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Stuck behind the iron curtain, Mravinsky, Richter and Gilels were legends, and rightly so.
"Russian passion locked up," Yehudi Menuhin sums it up perfectly in these words when talking about Evgeny Mravinsky. He never said 'Hello, Ladies and Gentlemen', according to a violinist in his orchestra. Upon his arrival a crushing silence would hang over everyone, to be interrupted after three or four minutes with 'four measures before measure 64'… that was all." "He was extremely strict," confirms Menuhin. An autocrat venerated and feared by his orchestra, the Saint Petersburg Philharmonic which he conducted for fifty years from 1931 till his death in 1988 and from which, thanks to hard work, Mravinsky obtained extraordinary perfection. "Before a concert, he would make us rehearse several times Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony although we knew it by heart. But it was fascinating; we were at the heart of the creative process."