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Six legendary musicians gifted to America by Russia

After 1917, many musicians immigrated from Russia. Singers, pianists, violinists, conductors, composers left their homeland in search of a better life, and at the same time took with them a huge part of Russian musical culture. Author blog "Cultural Cheat Sheet" on Yandex.Zen talked about six musicians who were lost by Russia, but acquired by the United States and Europe.

Photo: Shutterstock

Sergey Rachmaninov

In 1917, Rachmaninoff was known in Russia in three roles: composer, conductor, pianist. His piano career was only a supplement to the composer's - he played only his own works, with rare exceptions.

But when he immigrated to the United States, he had to change his life. Since he had a large family - two daughters, a wife and her relatives, the musician needed a stable and guaranteed income, possible only on the concert stage.

Rachmaninov devoted several months to bringing his piano technique to full combat readiness and forming a diverse concert repertoire. His unique pianistic apparatus, given by nature, made it possible to do this in the shortest possible time.

Over the 25 years of his life in immigration (mainly in the USA), he gave a huge number of concerts and became a legend in the piano world.

Rachmaninoff died in 1943 in Beverly Hills. The Don Cossack Choir named after Ataman Platov sang it in the local Russian church. Two months later, the composer's coffin was transported and buried in the Kensiko cemetery near New York.

Vladimir Horowitz

Horowitz considered composition to be his real vocation, but for financial reasons he had to focus on his career as a pianist.

He graduated from the Kiev Conservatory already under Soviet rule, in 1920, and quickly made a name for himself in the USSR. In 1925 Horowitz went to Germany to improve his performing arts. He never came back.

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All his relatives remained in Russia, some were repressed. His father spent the last years of his life in prison and died in prison at the age of 70.

Horowitz's bright manner of playing, boundless virtuosity and special magnetism of his personality made him a star of the concert stage and a favorite of the public even before the war. Russian music was an important part of his repertoire: he played works by Tchaikovsky, Scriabin, Rachmaninov and others.

In the late 1930s, he moved to the United States and received citizenship. After Rachmaninoff's death in 1943 (they were friends) Horowitz took his place in the piano world and won 20 Grammy awards.

His life and career were far from smooth, but he came out of all crises with brilliance. He played until a ripe old age. At the age of 82, he came on tour to the USSR (1986), he was greeted as a living God with applause and tears.

Two weeks before his death, at the age of 86, he recorded a completely new program, which he planned for another tour. On this occasion, he specially learned the most complex transcription of Liszt Liebestod ("Death of Isolde") from Wagner's "Tristan".

But life decided otherwise - Horowitz died at his home in New York sitting in an armchair and discussing with his wife the menu for the upcoming dinner. The musician was buried in Milan, in the Toscanini family crypt (Horowitz's wife Wanda was the daughter of the great Italian conductor).

Fyodor Chaliapin

The soloist of His Imperial Majesty and People's Artist of the Soviet Republic Fyodor Chaliapin left for the West in 1922 with his second wife and children. The reason was touring, and the reason was the desire to ensure the safety of the family and freely build their artistic career.

When, a few years later, the USSR did not wait for Chaliapin's return, he was mercilessly shot from all the weapons of the Soviet ideological machine - in poetry and in prose. They also stripped him of the title of People's Artist (returned posthumously only in 1991).

Fortunately for Chaliapin himself, immigration was easy for him: he was world famous as a genius and completely unique opera artist and performer of the song repertoire.

He settled in France, performed at the Grand Opera and the Russian opera company, sometimes went on tour, acted in films, gave chamber concerts, and recorded a lot.

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Chaliapin received huge royalties, bought houses and villas in the best places in France, collected French wines and maintained a huge army of his relatives.

Like other Russian immigrants, Chaliapin actively promoted Russian art. Thanks to his impressive performances, the French audience was able to appreciate the masterpieces of the Russian opera repertoire: Boris Godunov by Mussorgsky, Prince Igor by Borodin, Rusalka by Dargomyzhsky, as well as Russian romance and folk song.

Fyodor Chaliapin did not live to see the start of World War II, otherwise he, most likely, like everyone else, would have ended up in the United States. But there is also his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

He died in 1938 of leukemia in Paris. Almost 50 years later (in 1984) his remains were reburied at the Novodevichy cemetery in Moscow.

Yasha Kheifets

Jasha Heifetz - a miracle of violin, the second Mozart. He was not yet two years old when his violinist father gave him the first violin without a bow. And at the age of seven, he was already playing the repertoire of an adult violinist and supported the whole family.

At the age of 9, he was enrolled with his father in the St. Petersburg Conservatory (this happened thanks to the efforts of its director Glazunov - Jews were not allowed to live in St. Petersburg). Two years later, his teacher Leopold Auer recommended him to one of the impresario as a "great and brilliant" violinist.

The main gift of little Heifetz was a completely unique and inimitable sound - hot, tremulous, recognizable from the first notes, and perfect phrasing, giving the impression of expressive human speech.

Fritz Kreisler, hearing him at the age of 12, invited all the violinists present to break their violins on the knee. Yasha Kheifets left Russia in 1917 with his entire family through the Far East and Japan to the United States. He was then 16 years old.

His totally sensational American debut took place at New York's Carnegie Hall. The next morning, the main music magazine published an article entitled: "Hats down, gentlemen, we have a genius!" (Schumann once wrote in the same words in his review of the young Chopin).

Heifetz was a very solid and strong nature, who did not know what hesitation and creative crisis were. He performed a lot as a soloist, sang and in ensembles, made a huge number of recordings, taught, acted in films, visited with his violin on all fronts during World War II, gave a huge number of charity concerts, played jazz, composed academic music and pop songs , actively fought for the environment, was a good swimmer and tennis player - he lived a long and fulfilling life.

Until now, Yasha Kheifetz is considered an unattainable ideal for any violinist. He lived 86 years old and died in 1987 in Los Angeles.

Grigory Pyatigorsky

Grigory Pyatigorsky is a famous cellist. Like Heifetz, he made a living with his cello as a child. When the revolution began, he was 14 years old, he studied at the Moscow Conservatory and lived from hand to mouth. For his outstanding talent at the age of 15, he was enrolled as the accompanist (leader) of the cello group in the Bolshoi Theater Orchestra and was admitted to the first Soviet Lenin String Quartet.

In 1921 he asked Lunacharsky for permission to leave for Germany for further education, but was refused. And when the opportunity arose, Pyatigorsky did not hesitate to run away. During a tour in Ukraine, the musician, together with a group of soloists, illegally crossed the border with Poland.

From Poland, he moved to Germany, on the recommendation of fellow musicians, he entered the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra as the first cello.

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A little later, his brilliant solo career began. Before World War II, already famous, he moved to the United States and in 1942 received American citizenship.

Here he became an outstanding teacher, acted in films, performed as a soloist, played in ensembles. Together with Heifetz and Arthur Rubinstein, they formed a very popular "star" trio with the public.

The musician ended up in his homeland forty years later: twice (in 1962 and 1966) he came to Moscow for the Tchaikovsky Competition as a member of the jury.

Pyatigorsky died of cancer in 1976 at his home in Los Angeles at the age of 73.

Sergey Koussevitsky

Sergei Koussevitsky began his career as a talented double bass player, who promoted this instrument to the category of solo ones. But the scope of his musical activity took on a completely different scale over time.

His marriage to Natalya Ushkova, the daughter of a millionaire, the "tea king", opened up new perspectives for him, and he used them for the benefit of musical art and for his own professional development.

Koussevitsky founded the Russian Music Publishing House, and later, having learned the art of conducting in Germany from the famous Arthur Nikish, created his own symphony orchestra in Moscow.

The Koussevitsky mansion in Glazovsky Lane was the most famous music salon in Moscow, his priceless collection of paintings consisted of more than two hundred units.

After the revolution, he directed the Petrograd Symphony Orchestra for several years, and in 1921, with Lunacharsky's permission, left for France for treatment.

In Paris he was already known as an outstanding conductor. Here he founded the popular "Concerts of Koussevitzky", which had the same rapid success as the ballet "Diaghilev Seasons".

But the main work of life for Koussevitzky was the post of director and chief conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, he headed it for 25 years. With a firm hand, Koussevitsky carried out the necessary reforms, renewed the composition, repertoire and made this orchestra the best symphony collective and the pride of the United States.

Many musical masterpieces of contemporary composers were created by his order and paid for from his own pocket. To this should be added the educational and charitable projects of Sergei Koussevitsky aimed at supporting young talents. The famous tenor Mario Lanza and many other young musicians owe their careers to Sergei Koussevitsky.

Koussevitsky was an outstanding conductor who created his own school.

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