The wonderful Russian violinist Nina Beilina has died in New York at the age of 81.
A student of David Oistrakh at the Moscow Conservatoire, she won gold medal at the 1961 Enescu contest and came third in the 1962 Tchaikovsky Competition (winner: Boris Gutnikov), going on to a considerable career in Russia and abroad.
In 1977, after her husband’s death, she settled with her son Emil Chudnovsky in New York, becoming a professor at Mannes School of Music. Emil is now a successful concert violinist.
There will be a memorial service at 12 noon on Sunday, December 2, 2018 at Riverside Memorial Chapel (180 W 76th St., New York, NY).
I was his post-graduate student, but had an unusual relationship with him. To understand why it was unusual, I have to take you behind the scenes to the personal politics of the Moscow Conservatory. In the Conservatory, there were two factions among the violin faculty, roughly speaking: there was the clique to which my first teacher, Abraham Yampolsky, belonged and then there was the Oistrakh faction. As a Yampolsky student, I was a Montague to the Oistrakh Capulets.
When I graduated, as a straight-A student, from the Conservatory with the equivalent of a B.A. in hand, I applied to the Conservatory’s post-graduate department. I can only speculate as to why I was not even allowed to audition; that is to say, my application documents were summarily rejected. Was it the line identifying my nationality in my internal passport? The line which read “Nationality: Jewish”? Or was it the “membership” in the wrong clique? Either way, what it certainly wasn’t, was my grades (all A’s, remember) or my playing – since I wasn’t even allowed to audition.
So, understandably angry, I left Moscow to go to Leningrad to study with Julius Eidlin. He was a disciple of Leopold Auer, and I am immensely grateful for the time I had to work with him. As a parenthetical aside, I can say that he re-did my Bach completely from the over-Romantic approach then popular in the Soviet Union to something approaching a Szeryng mentality. But I digress.
What is relevant is that Eidlin became very, very ill. He was unable to continue teaching and yet I had no “home” to which to return in Moscow since Yampolsky had passed away. So Eidlin made the olive branch move: he called David Oistrakh, asking him to accept me. Thus – a phone call as a flag of truce. And so Oistrakh took me on as his student back in Moscow, at the Conservatory, towards the end of my Masters equivalent….
As a violinist, he was what I call a “jeweler”. This meant that he put every piece under a virtual microscope regarding every shift, every bowing. Everything had to be completely secure, consistent and unshakable. I remember one lesson which he tape-recorded, then played the tape back to me at a slower speed. Obviously, everything was at a much lower pitch, but one could hear all the micro-events – a shaky shift here, a clumsy bowing there, an unfocused attack elsewhere – and it was incredibly instructive….