Life - Part 11

Beginning in 1963, when he was seventeen, Hirshhorn was no longer studying in Riga but in Leningrad. Initially he was accepted into the final year of the study program at the specialized music school, and from there he entered the Conservatory. Of course, at this time the Leningrad of violinists no longer had Auer among its members. To be sure, Auer had left back in 1917, but the last of his students to become a professor, Yuri Eidlin, died not long before the arrival of Hirshhorn in Leningrad. Respect for the Auer School and its representatives was still very great, even in Moscow. According to the reminiscences of Oistrakh, when he arrived in Leningrad the first thing he did was to phone Eidlin.  Moreover, this was not just an echo of former glory: in 1951, Eidlin’s student, Mikhail Vaiman, took second prize at the Queen Elisabeth International Competition, and if you consider that Leonid Kogan took the first prize, then the scale of the achievement becomes clear. And it was to Vaiman, who at the time had his own class in the Conservatory, that Hirshhorn came to study.

Rumors about the unusual violinist from Riga had been circulating in the Leningrad specialized music school long before, so that when Hirshhorn finally appeared there, the groundwork for unusual popularity, even generalized  devotion, was already prepared. They followed him around like a shadow. The corridors emptied when he performed, and the whole school rushed to study the First Concerto of Paganini. It was as if, even then, at age 17-18,  he possessed in full measure the ‘mystical, hypnotic power’ about which Misha Maisky spoke. Alexander Fisher tells us that Vaiman gave a great deal to his student, both in terms of artistic interpretation and in terms of technique. This is important because some are of the opinion that Hirshhorn had no real pedagogue in the elevated sense of the word, and that he got where he did on his own.