Return of 'the nonreturnee': Kazan to recall the name of Youri Egorov at open piano competition
The native of Tatarstan's capital turned out to be more well-known in Amsterdam than at home, but the Conservatoire in Kazan is going to fix it
The piano competition named after Youri Egorov has opened in Kazan. The native of Kazan, who was compared to Horowitz, was one of the first 'nevozvrashchentsy' [the Russian term for citizens of the USSR who refused to return to their country from the trips abroad], and his name was deliberately erased from the memory of the public. Nevertheless, in Europe Egorov is still an idol. The Kazan Conservatoire has decided to revive the name of the great pianist. Read the details in the material of Realnoe Vremya.
''It is forbidden in Russia to perform some composers''
Youri Egorov was born in Kazan in 1954, his talent as a pianist was noticed already in the early years of music lessons. He graduated with honour from the special school at the Kazan State Conservatoire learning from a renowned teacher, still alive Irina Dubinina. He easily entered the Moscow State Conservatoire in the class of Yakov Zak.
Then it began his stellar career — Egorov was among the winners in the three most prestigious for pianists international competitions — the Marguerite Long-Jacques Thibaud Competition (1971), the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow (1974) and the Queen Elisabeth International Music Competition of Belgium (1975).
Egorov lives in Moscow, his life is not perfectly arranged, but he is invited to perform on the world's best stages. Before one of the tours, it was in 1975, he suddenly arrives in Kazan to his relatives, they noted that he was a little sad, a little excited. They said goodbye as usual, seemed to be for a while. But after a few weeks on tour in Italy Youri Yegorov suddenly asks for political asylum and becomes a 'nevozvrashchents', a 'defector'.
He is helped to stay in the West, his name speaks for itself, offers from impresarios go one after the other. The political aspect only heightens the interest to the pianist. He chooses the Netherlands as the place of residence, he settles in Amsterdam.
In an interview, Youri Egorov explained the reasons for his act the following way, ''It is impossible to live in Russia. It's funny that there are some books you can't read or just can't play some music — for example, by Schoenberg or Stockhausen, it is considered to be a decadent art. I had to hide, and I hate it.'' It was too tight for the musician in the Procrustean bed of Soviet dogma.
Having stayed in the West, Egorov, besides touring, continues to participate in competitions. He is wholly competitive pianist. His performance at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition was not quite smooth — this was the opinion of the jury. Alas, he didn't get in the final this time. But the audience is so delighted with his play that they collect 10,000 dollars and hands the sum to the Russian pianist – this amount is equivalent to the reward for 1st place. He comes as the winner here again.
He is invited to perform in the best halls. In 1978, Youri Egorov successfully debuts in Carnegie hall. The record companies sign contracts with him — he writes the music of Schubert, Schumann, Chopin, Debussy, Mozart. He is called to be a new Horowitz.
Yuri Yegorov was given a short age. He died in 1988 in Amsterdam after a long illness, asking to apply euthanasia. In the Soviet Union at that time the orders already began to change, and the relatives were allowed to him, with whom he could see again before his death.
''In the West he is better known than in Russia''
''The competition named after Youri Egorov has been held in Kazan for the second time, the first one was more of a trial balloon. Now, the contest has received the status of open all-Russian. We now have three age groups – school, college and conservatoire. The age is limited to twenty-five years old,'' says Yevgeny Mikhailov, a jury member, Professor at the Kazan Conservatoire, winner of many international competitions.
He says that he was amazed that in the Netherlands Egorov is known more than in Russia. In the Homeland the attitude as to a 'defector' played its role. ''People came to me and said, ''How great it is that you are from Kazan, from the city as Egorov is. We still enjoy his records.'' Kazan still has not had a musician of such magnitude. Egorov considered himself to be a Kazan native when learning from Zak, he came to Kazan and continued to work with Irina Dubinina,'' Yevgeny Mikhailov says.
It should be clarified that another outstanding pianist also started in Kazan — Mikhail Pletnev, people's artist of Russia, laureate of the state prize of Tatarstan, winner of the Tchaikovsky competition and many other international competitions. But he moved to Moscow to study at the Central music school on the sixth grade, in contrast to Egorov, thus losing the connection with the Kazan piano school. Although Mikhail consistently emphasizes his warm attitude to Kazan and likes to come here on tour.
''We feel ashamed to forget his name''
The idea to hold a competition named after Youri Egorov and thus to return the lost name originated in the piano department of the Kazan Conservatoire. One of the initiators and the main driving force is Professor Elfiya Burnasheva, the head of the department. The status of the Kazan contest has changed this year, it has become open, i.e. it is open to foreigners. For example, they have already received applications from musicians from China.
''Being in Amsterdam, I was upset by that they have a competition named after Youri Yegorov, and it has a long-standing tradition. But this competition is national, for those who study there. Egorov is a national hero in the Netherlands. And I felt we should be ashamed to forget his name,'' Evgeny Mikhailov comments.
The contest is partially funded by the ministry of culture of Tatarstan, the budget is not disclosed. According to unofficial data, the prize fund is about three hundred thousand rubles. This year's jury is very respectful. Outstanding pianist Eliso Virsaladze immediately agreed to lead it.
''Virsaladze was on tour in Kazan a year ago. As soon as she learned about the contest, she immediately agreed, she said that she was agree on any conditions, because the memory of Youri Yegorov was sacred for her,'' Yevgeny Mikhailov says. In addition to Eliso Virsaladze, the jury consists of rector of the Kazan State Conservatoire Rubin Abdullin, Irina Dubinina, Elfiya Burnasheva, a brother of Youri Egorov, pianist and teacher Alexander Mikhailov, as well as the representative of the Central music school at the Moscow State Conservatoire.
According to the regulations of the competition, the junior group has one round, and two senior groups have two. For the latter, the second round will be difficult – it is almost a half-hour solo program. ''We are planning a multi-tiered opening of the competition. There will be video interviews of people who knew Youri Egorov, his records will be broadcasted – what a blessing that they have been preserved! Another event is scheduled for the second day of competition – Eliso Virsaladze will be performing with the orchestra of the conservatoire and orchestra of the special music school, it took the first place in the competition of orchestras in Paris. In addition, Virsaladze will hold a master class,'' Yevgeny Mikhailov shared the plans.
Due to the fact that Egorov was a 'nonreturnee', everything that was connected with him was a taboo topic. But times have changed, and the underestimated in the Homeland outstanding pianist should be reevaluated. There is an idea to make the competition international and to finally establish a memorial plate on the house where the musician lived in Kazan. After all, the name of Youri Yegorov will remain in the history of world music forever and hardly anyone would argue with that.