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“I gave birth to Busya Goldstein. Who did your mother give birth to?...”

On 25 December 1922 the child prodigy violinist Boris Goldstein was born in Odessa.

There were already two children in the family: Genrietta, born in 1911, a pianist and graduate of the Moscow conservatory, and Mikhail, both in 1917, a violinist, composer and teacher. Their parents, Sara Iosifovna and Emmanuil Abramovich, devoted their lives to their children and strove to give them a worthy education, which meant that they even had to change their professions several times and move from place to place.

At the age of five, Busya Goldstein began his lessons in the class of the legendary Odessan teacher Pyotr Solomonovich Stolyarsky, and half a year late he performed a program of several pieces, and then a year after that, according to his friend from childhood, the cellist Sprikut, “Busya played Hauser’s ‘Hungarian Rhapsody’ with incomparable mastery and flair. I can see him now in his short pants, black-eyed, smiling and joyful.”

After four years of lessons with Stolyarsky, the Goldstein family moved to Moscow, where Busya enrolled in the Special children’s group at the Moscow conservatory (later the Central music school), in the class of professor A. I. Yampolsky. His success was incredible: he soon performed works that were new to him, and extremely difficult ones at that, by Bach, Paganini, and Mendelssohn’s violin concerto with the Moscow radio orchestra. The name of the nine-year-old violinist became widely known.

In 1933, at the age of 11, Goldstein took part in the 1st All-Union violin competition. Although he participated outside of the competition because of his young age, he played so brilliantly that he was awarded a special prize (5000 rubles). At the final concert of the winners, Stalin, Molotov and Kirov were present. After the concert, Stalin invited Busya to his box and said that he played better than everyone, and even explained why. Solomon Volkov quotes the dialogue between Stalin and the young musician:

“Well, Busya, now you’ve become a capitalist, and you’ll probably get so big for your boots that you won’t want to invite me to visit you.”

“I’d be very glad to invite you,” replied the quick-witted child prodigy. “But we live in a small apartment, and there would be no place for you to sit.”

Soon the Goldsteins were given a separate apartment in a new building on Chkalov Street. Previously the entire family had lived in one room of 11 square meters. “This was a two-room apartment with all conveniences. It all seemed incredible after the nightmare that we had lived in previously,” the artist recalled many years later.

Such outstanding musicians as Fritz Kreilser, Jacques Thibaud, Joszef Szigeti, Carl Flesch, Sergei Prokofiev and Adam Khachaturian spoke with wonder of Boris Goldstein’s incredible musical gift and his mastery of the violin. Goldstein was in the top five winners of the first Wienawski competition (Warsaw, 1935), and the Ysaye competition (Brussels, 1937).

However, the creative destiny of this talented performer did not prove to be a smooth one. In many ways, this was “assisted” by the envy of less talented people, the anti-Semitism of the regime and everything that came with it.

The outstanding musician Artur Stilman recalled that in the early 1960s Goldstein took a desperate measure: he asked Dmitry Shostakovich to help to restore his name to the list of artists recorded on the Melodiya national record label. In response to Shostakovich’s inquiry to the director of Melodiya, Vladimirsky, as to why Goldstein’s name had completely disappeared and why no one invite him to record, Vladimirsky replied that he had been looking for the violinist for a long time, but… simply couldn’t find him. Thus, thanks to the intervention of the great composer, for the first time in almost 10 years Goldstein was allowed to make two LP records…

Stilman later wrote: “In the 1970s, when the gates of emigration were opened, Boris Goldstein’s family made use of this opportunity. In 1974, the family moved to Germany. In those years, there was no official immigration quota for Soviet emigrants. Despite the many difficulties of the first months, Goldstein was appointed the professor of the Musical Academy in Wuerzberg and in Hannover, where his family settled. However, it seemed that after he moved to the West, began teaching and once more began giving concerts, the artist did not completely get away from the patronage of his abandoned homeland. In 1976, his former fellow pupil and friend of many years, a violinist of the Bolshoi Theater named Stys happened to attend Nina Lvovna Dorliak’s “salon”. According to Stys, among the many topics they discussed, the name of Goldstein suddenly cropped up. Unexpectedly, Nina Lvovna said: “While we (i.e. she and her husband Svyatoslav Richter) can tour Germany, Busya Goldstein can’t make a career for himself there…” Naturally, many people soon heard about this statement, which was probably addressed to all many potential emigrants who were thinking about moving to the West.”


From 1981, Boris Goldstein played concerts in an ensemble with his daughter Yulia, and recorded Brahms’ violin sonatas with her. Goldstein was friends with the renowned German composer Bertold Hummel, and in 1977 he was the first performer of Hummel’s “Dialogue for violin and organ”.

“In 1984, Boris Goldstein made a private visit to new York,” Artur Stilman writes in another work about Goldstein. “We couldn’t meet, but I talked to him on the phone for over one and a half hours. He was still just as kind and ingenuous as ever. He didn’t want to look back at the past, and I think he had no intention of explaining to himself and others the most important thing – who had systematically and purposefully broke his career over the course of decades. I told him the story of Dorliak’s ominous prediction. It seemed to me that he knew about it. “Well, what do you want? Those people aren’t free, after all,” Goldstein replied calmly. “You know, the most important thing is how many wonderful people there are! Initially in Germany we were helped by complete strangers – Russians, Germans… They all helped as best they could – they helped to find textbooks, organize concerts in private houses, and helped out with money – we couldn’t expect any official help then. Then I was appointed as a professor. Everything began to move into place…”

Unfortunately, all the ordeals suffered by the artist began to make themselves felt – his health was poor, and he had to limit his number of students and concert performances. In June 1987 I received a letter from Boris Emmanuilovich, where he wrote: “I have a contract for two concerts with the Salt Lake City orchestra (conductor Joseph Silverstein), but unfortunately I have to turn it down because of a serious disease of the legs. I can’t play sitting down. I’ve already had treatment, but so far nothing has helped…”

No one could imagine that now, when there were no obstacles for him to perform and teach, that everything would happen so quickly. Five months later he passed away.

“Evidently providence willed it for Boris Goldstein to end his career as an artist in the Holy Land,” wrote the music critic Yakov Soroker in his book about Goldstein. On 17 March 1987 at the “Gerard Becher” theater in Jerusalem, Boris Goldstein’s last performance took place. He played with particular passion in Israel. He performed his favorite works – by Mozart, Frank, Bloch and Beethoven, and with many encores, mainly by Kreisler.

“We are grateful to destiny that we Israelis were lucky enough to hear his last concert, the last sounds of his magical violin, which is now doomed to eternal silence. May his memory be blessed!” Israeli friends and fellow pupils wrote in Goldstein’s obituary.

And finally, to avoid ending on a sad note, I would like to remind the reader of a story – true or false, who knows? – connected with the “apartment” issue. Sarra Iosifovna, the mother of the child prodigy whose name was famous all over the country, once went to the city executive committee to ask to be given the room in their apartment that was now empty after the person living in it had died. The official asked her:

“And why exactly should I give you a second room?!”

To which she replied proudly:

“I gave birth to Busya Goldstein. Who did your mother give birth to?...”

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