The Soviet authorities were ruthless to any one whom they viewed as an enemy of the state, but they could be very tolerant and even generous to loyal and useful persons. Thus Stalin patronized the Bolshoi Theatre. A fervent admirer of the Russian opera “Ivan Susanin,” he attended all performances when his favorite bass, Michailov, was singing. The director of the Bolshoi Theatre gave my father the following account: Once, after a performance, Stalin called for him and inquired about the monthly wages accorded the orchestra’s musicians. The amount reported displeased Stalin, and he ordered it doubled. So it was that the orchestra of the Bolshoi Theatre instantly became the most highly paid of the USSR.
My father was decorated with the Order in 1938, an unusual award for an artist. Despite the fact that he never joined the Communist Party, he was elected to the local municipal committee. Prior to World War II, when the Ministry of the Interior erected a new apartment house for its employees, Beria, as chief of the Ministry, donated a few, finely built apartments to the Bolshoi Theatre. As a result of Father’s musical gifts and Beria’s predilections, we became next-door neighbors with KGB officers.
It was around that time that my future vocation became clear. By my sixth birthday, father no longer doubted that I had perfect pitch, nor did I. I received a violin and a bow, and these were to accompany me through life.
author at age six.