the Central Philharmonic Orchestra in a concert that was televised live throughout China. (1980)

In 1979, as China re-opened its doors to the West, virtuoso violinist Isaac Stern received an unprecedented invitation to tour the country. The Center played a central role in facilitating this visit with the Chinese government and planning Stern’s itinerary. It also assisted the Harmony Film Group and the Hopewell Foundation, a non-profit organization, in obtaining approval from Chinese officials to film Stern’s month-long visit. This collaboration resulted in the Academy Award-winning documentary, From Mao to Mozart: Isaac Stern in China (1980). The film’s extensive distribution throughout the world inspired a surge of interest in arts exchange with China that remains evident today. While in China, Stern performed concerts and taught master classes in Beijing, Shanghai, and Xian.

He appeared with Beijing’s Central Philharmonic Orchestra in a concert that was televised live throughout China. From Mao to Mozart features Stern’s rehearsals and performances of Mozart and Brahms violin concertos with famous Chinese conductor Li Delun, who also acted as his guide and translator on his trip. The film also includes footage of Sterns’ visit to the Central Conservatory of Music where he lectured to the Chinese music students on violin playing and the art of musical expression. Stern and David Golub, the pianist who accompanied him, narrate part of the film, while Tan Shuzhen, a deputy director of the Central Conservatory of Music, provides a different perspective on Chinese culture.