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The Note. Life of Rudolf Barshai

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Rights sold to: Russia – CORPUS BOOKS, Latvia – JANIS ROZES

The 90-minutes interview with Rudolf Barshai was filmed in the great musician's house in Switzerland, in 2010, shortly before the great artist's death, and broadcast on Culture TV Channel in 2012. One journalist mentioned his "unswerving feeling of implication in someone else's talent and happiness" after The Note opening night.

 

Born in Russia in 1924, Rudolf Barshai was the leading Russian viola player of his generation and an important conductor, particularly in the music of Dmitri Shostakovich. His scope of talent encompassed a celebrated career as a viola soloist, conductor and arranger, the likes of which may never be seen again.

Barshai knew Shostakovich's music on a very intimate level. He studied with the great composer, and often performed Shostakovich's music with the composer at the piano. They became close personal friends. He was also close with Prokofiev, with whom he discussed orchestrations to a stunning degree.

A master of the viola, Barshai was the founding violist of Moscow's renowned Borodin Quartet. When Stalin and Prokofiev died - on the same day in 1953 - the quartet was ordered to play at both funerals. They were ferried back and forth between the two gravesites in an ambulance, Barshai remembered.

In Russia, Barshai performed chamber music with many greats, including Sviatoslav Richter, Yehudi Menuhin, David Oistrakh, Emil Gilels, Mstislav Rostropovich, and Leonid Kogan.

In 1955, he founded the Moscow Chamber Orchestra dubbed by Shostakovich "the greatest chamber orchestra in the world", which he led until 1977. In 1977 Barshai left the Soviet Union for Israel, where he was named music director of the Israel Chamber Orchestra.

Barshai brought to the west a significant knowledge and understanding of Russian music, appearing with symphony orchestras around the world, including the Orchestre National de France, the Orchestre de Paris, the London Philharmonic and the Vienna Symphony. In the 1980s Barshai held conducting posts with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in England and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra in Canada. At his death in 2010, he was conductor emeritus of the Verdi Symphony Orchestra of Milan.

Barshai was a serious, studious musician who shunned promotion, avoided interviews where possible, and concentrated solely on the interpretation of the composer's score. Indeed, the only sign he gave of being aware of his image was a hair clip that he used during performances.

Among his accomplishments, Barshai recorded a complete cycle of Shostakovich symphonies, and in 2000 completed and orchestrated Gustav Mahler's Tenth Symphony, which had been left unfinished at the composer's death. Barshai worked until his last days, finally finishing what he considered a lifetime achievement: arranging J.S.Bach's The Art of Fugue.

Movie trailer (English subtitles):

Entire movie (Russian, no subtitles):