Episode 113: The Great Chopinists: Bella Davidovich

Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor, Op. 21 (1st movement)

rc-davidovich-200Born in Baku in the 1920s, triumphed in Warsaw in the 1940s, and discovered in America in the 1970s. Today, it’s the story of Bella Davidovich, A Great Chopinist.

Fryderyk Chopin loved going to the opera; Bella Davidovich literally grew up in the opera house in her native Azerbaijan. Her grandfather played the violin; her mother trained the singers. And young Bella was listening – to her family – and to the radio. “I used to listen and pick up the music by ear,” she recalls. “When I was three and a half years old, I figured out one of Chopin's waltzes on the piano.”

By the age of six, Bella Davidovich was playing in public; at twelve, she was moved to Moscow, and in 1949, at the age of 21, she became the first woman ever to win the Chopin Competition in Warsaw. “A scintillating performance during the contest skillfully employing her rich imagination in her superbly constructed and technically perfect interpretation,” according to the judges.

But Bella Davidovich had the double misfortune of coming of age during the Cold War, and becoming a widow at the age of 30. A legend in the Soviet Union, she was barely known in the West. Her career became further marginalized when her son, violinist Dmitry Sitkovetsky, defected in 1977. But, a year later, Bella Davidovich found her own path to America…and in October of 1979, at the age of 51, she at last made her Carnegie Hall debut. For many critics, it was the concert event of the year. “She is no one's imitator, just a profound and thoughtful musician who makes Chopin her own.”

Now in her eighties, Bella Davidovich still makes Chopin her own. Well, with the help of her son, now the conductor of the Greensboro Symphony. In 2010, mother and son are celebrating Chopin’s bicentennial with performances of the Piano Concerto No. 2 – one of the signature pieces of Bella Davidovich – a great Chopinist. - Mark Vogelsang & Benjamin K. Roe

Radio Chopin Episode 113: The Great Chopinists: Bella Davidovich

Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor, Op. 21 (1st movement)