Istomin, Eugene

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ISTOMIN, EUGENE (George ; 1925–2003), U.S. pianist. Born in New York to parents of Russian-Jewish ancestry who were both professional singers, Istomin first studied with Kiriena Siloti and then at the Mannes College. At 12 he entered the Curtis Institute, where he studied with Rudolf *Serkin and Horszowski. At the age of 17, Istomin won the Leventritt and Philadelphia Orchestra Youth Awards, making sensational debuts with both the Philadelphia and New York Philharmonic Orchestras.

His first recording, which brought him considerable acclaim, was of Bach's D minor Concerto with the Busch Chamber Players.

Starting in 1950, Istomin became a regular participant at the Prades Festival organized by the famous cellist Pablo Casals. His rare combination of virtuosity, poetic insight, and aristocratic style won him international acclaim as a recitalist, orchestral soloist, and chamber musician. Embarking on major tours abroad from 1956, he performed with the world's leading orchestras and conductors. In 1961 he formed a trio with Isaac *Stern and Leonard *Rose with which he made dozens of recordings, including concertos, solo works, and the famous trio's extensive survey of the chamber music literature. Istomin was associated primarily with 19th-century and early-20th-century works. Eminent composers such as Henri Dutilleux and Ned Rorem wrote and dedicated works to him. He was a cultural ambassador under every president from Eisenhower to Reagan. In 1975 he married Marta Casals, the widow of Pablo Casals, and went on to settle in Washington. Later he served on the faculty of the Manhattan School of Music. In 2001, he was inducted into the French Legion of Honor.


Grove online; mgg2; Baker's Biographical Dictionary (1997); S. Rodd, "Eugene Istomin: Keeper of the Flame," in: Keyboard Classics & Piano Stylist 13, 4 (1993) 6–8.

[Naama Ramot (2nd ed.)]