Pianist Vladimir Feltsman found his privileges suspended, his life threatened and his career in the deep freeze when he applied for an exit visa from the Soviet Union in 1979. But Feltsman found an opportunity. In 1984, he was invited to perform for Ambassador Arthur Hartmann at the American embassy in the heart of Moscow. On the program? Chopin’s 24 Preludes.
Feltsman also made his own recording of Chopin in an effort to get his art outside the Soviet Union.
As he tells the story, "I borrowed a Magnetophon tape recorder…very bulky…for one night. I actually carried it – it was very heavy – with one mic, a stereo mic and I just put next to piano, pushed the button, sat down and played. It was nothing. It was not a professional recording. But somehow, it come up okay. Of course, sound of it and acoustic is not…it’s not best piano acoustic which you can get, but still, it was a good concert I think. Of course I play it very differently now. But it was a document of time. I was young and…a little bit over the top. And it was a lot of tension and anxiety. It’s over-tense Chopin, I would say. But it’s not a bad…a bad one I would say. It’s an honest reading of the text and the rest is not up to me.
At the beginning when I became a Refusnik I needed to do whatever I could to get hell out of there. And I was…I did understand that one of the most important things to do is to, you know, just get outside and get your art – your recording – outside. I had certain contact with CBS/Masterwork [sic] at the time, so when I got in touch with them they have been very anxious, and said “Oh YES, give it to us!” And so they got it. We smuggled the tape from Moscow to the United States and it was released."
...and three years later, Vladimir Feltsman himself was released from his Russian exile, fueled by the furor over his samizdat Chopin. Feltsman’s first concert in America was at the Reagan White House. What did he play? Fryderyk Chopin. - Benjamin K. Roe