Life - Part 14

The first post-competition concert which Hirshhorn gave in Leningrad was arranged in such a way that in the choice of each of the works a certain twist was indicated. The newly minted laureate could fill both parts of the concert with virtuoso music given that his repertoire sufficed for that. However, the eyewitnesses (who to this day recall the program of the concert by heart), as well as the miraculously saved recording give us of an entirely different picture: the Concerto in A minor by Bach, the Concerto No. 3 by Mozart, the Paganini Concerto. Surely, if he could, he would have gotten rid of the Paganini, but too many people wanted to hear it, and his victory in Brussels playing it was too recent and heroic. Nonetheless, this concerto soon disappeared entirely from his programs. And what replaced it? Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Shostakovich, Bartok… Ilya Grubert tells us that somehow during just one summer in Riga Hirshhorn learned all ten sonatas by Beethoven. You get the feeling that he already no longer saw himself as a pure virtuoso, though at the time it was precisely as a crowned virtuoso that he arrived from Brussels and precisely as a virtuoso that people were ready to carry him aloft. To this inner evolution were added external changes as well: without finishing the Leningrad Conservatory, Hirshhorn left for Riga, entered once again Sturestep’s fourth class and, immediately, while still a student, was accepted for employment in the Latvian Philharmonic.

Inta Villerusha, a pianist, who was its concertmaster back then, recalls that it was a not very joyful but a rather difficult life staying in provincial Soviet hotels and with long waits for delayed flights, sitting in airports on the floor, on newspapers. And what about the greater world outside, Europe, America, Japan? What about the famous concert halls? Can it be that no one wanted to hear the winner? They wanted to hear him, but for all of the six years which passed between the Queen Elisabeth International Competition (1967) and his emigration (1973), Hirshhorn was allowed to travel abroad just once: he went to London to give several concerts. They say that the Latvian Philharmonic forced him to play on all occasions, right up to funerals! Nonetheless, at the very least, life on tour somehow continued until one tragicomic event put an end to it.