Slava’s first student has died

Mstislav Rostropovich was 19 when he gave cello lessons to a girl from his high school class, Alla Vasilieva.

She went on to work as his assistant at the Moscow Conservatoire.

He entered her for the inaugural Tchaikovsky Competition but she withdrew, condemning the ‘musical marathon’ aspects of public contests.

She had a good solo career, mostly in the Soviet Union, working with such conductors as Rudolph Barshay, Yuri Ahronovich, Yuri Simonov and Pavel Kogan.

She mostly taught at the Moscow State University, named after Maimonides.

Alla died in Moscow at the weekend, aged 84.

 

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  • I met Alla in back in 1990 in Moscow and I arranged concerts for her on two occasions in Scotland in 1991 where she also gave masterclasses for children in Glasgow and Edinburgh. She was a wonderful musician and human being yet was for many years restricted to concerts in the USSR. In her last years she made several CDs including the Cello Sonata by Thomas Wilson with whom she enjoyed a strong friendship as she did with many musicians that she met in Scotland. Of her recordings on Melodiya her finest is a set of the Bach cello suites which richly deserves issue on CD, hopefully they will be issued on Melodiya along with her recordings of Weinberg. Alla will be sorely missed by all who knew her.

  • Elizabeth Wilson, in her biography of Rostropovich, discusses Alla Vasiliyeva:
    “An opportunity for Slava arose early in 1947, when Galina Kozolupova left her job at TseMSha in order to concentrate on her teaching at the Conservatoire. Rostropovich, still in his teens [he was born March 27, 1927], was recommended to take over her class, and started his new job in the middle of the academic year. He inherited four of Kozolupova’s pupils, aged between fourteen and seventeen: Tatyana Priymenko, Kira Tsvetkova, Georgi (or Yura) Ivanov, and the youngest, Alla Vasiliyeva” (p. 56).

    Wilson quotes Vasiliyeva at length about her experience as Rostropovich’s student (see pp. 58, 60-63, 109-110, 116), and refers to her in other places in the book.

    • I omitted to mention earlier that Alla was a founder member of the Moscow Chamber Orchestra and she travelled widely on tour with them all over the world, (as a soloist she was restricted to the socialist countries until 1991), she was also a former wife of Rudolf Barshai, and shortly before he emigrated to the West, he asked her to join him, (they lived in the same block of flats on Gnessin ulitsa, although in different floors)however she decided to stay in the USSR. She also told me that when Shostakovich wrote his Fourteenth Symphony, he had Alla in mind for the beautiful cello solo in this work, there is a film of her playing in the premiere, and of course she is on the famous 1969 recording under Barshai’s direction

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