Elizabeth Gilels

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Elizabeth Gilels
Birth nameYelizaveta Grigoryevna Gilels
Born30 September 1919
Soviet Union Odessa, Ukraine SSR, USSR
Died13 March 2008(2008-03-13) (aged 88)
Russia Moscow, Russia
Occupation(s)Violinist, pedagogist
Years active1935–2008

Elizabeth Gilels (born Yelizaveta Grigoryevna Gilels; Russian: Елизаве́та Григо́рьевна Ги́лельс; 30 September 1919 – 13 March 2008) was a Soviet violinist and a professor.

Elizabeth Gilels and her brother, the pianist, Emil.


Elizabeth Gilels was born in Odessa into a Jewish family. Her father Grigory Gilels was a clerk at the sugar refinery, and her mother Esfira Gilels was a housewife. Elizabeth had multiple siblings, including children from previous marriages by both of her parents. Despite not being directly connected to a music scene, the family produced two outstanding musicians: first Emil Gilels and three years later Elizabeth herself.

"In Odessa, in spite of the hard times, the public enjoyed music very much. All attention was given to musically gifted children. In a modest Gilels’s flat in a poor and famous district of Odessa called Moldavanka there was a grand piano and already at the age of two little Emil showed interest in it touching keys and listening to them. He was also interested in other sounds: performance of brass bands, singing, tolling of bells."[1] Little Yelizaveta, consequently was surrounded by music at an early age.

Elizabeth commenced her violin studies with famous pedagogue, Pyotr Stolyarsky whose star pupils included David Oistrakh, Nathan Milstein and Boris Goldstein. Later she studied with Abram Yampolsky (1890–1956) in Moscow. Early on in her career, she’d formed a youthful duo with her brother.

In 1937 she became a prizewinner of the Ysaÿe competition (later becoming Queen Elizabeth Competition) in Brussels. Stolyarsky's students caused a sensation at this competition as top prizes were garnered by David Oistrakh, Boris Goldshtein (Goldstein), Yelizaveta (Elizabeth) Gilels and Mikhail Fikhtengoltz.

"The results of the sessions created a profound impression: the Soviet school, with an assurance that bordered on arrogance, carried off all the prizes from the first down. The latter was awarded without the slightest discussion to the great David Oistrakh. Everyone else had to be content with crumbs; the Belgian violin school, though still a source of pride, failed, and its absence at the final was much commented on; Arthur Grumiaux and Carlo Van Neste, both young and inexperienced, were not able to convince the jury."[2]

It wasn’t until after the WWII that she formed a duo with Leonid Kogan – their Bach's Double Concerto performance became famous, and they also managed to find and perform some of the more out-of-the-way pieces, as well as works dedicated to them, such as sonata by Weinberg.

From 1966 onwards she taught at the Moscow Conservatory, where she earned a title of professor in 1987. She was a consummate artist and had a great influence on her students. She has published a still popular study book of Scales & Double stops for violin.

Despite her significant achievements as a performer, outside of the USSR she was mostly known in a dual role as, first, a wife of the legendary Leonid Kogan and, second, a sister of the eminent Emil Gilels.

She died in Moscow on 13 March 2008, at the age of 88. She is survived by her children Pavel Kogan and Nina Kogan, and her grandchildren Dmitry Kogan, Victoria Korchinskaya-Kogan and Daniel Milkis.


  1. ^ Elena Fedorovich, Ekaterinburg, 2007
  2. ^ The Queen Elisabeth Competition
  • Elena Fedorovich, Ekaterinburg, 2007
  • Leonid Kogan Bibliography - M. Zazovsky, L. K. (Moscow, 1956).
  • "Leonid Borisovich Kogan." BAKER'S BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY OF MUSICIANS, Centennial Edition. Nicolas Slonimsky, Editor Emeritus. Schirmer, 2001.
  • Emil Gilels in Memoriam
  • Roth, Henry (1997). Violin Virtuosos: From Paganini to the 21st Century. Los Angeles, CA: California Classics Books. ISBN 1-879395-15-0
  • В сб.: Музыкальное исполнительство, в. 6, М., 1970, с. 162—193; - Гринберг М., Пронин В., В классе П. С. Столярского
  • «Советская музыка», 1972, № 3. - Ойстрах Д., Фурер С., Мордкович Л., О нашем учителе. (К столетию П. С. Столярского)
  • Emil Gilels - A Portrait (Biography) by Prof. Dr. Elena Federovitch Ekaterinburg, 2007

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