A four-page report in Life!
Thus three friends, three young musicians full of ambition, found themselves in the spotlight of Ravinia. They had prepared four long programs as thoroughly as their constant dispersal around the world had allowed. It had been also in Ravinia, six years earlier, that Arthur Rubinstein, Jascha Heifetz and Gregor Piatigorsky had performed together for the first time. The event had made headlines in the press, which nicknamed them the “Million Dollar Trio”! Would these young wolves be able to withstand comparison with their illustrious predecessors? That was the big question everyone was asking. The response was positive, with a tremendous standing ovation after Schubert’s Trio in B flat major, the last work on the program of their marathon, which had attracted some 3,400 spectators four nights in a row. It was an amazing success, even if the attention of the audience, unfamiliar with the repertoire, had weakened at times. Moreover, the acoustics were unsuitable for chamber music and the weather extremely hot and humid.
Roger Dettmer, music critic of the Chicago American/Today from 1953 to 1974
The reviews were mixed. The critic for the Chicago American/Today Roger Dettmer was the only one who showed unrestrained enthusiasm, titling his article: “Istomin-Rose-Stern Trio Makes Ravinia Once Again a Festival“. He considered that these young musicians deserved the designation “Million Dollar Trio” even more than Heifetz, Piatigorsky and Rubinstein. Predictably, Claudia Cassidy of the Chicago Tribune was dissatisfied, considering the acoustics inadequate and decreeing that their interpretations lacked warmth. Felix Borowski, a highly respected musicologist and critic in Chicago (who wrote the program notes for the Chicago Symphony for nearly fifty years!), praised their performance of Mendelssohn’s Trio Op. 49 in the Chicago Sun-Times, considering that this work, “which has been sneered at as old-fashioned and even trite, contains considerable charm”. He also was of the opinion that Brahms would have done better to give up revising and publishing his Trio Opus 8, which was so dull and boring.
Isaac Stern and Eugene Istomin
What was particularly discouraging for the members of the Trio was the lack of knowledge and understanding of the chamber music repertoire. In America, symphonic life was flourishing, while chamber music was still in its infancy. Not completely satisfied with themselves and the reaction of the media, Istomin, Stern and Rose decided not to repeat this experience immediately. It might have remained a one-off experience, like the “Million Dollar Trio”! In 1949, Rubinstein, Heifetz and Piatigorsky, then at the summit of their art, had given four concerts and made a few recording sessions, but had never gotten together again! The most positive thing was that Istomin, Stern and Rose had enjoyed preparing and giving these concerts, even if they did not yet feel musically ready. The project needed to mature, and they were all very busy with their solo careers. They had to wait for a good opportunity to really embark upon the adventure.