Emil Grigoryevich Gilels was
born in Odessa, Russia, on October 19, 1916. He entered
the Odessa Institute of Music and Drama in 1922,
made his debut as a child prodigy in 1929, and
transferred to the Odessa Conservatory in 1931.
In 1933 Gilels won the first All Union Musicians'
Contests, which has since become the leading
musical performance competition in Russia. He
remained at Odessa Conservatory until he
graduated in 1935, after which he became a
graduate student at the Moscow Conservatory.
Gilels first achieved recognition outside of
the Soviet Union in 1938, when he won first prize
at the Ysa˙e International Festival in Brussels,
Belgium. An appearance at the 1939 World's Fair
in New York was interrupted by World
War II, and he was evacuated to the east when
German armies reached the outskirts of Moscow in
1941. He made his first post-war appearance
outside of the Soviet Union in 1947, when he
visited several European cities.
On October 3, 1955, Gilels became the first
prominent Soviet performing artist to play a
concert in the United States, when he played Tchaikovsky's
First Piano Concerto with the Philadelphia
Orchestra, conducted by Eugene Ormandy. He
followed that performance with an appearance at
Carnegie Hall in New York City, New York, the
next day. By the time of his death Gilels made
thirteen more U.S. appearance, with the last
being in 1983. He was also the soloist for the
first visit of a Soviet orchestra to the United
States, playing the same Tchaikovksy Concerto on
January 3, 1960, with the Moscow State Symphony
in Carnegie Hall.
Gilels made numerous recordings, both for the
Soviet state recording agencies and on Western
labels. He was a two-time recipient the Order of
Lenin. He died in Moscow, Russia,
on October 14, 1985.
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