Today's Memory

Today’s Memory – Gregor Piatigorsky

Gregor PiatigorskyGregor Piatigorsky

April 17, 1903, Ekaterinoslav (now Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine) – August 6, 1976, Los Angeles, California, United States


Gregor Piatigorsky was a Russian-born American cellist. As a child, he was taught violin and piano by his father, but after seeing and hearing the cello, he determined to become a cellist.

He was 13 when the Russian Revolution took place. Shortly afterwards he started playing in the Lenin Quartet.  At 15 he was hired as the principal cellist for the Bolshoi Theater. The Soviet authorities would not allow him to travel abroad to further his studies, so he smuggled himself and his cello into Poland on a cattle train with a group of artists. One of the women was a heavy-set soprano who, when the border guards started shooting at them, grabbed Piatigorsky and his cello. The cello did not survive intact, but it was the only casualty.

Now 18, he studied briefly in Berlin and Leipzig, with Hugo Becker and Julius Klengel, playing in a trio in a Russian café to earn money for food. Among the patrons of the café were Emanuel Feuermann and Wilhelm Furtwängler, who heard him and hired him as the principal cellist of the Berlin Philharmonic.

In 1929, he first visited the United States, playing with the Philadelphia Orchestra under Leopold Stokowski and the New York Philharmonic under Willem Mengelberg. In 1937 he married Jacqueline de Rothschild, daughter of Édouard Alphonse James de Rothschild of the wealthy Rothschild banking family of France. Following the Nazi occupation in World War II, the family fled the country back to the States and settled in Elizabethtown, New York, in the Adirondack Mountains.

He owned two Stradivarius cellos, the „Batta” and the „Baudiot.” According to, Piatigorsky also owned the famous „Montagnana” cello known as the Sleeping Beauty from 1939 to 1951

More on:

William Walton – Cello Concerto (1957)


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