Mikhail Kopelman, Dmitry Sitkovetsky and Liana Gourdjia recall their studies with the doyenne of the Russian School of violin playing
Today (10 December) marks the 90th birthday of the Russian violin professor Maya Glezarova. To many outside Russia she will be unknown, but mention her name to virtually any Russian violinist and you will be greeted with inspired awe, respect and perhaps even subtle trepidation. For more than 20 years she served as one of the primary assistants to the great Russian pedagogue Yuri Yankelevich, and helped train some of the top Russian violinists performing today. When Yankelevich died in 1973, she was given her own class at the Moscow Conservatory, and in 1990, at an age when most are comfortably settling into retirement, she was formally named a professor. She continues to teach students from her home today. Here, three of her former pupils pay their respects to their teacher and recall the atmosphere of her most demanding lessons.
Leader of the Kopelman Quartet and professor of violin, Eastman School of Music
When my parents brought me as a 13-year-old to the Moscow Conservatory to audition for the famous violin professor Yuri Yankelevich, he assigned me to his assistant, Maya Glezarova. Altogether I studied with her for 13 years, until the completion of my studies.
At the Conservatory I was a member of Yankelevich’s studio, but Ms Glezarova continued to work with me as his assistant. For the first two years of study, Ms Glezarova concentrated only on my technique, as my earlier training did not suffice for Professor Yankelevich. The process was extraordinarily painful. Everything had to be changed: my right and left hands, my vibrato, shifts and articulation. During this time I worked on and mastered countless exercises and etudes.
Maya Glezarova knew this territory like no one else. She was extremely demanding, never forgiving any mistake and bringing every exercise to perfection. Some of the other violinists could not endure such stress and were inclined to leave, but those who passed through her training became true professionals.
Maya Glezarova stands within the pantheon of the old great pedagogues who fully dedicated themselves to the upbringing of young musicians, often sacrificing parts of their lives as a result. As the assistant to Professor Yankelevich, she performed the most difficult work. She always distinguished herself with her modesty, shunned all empty display, and always remained in the shadows.
All of the musicians understood perfectly well the extent of Maya’s pedagogical prowess, and she remains a paragon of the highest level of professionalism. I personally consider myself fully a student of Maya Glezarova, and I am thankful to her every day.
Mikhail Kopelman with Maya Glezarova in 1988
Russian-born soloist and chamber musician based in Paris
My lessons with Maya Glezarova were far from being limited to the endless exploring of violin techniques. No detail escaped her eye. From the moment I walked into her famous class at the Moscow Conservatory, the lesson had begun. She always noticed the way one was dressed, the posture, the way we greeted each other and so on.
I always wanted to shine for her, in my intonation, my shifts, my sound, my phrasing, and in my whole being. During my time studying with her, Maya’s opinion superseded that of everyone else who mattered in my life. She counted the most. She knew how to make me feel at my most natural and at my strongest, physically and mentally, when I had to face the most difficult judge – myself.
During the years of my studies with Maya, there was still an old custom: we all had to change our shoes after entering the Conservatory, owing to the pounds of slushy dirt stuck to our boots after walking through Moscow’s winter-covered streets. Maya’s own attire was always impeccable. Her clothes were always ironed and beautifully matched, with perfect accessories. On one particularly nasty November day, I walked in with a new pair of shoes, which I absolutely did not wish to change, as I wanted my friends to notice them. (Having new shoes was an event back then.) From the moment Maya glanced at my shoes, I knew that they were condemned – all down to the tiny particles of leaves and a bit of dust from the streets!
My latest meeting with Maya took place earlier this year. I visited her residence in Moscow to sit in on a lesson. It was one of her painfully meticulous lessons on quality. No faulty note escaped her ears, no phrase without perfect taste was allowed to pass by. It was one hour of pure and constant listening. This was her greatest gift to her students: the understanding of how to listen. To this day, I believe that this is the most treasured knowledge a teacher can communicate to a student.
Liana Gourdjia with Maya Glezarova, 2014
Solo violinist, conductor, arranger, chamber musician and festival director
The Keeper of the Flame
In prehistoric times, when the early tribes were struggling to survive, the most important member of the clan was not the strongest hunter who killed the most mammals so the tribe could have more food, and not even the most fertile female who bore and cared for her offspring; it was the Keeper of the Flame. His only function was to keep the fire from dying so the tribe could keep warm and continue to survi