MARIA YUDINA (1899-1970)
Russian Pianist

Dmitri Shostakovich and Vladimir Sofronitsky were Maria Yudina's classmates at the Petrograd Conservatory. She studied with Anna Yesipova and Felix Blumenfeld. And yet, I had not heard of her. Heinrich Neuhaus recommended her for a position on the faculty of the Moscow Conservatory, Sviatoslav Richter called her "immensely talented". Yet she was hidden behind Soviet Russia's iron curtain during her lifetime and was unknown to what is now a rapidly growing and wildly enthusiastic international audience.

Maria Yudina was a remarkable woman of unimaginable courage who knew her own mind and was not afraid to use it, or speak it. She once said while cleaning up after dinner, "I've got two enemies in this world - crumbs and the Soviet Power. I want to have heaven above my head." She was a passionate Christian; an advocate of modern Western music including the works of Bela Bartok, Paul Hindemith, Ernst Krenek, Igor Stravinsky, and les enfants terribles of the 1950s, Karlheinz Stockhausen and Pierre Boulez; a supporter of modern Russian writers and poets; and an outspoken critic of the crushing political system under which she lived her entire adult life.

In his Memoirs, Dimitri Shostakovitch wrote that living under Soviet rule was like living in an insane asylum. On numerous occasions, Maria Yudina was banned from public performance, relieved of her teaching positions, and forbidden to make recordings.

It is certain that because Stalin adored her playing, reportedly her playing would bring tears to his eyes, she suffered much less than she otherwise would have at the hands of one of history's most murderous tyrants. Even after she donated the money she received upon being awarded the Stalin Prize to the Russian Orthodox Church for "perpetual prayers for Stalin's sins", she was left relatively untouched.

Maria Yudina was most highly praised for her performances of the great German classics, her playing of Bach, which was anticipatory of Glenn Gould's approach, Mozart, and Beethoven. And while her interpretations of Romantic piano music were considered impressive, she was accused by Richter and others of not playing what was written in her performances of Brahms, Liszt, Chopin, and even Schubert. Who cares? It's beautiful playing. Listen to her performance of Schubert's late Bb major sonata. Stylistically, it's all wrong, and I love it!

Happily, her admirers have made a great many of Maria Yudina's recordings available to us on YouTube. You can judge for yourselves.

On this page she plays the music of Russian and "modern" composers.  On related pages she plays Bach, Schumann, Liszt, Brahms and Debussy, and Beethoven, and Mozart, Haydn and Schubert.

And here are live recordings of several of her complete recitals.

Mussorgsky  Pictures at an Exhibition

1 Promenade - 2 Gnomus
3 Promenade - 4 Il Vecchio Castello
5 Promenade - 6 Tuileries

7 Bydlo - 8 Promenade
9 Ballet of the Chicks in their Shells
10 Samuel Goldenburg and Schmuyle

11 The Marketplace at Limoges
12 Catacombae, Sepulchrum Romanum
13 Con Mortuis In Lingua Mortua

14 The Hut on Fowl's Legs
15 The Great Gate at Kiev

Mussorgsky   from "Children's Recollections"

recorded in 1949

"Duma" (Reverie)

"Une larme" (A tear)

Mussorgsky Scherzo in C minor

recorded in 1950

Mussorgsky-Kamensky  Three pieces on the themes from Boris Godunov
1 The Holy Fool - 2 The Bell Ringing - 3 Glory

recorded 1969

Glazunov  Prelude and Fugue in D minor, Op 62

recorded in 1951

Scriabin  from 10 Preludes, Op 11
N° 2, 4, 5, 9, 10, 13, 15, 17, 22

recorded in 1952


Nikolai Medtner  Piano Sonata "Triad" Op 11 (1906)

Recorded in 1958

i Allegro ma non troppo in Ab Major

ii Sonata-Elegy. Andante molto espressivo in D minor

iii Moderato passione innocente in C major

Bartok  from Mikrokosmos

N° 128-132-137-142-144-145-146-149

N° 125-126-128-129-130-131-133-136-138-139

Stravinsky  Piano Sonata (1924)

recorded in 1962

Stravinsky  Serenade in A
1 Hymne - 2 Romanza - 3 Rondoletto - 4 Cadenza Finale

recorded in 1962

Szymanowski  from Nine Preludes, Op 1

recorded in 1956

1 in B minor: Andante non troppo - 2 in D minor: Andante con moto
3 in D major: Andantino - 4 in B minor: Andantino con moto
5 in D minor: Allegro molto

6 in A minor: Lento - 7 in C minor: Moderato
8 in E minor: Andante ma non troppo - 9 in B minor: Andante ma non troppo

Alban Berg  Piano Sonata, Op 1

recorded in 1964

Yuri Shaporin  Piano sonata 2
i Allegro agitato, alla toccata - ii Andante (09:19) - iii Finale. Moderato assai (17:33)

recorded in 1959

Martinu  "The Fifth Day of the Fifth Moon" H 318

recorded in 1961

Martinu  "Les Bouquinistes du quai Malaquais" H 319

recorded in 1961

Prokofiev Visions Fugitives Op 22

recorded in 1953

1 Lentamente - 2 Andante - 3 Allegretto - 4 Animato - 5 Molto giocoso

6 Con eleganza - 7 Pittoresco (Arpa) - 8 Comodo
9 Allegro tranquillo - 10 Ridicolosamente - 11 Con vivacità

Paul Hindemith  Piano Sonata 3

Ernst Krenek  Sonata 2, Op 59
i Allegretto. Moderato comodo - ii Alla marcia, energico - iii Finale. Allegro giocoso

recorded in 1961

Shostakovich  Piano Sonata 2 in B minor, Op 61 (1943)
i Allegretto - ii Largo - iii Moderato

recorded in 1965

Below are wonderful examples of Maria Yudina playing with others.  She was formidable in works for two pianos, chamber works of all kinds, and of course, as a soloist with orchestra.

Tchaikovsky  Piano Concerto 1 in B minor, Op 23
Nathan Rachlin conducting the Kiev Philarmonic

recorded live in 1954

ia Allegro non troppo e molto maestoso

Sergei Taneyev  Piano Quartet, Op 20
i Allegro brillante - ii Adagio più tosto largo (12:03) - iii Finale. Allegro molto (21:26)

recorded in 1953 with members of the Beethoven String Quartet
Dmitri Tsyganov - Vadim Borisovsky - Sergei Shirinsky

Stravinsky  Concerto for piano and winds
i Largo - Allegro - ii  Largo (07:37) - iii Allegro (14:15)
Gennady Rozhdestvensky conducting the USSR State Radio & TV Symphony Orchestra

recorded in 1962

Stravinsky  Circus Polka for a Young Elephant for two pianos

with Maria Drozdova, piano

Prokofiev  Sonata for Cello and Piano in C major, Op 119

recorded in 1966 with Lev Evgrafov, Cello

i Andante grave

ii Moderato

iii Allegro ma non troppo

Hindemith  Sonata for Viola and Piano in F major, Op 11 ~4 (1919)
i Fantasie. Ruhig - ii Thema mit variationen. Ruhig und einfach wie ein Volkslied - iii Finale. Sehr lebhaft

recorded live in 1960 with Fyodor Druzhinin, Viola

Lutosławski  Variations on a Theme by Paganini for Two Pianos

recorded in 1954 with Maria Drodzova

For those of you who enjoy murder mysteries, here is my first with a strong musical polemic as background

Murder in the House of the Muse

which is also available as an audiobook.

And this is the more recently published second mystery in the series:

Murder Follows the Muse

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