Rudolf Barshai

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Rudolf Barshai
A black-and white image of a man wearing a suit jacket and shirt, with his arms raised
Rudolf Barshai
Background information
Native name Рудольф Борисович Баршай
Born (1924-09-28)September 28, 1924
Stanitsa Labinskaya, Krasnodar Krai, Soviet Union
Died November 2, 2010(2010-11-02) (aged 86)
Basel, Switzerland
Genres classical music
Occupation(s) violist, conductor, arranger
Instruments viola
Labels EMI, Decca, Melodiya, others
Rudolf Barshai and David Oistrakh performing Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante in Moscow Conservatory, c.1964
Rudolf Barshai and Sviatoslav Richter during rehearsal for Moscow Chamber Orchestra's 1000's performance, c.1967

Rudolf Borisovich Barshai (Russian: Рудольф Борисович Баршай, September 28, 1924 – November 2, 2010) [1] [2] was a Soviet and Russian conductor and violist.


Barshai was born in Stanitsa Labinskaya, Krasnodar Krai, and studied at the Moscow Conservatory under Lev Tseitlin and Vadim Borisovsky. He performed as a soloist as well as together with Sviatoslav Richter, David Oistrakh, and as a member of a trio with Mstislav Rostropovich and Leonid Kogan. He won numerous Soviet and international competitions. He was the founding violist of the Borodin Quartet in 1945[3] and was a member until 1953. Later, he studied conducting under Ilya Musin in Leningrad Conservatory.

In 1955, Barshai founded the Moscow chamber orchestra, which he led and conducted until he emigrated to the West in 1977. He was the artistic director of the Israel Chamber Orchestra from 1976 to 1981. From 1981 until 1982 Barshai was principal conductor of Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. Principal Guest Conductor of Orchestre National de France (National Orchestra of France)1985-1986. He was principal conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra from 1982 to 1988.

In 1954, Barshai married Anna Martinson, a Russian painter and costume designer, and daughter of the Soviet comic Sergey Martinson. They have a son, Walter Barshai, born June 6, 1955. After their divorce in 1963 and his marriage to a Japanese translator, Teruko Soda (son Takeshi, b. January 10, 1967), he married concert organist Elena Raskova. Barshai resided in Switzerland until his death.

A biographical film about the maestro, The Note, was made in 2010 by Oleg Dorman.


Barshai achieved fame as a musical interpreter and arranger of Shostakovich's and Prokofiev's music. He is particularly noted for his arrangement of Shostakovich's String Quartet No. 8 for chamber orchestra.[4] In 2000, Barshai produced a completion of Mahler's Tenth Symphony, which was left unfinished at the composer's death. In addition, he has recorded a number of Shostakovich's works, among which was the widely praised world premiere recording of the composer's Fourteenth Symphony. Many of his recordings have earned critical acclaim and have won international awards:

  • 1988 Gramophone Awards – Concerto : Tchaikovsky, Piano Concerto No. 2, Rudolf Barshai conducting Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra; solo: Donohoe (EMI)
  • 2003 Cannes Classical Music Award: Orchestral 20 Century: Shostakovich: Complete Symphonies; Barshai (Brilliant Classics)
  • 2003 Editor's Award ( Record of the Year: Shostakovich: Complete Symphonies; Barshai (Brilliant Classics).


  1. ^ Obituary, The Globe and Mail
  2. ^ Obituary, The Daily Telegraph, 5 Nov 2010.
  3. ^ David Nice (19 December 2008). "Obituary: Valentin Berlinsky". The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-09-13. 
  4. ^ Tim Ashley (22 March 2003). "Philharmonia/Ashkenazy (Royal Festival Hall, London)". The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-09-13. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Luciano Berio
Artistic Director, Israel Chamber Orchestra
Succeeded by
Uri Segal
Preceded by
Uri Segal
Principal Conductor, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
Succeeded by
Andrew Litton