Obituaries: Raya Garbousova

The distinguished Russian-born cellist Raya Garbousova seemed to be virtually immortal. She not only looked 20 years younger than her age, but also possessed remarkable energy that enabled her to teach and give master-classes right up to the end.

She was born in Tiflis in Georgia into a family of musicians: her father was principal trumpeter of the Tiflis Symphony Orchestra and professor at the Conservatory. She began studies on piano at the age of four and when she heard her father's friend Serge Koussevitsky playing double-bass she decided she liked the deep sound and started on the cello at six. Her progress was so rapid she entered the Tiflis Conservatory the following year as a student of Konstantin Miniar, a pupil of Davidov.

After a successful debut in Tiflis and many solo appearances, in 1924, aged 18, she made debuts in Moscow and Leningrad, where a critic compared her playing to that of Emanuel Feuermann. Also at this time, she played chamber music with two young musicians just making a name for themselves in Russia, Nathan Milstein and Vladimir Horowitz.

Garbousova made her debut recital in Berlin in 1926 with the pianist Michael Taube, and again the critics raved about her "colossal talent" and described her as "an exceptional musical phenomenon". It was Taube who introduced her to Albert Einstein, who had a passion for the violin. She told me: "I played chamber music with him, but I'm sorry to say he wasn't very good and was always a little bit out of tune. But he was a wonderful old man and we became very attached to each other." Einstein remained a devoted fan and would place a box of chocolates on the stage instead of flowers.

She made her Paris debut in 1927 and it was there that she met Casals and studied with him. She later appeared in Barcelona as a soloist with Casals conducting his own orchestra. It was he who suggested she should study with Diran Alexanian and she considered that what she learnt from him remained all her life as her "musical capital":

What I learnt from him was overwhelming. His whole approach to the instrument changed my ideas. I also returned to him much later and that became one of the most important periods in my musical life. It was not only the tuition but the discussions we had about everything you can imagine - quite apart from music - which were of the greatest importance.

Garbousova's London debut took place in 1926 and again the critics were bowled over by her talent. Her first American engagement came about because the pianist Ossip Gabrilovitch had heard her in Paris and immediately invited her to play the Haydn D major Concerto with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, of which he was the conductor. Shortly afterwards she was engaged as a soloist by Serge Koussevitsky, now conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. This was a happy reunion for them both.

In 1934 Garbousova made her recital debut at the Town Hall in New York and Olin Downes from the New York Times waxed lyrical: "Miss Garbousova's technique is the vehicle of a contagious temperament, musicianship and taste. The crowning fact is the distinction of her style." From this time onwards she appeared in concerts all over the world, but made her home in Paris. Her first husband died fighting in the French Resistance in 1943 and in 1946 she became a citizen of the United States, where she met and in 1949 married the cardiologist Dr Kurt Biss. Their two sons are both musicians.

Many composers wrote works for Garbousova: she commissioned and premiered the Samuel Barber Concerto with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Koussevitsky in 1946 and was frequently consulted by the composer on the instrumental possibilities related to the cello; it was published with the cello part edited by Garbousova. She also premiered the Martinu Third Sonata in the US and Prokofiev's Sonata. She made numerous recordings and held master- classes world-wide. She was professor of cello at Hartford University (1970-79) and at Northern Illinois University (1979-91), where she was made Honorary Doctor of Human Letters in 1992.

Garbousova was not only a very beautiful woman with a film-star charisma, but kind, gentle and considerate to all who came within her orbit. She also had a delightful sense of humour. There is a story from her early years about when she was at a party and took on a five- dollar bet to kiss Toscanini, who was sitting at the next table. The maestro was delighted to be approached by such a beautiful young girl and offered the other cheek. Encouraged by his enthusiasm she kissed him on both cheeks with the excuse that she could now claim 10 dollars.

Raya Garbousova, cellist: born Tiflis, Georgia 25 September 1909; twice married (two sons); died DeKalb, Illinois 28 January 1997.

Arts and Entertainment
books
Voices
Caustic she may be, but Joan Rivers is a feminist hero, whether she likes it or not
voicesShe's an inspiration, whether she likes it or not, says Ellen E Jones
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
Arts and Entertainment
The 'three chords and the truth gal' performing at the Cornbury Music Festival, Oxford, earlier this summer
music... so how did she become country music's hottest new star?
Life and Style
The spy mistress-general: A lecturer in nutritional therapy in her modern life, Heather Rosa favours a Byzantine look topped off with a squid and a schooner
fashionEurope's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln
News
Dr Alice Roberts in front of a
peopleAlice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Arts and Entertainment
Unsettling perspective: Iraq gave Turner a subject and a voice (stock photo)
booksBrian Turner's new book goes back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
News
The Digicub app, for young fans
advertisingNSPCC 'extremely concerned'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Some of the key words and phrases to remember
booksA user's guide to weasel words
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, RSPSS, R, AI, CPLEX, SQL)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Law Costs

Highly Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - This is a very unusual law c...

Junior VB.NET Application Developer (ASP.NET, SQL, Graduate)

£28000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior VB.NET ...

C# .NET Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, jQuery, XML, XLST)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Web De...

Day In a Page

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution