A Requiem for Boris Goltz

Memorial commemorating the 900-Day Siege of Leningrad (today again called St. Petersburg) by the Germans during World War II.  From September 1941 to January 1944, more than 600,000 inhabitants of the city died from bombardment, cold and starvation, this despite a major evacuation of women and children as the invaders closed in.  The basic adult ration during the siege: 125 grams (4.4 ounces) of bread per person per day, made from flour mixed with sawdust. In several places along Nevsky Prospekt, the city's most important street, signs posted during the siege are still visible today: "Citizens! During a bombardment, this side of the street is extremely dangerous."
St. Petersburg's Siege of Leningrad Memorial
Today, March 3, marks the 70th anniversary of the untimely death of Soviet composer Boris Goltz. I am all the more honored and excited to try to bring his brief and obscure life to the notice of a few people at my lecture recital tomorrow. I hope to have a recording and transcript available for those who can't make it, but here's an initial sneak peak of my talk.

If you ever happen upon the name Boris Grigorevich Goltz, it will most likely be in conjunction with a story about a promising talent snuffed out by the brutality of the Second World War. He moved with his family from Tashkent, the capital of the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic, to Leningrad when he was thirteen, made his way through the conservatory by playing piano for silent movies (just like Shostakovich), and received encouragement from his teachers to develop his exceptional compositional skills. He graduated in 1938, a year before the USSR entered World War II. By 1942 Goltz was dead, barely 29 years old, having succumbed to malnutrition and exhaustion while working in the crumbling, beleaguered city of Leningrad as a composer of patriotic songs. 
The 24 Preludes were written in 1934 and 1935 during Goltz’s conservatory days. It was these pieces, in fact, which caught the attention of his teachers who convinced the shy, pianist from Uzbekistan to pursue an additional degree in composition. 

The preludes are some of the only surviving examples of this composer's talent, promise, and life. I am very happy to have come across them and to have the opportunity to study, play, analyze, and share them. Here's Podobedov playing his elegiac Prelude 22 in G minor. It rises to quite amazing, celestial heights before coming back down in ambiguous obscurity. Sort of prophetic.

1 comment:

  1. I just got done commemorating the occasion by sight reading all 24 preludes! Don't let the flame go out, Comrades!!!!!!


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