From Mao to Mozart: Isaac Stern in China

From Mao to Mozart: Isaac Stern in China

Running time: 84 minutes

One of the results of the events portrayed in John Adams’ opera Nixon in China was the unprecedented tour of Ukrainian-American violinist Isaac Stern. This 1979 film, winner of the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 1981, follows Stern as the first Western musician to visit a country still reeling from the effects of Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution and his prohibition of Western music.

Produced and directed by filmmaker Murray Lerner, the film documents Stern’s collaboration with the China Central Symphony Society (now China National Symphony Orchestra). Stern is featured with the famous Chinese conductor Li Delun, who also acted as his guide and translator on his trip.

The film includes footage of Stern’s visit to the Central Conservatory of Music and the Shanghai Conservatory of Music where he lectured to the Chinese music students on violin playing and the art of musical expression. Most of those musicians, especially the string sections, were playing mechanically prior to this visit.  Stern’s rehearsals and his performance of violin concertos by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Johannes Brahms are shown. Some of the young musicians who appear in the film later became famous.


Free and open to the public

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