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Boris Goldenblank violinist of the Johann Strauss Orchestra
The Limburger”, July 6, 2024, by Jochem Rietjens Photocredits Marcel van Hoorn Translation: Ineke / Diana D. Le Boris Goldenblank (78) fled from the KGB and has been happy for years as a violinist in the Johann Strauss Orchestra: 'André got me out of the pit' Violinist Boris Goldenblank (78) performed with famous soloists and worked with well-known conductors. As a musician with the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra, this Russian with Moldovan roots pursued a job with the Limburg Symphony Orchestra in 1990. He managed to circumvent the KGB and now travels the world with André Rieu's Johann Strauss Orchestra. It is 2001 when Goldenblank, then 55, strolls through the streets of Maastricht with his soul under his arm. At that time, he was playing music with the Limburg Symphony Orchestra, but he no longer enjoyed it there. “The atmosphere had changed,” the violinist reflects. He did not get along very well with the new leadership that had come in. Then the unthinkable happens: “André offered me a place in his orchestra.” Since that memorable day in 2001, Goldenblank has enjoyed going to work again. “Even now.” He is forever grateful to Rieu. “André got me out of the pit.” Although he is honest enough to admit that long journeys to Mexico or the Far East, for example, do bother him. Modest Colleagues in the orchestra are all full of praise for the violinist who, born in Chisinau (Moldavia), grew up in the Soviet Union. “A wonderfully sweet and modest man,” trumpeter René Henket calls him. “Boris is one of the sweetest and most selfless men I have ever met,” adds violinist Gosia Loboda. “He was an enormous help during most of my years of study at the Maastricht Conservatory and prepared me for my bachelor's and master's degrees, while at the same time I was already playing in André's orchestra.” Goldenblank blushes upon hearing the shower of compliments. “There's nothing special about me.” The youngsters in the orchestra can, if desired, still count on his full support and attention. The fact that Goldenblank lives and works in the Netherlands is thanks to Alexander Petrasch, leader of the cellists at the Limburg Symphony Orchestra in 1990. That year, the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra, Goldenblank then played in that orchestra, performed in Düsseldorf, Germany. One of the spectators was Petrasch. They knew each other because Goldenblank had studied with Petrasch's wife Sofia. The cellist told the violinist that the LSO was holding a trial performance for a new violinist the next day in Maastricht. Goldenblank was interested in it. “But how do I get there?” KGB On tour there were always people in the orchestra who were unclear why they were there. The musicians kept quiet about it but knew that they were agents of the Russian secret service, the KGB. Goldenblank had to get to Aachen station unnoticed and travel from there to Maastricht. “One of those police officers was standing on the only road between our hotel and the bus stop.” Behind him he heard an engine start in the parking garage. It was a minivan. Goldenblank asked the driver if he could take him with him. “There's someone there I don't want to see.” The violinist hid in the van and got a lift to Düsseldorf station. Via Aachen he ended up in Maastricht, at the Petrasch house. “Sofia is a pianist and she accompanied me for hours at night as I practiced Mozart's fourth violin concerto.” The next morning, Goldenblank applied to the LSO in complete secrecy. He was accepted. Like many others, the violinist wanted to flee the Soviet Union. “I especially wanted a better future for my son.” This has worked, because son Alexej has been working with Phion, formerly “Het Gelders Orkest” (orchestra), for thirty years. “He is second concertmaster.” Gorbachev Goldenblank left the Soviet Union when Mikhail Gorbachev was in power. "That was an interesting time." With Gorbachev in power, people got more air to breathe, he says. "Big protests in Moscow, with hundreds of thousands of demonstrators," he recalls. The violinist points out that Gorbachev was more popular abroad than in the Soviet Union itself. The party leadership was not so happy with him. "His role was really big."Successor Boris Yeltsin drank a lot. His addiction to alcohol did not do his health any good. "Someone had to come who would leave Yeltsin alone and give him a quiet life. That was Vladimir Putin in 1999." He has only one word for that Russian leader: "Catastrophic." Boris Goldenblank was born on April 29, 1946. He was born in the Urals, but he only stayed there for two weeks. During World War II, his mother Liza, pregnant with Boris' only and eldest brother Alexander, fled from Chisinau to the Ural Mountains. His father Jona served in the Russian army at the time. In May 1946, the Goldenblanks returned to Chisinau, now the capital of Moldova. School friends The family lived there in a small room. Father worked in a factory for a low salary and mother took care of the two sons. "It was a poor life. But a happy life." He still keeps in touch with a few school friends from that time, the early fifties. "One lives in Florida, one in Israel, and one still in Moldova," the violinist lists. At the time, there was a music school near the school and at the age of five, Goldenblank, like his brother, took violin lessons. "While neither of our parents were musical." The choice for violin was obvious: a piano was unaffordable and the school lent violins. Both brothers turned out not to be natural talents, but with hard work they came a long way and a professional career was in the offing. Moscow At a young age, Goldenblank won a violin competition, which gave him access to the conservatory in Chisinau without an entrance exam. But the young violinist wanted to go to Moscow, because that was where the best teachers were. And his girlfriend lived there, his current wife Tatjana. "I've known her since I was fifteen." Eventually, he combined the Chisinau Conservatory with lessons at the Moscow Conservatory, where he studied with the famous pedagogue Yuri Yankelevich and with the violin virtuoso David Oistrakh. At that time, he met Lev Markiz, then conductor of a chamber orchestra in Moscow. “He played a big role in my life.” The two became lifelong friends, but Markiz emigrated to the Netherlands in 1981. “I will always wait for you,” he promised Goldenblank. Almost ten years later the two met again, when Goldenblank lived in Maastricht and Lev in The Hague. “The next day he was standing at the door in Maastricht.” Lev Markiz is the founder of Amsterdam Sinfonietta and died in 2023 at the age of 92. Audition Goldenblank got his first job in 1964 at the conservatory in Moldova. There he accompanied piano students. In Moscow, he performed a lot with the Markiz ensemble. In 1970, a vacancy arose at the USSR Radio and TV Symphony Orchestra. Goldenblank auditioned and landed the job. The orchestra played mainly popular entertainment music and well-known classical works. He was there for four years. For Goldenblank, it was mainly a time of waiting. Waiting for a job in one of the three top orchestras in Moscow: the Bolshoi Theatre, the Academic Symphony Orchestra of the Russian Federation, or the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1974, he won a seat in the latter orchestra, although it was not without a struggle. "There were 28 candidates for one job." Many violin concertos and parts from orchestral works later, two candidates remained. The orchestra chose Goldenblank and so he shared the music stand with the sister of the famous cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, Veronika. Shostakovich At the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra, the violinist played under chief conductor Kyrill Kondrashin, an absolute great. "I learned a lot from him. He paid a lot of attention to detail and dynamics." Kondrashin's timbre is so recognizable to Goldenblank that he can tell from a recording whether it is Kondrashin or not. Another great man is composer Shostakovich, whom he met a number of times. He made a deep impression on him. He knew him mainly as a scared man with a fearful look in his eyes. Stalin had completely trashed one of his operas. "Since then, he has always been afraid that the secret service would arrest him, or worse." In the coming weeks, Goldenblank will be at the Vrijthof in Maastricht with André Rieu's orchestra. The orchestra is still growing, he thinks. "We are still getting better." Could the orchestra play Mahler's First Symphony? "We have too small a line-up for that," Goldenblank counters. "The Johann Strauss Orchestra has its own repertoire and that touches a wide audience all over the world." The musician is not thinking about retirement, but he also does not know how long he will continue. "That is André's decision."