Remarks at a White House Reception Honoring Vladimir Feltsman

 

September 27, 1987

 

Well, Vladimir Feltsman, one critic has called you ``extraordinary, brilliant,'' while another has written, ``He must be counted among the great musicians of the world.'' Well, after listening to your performance this evening -- well, if anything, those critics were guilty of understatement. But on this the occasion of your first concert in the United States, I know that everyone here wants to join Nancy and me in extending the warmest congratulations.

 

I called this your first concert in the United States, but that isn't quite accurate. Your first concert took place 5 years ago at Lincoln Center. As a spotlight shone upon an empty stage, an audience listened to recordings of your music, because you had not been permitted to leave your own country for that performance. Your request for immigration led to artistic exile in your homeland. Long and difficult years followed. And of these long years you've said, and I quote, ``I worked very hard. I studied a lot of music I had never played before, like `Maple Street Rag' -- [laughter] -- and God knows I had the time for it. I had nerves and fits of depression, but the experience taught me a lot. I now understand life and the nature of people and the values of real friendship, which means, also, that I understand music better. In all honesty I can say that I'm playing better now than 8 years ago.''

 

Well, Vladimir Feltsman, that you manifest no bitterness, that you speak instead of the good you found in the midst of your suffering, this proves that you're not only a great musician, this proves that you are a hero of the human spirit. And, Vladimir, with all our hearts, we welcome you and Anna and Daniel to the United States and to freedom. And God bless you.

 

Note: The President spoke at 5:57 p.m. in the East Room at the White House. In his closing remarks, he referred to Mr. Feltsman's wife, Anna, and son, Daniel.