GRISHA: The Story of Russian-American Cellist Gregor Piatigorsky

by Margaret Bartley

Winner of the Adirondack Literacy Award for Non-Fiction, June 2006

Soft cover, 392 pages, 22 black & white photographs
Third Edition, 2009
ISBN 978-0-9760023-0-7

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I can hear my father's voice as I read Margaret’s words, and I can see my father gesticulating as she recounts his adventures. This book has its own music. I regret that my father is not alive to read it himself, but I am certain that he would approve.

— Gregor Piatigorsky's son, Joram

About the Book

GRISHA is the story of a struggle between father and son, both aspiring musicians. While the father fails in the musical world of Tsarist Russia, his son becomes a world famous cellist. For Gregor Piatigorsky, success meant escaping the grip of his father, surviving the murderous Russian pogroms, fleeing from the Bolshevik Revolution and twice escaping the Nazi Holocaust.

It also meant falling in love with the daughter of the Baron de Rothschild, the wealthiest family in Europe. While Piatigorsky found fame and fortune as a musical artist and entertained presidents, kings and emperors, he was still a man without a country.

As World War II destroyed everything he had ever known, Piatigorsky found sanctuary at Windy Cliff, an abandoned castle in Adirondack Mountains of Northern New York. In 1942, he achieved his dream of becoming an American citizen and finally stopped running.


As soon as I read GRISHA I knew what my choice would be. It was really a tour de force. The voice of Grisha just came through so clearly and authentically.

Adirondack Center for Writing Non-Fiction Judge, Chris Angus

GRISHA: The Story of Cellist Gregor Piatigorsky is a book unlike other biographies; well researched, accurate and spellbinding, passionate, compelling. “Leave yourself time for this book,” said one of my friends, “because once you start it, you won’t want to put it down.

Norma Wanegar, Cellist, Venice Florida Symphony

The author, a historian and amateur cellist, has drawn on personal reminiscences, autobiographies, and state archives for this overview of the first half of Piatigorsky’s life. However, instead of a dull recitation of facts and figures, she has chosen to present it in the form of a dramatic narrative….this book is a ripping good yarn.

STRINGENDO, Australian Strings Association

Bartley’s “GRISHA,” a biography of eminent Russian cellist Gregor Piatigorsky demonstrates understated writing at its most effective...

David Martin Kaslow, Horn Professor Emeritus, University of Denver

This book gives the reader a powerful feeling for the times and Piatigorsky's experiences. One comes away with the sense of witnessing history as well as knowing him on a personal level.

Terry King, cello faculty; Hartt School and Longey School of Music