Born: June 10, 1907 - Minsk, Belarus (formerly USSR)
Died: February 12, 1978 - Leningrad, Russia
The Soviet conductor, Karl Ilitch Eliasberg, graduated from the Leningrad Conservatory as a violinist in 1929, and was conductor of the Leningrad Theatre of Musical Comedy from 1929 to 1931 before joining Leningrad Radio as conductor.
Karl Eliasberg was conductor of the Leningrad Radio Orchestra and only second conductor of the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra but played a part in one key event in society and culture in Saint Petersburg during the siege of Leningrad when Dmitri Shostakovich dedicated his Seventh Symphony to the city as the "Leningrad Symphony." The symphony had already been premiered in Kuibyshev on March 5, 1942 under Samuil Samosud, then performed in Moscow (March 29, 1942), London (June 22, 1942) and New York (July 19, 1942). When Eliasberg was asked to conduct the Leningrad premiere only 15 members of the orchestra were still available; the others had either starved to death or left to fight the enemy. The concert was given on August 9, 1942 in the Lenigrad Bolshoy Philharmonic Hall under the baton of Eliasberg, the second conductor with any people who could be gathered from the main orchestra, the reserve orchestra and military bands, and was heard over the radio and lifted the spirits of the survivors.
Karl Eliasberg was recognised as a Meritorious Artist of the RSFSR 1944, but after the war Yevgeny Mravinsky returned and blocked Eliasberg's career in Leningrad. So so he became a travelling provincial conductor.
Between 1945 and 1975 Karl Eliasberg headlined in Leningrad only 3 more times - each of them the Seventh Symphony, each of them with the reserve orchestra. In 1961 he conducted the 1st movement only. In 1964, there was a reunion of Eliasberg and 22 of the original musicians before a performance in D. Shostakovich's presence on January 27, 1964 was the first time they had been together in 22 years. The survivors played in their same seats. Eliasberg said the concert was dedicated to those who had performed then but died since, and the audience gave a standing ovation. Eliasberg later wrote:
"Those moments do not come often. I cannot explain the feeling I had. The glory of fame and the grief of loss, and the thought that maybe the brightest moments of your life are gone. The city now lives a peaceful life, but no one has the right to forget the past."
The third time was on May 9, 1975 three years before his death.
In 1978 Karl Eliasberg died, almost forgotten, and his ashes were buried in a small plot at the back of the Piskaryovskoye Memorial Cemetery. After the fall of Communism, Yuri Temirkanov led a resurrection of Eliasberg's reputation and mayor Anatoly Sobchak arranged for Eliasberg's ashes to be moved to a more suitable grave among the Literatorskie Mostki at the Volkovo Cemetery. The Leningrad Radio Orchestra's performance of D. Shostakovich's Seventh Symphony conducted by Karl Eliasberg is the subject of the 2011 novel The Conductor by Sarah Quigley.
His recordings include: Johannes Brahms: German Requiem (1960), Symphony No.3 (1948), Double Concerto (1951, with David Oistrakh and Sviatoslav Knushevitsky); Gustav Mahler: Symphony No.4 with soprano Natalya Rozhdestvenskaya and USSR State Symphony Orchestra (October 19, 1954); Dmitri Shostakovich: Symphony No. 7 Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra (1964); Sergei Taneyev: Symphonies No.1 and No.3; J.S. Bach: Mass in B minor (BWV 232) (live concert recording, April 24, 1957).