|VVCD - 00096
The Legacy of Maria Grinberg
Ludwig van Beethoven
№ 8 c-moll, op.13, Patetique
№ 14 cis-moll Quasi una fantasia, op.27, № 2, Moonlight
№ 23 f-moll, op.57, Appassionata
1959 (4-6); 1960 (7-9)
Sound engineers: Kokzhayan (1-3); В.Smirnov (4-6); Grossman-Semionov
Maria Grinberg was probably one of the greatest
pianists of the 20th century. I have never heard anybody matching
her most brilliant performances of Schostakovich's Preludes and
Fugues, and the First Concerto, or Schumann's Symphonic Etudes,
Children's Scenes and the Piano Concerto, or Schubert's impromptus
of both opuses (perhaps, with the exception of Maria Yudina), Brahms'
First Concerto, Bartok's In the Open Air, Beethoven's many sonatas,
whose slow parts performed by Maria Grinberg are, for me, "the
Unfortunately, Fate's sardonic grin had long haunted this fragile
small woman who was neither a warrior, nor a fighter, nor even a
maker of her artistic career.
Maria Israelevna (or, Musya to her relatives and friends) was born
in 1908 in Odessa. Her father taught Hebrew, which after the Bolsheviks
seized power, nobody in Russia needed any longer. Her mother taught
the piano to a number of beginners. In fact, the family lived on
the verge of poverty. Until the age of 18, Musya was taking (free
of charge!) piano lessons from Odessa's best teacher David Aisberg.
Interestingly, she played the instrument purchased by her local
financial sponsors who immediately noticed the little girl's talent.
Eventually she became a pupil of F. Blumenfeld and later, continued
her studies with K. Igumnov at Moscow Conservatoire. In 1935, she
captured the Second Prize at the Second All-Union Pianist Competition.
It seemed then that she had every right to become a popular public
performer. But in 1937 Maria Grinberg's husband and her father were
arrested and executed as "enemies of the people". The
pianist was evicted from the Philharmonic and got a job as an accompanist
for a choreography group with the cultural department of Moscow's
Kauchuk plant. In a while, though, she was readmitted to the Philharmonic
as a piano soloist. She performed before the tightly-packed halls
in Moscow, Leningrad, Riga, Tallinn, Voronezh, Tbilisi, Baku and
other cities all over the Soviet Union.
At 50, only after Stalin died, she was allowed to travel abroad.
All in all, Grinberg went on 14 performing tours -12 times in the
Soviet bloc countries and twice in Holland where she became a nationally
acclaimed figure. Critics enthusiastically compared her dazzling
performances with those of Horowitz, Rubinstein, and Clara Haskil.
However, Soviet media never reprinted those laudatory reviews.
Only at the age of 55, she was granted her first - and last - honorary
title of the Distinguished Artist of the Russian Soviet Federation.
Only at 61, she was given a professorship of the Gnessin Institute
of Music. But neither Moscow Conservatoire, nor the jury of the
Tchaikovsky International Competition offered her a seat.
In 1970, her personal 13-LP album set featuring all Beethoven's
32 sonatas was released. The Soviet musical press uttered not a
single word of the unique event. Only three months before the pianist
died, in 1978, critic Yudenich called these recordings in the Sovetskaya
Muzyka magazine "a true feat in the art".
Not a single filming of Grinberg's live performances was made for
TV or the silver screen.
Maria Israelevna died on the 14th of July, 1978 in Tallinn, some
ten weeks before her seventieth birthday. When her daughter Nika
came to Tallinn's funeral home, the undertaker declined to take
money for the last services, as he knew who the deceased lady was.
Gnessin Institute's director refused to hold a mourning ceremony
on the Institute's premises, and only thanks to the efforts of Deputy
Minister of Culture Kukharsky, the great pianist was given her last
honor in a proper way…
Well, let's put sad things aside. She had had enough sadness in
her life. I am truly happy that these disks are being released now
to bring you so much joy. Maria Israelevna once said to me, bitterly:
"I'll get it all - after I die".
Maria Grinberg's lifelong friend who named his daughter after the
Translated by Oleg Alyakrinsky