Elisso Wirssaladze

A Piano Legend…

Many Russian musicians are known for having their special public, and in the case of Elisso Wirssaladze, she attracts an audience familiar with the Conservatory Hall, those entirely cognisant of what is going to happen that particular evening. One first sees her light step along the stage and her charming smile meant to conceal her person at the moment when the music begins. Then one hears everything in her playing: the technique of her fingers is perfect, she works with the color and strength of the sound. The very act of touching keys reveals her stylistic diversity and wide range of ideals and emotions.

…It is vain, however, to analyze this phenomenon in an attempt to discover a clear and vivid source of her art, for in delineating Elisso’s image we will end up with merely an ideal constellation of qualities. That which is vital will elude us. We see an introvert, a deeply interior person, but we hear music open to the whole world, striving for infinity. The first impression is light, pleasant and rapturous, a bit later it is solemn, deeply imprinted, unforgettable.

Her life story is quite simple. The granddaughter of a famous pianist, she studied and graduated from the Conservatory under her grandmother, Anastasia Wirssaladze, who had in turn been a student of the well-known Anna Yesopova, and thus has learnt the essence of the whole Russian school of piano. Another glorious musical hero was Heinrich Neuhaus, a friend of Anastasia Wirssaladze and a mentor of her young granddaughter since she was nine years old.. For a whole year, Constantine Igumnov lived in her family house in Tbilisi during the war. When Elisso was in Moscow, in addition to seeing Neuhaus, she used to contact Alexander Goldenweiser and to play on “Thursdays” at his place, which was actually a museum. She assisted Lev Oborin at his conservatory classes and finished postgraduate studies under Yakov Zak. Elisso has a rich background of significant names shining behind her. Destiny directed her formation and endowed her in the tradition that forms the real pillar of mastery. This she has now brought into our times. That’s why she is able to say of the Russian piano school so easily: “Piano school can be good or bad. Ours is very good.”

…Elisso’s exceptional inner ease is admirable. She has had numerous opportunities to perform, but has made no effort to launch a super career. She doesn’t want to plan years ahead, get lists of her future programs from someone other than herself, and make recordings in a studio. She willingly tours former Soviet Union cities and enjoys close contact with the audiences. Besides the Moscow Conservatory, she also teaches in Munich, but she never intends to forsake her alma mater, nor her classes famous for their students.

…Probably it is Elisso’s strong, solid character that provokes us to speculate about the male variant of her pianism. She herself disregards this division of male and female and supposes that men can also possess weak, tiny hands as well as turmoil in their brains. She is far from being a prima donna, but is rather an intellectual exploring reality with her instrument. Like a kind of obsessed scientist, she realises the infinity of pianist potentialities.

Her circle is a music elite. She played under Kondrashin, Sawallisch, Sanderling, Masur, (and Temirkanov in past years). In Telavi, Georgia, Natalia Gutman, the late Oleg Kagan, the Borodin Quartet, Yury Bashmet were among the musician friends who participated in her annual festival. The belvedere of an old princely residence served as the stage. Listeners were seated in a park. Children from music schools in neighbouring towns were brought in by buses. And whenever she came across a talented student, she gave up her own work and was ready to help.

Mikhail Zhirmunsky (1991)