Valentin Zhuk

In the Beginning was the Music…



My father, Isaak Zhuk, was born in 1902 in the city of Poltava in the Ukraine. His parents dreamed that their son would become a rabbi, but this son was entitled to live his own life. Indeed, entitlement and opportunity conspired in Isaak’s formation, for at the beginning of the XXth century Poltava was a cultural, musical city with a symphony orchestra of its very own. At that time, a wonderful violin teacher, Joachim Goldberg, lived and worked in Poltava. (Of his destiny, I know only that he became professor at the Kharkov Conservatory, and in 1941 was shot to death by the Nazis.)


This photo was taken around 1920. Here, Goldberg is presented with his students. Seated, first from the left is my Father.  Standing, second from the left is the famous conductor, Karl Eliasberg.

My father began studying with Goldberg at the age of nine, rather late for a beginning violin student, but he progressed rapidly. There were five children in the Zhuk family, and all got on in life, graduating from universities or colleges. His sister, Vera, became an engineer and Clara, a biologist.  Brothers Boris and Alexander became a neurologist and composer respectively.


This is a group of provincial young people in the 1920s. In the middle figure my father and my mother, Alexandra, to whom I am indebted for collecting and preserving our family archive among other of her accomplishments.

In the mid-1920s, Father moved to Leningrad. He started study at the Leningrad Conservatory with Professor Sergei Korguev, a pupil of the celebrated Leopold Auer, creator of the Russian school of violin playing. After a while, Professor Korguev told him: “I advise you to go to Moscow.” “A young, gifted pedagogue, my former student Abram Yampolsky has just obtained a chair at the Moscow Conservatory.” Thus, my father became a student of Yampolsky.


Content copyright 2004© Valentin Zhuk. All rights reserved.