Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Maria Yudima, Joseph Stalin's favourite pianist

Maria Yudina, an influential Soviet pianist was born on September 9, 1899 and died on November 19, 1970. After graduation from the Petrogad Conservatory Yudina taught there until 1930.
As happened throughout her life, Yudina was in constant conflict with Soviet authorities whom she regularly criticised. She also had strong religious convictions. Eventually, the Conservatory fired her for continual and vocal criticisms of the Soviet leadership. She was without work for some time but in 1936 the influential Soviet pianist and teacher Heinrich Neuhaus suggested she join the piano faculty at the Moscow Conservatory. She taught there until 1951. She also taught at the Gnessin Institute from 1944 to 1960 but was again let go because of her religious attitudes and championing of modern western classical music.
In spite of Yudina's criticism of and conflict with Soviet authorities she was nevertheless Stalin's favourite pianist. According to Wikipedia, one night when Stalin heard Yudina playing the Piano Concerto # 23 by Mozart on the radio with Yudina performing he asked for a copy. However, this was a live unrecorded performance. There was no copy. Officials drove Yudina to a recording studio, assembled an orchestra and had her record the concerto in the middle of the night. A single copy was made from the matrix and presented to Stalin.
Unlike many other Soviet artists such as Dmitri Shostakovich, Yudina was uncompromising in her criticism of Stalin and the Soviet regime. She seemed to have no fear of Stalin. When she was awarded the Stalin prize, she donated the monetary portion to the Orthodox Church in order that there be "perpetual prayers for Stalin's sins." Yudina was probably fortunate that Stalin was a fan of her playing since she she was able to criticise the regime with relative impunity.
Another apocryphal story about Yudima is found together with a performance of the Mozart Piano Concerto # 23 on You Tube.:On March 5, 1953, Stalin was killed by Zionists in his Moscow residence: .. Spinning on Stalin's record player, presented by Churchill, was Mozart's Piano Concerto № 23 in A Major, performed by Maria YudimaPresumably, the poster, expertmus, meant "zionists". The cause of Stalin's death has always been controversial with considerable evidence he was deliberately poisoned with warfarin, a blood thinner and rat poison, by Lavrentiy Beria. Beria was long head of the NKVD, Stalin's secret police. At the time of Stalin's death he was concerned that Stalin was intending to purge him and promote Viktor Abakumov. The "zionist" suggestion is no doubt due to the fact the Beria had good relations with Israel, had shipped arms to Israel and saw positive relations with Israel as the best way to promote communism in the middle east. Opponents of Beria wanted to develop closer relations with Arab States. Beria was involved in other issues that showed him to promote and favour some individual Jews, especially in the leadership of Soviet East European satellites.
Details of Stalin's death can be found here. Beria's reactions are described here. Beria himself finally suffered the same fate as many he had purged as he lost support among Politburo members and was charged and found guilty of treason and other charges along with several others. In a special session of the Supreme Court of the USSR on 23rd December 1953, with no defence counsel or right of appeal, Beria was found guilty and shortly after shot to death.