16 NOVEMBER 2002, Page 40

Outwitting Stalin

From Mr Robert Davies Sir: Harry Eyres (Arts, 9 November) has not got his Stalin story quite right. Stalin was indeed delighted by Maria Yudina's performance of a Mozart concerto on the radio. When he asked to hear it again, however, they realised they did not have a record, so they asked the police to go round the orchestra's homes and bring them back to the studio.

A knock on the door in the early hours meant only one thing in Stalin's Russia. Most players found it difficult to believe they were being asked to give a second performance of Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major, K488. The conductor simply had a heart attack and had to be replaced.

In the event, Stalin was just as delighted with the second performance. He sent Yudina a leather bag of imperial gold coins. It was then that she replied that she had sent it to a remote monastery which had been the particular victim of his vicious oppression.

Eyres is quite right to say she got away with it.

Robert Davies

London SE3