A serendipitous Facebook Friend request from Jura Margulis on the eve of my birthday, led to this bundle of love delivered on You Tube. As oxymoronic as it may sound, the pianist’s father, Vitaly, channeled through cyber, wooed me into a sanctuary of beauty by his liquid phrasing and total immersion in Chopin’s palette. It was an unforgettable display of Old World playing, like fine wine that lingers after the first sip, only to invite more.
As I combed the Internet for additional samplings of this age-mellowed performer who sadly departed this earth last year, but left a treasure trove of his musical genius, I was rewarded for my effort:
Vitaly Margulis, pianist, pedagogue, writer and author of music philosophy studies, was born on April 16th 1928 in the Ukrainian City of Charkov.
He received his first piano lessons from his father, whose teacher, Alexander Horowitz, studied with the composer Alexander Scriabin. Vitaly Margulis continued his studies at the renowned Leningrad Conservatory under Professor Samarij Sawshinskij where, from 1958 until his emigration to the west in 1974, he had his own piano class. During this time, Vitaly Margulis triumphed in more than one thousand concerts throughout Russia. In 1975, Vitaly Margulis became a full Professor at the esteemed Musikhochschule in Freiburg, Germany. In 1994, he accepted the post of Professor of Piano at the University of California in Los Angeles. In addition, he holds piano seminars in Germany, Switzerland, Greece, Belgium, Portugal, Holland, France, Japan, Russia, and America.
His concerts over the years in cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Rome, Berlin, Salzburg, Amsterdam, Tokyo, Moscow, and Saint Petersburg, his numerous recordings were received with great enthusiasm. German critics spoke of him as a "secret genius" (Joachim Kaiser, Süddeutsche Zeitung), a "world class pianist" (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung), and one of the foremost pianists of our time. The Salzburg News hailed his performance in the 1991 Salzburg Festival as "an event of outstanding significance." A review of his 1996 recital in Santander, Spain said: "The three sonatas of Ludwig van Beethoven, Moonlight, Les Adieux, and the colossal Op. 111 were in quality and maturity unique and irreproducible. Certainly his Beethoven interpretation was a very personal one and set an unsurpassable standard." In a 1994 review of Margulis' Chopin CD, Musica Italia raved: Here I found an exciting and fantastic recording with two interpretations, the Chopin Etudes Op. 10 #2 and #9, which, in my opinion, enter straight into the history of art." In a review of Margulis recording of Scriabin’s Sonata No. 3, La Disque Ideal, Paris, 1993, wrote: “Despite the existence of such acclaimed records of Horowitz and Sofronizky, in my opinion, Margulis exceeds the standards set by these masters. His CD is a true masterpiece.”
In his teaching, Professor Margulis prioritizes the study of the works of Bach and Beethoven. His book Johann Sebasatian Bach and Symbolic Language and The Well Tempered Clavier points to new ways of understanding the religious symbolism and spirituality in Bach’s music. In his publication “Formula for Timing Relationship and Beethoven’s Timing Principles,” Professor Margulis explores new concepts in musical architecture. His book “Bagatelles”, translated and published in seven countries, describes principles of piano pedagogy in an aphoristic manner. His book “Paralipomenon,” published in Moscow in 2006, met with enthusiastic delight. In a Moscow news paper, it is praised: “To those who consider themselves aficionados of literature, I highly recommend the book of Vitaly Margulis. It is without a doubt a fine specimen of amazing literary style, and refined Jewish humor—sometimes sparkling and light as air, sometimes bitterly poignant and devastating.”
Professor Margulis has become a very fortunate teacher. His students have won more than a hundred prizes at international competitions over the last decades, twenty-eight of which were grand prizes.