Emil Gilels

"The more I listen, the more I am fascinated by the art of this great master"-Evgeny Kissin

In the Fall of 1968, my friend Sina Maritza (Dinjan) Najarian was chosen to study by Aram Katchaturian at the Moscow Conservatory under the tutilege of Emil Gilels. Sina had just graduated from Somerville High School and not exactly with her parents' blessing, she was whisked away to study piano with one of the great masters of the 20th Century, Gilels, however, was a touring pianist for most of his life and when students were ready to showcase for him, they came to wherever he was performing all over Europe. Thus the title of my screenplay, Chasing Gilels (with a nod to Kevin Smith's Chasing Amy). But this extraordinary opportunity is only part of the story. The opportunity to live in Moscow in 1968 and 1969 in the wake of Prague Summer, student revolt worldwide and the American Moon Landing in July, 1969 made her studies at the time particularly memorable.

Sina would return in the Fall of 1969 to Boston and complete her studies at New England Conservatory. She never became famous as a pianist but was a perfomer of note for a number of years. Once she married, she devoted herself to her husband's career as well as hers. At this time, she still teaches piano out of her home in Belmont.

Emil Gilels faced increasingly shabby treatment from Soviet authorities as time went on. Subject to frequent KGB debriefings, his career was shortened first by a heart attack in 1981 and then in 1986, his life ended in a Soviet hospital possibly due to being administered the wrong medicine.

Ukrainian by birth, Gilels became famous for his piano talents when he was only 12 years old and he won his first major competition in 1934. His 50 year career had many highlights, including being a judge at the famous Tchiakovsky competition won by Van Cliburn in 1958, but here in the US, he is not as well known as he could be. This story told at a certain point in time reverberates into the present day US-Russia relationship. It is also an opportunity to get to know the Russian people a little better apart from their government and identify with a common humanity that seeks transcendence.