Rudolf Barshai

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Rudolf Barshai
Рудольф Борисович Баршай
Rudolf Barshai.jpg
Rudolf Barshai in 1967
Born(1924-09-28)September 28, 1924
DiedNovember 2, 2010(2010-11-02) (aged 86)
Basel, Switzerland
Occupation violist, conductor, arranger

Rudolf Borisovich Barshai (Russian: Рудольф Борисович Баршай, September 28, 1924 November 2, 2010) [1] [2] [3] was a Soviet and Russian conductor and violist.



Barshai and David Oistrakh performing Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante in Moscow Conservatory, c.1964 Barshai Oistrakh.jpg
Barshai and David Oistrakh performing Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante in Moscow Conservatory, c.1964

Barshai was born on September 28, 1924, in Stanitsa Labinskaya, Krasnodar Krai, in modern-day Russia. He studied at the Moscow Conservatory under Lev Tseitlin and Vadim Borisovsky. He performed as a soloist with Sviatoslav Richter and David Oistrakh and as a member of a trio with Mstislav Rostropovich and Leonid Kogan. During his career Barshai won numerous Soviet and international competitions and was the founding violist of the Borodin Quartet in 1945, [4] where he remained a member until 1953. He later studied conducting under Ilya Musin at the Leningrad Conservatory.

In 1955, Barshai founded the Moscow Chamber Orchestra, which he led and conducted until he emigrated to the West in 1977. He was the artistic director of the Israel Chamber Orchestra from 1978 to 1981. From 1981 until 1982, Barshai was principal conductor of Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and the Principal Guest Conductor of Orchestre National de France (National Orchestra of France) from 1985 to 1986. He was also the principal conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra from 1982 to 1988 as well as the permanent Guest Conductor in many Orchestras of Europe, Canada, USA, Taiwan, and Japan. Barshai resided in Switzerland until his death in 2010.

Barshai's first wife was Nina Barshai (married 1947, divorced 1953), who became second violinist of the Borodin Quartet. They had a son, Lev Barshai (1946–2014). In 1954, Barshai married Anna Martinson (1928–2012), a Russian painter and costume designer and daughter of the Soviet comic Sergey Martinson. Together they had a son, Walter Barshai, born in 1955. The couple divorced in 1963 and, in 1968, Barshai married Japanese translator Teruko Soda (divorced 1974). They had a son, Takeshi, who was born on January 10, 1967. In 1980, Barshai married harpsichordist and organist Elena Raskova. They lived in Switzerland near Basel.

A biographical film about Barshai, The Note, was made in 2010 by Oleg Dorman. In 2013, the story was featured in the book The Note. In 2015, the English label ICA CLASSICS released a memorial project, the 20-CD A Tribute to Rudolf Barshai. [5]


Barshai achieved fame as a musical interpreter and arranger of Shostakovich's and Prokofiev's music. He is particularly noted for his arrangements of Shostakovich's string quartets, especially String Quartet No. 8, for chamber orchestra. [6] In 2000, Barshai produced a performing version of Mahler's Tenth Symphony, which was left unfinished at the composer's death. Also, he recorded many Shostakovich's works, among which was the widely praised world premiere recording of the composer's Fourteenth Symphony. Many of his recordings earned critical acclaim and won international awards,[ citation needed ] including:

The Rudolf Barshai International Strings Competition was established in 2020. [7]





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  1. Obituary, The Globe and Mail
  2. Obituary, The Daily Telegraph , 5 November 2010.
  3. Fox, Margalit (2010-11-10). "Rudolf Barshai, Orchestral Conductor, Dies at 86". The New York Times . Retrieved 2018-04-14.
  4. David Nice (19 December 2008). "Obituary: Valentin Berlinsky". The Guardian . Retrieved 2009-09-13.
  5. "Дискография | Памяти Рудольфа Баршая". (in Russian). Retrieved 2018-04-01.
  6. Tim Ashley (22 March 2003). "Philharmonia/Ashkenazy (Royal Festival Hall, London)". The Guardian . Retrieved 2009-09-13.
Preceded by Artistic Director, Israel Chamber Orchestra
Succeeded by
Preceded by Principal Conductor, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
Succeeded by