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Sunday, 23 September, 2001, 06:58 GMT 07:58 UK
Violinist Isaac Stern dies
Stern playing violin
Stern started playing the violin when he was eight
Master violinist Isaac Stern, who is credited with saving Carnegie Hall from demolition, has died at the age of 81.

The cause of death was heart failure.

When you believe in something, you can move mountains

Isaac Stern
Mr Stern's career spanned more than six decades, and he played with the New York Philharmonic more than any other violinist in history.

Although acclaimed for his renditions of classical works, he was also a champion of contemporary music and recorded new works by many of the 20th century's finest composers.

He was the soloist in the Oscar-winning soundtrack of the film Fiddler on the Roof.

His pioneering 1979 trip to China, as an official guest of the government, was immortalised in the film From Mao to Mozart, which won an Oscar for best documentary,

Child prodigy

Russian-born, Isaac Stern was brought to the United States as a baby.

He began taking violin lessons at the age of eight, and made his debut with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra when he was 16.

He is widely remembered for his fearless performance at a 1991 concert in Jerusalem during the Gulf War.

Carnegie Hall is not only a building. It's an idea. It's a necessary mythology about music.

Isaac Stern
When sirens began to sound, the audience feared the worst, and began donning gas masks.

Mr Stern, however, ignored the intrusion and focused all his attentions on a Bach solo.

Carnegie's saviour

In the late 1950s, he saved Carnegie Hall.

New York was planning Lincoln Center, and a developer suggested knocking down the hall to make way for a 44-story office tower.

The hall, which opened in 1891, has been described as America's musical temple, and is famous for its acoustics.

The violinist once said of the structure: "it's not only a building. It's an idea. It's a necessary mythology about music."

Mr Stern campaigned against its destruction, rallied the opposition and ultimately secured legislation that allowed the city to acquire the structure in 1960 for $5 million.

"When you believe in something, you can move mountains," Mr Stern said in a 1997 interview.

The violin virtuoso is survived by his wife Linda Reynolds Stern, whom he married in 1996, three children from a previous marriage, and five grandchildren.

The BBC's Chris Jones
"His intimate relationship with the voilin began early in life"
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