Barshai (Borisovich), Rudolf
BARSHAI (Borisovich), RUDOLF
BARSHAI (Borisovich), RUDOLF (1924– ), conductor, founder and leader of the Moscow Chamber Orchestra, viola soloist and orchestrator. Barshai was born in Stanitza Labinskaja in Russia. His grandfather was a high-ranking Cossack officer of the Subbotnik (Seventh Day Adventist) sect who had married a Jewish woman. During World War ii his father fled to Central Asia and finally to the Moscow area. There, at the age of 15, Barshai started to play the violin. He entered the Special School for Musicians and later the Moscow Conservatory, where he became a pupil of the famous violinist Lew Zeitlin. He played the viola in the orchestra of the Bolshoi Theater and was a co-founder of the Borodin Quartet and the founder and leader of the Moscow Chamber Orchestra, which toured the world during the 1960s and 1970s. His soloists were Maria Judina, Svjatoslav Richter, David *Oistrach, and other well-known Russian musicians as well as Yehudi *Menuhin. Barshai and his orchestra produced numerous highly acclaimed recordings.
In 1967 Barshai begun to conduct major orchestras in the U.S.S.R. and in 1969 he conducted the premiere of Shostakovich's 14th Symphony. He made numerous transcriptions for small orchestra, notably of Shostakovitch's String Quartet No 8, Prokofiev's piano suite Visions fugitives, Bach's Kunst der Fuge, and Mahler's Symphony No 10. In 1976, Barshai decided to immigrate to Israel, where he worked with the Israel Chamber Orchestra. He then moved on to England, where he became chief conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. Subsequently he settled in Switzerland, touring the world and conducting well-known orchestras. He is the last of a generation of conductors with a singular and deep understanding of the great Viennese tradition of music.