cover image From Russia to the West

From Russia to the West

Solomon Volkov, Nathan Milstein. Henry Holt & Company, $24.95 (304pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-0974-3

At age 87 violinist Milstein is the last surviving member of an amazing group of emigre Russian musical personages--including Vladimir Horowitz, Jascha Heifetz, Gregor Piatigorsky, Igor Stravinsky, Sergei Rachmaninov and George Balanchinefair to call Mr. B. a musician?/no;see fix --who blazed across the world music scene for 50 years. His acerbic, highly opinionated memoir tells excellent stories about all of them as well as many others. It is also a revealing account of life in Odessa and Leningrad before, during and after the Revolution, and of the struggles even such phenomenally gifted people initially faced in making their way in the West. Milstein, as might be expected, is extremely sour about the Soviet regime, and his contempt extends to some of its most notable artists; a pity, because his views are otherwise fresh and winningused above in American Cassandra/see , and unmarred by the excessive ego that often overcomes such memoirs. Coauthor Volkoff is the musicologist who created a dramatic book out of Dmitryper Web Shostakovich's Testament , and his skills are much in evidence here: Milstein's stories flow gracefully and are compulsively readable. (June)