Born in New York, on November 26, to Russian parents who emigrated after the Revolution.
Begins his education with Siloti, a former student of Liszt who had been the central figure of St Petersburg’s musical life for several decades.
Enters the Curtis Institute in Rudolf Serkin’s class.
Wins the two most important American competitions and makes his debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic.
1944 & 1945
Two major tours with the Busch Chamber Players conducted by Adolf Busch. First record (Bach, Concerto in D minor BWV 1052).
First recital at Carnegie Hall.
Rodzinski, music director of the New York Philharmonic, asks his most influential colleagues (Koussevitsky, Monteux, Szell, Mitropoulos, Dorati) to invite Istomin. Numerous Community Concerts throughout the United States.
Two recitals at Carnegie Hall, in February and December. Prolonged stay in France and Italy, for his own pleasure, without giving any concerts.
Youngest participant at the Prades Festival. Spends the whole summer with Casals.
Numerous recordings, in solo (Brahms’ Handel Variations), concerto (Mozart’s K. 449 under Casals), and chamber music (five trios by Beethoven and Schubert with Schneider and Casals). Spends two weeks on holiday in Greece, discovering ancient Greek civilization.
Takes over the artistic direction of the Prades Festival. In December, plays the Brahms Second Concerto in New York with Szell, the Chopin Second in Detroit with Paray and the Beethoven Fourth in Philadelphia with Ormandy.
His recital in London is awarded the Harriet Cohen Prize for the best recital of the season.
Beginning of a regular collaboration with Munch and the Boston Symphony. First tours in South America and South Africa. Records the complete Chopin Nocturnes with Columbia.
First major tour in Asia (fifty concerts). Organizes a series of concerts for Clara Haskil in the USA. Time Magazine publishes his profile. His recording of Rachmaninoff’s 2nd Concerto becomes a best-seller.
Participates in the first Casals Festival in Puerto Rico. Spends the summer in Marlboro. Appears on the cover of Musical America.
Records Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto with Ormandy.
Records Tchaikovsky’s 1st Concerto and Chopin’s 2nd Concerto with the Philadelphia Orchestra under Ormandy.
Supports Kennedy in the presidential campaign. Records Schumann’s Concerto with Bruno Walter. Conflict with Columbia and cancellation of subsequent projects.
Performs with 12 different American orchestras. Launch of the Istomin-Stern-Rose Trio in Israel and London.
Trio debut in the USA (Metropolitan Museum, Carnegie Hall, White House). Recital at the first Athens Festival, in Herod Atticus Theatre.
Cultural Ambassador to Bulgaria and the Middle East.
Gives seven concerts with the Philadelphia Orchestra and six with the Boston Symphony. Supports Johnson and Humphrey against Goldwater in the presidential elections.
Tour in Russia and Romania in the spring. Beginning of his friendship with the painter Avigdor Arikha and writer Samuel Beckett. At Rubinstein’s request, adds Szymanowski’s Symphonie Concertante to his repertoire.
Summer residency in Meadow Brooke with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the Trio and its students (Pommier, Zukerman and Harrell).
After the military coup in Greece, welcomes his friend Manos Hadjidakis to his apartment in New York. Fulfills the contract signed by the Trio for two concerts at Herod Atticus’ Theatre, but from then on refuses to play in Greece.
Chairman of the Arts and Letters Committee supporting Humphrey’s candidacy for the presidential election. Records the Beethoven Fourth Concerto for the 25th anniversary of his debut.
A year rich in recordings: Schubert (Trio D. 929 and Sonata D. 850); Beethoven (Trios, Violin and Cello Sonatas); Songs by Ned Rorem.
Beethoven Year. The Trio Istomin-Stern-Rose presents his complete chamber music with piano in four series of eight concerts (London, Paris, Switzerland and Carnegie Hall).
Willing to go and play in China, but the State Department refuses. The Trio inaugurates the Kennedy Center and tours Japan. Profile in The New York Times entitled Istomin: ‘I like to be Alone’. Grammy Award for the complete Beethoven Trios.
Series of televised concerts at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées with the ORTF Chamber Orchestra conducted by Schneider.
Triumphant recitals in Chicago and Carnegie Hall.
Accepts invitation to play in Germany for the first time.
Marries Marta Casals on February 15.
Plays for the first time in Spain, finally liberated from Franco. Organizes the Casals Days in Mexico for the centennial of Casals’ birth.
Improvises an accompaniment for Luciano Pavarotti during a social evening. First concert under Rostropovich.
Gives nearly a hundred concerts with orchestra.
In the aftermath of the Israeli-Egyptian Peace Treaty, gives a recital and masterclasses in Cairo and Jerusalem and tries to establish ongoing musical relations between the two countries. Becomes an adviser to Jovanovich, president of HBJ Publishing.
Last tour of the Trio. Performs Tchaikovsky’s Concerto again for Carnegie Hall’s 90th anniversary. Supervises the reprinting in facsimile of Joseph Conrad’s complete works.
At Rostropovich’s request, replaces Serkin for Reagan’s inaugural concert.
Numerous recitals, notably in London (Queen Elizabeth Hall) and Chicago (Orchestra Hall).
Plays Rachmaninoff’s Fourth Concerto for the first time, under Rostropovitch and Zinman. Completes the recording of the Beethoven Violin Sonatas with Stern.
Spends the summer in Marlboro. Buys the Steinway CD 18 which had belonged to Horowitz and on which he recorded Rachmaninoff’s Concerto in 1956.
Member of the American delegation to the Budapest Cultural Forum, where he defends Vaclav Hável’s cause. Takes over the direction of the University of Maryland Festival and Competition, to which he gives the name of William Kapell.
Commissions a prelude from Henri Dutilleux.
Long tours in Italy (February and October). Recital at Carnegie Hall on May 9.
Beginning of extended tours using a truck to transport his own pianos throughout the USA. Two series of forty concerts. At the end of the year, performs in Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
Continuation of the truck tours, punctuated by sold out recitals at the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall.
Participates in the Evian Festival for Stern’s 70th birthday, playing Beethoven’s Archduke Trio again with Stern and Rostropovitch. Organizes a concert at the Juilliard School in homage to Alexander and Kyriena Siloti.
Lengthy truck tours across the United States. Participates in the Carnegie Hall Centennial Gala. Beethoven recital at the Théâtre des Champs Elysées in October. In June, records Beethoven’s Sonatas Nos. 14, 21 and 31.
Continuation of the truck tours. Participation in the Evian and Puerto Rico festivals.
Truck tours in January-February, April and September. Recital at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in homage to Casals.
Last truck tour. Last concerts with Rostropovich and the National Symphony, at the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall.
Records Mozart’s Concertos 21 & 24 with the Seattle Symphony conducted by Gerard Schwarz.
Tour in Europe (Spain, Switzerland, France, Italy, Netherlands). For the first time, plays the Prelude dedicated to him by Henri Dutilleux in the presence of the composer.
Frequent appearances in Europe (Italy, England, Poland). Participates in the Evian Festival. Undergoes major surgery on his thumb.
Tour in Italy, France and Spain in the fall.
Series of masterclasses at the Manhattan School of Music.
Knight of the Legion of Honor. Jubilee in New York for his 75th birthday, at Rostropovich’s initiative. Pays tribute to Paul Paray by recording his Fantasy for Piano and Orchestra.
Inauguration of the renovated Casals Museum in Sant Salvador, with Rostropovich. In December, records the first part of the Great Conversations in Music at the Library of Congress, devoted to the piano.
Revelation of his liver cancer in March. Continues the series of Great Conversations with composers, chamber musicians, and conductors.
Death in Washington, D.C., on October 10.