Gregor Piatigorsky started playing the cello at the age of seven and quickly helped his family by working in cafés, brothels, and silent movie theaters. Piatigorsky left home two years later to enter the Moscow Conservatory of Music. Piatigorsky was the Bolshoi Opera Orchestra and a member of the famous "Beethoven String Quartet," eventually called the "Lenin String Quartet," by the age of fifteen. In 1921, he moved to Poland, dissatisfied with the repressive political environment in Russia. There are a plethora of vivid descriptions of this boundary-crossing. According to tradition, he swam the Zbruch River while keeping his cello well over his head, amidst shooting in both directions. Piatigorsky's autobiography includes one of these accounts. His remarkable story-telling skill may be blamed in part on the various variants of this escape. Piatigorsky was well-known as a raconteur of unrivaled humor, elegance, and creativity.
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