I chuckled last night as I read the obit of Jacqueline Piatigorsky, wife of the great Russian cellist, who died at the ripe old age of 100. She was as good a chess player as her husband was a renowned cellist. The both had to leave Paris during the Nazi occupation, and came to Los Angeles, where Piatigorsky secured a teaching position at USC, where he taught alongside Jascha Heifetz, the great violinist. The Piatigorsky’s lived in Brentwood at the time.
In 1971 I was working at a great record store called Vogue Records in Westwood (many of my musical friends worked in record stores at some time or another). A fellow Vogue worker told me about an incident at another record store where a woman came in and wanted to buy Gregor Piatigorsky’s recording of the sublime Dvorak cello concerto, considered by many the most demonically virtuosic of all cello works—-sort of the cello version of the Rachmaninov 3rd piano concerto.
The store clerk–who must have been knowledgeable about classical music—- told the woman, who had a French accent, that the Piatigorsky version was inferior to many other recorded versions: those of Jacques Fournier, Rostropovich, Starker, DuPré, and others. She stubbornly persisted. He told her that Gregor’s stumbling version sounded like he was drunk, or just hadn’t learned the score. She insisted on getting that version. He After all his entreaties failed, clerk and customer walked to the register and she wrote out a check. It was signed “Mrs. Gregor Piatigorsky”.