Leo Stern (5 April 1862 – 10 September 1904) was an English cellist, best remembered for being the soloist in the premiere performance of Antonín Dvořák's Cello Concerto in B minor in London in 1896.

Drawing by Sophie Stern, 1895


Leopold Lawrence Stern was born in Brighton in 1862. His father was a German violinist and conductor of the Brighton Symphony Society, and his mother an English pianist. He initially studied chemistry at the South Kensington School of Chemistry, while studying the cello privately with Hugo Daubert. He worked in a business in Thornliebank near Glasgow from 1880 to 1883, but abandoned chemistry and entered the Royal Academy of Music, where he studied cello under Alessandro Pezze and then Carlo Alfredo Piatti.[1] He later had lessons in Leipzig from Julius Klengel and Karl Davydov.[2][3]

He appeared with Adelina Patti (in her 1888 tour), Émile Sauret and Ignaz Paderewski, and in Paris played with Jules Massenet, Benjamin Godard and Francis Thomé.[4] He was a favourite of Queen Victoria and often played at Windsor Castle, Balmoral Castle and Osborne House.[4]

In 1895 he visited Prague, where his playing became well known to Antonín Dvořák. Although Dvořák's recently completed Cello Concerto in B minor was dedicated to Hanuš Wihan and Dvořák wanted nobody but Wihan to play it in public for the first time,[5] it was Leo Stern who was given the honour (there are conflicting versions of how this came about). The premiere occurred on 19 March 1896 at the Queen's Hall, London, under the composer's baton. Stern played the concerto in Prague (three weeks later, again conducted by Dvořák,[6]) at the Leipzig Gewandhaus (he was the first Englishman ever invited to play there[4]) and with the Berlin Philharmonic. He was later summoned to play for Kaiser Wilhelm II at Potsdam.[4] In 1897-98 he toured the United States (where he played with Theodore Thomas's orchestra in Chicago, the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic Society[4]) and Canada. He played the New York premiere of Dvořák's Cello Concerto on 5 March 1897.[7]

Leo Stern died in London on 10 September 1904, aged 42.

Stern used three cellos in his career:

The Leo Stern Prize was established in 1907 in Stern's memory, and was awarded annually to assist a student of the cello at the Royal College of Music. The award is now in abeyance, the last award having been made in 1997. Previous winners have included Martin Lovett (1944) and Amaryllis Fleming (1945).[8]


Leo Stern was married twice, both times to American-born women. In 1894[9] he married Nettie Carpenter (c. 1869-?), a former child prodigy violinist who had gained first prize at the Paris Conservatory and studied under Pablo de Sarasate, who was the godfather to her child (presumably from her first marriage). Sarasate had also given her a gold-embossed violin bow.[10] Stern was Nettie Carpenter's second husband.[11] They divorced, and in 1898[9] he married Suzanne Adams, a well-known coloratura soprano.[12]

He wrote some light songs, one of which ('Coquette') was recorded by Suzanne Adams.[13]


  • Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 5th ed, 1954


  1. ^ Stowell, Robin; Cross, Jonathan (28 June 1999). The Cambridge Companion to the Cello. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521629287. Retrieved 15 July 2020 – via Google Books.
  2. ^ Markevitch, Dimitry; Seder, Florence W. (27 November 1999). Cello Story. Alfred Music. ISBN 9781457402371. Retrieved 15 July 2020 – via Google Books.
  3. ^ "Karl Davidov, Cellist". Cello.org. Retrieved 15 July 2020.
  4. ^ a b c d e f "New York Times, Obituary, 12 September 1904" (PDF). Retrieved 15 July 2020.
  5. ^ "Music 33". Archived from the original on 30 August 2009. Retrieved 15 July 2020.
  6. ^ "Cello Concerto in B minor, Op. 104". Archived from the original on 16 October 2008. Retrieved 8 June 2009.
  7. ^ "THE PHILHARMONIC SOCIETY.; The Fifth Public Rehearsal with Leo Stern as Soloist". The New York Times. 6 March 1897. Retrieved 15 July 2020.
  8. ^ "The Leo Stern Prize". The Musician's Company Archive.
  9. ^ a b Lahee, Henry C. (1 December 2006). Famous Violinists of Today and Yesterday. Echo Library. ISBN 9781406814224. Retrieved 15 July 2020 – via Google Books.
  10. ^ "New York Times, 17 October 1887" (PDF). Retrieved 15 July 2020.
  11. ^ "The Correspondence of James McNeill Whistler :: The Correspondence". Whistler.arts.gla.ac.uk. Retrieved 15 July 2020.
  12. ^   Johnson, Rossiter, ed. (1906). "Adams, Suzanne". The Biographical Dictionary of America. Vol. 1. Boston: American Biographical Society. p. 56.
  13. ^ "America's Singers - The First Generation Symposium 1361 [JW]: Classical CD Reviews - November 2006 MusicWeb-International". Musicweb-international.com. Retrieved 15 July 2020.