Eugene Istomin was long acknowledged as a leading pianist of the 20th Century. A rare combination of virtuosity, poetic insight and aristocratic style won him international acclaim as a recitalist, orchestral soloist, and chamber musician.
Born in New York City of Russian parents who were both professional singers, Mr. Istomin's prodigious musical gifts were discovered at age six by Alexander Siloti, the distinguished Russian pedagogue.
At the age of twelve, he was accepted by the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia to study with Rudolf Serkin and Mieczyslaw Horzowski.
Mr. Istomin came to national attention at age seventeen, as a result of winning both the Leventritt and Philadelphia Orchestra Youth Awards, making sensational debuts in the same week with both the Philadelphia and New York Philharmonic Orchestras. In 1950, he was the youngest performer at the fist Prades Festival under the artistic direction of Pablo Casals.
From then he gave more than 4,000 concerts with the world's leading orchestras and appeared in recital on six continents.
He had the unique musical experience of peforming with such legendary conductors as Bruno Walter, Fritz Reiner, George Szell, Charles Munch, Dimitri Mitropolous, Eugene Ormandy, and Leonard Bernstein - in brief, a who's who of great maestros. That list continues up to our time. Eminent composers Henri Dutilleux, Roger Sessions, and Ned Rorem, among others, have written and dedicated works to him. No less impressive than his career as a soloist were his celebrated performances with the legendary Istomin - Stern - Rose Trio, which was formed in 1960 with his friends Isaac Stern and Leonard Rose.
Many of their recordings are still held as exemplifying the highest standards in music-making. In addition to his music, Mr. Istomin had a serious interest in the visual arts, literature, and history. He was passionate about sports, particularly baseball. All of these diverse interests enriched his life as well as his friendships.
He participated in many significant world events as a cultural ambassador around the world under the presidencies of Eisenhower, Kennedy,Johnson, Nixon, Carter, and Reagan. He played at the White House and performed on three important occasions at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
He was also an active participant in numerous events to promote culture and education.
In 1988 he embarked on an unprecedented undertaking of a four - month solo recital tour of thirty cities throughout North America, accompanied by his own piano technician and using a specially fitted truck carrying two Steinway concert grand pianos.
Mr. Istomin was keenly aware that great music belongs in the musical life of the music centers. In his own words, "instrumentally speaking, this helps to bring the standards of a New York or Paris concert to large cities as well as the most modest venue." He continued these tours for eight consecutive years.
Over the course of his long career, Mr. Istomin made dozens of recordings, including concertos, solo works, and his famous trio's extensive survey of the chamber music literature. In 2001 he recorded three additional concerti with orchestra, including the Paul Paray Fantaisie for piano and orchestra, never recorded before, with the Budapest Symphony Orchestra with Jean-Bernard Pommier conducting.