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 in 1967
Background information
Native name
Рудольф Борисович Баршай
Born(1924-09-28)September 28, 1924
Stanitsa Labinskaya, Krasnodar Krai, Soviet Union
DiedNovember 2, 2010(2010-11-02) (aged 86)
Basel, Switzerland
Genresclassical music
Occupation(s)violist, conductor, arranger
LabelsEMI, Decca, Melodiya, others
Rudolf Barshai and David Oistrakh performing Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante in Moscow Conservatory, c.1964

Rudolf Borisovich Barshai (Russian: Рудольф Борисович Баршай, September 28, 1924 – November 2, 2010)[1][2][3] was a Soviet and Russian conductor and violist.


Barshai was born on September 28, 1924, in Stanitsa Labinskaya, Krasnodar Krai, in modern-day Russia. He studied at the Moscow Conservatory under Lev Tseitlin and Vadim Borisovsky. He performed as a soloist with Sviatoslav Richter and David Oistrakh and as a member of a trio with Mstislav Rostropovich and Leonid Kogan. During his career Barshai won numerous Soviet and international competitions and was the founding violist of the Borodin Quartet in 1945,[4] where he remained a member until 1953. He later studied conducting under Ilya Musin at the 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 1978 to 1981. From 1981 until 1982, Barshai was principal conductor of Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and the Principal Guest Conductor of Orchestre National de France (National Orchestra of France) from 1985 to 1986. He was also the principal conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra from 1982 to 1988 as well as the permanent Guest Conductor in many Orchestras of Europe, Canada, USA, Taiwan, and Japan. Barshai resided in Switzerland until his death in 2010.

Barshai's first wife was Nina Barshai (1947-1953), who became second violinist of the Borodin Quartet. They had a son, Lev Barshai (1946-2014). In 1954, Barshai married Anna Martinson (1954-1963), a Russian painter and costume designer and daughter of the Soviet comic Sergey Martinson. Together they had a son, Walter Barshai, born in 1955. The couple divorced in 1963 and, in 1968, Barshai married Japanese translator Teruko Soda (1968-1974). They had a son, Takeshi, who was born on January 10, 1967. In 1980, Barshai married harpsichordist and organist Elena Raskova. They lived in Switzerland near Basel.

A biographical film about Barshai, The Note, was made in 2010 by Oleg Dorman. In 2013, the story was featured in the book The Note. In 2015, the English label ICA CLASSICS released a memorial project, the 20-CD A Tribute to Rudolf Barshai.[5]


Barshai achieved fame as a musical interpreter and arranger of Shostakovich's and Prokofiev's music. He is particularly noted for his arrangements of Shostakovich's string quartets, especially String Quartet No. 8, for chamber orchestra.[6] In 2000, Barshai produced a performing version of Mahler's Tenth Symphony, which was left unfinished at the composer's death. Also, he recorded many Shostakovich's works, among which was the widely praised world premiere recording of the composer's Fourteenth Symphony. Many of his recordings earned critical acclaim and won international awards,[citation needed] including:



  • Ivan Khandoshkin: Concerto for Viola & Orchestra (in C Major), Moscow Chamber, Orchestra, Rudolf Barshai conductor and viola Moderato, Canzona: Andante, Rondo: "La Chasse", Allegretto
  • JS Bach, Partita No.2 in D Minor, BWV 1004, Arranged for viola by Rudolf Barshai. Played on Stradivarius viola, recorded in 1960.
  • JS Bach, Brandenburg Concerto no.6 for 2 violas. Moscow Chamber Orchestra, live concert recording at the Moscow Conservatory. Rudolf Barshai, conductor and viola.
  • Rudolf Barshai, solo viola. Accompanied on piano by Vladimir Shreibman, Robert Schuman (1810-1856) Märchenbilder for viola and piano, op.113
  • Sergey Prokofiev (1891-1953) Five pieces from Romeo and Juliet, arranged for viola and piano by R. Barshai
  • Handel/Casadesus viola concerto in B minor (arr. R. Barshai) Moscow Chamber Orchestra, R. Barshai, viola and conductor
  • Glinka, Mikhail Ivanovich (1804-1857), Sonata for Viola and Piano In D minor, Rudolf Barshai, viola Tatiana Nikolayeva, piano


  • Beethoven - String Trio in G, op. 9 No.1, String Trio in C Minor, op.9 No. 3, with Leonid Kogan, M. Rostropovich 1958/1958 Melodiya SUCD 10-00552
  • Glinka - Sonata for Viola and Piano in D minor, with Tatyana Nikolayeva Multisonic 310236
  • Fauré - Piano Quartet No.1 in C, op.15, with Emil Gilels, L. Kogan, M. Rostropovich 1958/1958
  • Shostakovich - String Quartet No.3 in F, op.73, 1954/1955 Russian Revelation RV10016 *P. Tchaikovsky - String Sextet in D minor, Multisonic 310182


  • Albinoni - Concerto for Oboe, Strings & Harpsichord in B flat, Op.7, No.3 Russian Disc RD CD 10 062 J.Baur - Symphony Metamorphose, Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra, 1994 THROFON CTH2270 Beethoven Sym. No. 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 Orchestra based on MCO 1969 - 1975/1970 - 1976
  • Berg - Chamber Concert O.Kagan, S. Richter, All-Union Radio & TV Large Sym.Orchestra 1972/UR J.S.Bach - Brandenburg Con. 1,2,3(Rostropovich,cello,1958),4 (D.Oistrakh,violin,1957),5,6 1973/76 “We're sich Selbst erhöhet”, cantata BWV 47, Pisarenko, Vedernikov, Yurlov Choir 1965/1966 “Gott Soll Allein Mein Herze Haben”, aria from Cantata BWV 68, ”Murre night, Lieber Christ”, aria from Cantata BWV144, ”Erbarme Dich”, aria from “Matthäus Passion” BWV 244, Dolukhanova 1958
  • Revol Bunin – Sym. No.5 op.45 MPO 1968/1970
  • Biber - Sonata a 6 vocal in B flat, T.Dokshitser, trumpet MCO 1968/1970
  • Boccherini - Sym. in E flat MCO 1960/1960
  • Brahms – Symphonies No. 2 & 4, Cologne Radio Sym. Orchestra, 1999, Laurel Record LR-903
  • Britten - Simple Symphony, op.4, MCO 1962/1963
  • Bellini - Oboe Concerto in E flat, E. Nepal, MCO 1968/1970 Russian Disc RD CD 10 062
  • Debussy - Two Dances for Harp & Strings, O. Nardelli 1965/1965
  • Hindemith - Ein Jäger Aus Kurpfalz, op.45 No. 3 MCO 1964/1965
  • Hummel - Trumpet Concerto in E flat, T. Dokshitser MCO 1968/1970 BMG/RCA Victor #32045
  • J. Haydn - Sym. No. 45 ”Farewell”, 94 ”Surprise”, 95, 100 ”Military”, 101 ”Clock”, 102, 104 “London” MCO 1965-1973/1965-1991 Melodiya SUCD 10-00224
  • M.Haydn - Symphony in G MCO 1976/1991
  • Handel - Concerto Grosso op.3 No.4a, op.3 No.5, op.6 No.10, op.6 No.12 1959-1976/1959-1991
  • K.Karaev - Sym. No. 3 MCO 1966/1966
  • Yu.Levitin - Oboe Concerto in E minor, op.50, Nepalo, MCO 1967/1969
  • A.Lokshin - Sym. No. 5, 7, 10, Songs of Margaret, MCO 1971-1976/1971-UR Laurel Record LR-901
  • Mahler - Sym.No.5, Junge Deutsche Philharmonie, 1999 Brilliant Classics
  • Mozart - Sym. 1,10,18,20,22,24,25,28-41, in D, in B flat, in G MCO 1961-1973/1961-1974
  • Mussorgsky - Night on bald Mountain, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra 1989 CBC 2-5083
  • Pergolesi - Stabat Mater, Pisarenko, Arkhipova,Yurlov Choir, MCO, 1966/1966
  • Prokofiev - Visions Fugitives, op.22, Nos. 1-15, arr. Barshai, MCO 1962/1963
  • J. Rääts - Concerto for Strings, op.16 MCO 1963/1963
  • Rachmaninoff –Rhapsody on a theme by Paganini,w/Zeltser, Cologne R.S.Orch. Laurel Record LR-904
  • Shubert - Sym. No.5 in B flat, D485, MCO 1964/1964
  • Shostakovich - Sym. No. 14, op.136, Miroshnikova, Vladimirov MCO 1970/1970
  • Boris Tchaikovsky - Chamber Symphony in G-E MCO 1968/1969
  • P.Tchaikovsky - Sym. No. 6, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, 1989 CBC 2-5083
  • Steven Isserelis (cello), Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra 1986,1987,1989 EMI CDC 7499392
  • Telemann - Concerto for 3 Oboes, 3 Violins & Strings in B flat 1965/1967 EMI 724356534025
  • Torelli - Violin Concerto in A minor, Op.8 No.9 Spivakov, solo MCO1972/1973
  • M. Vainberg - Sym. No.7 Op.81, MCO 1967/1969 OLYMPIA OCD 472
  • Vivaldi - Concerto in G minor RV577, MCO 1971/1971
  • Verdi - Requiem, live in Waldbüne, Berlin, World Symphony Orchestra, Maryland Chorus, Shinyu-Kai Choir, Sveshnikov Choir June 11, 1994; IPPNW-Concerts 2-CD


  1. ^ Obituary, The Globe and Mail
  2. ^ Obituary, The Daily Telegraph, 5 Nov 2010.
  3. ^ Fox, Margalit (2010-11-10). "Rudolf Barshai, Orchestral Conductor, Dies at 86". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-04-14.
  4. ^ David Nice (19 December 2008). "Obituary: Valentin Berlinsky". The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-09-13.
  5. ^ "Дискография | Памяти Рудольфа Баршая". (in Russian). Retrieved 2018-04-01.
  6. ^ 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