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Emil Gilels

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Emil Grigoryevich Gilels (Ukrainian: Емі́ль Григо́рович Гі́лельс, Russian: Эмиль Гилельс; October 19, 1916 – October 14, 1985) was a ukrainian soviet pianist.

Gilels was born in Odessa to a musical family; both his parents were musicians. He began studying the piano at six under Yakov Tkach, making his first public debut at the age of 12 in June 1929. In 1930 Gilels entered the Odessa Conservatory where he was coached by Berta Reingbald, whom Gilels credited as his first formative influence.

In 1933 Gilels won the newly-founded All Soviet Union Piano Competition at age 16. After graduating from the Odessa Conservatory in 1935, he moved to Moscow, where he studied under the famous piano teacher Heinrich Neuhaus until 1937. A year later, at age 21, he won the Ysaÿe International Festival in Brussels, beating such competitors as Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli and Moura Lympany.

Gilels was the first Soviet artist to be allowed to travel extensively in the West. After the war, he toured Europe starting from 1947 as a concert pianist, and made his American debut in 1955 playing Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in Philadelphia. He taught as a professor for the Moscow Conservatory after 1952. In his later years he remained in Russia and rarely ventured abroad.

He was the winner of the prestigious Stalin Prize in 1946, the Order of Lenin in 1961 and 1966 and the Lenin Prize in 1962.

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