Russian violist and conductor Rudolf Barshai has died in Switzerland. He had been struggling with health problems for the last year.

Born in 1924, Barshai studied violin with Lev Zeitlin and viola with Vadim Borisovsky at the Moscow Conservatory before starting his career as a solo and ensemble player in 1945. As a violist he was a founding member of the Moscow Philharmonic Quartet – which became the Borodin Quartet – and the Tchaikovsky Quartet. He also played chamber music with Gilels, Richter, Oistrakh, Kogan and Rostropovich.
After studying conducting with Ilya Musin, he formed the Moscow Chamber Orchestra, which toured widely abroad. In the late 1960s he began conducting major symphony orchestras in the USSR and in 1969 conducted the premiere of his close friend Shostakovich's 14th Symphony.

Barshai left Soviet Russia after Shostakovich's death in 1975 and held conducting positions in Israel, the UK, Canada and France. He made acclaimed orchestrations of instrumental and chamber works, notably Shostakovich's Eighth Quartet, and shortly before his death he completed an arrangement of Bach's The Art of Fugue.