Борис Бурда
Author: Boris Burda
Journalist, writer, bard. Winner of the "Diamond Owl" intellectual game "What? Where? When?"
Liberal ArtsNomina
7 minutes for reading

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Busya (Boris) Goldstein from Odessa (Ukraine) – the world famous violin prodigy

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Busya (Boris) Goldstein from Odessa (Ukraine) - the world famous violin prodigy
Share material


It is not important to be a child prodigy to achieve a lot. Edison was asked to take him out of school like a moron, George Eastman, the founder of the Kodak company, dropped out of school after his father’s death, Pasteur had to repeat a year at school, the Nobel prize winner was expelled from school because of bad marks – and still …

True, it is also possible for a luminary to be a child prodigy. Norbert Wiener titled the first book of his memoirs with noticeable irony: Ex-Prodigy. A person who laid the foundations of such an important science as cybernetics, and gave it its name, can be a little ironic …

There are also prodigies-meteorites – flashed and burned. I remember the idol of our generation, the performer of Italian songs – as a child he was famous all over the world, and from concerts of an adult many had a mixed feeling of bewilderment and awkwardness … Unsuccessful breaking of the voice?

And with the person I want to talk about, not everything is completely clear. In childhood and adolescence, his fame was enormous, and then suddenly it was cut off – they began to treat with contempt and brought him down to almost an ordinary level. It’s not about talent – having escaped abroad, he quickly regained his fame.

Who made this decision, there is no point in arguing – our dear government, unlimited, uncontested and shameless. One can argue about the reasons – either incipient anti-Semitism, or anonymous denunciation, or something else … But first the facts.




The foundations of the future profession, that is, practically the whole life of Boris Goldstein, who was born in the last year of the civil war, was laid in the city of his birth, Odessa, where becoming a musician is perhaps easier than not becoming – they are forced to study music almost without fail.

Another aggravating circumstance in terms of playing music is being born into a fairly educated Jewish family of average income. His parents, first the owners of a private gymnasium, and later an accountant and a masseuse, sent both his brother and his sister to study music.

And it was absolutely important for the choice of music as a vocation to live in the same city with Pyotr Stolyarsky, the legendary music teacher. When they brought five-year-old Busya Goldstein to Stolyarsky (there is also such a diminutive from the name Boris), he remembered this and said later: “I immediately noticed that Busya has three main advantages – wonderful fingers, excellent hearing and an excellent sense of rhythm.”

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Busya (Boris) Goldstein from Odessa (Ukraine) - the world famous violin prodigy
His teacher Pyotr Stolyarsky/wiki2.net




In 1930, the Goldstein family moved to the capital in order to give the best education to their children (in comparison with the Stolyarsky school? Well, well …). A spacious Odessa apartment had to be exchanged for a small and cramped Moscow one, not big  enough for five family members.

Difficulties arose not only for the Goldstein family – their neighbors, who had to hear music from morning to evening, suffered quite badly. There were two violinists in the family: Busya and his older brother Misha, sister Henrietta was a pianist – and everyone had to play for hours!

Busya was admitted to a special group of gifted children at the Moscow Conservatory, from which the famous Central Music School was later formed – the Central Music School in Moscow. He came to Professor Yampolsky’s class and began working on complex music programs.

But the professor did not find a common language with Busya’s mother, a typical mother of a child prodigy. He insisted that the child must attend all classes according to the school curriculum and give concerts only during the holidays and during the time free from school. Mom was against it!

She said: “The prodigy is obliged to play concerts! Children with more modest abilities should attend classes. Yehudi Menuhin does not go to school, but performs at concerts! ” As a result, Busya moved to the class of Professor Zeitlin, who better took into account the opinion of his mother.

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Busya (Boris) Goldstein from Odessa (Ukraine) - the world famous violin prodigy
His teacher Professor Zeitlin/wikipedia.org




The young violinist was immediately recognized as a phenomenon – there is no other word to be found. Suffice it to say that, in spite of his age, he was given a three-fourths violin made by Antonio Stradivari from the State Collection of Ancient Instruments – a great honor even for older people.

On the day of his tenth anniversary, Busya plays a Mendelssohn concert in the Column Hall of the House of Unions. And when he was 11 years old, the First All-Union Competition of Music Performers was held, to which he was not allowed due to his youth, but was allowed to perform out of competition.

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Busya (Boris) Goldstein from Odessa (Ukraine) - the world famous violin prodigy
Stradivarius violin from the collection of the Royal Palace of Madrid/wikipedia.org

He played so brightly that a special resolution was adopted by the Council of People’s Commissars on rewarding him with a cash prize of 5,000 rubles. At the concert of the winners, where he also performed, Stalin was present, who after the concert invited the little virtuoso to his box.

Then the story happened that is most often remembered in connection with Busya Goldstein. The first option is that Stalin jokingly said: “You received a big prize, perhaps you will be so arrogant that you will not invite me to visit?” Resourceful Busya replied: “I would gladly invite you, but we live in such a cramped apartment …” They were given an apartment the next day.

The second option is associated not with Stalin, but with Kalinin – allegedly at the instigation of his mother at the presentation of the awards, he told him: “Grandpa Kalinin, come and visit us!” And then the cry of Busya’s mother came from the audience: “Busya, you’re out of your mind! We live in a communal apartment! ” The ending is the same – an apartment in the center of Moscow was given the next day.

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Busya (Boris) Goldstein from Odessa (Ukraine) - the world famous violin prodigy
Quite a child/facebook.com

There are probably other variants of this story, but these two came across to me most often. I don’t even see any reason to get to the bottom of which one is true – folklore is not a document, accuracy is not required in it. But this story conveys a lot: both the talent of its hero and the spirit of his era.




A variety of nomenclature benefits and privileges fell on the young talent. Then in the USSR, cars were just beginning to appear – they were practically not sold to ordinary citizens. And Busya, or rather his mother, got a car with a driver at her disposal!

In April 1934, the great violinist Jascha Heifets arrived in the USSR. Many young talents wanted him to listen to them, but Heifetz demanded that they simply play the usual scales for him, and after listening to them he refused them all. Except Busya Goldstein.

He not only listened to the scales in his performance, but also listened to his large program, which in many respects coincided with that played by Heifetz himself. The great violinist was so impressed that he offered to take Busya with him for a year for studies and concerts. But the authorities did not allow them to do this.

In 1935, the Wieniawski International Violin Competition was held in Poland. On it Oistrakh took the second place, Busya – the fourth. Oistrakh also wrote a note to Komsomolskaya Pravda entitled “The Brilliant Game of Busya Goldstein” and called his performance a triumph.

And in 1937, at the famous Brussels competition named after Eugene Ysaye, Busya again took the fourth place, and Oistrakh – the first. Even before the announcement of the results, Busya was offered a concert in Brussels, and there were so many people who wanted to listen to him that 300 additional chairs were put in the hall.


By joining the Huxleў friends club, you support philosophy, science and art




But not everything was cloudless. The refusal to let Busya go to study with Heifetz was only the first call. In 1939, several Soviet musicians, including him, were invited to perform in the United States at the World Exhibition. His candidacy for the USSR was struck off the list.

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Busya (Boris) Goldstein from Odessa (Ukraine) - the world famous violin prodigy
Young and handsome/kino-teatr.ru

The war began. Busya, like many others, continuously performed at concerts with front-line brigades. In 1943, he spent more than six months at the bases of the Northern Fleet, constantly speaking, and he was expelled from the conservatory by order of its then rector Vissarion Shebalin “for untimely passing the exam in the” Short course in the history of the CPSU (b) “!

Nobody wanted to hear all the appeals of Goldstein and his teacher Professor Zeitlin. Only after Shebalin was removed from his position, the new rector Sveshnikov allowed him to recover, and he graduated from the conservatory in 1953 – having already achieved world fame!

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Busya (Boris) Goldstein from Odessa (Ukraine) - the world famous violin prodigy
Gnessin Institute/culture.ru

He was also not destined to become a professor at the university he graduated from. After long humiliating efforts, he was accepted as a teacher at the Gnessin Pedagogical Institute, where he worked for 20 years, having trained many talented musicians during that time.

He did not record a single record until Shostakovich personally indignantly asked the director of Melody Vladimirsky why it was so. He replied that he had been looking for Goldstein for a long time, but could not find him … For some reason, they immediately found him, recorded two records – and that was all!

From 1941 to 1974, Goldstein worked as a soloist of the Moscow Philharmonic – this is 33 years! And during all this time, performing more than a hundred times every year, he only went on tours abroad twice – in 1955 to Greece and Bulgaria and in 1958 to Hungary. But in the USSR, most of his concerts were held in Siberia, Central Asia and the Far East. So they decided from above.

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Busya (Boris) Goldstein from Odessa (Ukraine) - the world famous violin prodigy
One of the few records




What is the reason for such a change in attitude towards Goldstein on the part of the Soviet establishment – I cannot say with certainty. The rising tide of anti-Semitism at that time could have played a role – other Jewish violinists then also began to get into trouble.

However, it could have been different – when everything is decided behind the scenes and secretly, discrediting a person is easier than ever. To make terrible decisions in such conditions, one anonymous and completely unsubstantiated denunciation may be enough. Yes, it happened so often …

The saddest thing was that it was impossible to deal with such an obvious injustice. What to complain about? After all, he is not accused of anything – only tours are not offered, records are not released, some things are simply forbidden to play. So what?

The only thing he could do was run away from everuthing. When emigration began in the early 70s, he took advantage of this difficult and unpleasant option. Probably, he collected papers and rented out an apartment, and was present at the meeting condemning his deed …



Since 1974 he has been living in Germany. Then there was no migration quota and, consequently, no official assistance for emigrants from the USSR was there. He was not able to find a job right away – an attempt to get a job as a teacher at the Vienna Higher School of Music failed.

There are curious recollections of his fellow practitioner about how Richter’s wife Nina Dorliak said in her presence: “While we are going to Germany, Busya Goldstein will not make a career there.” What could it mean? External pressure? It seems that he was not left alone in Germany either.

Nevertheless, Goldstein survived the difficulties of the first months of emigration and in 1976 won an open competition for the position of professor at the Würzburg Higher School of Music – with such brilliance that he was accepted even without the usual open lesson in such cases – the “master class”.

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Busya (Boris) Goldstein from Odessa (Ukraine) - the world famous violin prodigy

He did not limit himself to teaching – he recorded discs, continued active concert activity, and with constant success. Since 1981, he has repeatedly given concerts in an ensemble with his daughter Yulia, and has been invited to the jury of international competitions.




The Goldstein House in Germany was well known by many of his emigrant colleagues – primarily as a place where the owner always helps. Many of them lived with him until they settled down – some for literally months. One of them called his house a “staging post”.

He helped many find jobs – he listened to them and immediately understood where it was worth talking about this person. Sometimes he got into the car with the person and drove several hundred kilometers, represented the person, asked for him, and in the end achieved the desired result.

Telling whom he suited and whom Busya helped is a long and largely unknown business. For example, one emigrant recalled how a man came to Israel and brought a large sum of money for him from Busya. At the same time, the emigrant assures that there was not even a hint on his part.

The most difficult thing was sending medicines to friends in the USSR – they were expensive, it was impossible to send them by mail, which means that it was only necessary to transfer them personally – for example, through familiar musicians. He drove with the medicine to the city where his friends were on tour – sometimes the trip was more expensive than the medicine itself. If you forget about the time spent …




Unfortunately, from all this difficult life, his health deteriorated. In June 1987 he wrote: “I have signed a contract for two concerts with the Salt Lake City Orchestra (conducted by Joseph Silverstein), but, unfortunately, I will have to refuse due to a serious leg disease. Sitting down, I can’t play. I already went to get treatment, until nothing helped … “

On March 17, 1987, Boris Goldstein’s last performance took place at the Gerard Behar theater in Jerusalem. In the land of Israel, he played with particular excitement. He played his favorite works – Mozart, Frank, Bloch, Beethoven, many “encores”, mainly Kreisler.

On November 8, 1987, having lived on earth for only 64 years, he left this world. Does it mean that nothing of what he has done will reach us? Fortunately, no – and it’s not just the surviving recordings of his works (two of them I present here – listen to them if you want).


Violin Concerto No. 1 Mendelssohn-Bartholdi.


Kreisler, song without words.


Quite recently, in Odessa, another presentation of the Odessa Academy of Classical Music took place, in which young Ukrainian talents are taught by the best violinists of Europe. Five wonderful young violinists received a brilliant master class from maestro Kirill Trusov.

What does Busya Goldstein have to do with it? And what has it to do with it – Kirill Trusov studied with the great violinist and teacher Zakhar Bron, and he was taught by Busya Goldstein. So Kirill Trusov is Goldstein’s grandson in the creative line, and young violinists are great-grandchildren. So we enjoy the results of his work not only in recordings, but also to some extent directly.

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Busya (Boris) Goldstein from Odessa (Ukraine) - the world famous violin prodigy
Goldstein’s musical grandson and great-granddaughter/facebook.com

Five finalists of the Academy competition – Erica Cherkez from Chernivtsi, Maria Kostogryz from Kharkov and three people from Kiev: Irina Borisova, Natalka Totovitskaya and Ilya Bondarenko – became the musical great-grandchildren of Busya Goldstein at the master class. And Maria Kostogryz became the winner of their competition and will now receive a master class from Zakhar Bron – that is, she will turn out to be Busya Goldstein’s musical granddaughter and great-granddaughter at the same time. In music, this is possible …

By joining the Huxleў friends club, you support philosophy, science and art
Share material

Spelling error report

The following text will be sent to our editors: