Gregor Piatigorsky

The Life and Career of the Virtuoso Cellist


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About the Book

Forced to provide for his family from the age of 8 and thrown out of his home into a bitter Moscow winter at age 12, cellist Gregor Piatigorsky began his career as an archetypal struggling artist, using secondhand and borrowed instruments. When the October Revolution forced his escape to Warsaw, he enjoyed initial success with the Warsaw Philharmonic. Relocating to Berlin a few months later, he again struggled in poverty before eventually emerging as solo cellist with the Berlin Philharmonic. Settling in the United States during World II, Piatigorsky continued a brilliant career that cemented his place as one of the twentieth century’s greatest musicians. This all-embracing chronicle of Piatigorsky’s tempestuous life and career finally reveals the full life story of a musical legend.

About the Author(s)

A Grammy-nominated cellist who studied under Piatigorsky, Terry King teaches at the Hartt School at the University of Hartford and at the Longy School of Music. He also directs Lyricafest, a summer chamber music festival for college and conservatory students.

Bibliographic Details

Terry King
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 368
Bibliographic Info: 95 photos, appendices, notes, filmography, discography, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2010
pISBN: 978-0-7864-4635-3
eISBN: 978-0-7864-5626-0
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      ix
Preface 1
Introduction 3

1. Early Years, 1903–1920      5
2. New Frontiers, 1921      22
3. Nomad to Success      40
4. America, Rachmaninoff, Strauss and Stravinsky 62
5. Paris, 1932–1933      82
6. World’s Busiest Cellist      96
7. Jacqueline      115
8. Prokofiev, Hindemith and Teaching      127
9. The War Years      145
10. The 1950s: Los Angeles      169
11. The 1960s and the Heifetz-Piatigorsky Partnership      186
12. Academe’s Bizarre World      206


A Guide to the Discography and Filmography      295
Appendix A: Discography      296
Appendix B: Live Performances      312
Appendix C: Performance Filmography      319
Appendix D: Interviews and Miscellaneous Appearances on Radio and Television      321
Appendix E: Publications      323
Appendix F : Piatigorsky’s Original Compositions, Arrangements and Transcriptions Recorded by Other Cellists      328

Chapter Notes      333
Bibliography      349
Index      353

Book Reviews & Awards

  • Finalist, ARSC Award for Excellence
  • “recommended”—Choice
  • “indispensable read”—Strings
  • “a comprehensive and detailed tribute…thoroughly researched…this tremendous work of scholarship is rich in history”—Polish Music Newsletter
  • “Gregor Piatigorsky was one of the most fascinating and charismatic people I have ever encountered. His story, by turns tragic and exhilarating, is unique. It is wonderful that Terry King has now chronicled the personal and musical life of this amazing personality.”—Steven Isserlis, cellist
  • “This is what we have long been waiting for: a book that finally puts the Great Piatigorsky in historical context. Terry King’s amazing research and schloarship enlivens the subject and enlightens his readers; a superb achievement deserving of the deepest bows.”—Nathaniel Rosen, cellist; “What a great service you have done to the cello world! It is fascinating to read and learn so much of his pre–America life, too!”—Lynn Harrell, cellist
  • “Terry King has given all of us a great gift—a very personal and loving look into the life of one of the greatest artists and most colorful personalities in music history.”—William Pruecil, violinist and concert master of the Cleveland Orchestra
  • “Terry King’s book on the life of Gregor Piatigorsky is exceptional in its balancing of personal affection and experience with carefully researched and documented details of the colorful career of one of the undisputed musical giants of the twentieth century. It offers the reader a rare opportunity to consider the evolving culture of concert life in a rich vein spanning more than fifty years as it affected, and was influenced by the activities of this great artist. Gregor Piatigorsky was my boyhood idol, and it was particularly moving to get to know him better through the well-focused lens of Terry King’s perceptive and sympathetic account of his life.”—Ralph Kirschbaum, cellist
  • “I was amazed at such a mass of information…it was like reading about my father for the first time.”—Dr. Joram Piatigorsky (Gregor’s son)
  • “I am so happy that Terry King has written this informative and often touching account of my husband’s life as a cellist and great artist. He has beautifully and painstakingly given us all a treasured gift with this work. I am deeply grateful for the contribution it makes to our family and music lovers throughout the world.”—Jacqueline Piatigorsky (Gregor’s wife)