Notebook

Musical Preaching

At a time when the cult of Stalin is enjoying a perverse revival in the east and we may even be witnessing a stab at reincarnation, it is good to recall those who resisted the dictator with resolve, at great cost. One such was Maria Yudina, among the greatest pianists ever to have lived. Gloriously eccentric, she slept in a bathtub and routinely gave away her concert fees to members of her audience. She was unflinching in her Christian confession. Do watch this noble documentary. When Stalin, who admired her, sent Yudina a gift of money, she replied, ‘I will pray for you day and night and ask the Lord to forgive your great sins before the people and the country.’ As for the money, she added, she had given it away. She was serially ousted from public life and lived in penury. Shostakovich knew and revered her. After her death caused by an error in medication, he said, ‘She always played as though she was giving a sermon’. You will get a sense of what he meant if you listen to this recording of Beethoven’s 4th Concerto.

Ah, if only more preachers preached as if they were playing Beethoven!