Richter and Brest

Story of Friendship
“Dear Lilya! Regards from Europe. I wish you and your family all the best. I do not play yet, as I have been operated on one more time. They planted some sort of watch into me to keep my pulse normal. I hope I will come to Moscow in November. Yours, Svyatoslav Richter.” Signed on September 5, 1994. This is the last postcard sent to the professor of Brest Musical College Lilia Batyreva that was signed by the great musician. Richter died three years later…

…It was a beautiful golden autumn of 1968. The maestro was expected in Brest for his first ever concert there and the director of the regional philharmonic hall Konstantin Dokukin called the young teacher and asked her to meet the famous musician. He said he was scared to meet him himself.

— I was quite timid then, says Lilia Grigoryevna. — We were meeting Richter with his spouse Nina Lvovna Dorliak, who had arrived in Brest a bit earlier to organize the concert. Richter got off the train, hugged his wife and she waved her hand at me. It was a signal that I could approach, as the musician was in a good mood…

Lilia Batyreva never though they would let her into their lives, for she had no degrees or titles. That she would be meeting Richter and Dorliak at that railway station, wait for their messages, pickle mushrooms using the recipe of her friends from Tyumen (that Svyatoslav Teophilovich liked so much), that she would be able to stay in their Moscow apartment…

It was fine then, during the first meeting. Those were several unforgettable hours for Richter’s fans. In half a year Batyreva got a postcard from Nina Lvovna, who was on a tour with her husband and decided to thank the young teacher from Brest once again for a very warm welcome.

— I was extremely glad, but I never thought our relations would ever go beyond business, Lilia Grigoryevna tells me.

— I never asked them to write to me, and never imposed my friendship, she adds.

She once was offended by a journalist that wrote that she was on familiar, unceremonious terms with Richter.

— I was never unceremonious with them, Lilia Grigoryevna says to me. — I was getting ready for all our meetings. He would write what he was reading and I would take those books from the library and read them to be able to talk to Richter. He would mention the Hollywood star Schwarzenegger, and I knew who he was. I had asked my friends about Arnold. Richter would mention some new music stars from the west, and I called my friends in the German Democratic Republic to learn at least something about modern tendencies.

Richter liked Brest. He visited the fortress and loved the old streets of the city.

“This mansion should be preserved,” Batyreva quotes Richter as saying when he was looking at a small house in Lenin Street, which was overshadowed by a “skyscraper” of the statistics department. Thank God, the mansion survived and now contains the collection of artistic values. Richter was very keen on the history of the city and always asked many questions. Lilia Grigoryevna had to learn more and more about Brest, which is not her native city, in order to be able to enlighten Richter.

Svyatoslav Richter visited Brest 18 times. Those were short visits on his way to France, Italy, Germany from Moscow. Nina Dorliak would send Batyreva a wire asking to book a room in the Intourist and meet Richter. Maestro never left Brest without a concert. He loved the local public that valued his talent and was always eager to listen to Beethoven, Chopin, Bach and Haydn performed by the great pianist… Applause, flowers and “Bravo!”s followed. Batyreva would collect postcards, vinyls and take them to the maestro. Richter would sign them, and many Brest families now have autographs of the great musician.

— The poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko visited Brest in 1983. We were talking about Richter, and he was surprised to learn that I was not taking notes of what Richter was saying. Lilia Grigoryevna takes a case with tickets, booklets and postcards. — So I started to keep a diary of my meetings with Richter.

We put Batyreva’s 30 years worth of postcards, booklets, photos and vinyls with Richter’s autographs on her table. One could easily write a book dedicated to Richter, but she has never thought of it. “You are not the first one to tell me I should write a book, but there is no time. It takes 12 months to prepare for January musical soirees (the festival of classical music took place in Brest for the 18th time this January). I have a dream that the musical club will have a house or at least a room to have a museum. Brest should have a street named after Svyatoslav Richter, for he loved the city so much. And the college where he was playing should have a memorial board with his name on it.”

…“What can I tell you, my dear listeners? I wish you joy from listening and playing music. I wish you good health and happiness. Your Svyatoslav Richter” — the phenomenal musician left this note in the register of the musical club that Lilia Batyreva has headed for decades. Svyatoslav Richter is an unfathomable phenomenon, a real epoch that needs a special listener.

Valentina Kozlovich
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