The Corner


A Pianist Comes Through

Vladimir Bukovsky, being helped into his jacket by Mstislav Rostropovich, the great musician, in an undated photo. The man at right is unidentified. (Photo courtesy of the author)

You see that guy up there, on the left? That’s Mstislav Rostropovich, one of the greatest musicians of the 20th century. He was a cellist, primarily, and also a conductor. (He was also a damn good pianist, but I can tell you about “Slava” another time.)

For Part II of my series on Vladimir Bukovsky, go here. A musician has a role in it — another Russian musician who has spent the bulk of his career in foreign lands.

As I explain in today’s installment, Bukovsky wrote his book Judgment in Moscow in the mid-1990s. It was published in nine languages, but not English. (I get into why, of course.) A few years ago, Evgeny Kissin, the pianist, wanted to talk to Bukovsky about something — not music. Kissin was a great admirer of Judgment in Moscow; the book meant a great deal to him. He was determined to see it published in English.

So, he made it happen — with industry and money.

He is an interesting cat, Kissin, and not just musically. I have written about him before (and I’m not talking about reviews, although there have been scads of those).

He took British citizenship in 2002. In 2013, he became an Israeli citizen as well. He said, “When Israel’s enemies try to disrupt concerts of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra or the Jerusalem Quartet, I want them to come and make trouble at my concerts, too: because Israel’s case is my case, Israel’s enemies are my enemies, and I do not want to be spared the troubles which Israeli musicians encounter when they represent the Jewish State beyond its borders.”

Kissin received his new passport from the hands of Natan Sharansky, who spent nine years in the Gulag as Anatoly Shcharansky.

By the way, Kissin is playing a recital in Carnegie Hall this week. As usual, politics and all other extra-musical considerations will play no part in my review. I have knocked those I otherwise admire; I have praised those I otherwise abhor.

Your wall of separation has to be sky-high.

P.S. Picture of Kissin and Bukovsky? A little one? You got it:

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