By 1926, my father was admitted to the Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra and rose to the position of concertmaster several years later. I don’t know whose idea it was to create the Quartet but as early as December 11, 1931, a first concert of the “Quartet of the Soloists of the Bolshoi Theatre” took place at Beethoven Hall in Moscow. So it was that four musicians of the Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra- my father on first violin, Boris Veltman as second violinist, Moris Gurvich on viola, Isaak Buravsky as cellist- united to form a string quartet officially titled, The State Quartet GABT. GABT was the abbreviation for the Bolshoi and, subsequently, the Quartet was often informally referred to as “gabtovtzi.”
The Quartet won recognition in 1938 when it was awarded first prize at the All-Union Competition. An article published in the Moscow newspaper of November 2, 1938 gave the young Quartet proper appreciation wherein its author, none other than Dmitri Shostakovich, wrote: “The artists of the Bolshoi Quartet are notable for their individual qualities and as a whole present an excellent ensemble that shows high musical culture. Their performance of Debussy’s quartet was excellent, and equally outstanding was their Haydn.” “Since Haydn’s and Mozart’s pieces are commonly the weakest spot in the repertoire of string quartets, this performance is noteworthy.”
In the 1930s, the Quartet became widely known due to regular radio broadcasting. As there was but one radio station at that time, those artists heard on the air regularly became celebrities. Broadcasts of The Bolshoi Quartet’s live performances or recordings were heard with such frequency that the names of its four members began blending, sounding as one name in the ears of listeners who heard “Zhukveltmangurvichburavsky.” More than once it happened that when I said my name publicly, I was asked:” Is your father that famous Zhukveltmangurvichburavsky?”The status of the Quartet was, in fact, very high. A list of some of the musicians who would join the Quartet to form a Quintet or a Sextet is telling: pianists Alexander Goldenveizer, Maria Yudina, Lev Oborin, Emil Gilels,Grigory Ginzbug, Sviatoslav Richter. Violist Rudolf Barshai and cellists Sviatoslav Knushevitsky and Mstislav Rostropovich number among them. Many a time Dmitri Shostakovich himself performed when the group featured his Quintet for Piano.
Dmitri Shostakovich and the Bolshoi Quartet after rehearsal.
The Quartet made a number of recordings with Rosa Tamarkina, a superb pianist and an exceptional beauty. My father fell passionately in love with her, but she died tragically at 29 and in his arms.
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