The shortlived first wife of Emil Gilels

The shortlived first wife of Emil Gilels


norman lebrecht

April 13, 2019

We have been sent a clip of Rosa Tamarkina playing the Chopin Etude op. 10 no. 5 in 1937.

Watch and wonder.

Tamarkina, born in 1920 to a Jewish family in Kiev, was only 16 when she took second place (to Yakov Zak) in the Chopin Competition in Warsaw. ‘This is marvellous!’ shouted Wilhelm Backhaus from the jury table.

She married Emil Gilels in 1940; they separated in 1944, the year that Gilels premiered Prokofiev’s eighth sonata.

Rosa started teaching at the Moscow Conservatoire in 1946 but the painfil treatments she received for cancer made concdert life impossible. Rosa Tamarkina died on August 5, 1950 at the age of 30. Here’s one of her last recordings.

Gilels was remarried to Fariset Hutsistova in 1947.


  • Thank you, Norman … absolutely wonderful playing here, and such maturity, such relaxed music-making at the age of 17 in the Etude. She never misses an opportunity to sing the melody in the left hand, and in spite all of her obvious facility, there is never the sense that she is “showing off”.

  • Caravaggio says:

    Marvellous indeed. And Backhaus should know. Too bad she was taken away so early.

  • esfir ross says:

    Thank for posting beautiful Rosa T. playing. Fact about Emil Gilels and Rosa separation was news to me. In USSR this fact never reveal.

  • Furzwängler says:

    Wow! What might have been…

  • esfir ross says:

    In EG bio by Sofia Khentova 1967 name of Rosa Tamarkina not appeared. It was short-lived marriage. EG married his student 1947. Rosa T. died 1950. She was formidable talent, big hope. As tragic as Dinu Lipatti early death.