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In Memoriam — Vitaly Margulis –1928-2011

May 31st, 2011 · 6 Comments


Our wonderful professor of piano, Professor Vitaly Margulis, passed away in his sleep on the morning of May 29th. He was at home and surrounded by his family. We will miss his kindness, his wonderful talent, and his generosity. His passing is a great loss to the Department of Music and to UCLA.

Following is a short biography:

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, S?ddeutsche 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’s 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.

To enjoy a performance of Professor Margulis–please CLICK HERE to visit an earlier blog with a recording of Professor Margulis playing Chopin’s Nocturne No. 8, Opus 27-2.

Tags: Alumni · Faculty · Performance · Performance · Performers · School of Music

6 responses so far ↓

  • dlasson // Oct 17, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    As a resident of Los Angeles from 2001-2008, I structured my cultural life, in large measure, around the many offerings on the UCLA campus. Any concert in which Vitaly Margulis participated was occasion for rejoicing, the quality ranging from merely outstanding to magisterial. One concert that I recall with particular affection was his performance of the Rachmaninoff Second Piano Concerto, from 2006. What was most striking about his interpretation was the intense and intimate relationship he had with this music?music that he had doubtless known practically since its composition. Yet the resultant performance was hardly marked my personal eccentricity: rather, the listener has the sense that Margulis wore his deep knowledge and intimacy with this music almost as a mantle of responsibility: no one was going to leave Schoenberg Hall that evening without experiencing every nuance of expression that Rachmaninoff lavished on this much-loved score.

    At another concert, during the same period, Margulis programmed the Beethoven c-minor piano sonata opus 111, the composer?s valediction to the genre. It would be hard to imagine a greater performance: the first movement was craggy and wild, while the second movement?s aria and variations faithfully catalogued the composer?s styles?from ragtime to sublimity?that make the thought of a subsequent Beethoven piano sonata seem practically unimaginable. Just as Beethoven had increased the range of instruments in his symphonies?a piccolo in the Fifth; a contra-bassoon in the Ninth?so too he utilized the highest and lowest notes of the piano. And because this last sonata requires the pianist to stretch out his arms in order to play these extremes at the same time, what the audience sees onstage is a man embracing the piano?a most arresting a fitting sight when the pianist himself is nearing the end of his own musical career spanning many decades.

    Yet Vitaly?s art will live on in the many students he has taught over the years, many of them embodying his finest interpretive traits, especially those marked by intense probing, an intimate relationship with both the music and the audience, and, above all, musical integrity.

  • gsatga // Jan 3, 2012 at 7:11 am

    A true loss for the music community and UCLA.

  • Anderson21 // Jan 23, 2012 at 5:20 am

    Professor Vitaly Margulis has been an asset to the ULCA and it is really sad to lose such a great musician.

  • // Feb 6, 2012 at 2:07 am

    Really very sad! It had not be happen with ULCA.

  • Robert Spaulding // Feb 27, 2014 at 9:47 am

    Thank you so much for posting Professor Margulis playing Chopin’s Nocturne No. 8, Opus 27-2. Utterly beautiful. I’m saddened to read this news as I didn’t know the Professor but I’m glad I was able to listen to some of his works. The students that learned from him got a real gift.

    Robert S.

  • hocittudau // Apr 20, 2014 at 1:28 am

    Professor Vitaly Margulis he is a great man devoted to priceless works of art so sad when he is gone.