Stalin's Favorite Pianist
May 12, 2013 3:25 PM   Subscribe

Maria Yudina (1899-1970) born Jewish, devout Christian, staunchly anti-Soviet, and one of the greatest Russian pianists. "Yet she was hidden behind Soviet Russia's iron curtain during her lifetime and was unknown to what is now a rapidly growing and wildly enthusiastic international audience."
Once Stalin called the Radio Committee, where the administration was, and asked if they had a record of Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 23, which had been heard on the radio the day before. "Played by Yudina," he added. They told Stalin that of course they had it. Actually, there was no record, the concert had been live. But they were afraid to say no to Stalin, no one ever knew what the consequences might be. A human life meant nothing to him. All you could do was agree, submit, be a yes-man, a yes-man to a madman.

Stalin demanded that they send the record with Yudina's performance of the Mozart to his dacha. The committee panicked, but they had to do something. They called in Yudina and an orchestra and recorded that night. Everyone was shaking with fright, except for Yudina, naturally. But she was a special case, that one, the ocean was only knee-deep for her.

Yudina later told me that they had to send the conductor home, he was so scared he couldn't think. They called another conductor, who trembled and got everything mixed up, confusing the orchestra. Only a third conductor was in any shape to finish the recording. (link)
Mozart d minor Fantasy, c minor Fantasy; Bach Goldberg Variations; Bethoven 32 Variations C minor; Schubert Impromptus D. 899, B Flat Major Sonata D. 960; Yudina on Sofronitsky, on Shostakovich; more (bottom of page); more.

Documentary (in Russian) on Yudina
posted by snaparapans (4 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Her playing is so completely confident and self-assured. You can really hear the personality that would dare write to Stalin:

"I thank you, Joseph Vissarionovich, for your aid. I will pray for you day and night and ask the Lord to forgive your great sins before the people and the country. The Lord is merciful and He'll forgive you. I gave the money to the church that I attend."

(thanks for the post! - really loved Schubert's Bb Sonata)
posted by airing nerdy laundry at 4:48 PM on May 12, 2013

I'd heard the story but am not familiar with her playing, so thanks for the post.
posted by languagehat at 5:47 PM on May 12, 2013

Great post and a brilliant pianist. Thank you.
posted by le_vert_galant at 7:39 PM on May 12, 2013

Amazing story and marvelous playing. Thanks for the fascinating post snaparapans.
posted by nickyskye at 1:34 AM on May 13, 2013

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