The newspaper “Ha-Mashkif” (“The Observer”), issued in Mandatory Palestine, published a short obituary dedicated to the famous pianist and music professor David Shor on June 1, 1942. The text also paid attention to the fact that the deceased Shor in the last days of his life was one of the leaders of the League in Defense of Soviet Russia, or League “V” (from the English word “Victory”). The League, consisting of immigrants from Russia, intended to help the USSR in the fight against Nazi Germany.
David Solomonovich Shor did not have any special sympathy for the Bolsheviks, but he considered the most important mission of his life to save people. For this reason, he found it possible to cooperate with the communists, who, by the will of fate, became the defenders of the Jews who remained in the Soviet Union. A decade and a half earlier, he had snatched people from the clutches of the VChK-GPU and selflessly fought against the offensive of the “Yevsektsiya” employees against Hebrew and Jewish culture. He could not do otherwise, following the credo of his idol, the great humanist Beethoven.
David Shor was born in Simferopol on January 15, 1867 in the family of Solomon Shor and Dina Dukat. Besides David, the family had four more sons: Roman, Alexander, Joseph and Lev. The family was traditional rather than deeply religious. Children and parents went to the synagogue quite regularly, and as a child little David was sent to study at the cheder.
Although Solomon Shor spent his entire life doing boring accounting, he always dreamed of becoming a musician. The love of music was passed on to his children. The eldest, Leva, elder brother of David Solomonovich, graduated from the St. Petersburg Conservatory and was a well-known devotee of music education in Penza. Another brother, Alexander, became a well-known piano tuner throughout Moscow. David himself began to study music with his father at the age of seven, and the next year he was already superbly performing the relatively simple but exquisite “Piano Sonata No. 19 in G minor” by Beethoven.
In 1877, together with his father, David went to the capital of the Russian Empire - St. Petersburg - to enter the conservatory. Although in Simferopol music was not considered a worthy specialty, Solomon Shor was not going to listen to anyone, dreaming of giving another of his children a professional music education. In order for a ten-year-old Jewish boy to be accepted to study, Solomon Shor had to use all sorts of connections, and all his efforts were successful. Having passed the audition brilliantly, young David Shor became a student at the St. Petersburg Conservatory of the Imperial Russian Musical Society.
In the first years, Shor changed many piano teachers, but in the end, pianist Vasily Safonov became his teacher, who educated many world-famous musicians. Having been transferred to the Moscow Conservatory, Safonov took the student with him. In Moscow, Shor had close contact with the aspiring composers Sergei Rachmaninov and Anton Arensky, his talent developed surrounded by music professors Sergei Taneyev and Nikolai Zverev, and contemporary classicists Pyotr Tchaikovsky and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov.
In Moscow, David began giving private lessons, earning a living. His part-time job brought him to the house of Raisa Muller, whom David Solomonovich fell in love with. Raisa Mikhailovna reciprocated the young teacher’s feelings. In March, 1887, the couple got married, and two years later the Shors had a daughter, Miri.
However, the cloudless years of studying music and the first steps as the head of the family were significantly darkened after David Shor graduated from the conservatory. Vasily Safonov, having become the director of the conservatory in the spring of 1889, offered Shor the position of adjunct - on the condition of converting to Christian Orthodoxy. David Solomonovich could not betray his faith and roots, even though he listened to the old professor’s lecture that such chances befall a person once in a lifetime.
In 1890, the Shors had their youngest daughter, Evgenia, and a year later, their son, Yevsey. Something had to be done to find a stable income, but Safonov’s firm refusal put an end to David Solomonovich’s academic career. Shor had to agree to a place at the less prestigious women's Elizabethan Institute. However, a few years later his former teacher again offered him a position of professor at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. This time there was no talk about changing religion, and David Solomonovich even began to prepare a list of future students, but at the very last moment, his candidacy, showing cowardice, was not approved by the artistic council of the conservatory.
The third time David Solomonovich was rejected in 1901, when, on the recommendation of the famous pianist and conductor Alexander Ziloti, he was offered the position of director of the Music and Drama School of the Moscow Philharmonic Society. Members of the directorate of the Philharmonic Society initially considered him a baptized Jew, and even mistook his wife for a Russian, but Shor was forced to disappoint his employers again.
If David Solomonovich had to forget about his career as a music professor for a while, then in the musical field everything was going well. In 1892, together with violinist David Crane and cellist Modest Altsсhuler, Shor founded “The Moscow Trio”. In 1896, after Modest Altshuler emigrated to America, the place of cellist in the Shor Trio, as the music band was also called, was taken by a graduate of the Prague Conservatory, Rudolf Ehrlich. Together with his colleagues, David Solomonovich followed the ideas of Anton Rubinstein, consistently combining works of classics and modern composers in his repertoire. The trio successfully toured in London, Berlin, Paris, traveled to various Russian cities, and performed at the estate of Leo Tolstoy.
Having received recognition as a musician over the years of active creative activity, Shor, according to him, gradually began to feel a growing creative crisis. In 1904, Shor writes about the “spiritual upheaval” in his life and the “reassessment of values” that led him to one of the most important missions of his life – the construction of a Jewish home in Eretz Israel.
In April 1907, still on a spiritual quest and having temporarily left the Moscow Trio, David and his father made a five-week trip to Palestine. The musician was struck by the completely biblical pictures, and also by the harshness and anti-Semitism of Ivan Bunin, with whom he traveled together. But the main thing was that he felt like home in Eretz Israel. In the Holy Land, the musician was struck by the completely biblical pictures of Jerusalem, Nazareth, Lake Gennesaret, Galilee, the Dead Sea and other places, and even more so by the harshness and anti-Semitism of Ivan Bunin, whom he met on the ship and traveled together with.
But the main thing was that throughout his stay in Eretz Israel he felt like a man who had come home. Everything was “dear and close” to him. Especially local Jews, devoid of any fear or complexes. What impressed him most were the Jewish children from the colonies, joyful and free, singing as they walked home from school.
David Shor shared his impressions of his trip to Eretz Israel in a report made in 1908 and partially published on the pages of the Zionist weekly “Rassvet” (“Dawn”), published in St. Petersburg. According to him, having given a lecture-concert in Jerusalem in early May 1907, he came to the conclusion that the development of the arts should be encouraged at all costs in the historical homeland of Jewry. On their native soil, devoid of fears and “breaks,” Jewish musicians and artists will be able to say their own, pure Jewish word in world culture.
Changed after his trip to Palestine, David Solomonovich actively became involved in the life of Jewish society in Moscow. Taking advantage of his fame, Shor began to organize concerts in favor of Jewish students, as well as to contribute in every possible way to all the endeavors of the educational organization the “Society for the Dissemination of Education among Jews in Russia”.
His next step was the establishment on March 4, 1908 of the Society for Jewish Folk Music, created with the goal of promoting the study and development of Jewish folk music in Russia, both sacred and secular. His co-founders were composer and musicologist Shlomo Rosowsky, pianist and music critic David Chernomordikov, teachers and folklorists Zinoviy Kiselgof and Joel Engel.
Simultaneously with activities in the national field, David Shor continued to work on popularizing the work of his idol, Beethoven. In 1911, with the support of the “tea magnate” and philanthropist David Vysotsky, Shor finally fulfilled his long-time dream – he opened the Beethoven Studio. In his studio, Shor organized cycles of historical concerts, concert-lectures and musical evenings. His son, Yevsey Davidovich Shor, ran the publishing house at the studio. The Beethoven Studio existed until the October Revolution of 1917.
David Solomonovich met the turbulent revolutionary times with a whole range of feelings. On the one hand, the equality of all nationalities declared by the Bolsheviks greatly appealed to him. In 1918, he began teaching piano and chamber ensemble classes at the Moscow Conservatory, and in 1919 he was finally awarded the title of professor, something that was unthinkable under Tsarism. However, the declared liberties did not apply to everyone. Thus, the freedom of the followers of Zionism, to which David Shor considered himself, had to be snatched from the authorities in a sacred but unequal struggle.
In 1921, after the arrests of participants in the Moscow Zionist Conference, David Shor, on his own initiative, began to intercede with the People's Commissar of Justice of the RSFSR Dmitry Kursky on behalf of his friend, the manufacturer Fievel Shapiro. Then he stood up for all the arrested Zionists. His efforts were not limited to visiting offices. Having received permission from a member of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the RCP (b) Lev Kamenev, a longtime admirer of the work of the Moscow Trio, in order to hold an evening in memory of Theodor Herzl, Shor decided to give a speech to the crowd. in support of the imprisoned Zionists. Having declared his support for the imprisoned Zionists from the stage, David Solomonovich called on those present to express sympathy for the prisoners. The audience, which numbered about 2,000 people, rose and sang the Zionist anthem, “Ha-Tikvah,” in unison. Shor then got away with the demarche.
Regular concerts for the party elite – from Stalin to Trotsky – still allowed David Solomonovich to play with fire. When it was possible to end up in the Northern camps of the GPU and not for such offenses, Shor dared to ask Kamenev and Deputy Chairman of the USSR Central Executive Committee Pyotr Smidovich to commute the sentences for Zionists. In December 1923, the musician stood up not only for people, but for the right to freely teach the “Jewish language” – Hebrew.
In 1924, together with the famous Indologist Mikhail Tubyansky, composer Mikhail Gnesin, poet Dovid Hofshtein and other public figures, David Shor decided to seek protection from Agro-Joint, an American charitable organization that had a contractual relationship with the Soviet government. Gathering in the Moscow office of Agro-Joint, Jewish activists decided to approach the Soviet authorities with a memorandum in which they hoped to “explain that only a ‘misunderstanding’ could have created the ban on the language.” Despite all their efforts, the Kremlin trusted the former Bundists from the Yevsektsiya in matters of language, and de facto banned the use and teaching of Hebrew in the Soviet Union.
If the tactics of personal requests and petitions did not help David Shor with Hebrew, then in the issue of Jewish political prisoners it gave a concrete result. On the night of March 13-14, 1924, 49 activists of Zionist organizations were arrested in Moscow, in particular the central bureau of Hechalutz. They were accused under Article 61 of the Criminal Code 1922 – “helping the international bourgeoisie” – and were sentenced to exile in the Narym region.
David Shor appealed to the All-Russian Central Executive Committee and personally to Kamenev with a petition to review the cases. Soon all 49 of them had their exile to Western Siberia replaced by deportation to Palestine. Kamenev helped this time too, but in a conversation with David Solomonovich in April 1924, he noted that the Zionists could help themselves if they made a public statement in support of Soviet power. This, as is known, was not done. However, the Bolsheviks will use the practice of “replacement” – the deportation of Zionists convicted in the USSR to Palestine more than once, which appeared at the instigation of David Shor.
In June 1925, Professor Shor met with supporters of the creation of Jewish colonies in Crimea, the Bolsheviks Yuri Larin and Grigory Broido, Pyotr Smidovich and member of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party of Bolsheviks Alexei Rykov to discuss a memorandum to the Presidium of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee demanding to stop the persecution of Zionists and form a society to aid emigration to Palestine.
The result of the negotiations was a meeting between David Shor and the leadership of the OGPU, organized by Smidovich. There, high-ranking chekists Vyacheslav Menzhinsky and Terenty Deribas showed Shor anti-Soviet leaflets distributed by Zionist youth movements. The young Zionists obviously saw their sworn enemies in the Bolsheviks, so David Shor had no choice but to accept the arguments of the chekists. Nevertheless, thanks to David Shor, in 1924-1934 at least 855 people left the USSR as a replacement, who escaped certain re-arrests and deaths.
The life of a “court” musician, taking advantage of his popularity with those in power in order to “obtain pardon for the innocently convicted,” was extremely burdensome for Shor. For many years he had been dreaming of repatriation to Eretz Israel, remaining in the USSR only to help other people. But over time, not only waning hopes, but also family ties no longer kept him in Soviet Russia. In March 1920, on the same day, David Solomonovich lost his wife, Raisa Mikhailovna, and his brother Joseph. Raisa Mikhailovna died from pneumonia, and Joseph Shor, a doctor by profession, died from typhus contracted in the hospital. With an interval of several years, Shor’s parents, his brother Lev from Penza, as well as his younger brother, Roman Solomonovich, who lived in Simferopol, passed away.
In October 1925, David Shor went to Palestine on a long business trip. The USSR People's Commissariat of Education officially instructed Shor, a professor at the Moscow State Conservatory, to expand cultural ties between the USSR and Palestine. Full of hopes of developing music culture on the Mediterranean coast, Shor met his old Zionist friends in Palestine and for the first time encountered the ideology of “halutzim” – Jews who decided to become workers and peasants. While playing a concert with them in Kibbutz Ein Harod, the maestro was surprised to hear that even the professional musicians who went to the kibbutz cultivated the land with their own hands, worked in quarries and cowsheds.
Not satisfied with the state of music education in the land of his ancestors, Shor came up with the idea of creating an institute that would prepare the basis for the formation of a true music culture in Palestine. The institution planned by David Solomonovich, the “Institute for the Dissemination of Music among the People,” was created in Tel Aviv in 1926. For three years, Shor had been organizing the concerts and lectures for educational purposes, but gradually his project faded away. The Palestinian public preferred the fashionable cinema to high art then, and if they went to concerts, it was only of visiting musicians. The Union of Musicians of Palestine, created in the summer of 1926 on the initiative of David Shor, also collapsed, and ceased to exist almost immediately after its first congress.
Despite the first failures, Professor Shor decided not to return to the Soviet Union. The Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party of Bolsheviks finally buried the project of creating a “Society for Promoting the Emigration of Jews to Palestine,” and the attack on everything Jewish continued. David Solomonovich settled with his daughter Evgenia and granddaughter Irina in Tel Aviv. There he continued his work to create music institutions in the country.
Realizing the haste of such undertakings based on sheer enthusiasm, Shor began to create a material base. With the assistance of the Jews of Europe and thanks to the tireless energy of Shor, the Society for the Support of Music Life "Ha-Nigun" and the Society of Friends of Jewish Music appeared in Palestine, which were called upon to financially support professional musicians.
How difficult was the formation of musical culture in the Yishuv, is evidenced by the diary entries of David Solomonovich, who sadly admitted that in Israel even the founder of the Riga Jewish Conservatory, Shlomo Rosowsky, and the famous conductor Mordechai Golinkin were unemployed, enmeshed in debt. The situation was slightly improved by the creation of the Institute of Music Sciences, funded by American philanthropists. However, in the early 1930s, Shor again wrote to the conductor of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Osip Gabrilovich: “There is no money for concerts, or for machon, or for musical work.” From 1929 to the mid-1930s, Shor taught at the Beit Leviim music school, worked as a lecturer at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, traveled on behalf of the university with lectures and concerts throughout the country, and also auditioned gifted children.
In 1936, when the Hebrew University stopped receiving funding from the deceased Osip Gabrilovich, the music department ceased to exist. David Shor refused his salary, but the university president, Dr. Yehuda Magnes, did not abuse the professor’s selflessness.
Despite all the failures, David Shor did not give up and in the same year registered a new institution in Tel Aviv – Institute of Music Education and Training. The institute did not have its own premises; classes were held in private apartments.
In 1936, Shor registered the Institute of Music Education and Training in Tel Aviv. The institute has a music school and a scholarship fund to support young musicians. Yevsey actively helped his father. However, Professor Shor was able to organize a music school at his institute, paid salaries to teachers and even created a scholarship fund to support young musicians.
In August 1933, Yevsey (Yehoshua in Israel) Shor and his wife left Berlin, deciding to settle in Palestine. On the way there, they were “stuck” in Italy for more than a year, arriving in Eretz Israel only in December 1934. He was not only a music teacher, but also an art critic, translator, and historian of philosophical thought. He actively helped his father in the establishment of a classical music school in Eretz Israel.
David Solomonovich celebrated his 75th birthday on January 14, 1942, playing at a gala concert in his honor. But his work in the performing and teaching fields, his active social position and activities in the V League undermined his health. The heart of the musician and Zionist stopped on June 1, 1942.
Soon after his death, the V League could donate medical equipment, ambulances, and other donations from the Jewish Yishuv to the Soviet Union. Russian Zionists, who were saved thanks to David Shor, planted a grove in his honor in Bet Shemen Forest. After the death of David Solomonovich, Institute of Music Education and Training was headed by his son Yevsey. Over time, the institute lost its former status, but the music school created on its basis exists to this day, in the Tel Aviv satellite city of Holon.
Bibliography and sources:
Юлия Матвеева. Давид Соломонович Шор
Семён Киперман. Роль выходцев из России в музыкальной культуре Израиля
Записки Д.С.Шора о путешествии в Палестину с Буниными
Зива Галили. Советский опыт сионизма: экспорт советской политической культуры в Палестину
1867 - 1942