November 2, 2015 Library of Congress Concert Will Honor Marta Casals Istomin

Famed Cellist, Teacher, Impresario to Receive Living Legend Award

Press Contact: Jennifer Gavin (202) 707-1940
Public Contact: Marie Arana (202) 707-6933

The Library of Congress will present its Living Legend Award to Marta Casals Istomin, the renowned cellist, teacher and classical-music artistic director, at the Library on Nov. 2. The presentation will be made during a concert in her honor, featuring pianist and conductor Sir András Schiff, cellists Steven Isserlis and Amit Peled, pianists Tatiana Goncharova and Noreen Polera, and violinists Anna Margrethe Nilsen, Jesús Reina, and Yuuko Shiokawa. A spoken tribute will be offered by violinist, violist and conductor Pinchas Zukerman.

The Living Legend Award honors those who have made significant contributions to America’s diverse cultural, scientific and social heritage.

Acting Librarian of Congress David S. Mao said, "Marta Casals Istomin has devoted her life to expanding access to classical music—not only for those who already know it and love it, but to young and in many cases disadvantaged people who would not otherwise have found the beauty it has brought to their lives.”

Istomin (née Marta Angélica Montáñez Martínez) was introduced to the violin during her childhood in Humacao, Puerto Rico, and soon after switched to cello. She continued her musical education at the Marymount School in New York. She became the student of the famed cellist Pablo Casals, and later married him; together they founded the Casals Festival in San Juan, Puerto Rico, the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra and, in 1959, the Puerto Rico Conservatory of Music. When her husband died in 1973, she took over the management of the Casals Festival, started a stringed-instrument program for local youngsters and also taught cello as a visiting professor at the Curtis School of Music in Philadelphia. She married the pianist Eugene Istomin in 1975.

From 1980 to 1990 Marta Casals Istomin served as artistic director of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. There, she founded the center’s Terrace Concerts and began the largest ballet series in the U.S. In France, from 1990 to 1997, she directed the Rencontres Musicales D’Evian Festival International, which offered master classes with visiting artists. From 1992-2005 she was president of the Manhattan School of Music. During her tenure, the school grew in stature from a leading U.S. conservatory of music to a place of international eminence. She helped lead a capital campaign that doubled the size of its campus.

Istomin has also been a board member of the Marlboro School of Music and served as a member of the National Council on the Arts, as a Delegate to the World Arts Forum in Geneva in 1998 and 1990, as a member of the U.S. Advisory Board on Culture for UNESCO in Mexico City and Paris, and as a member of the first U.S. cultural delegation to the Republic of China in 1980. She also served as vice-president of the Casals Foundation and Museum in Barcelona.

The first Living Legend awards were given in 2000 during the Library’s bicentennial (1800-2000) celebration. Recipients through the years have included artists, writers, filmmakers, physicians, entertainers, sports figures, public servants and musicians who have enriched the nation through their professional accomplishments and personal excellence. Madeleine Albright, Katharine Graham, B.B. King, David McCullough, Gordon Parks, Alan Lomax, I.M. Pei, Sally Ride, Martin Scorsese, Yo Yo Ma and Mario Andretti are among the more than 100 recipients. For more information, visit

The Library of Congress, the nation’s first federal cultural institution and the largest library in the world, holds more than 160 million items in various languages, disciplines and formats. The Library serves the U.S. Congress and the nation both on-site in its reading rooms on Capitol Hill and through its website at


PR 15-200
ISSN 0731-3527