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North Salem Pianist Misha Dichter Against Moving Composer's Remains

Misha Dichter at the grave site of Sergei Rachmaninoff.
Misha Dichter at the grave site of Sergei Rachmaninoff. Photo Credit: Skip Pearlman

VALHALLA, N.Y. -- A famed pianist is speaking out against the idea of moving Russian's composer Sergei Rachmaninoff's remains from Valhalla to Russia.

"It's the most idiotic thing I've seen in a while," Misha Dichter, who lives in North Salem, said.

A Russian government official said Rachmaninoff's body should be exhumed from the Kensico Cemetery and sent back to Russia, despite the objections of Rachmaninoff's family. 

Rachmaninoff's great-great granddaughter said the composer, who died in 1943, wanted to be buried in Switzerland, but was buried at Kensico Cemetery because his body could not be delivered due to World War II, according to the New York Times.

Rachmaninoff left Russia in 1917 during the Russian Revolution. 

"It should be enough that his family says it's stupid and they should leave him," Dichter said. "This must be the same person in Moscow who wants Crimea back. It would be sacrilege to consider moving him."

Dichter is famous for his recordings of Brahms piano concerti with Kurt Masur and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Brahms solo works including the Handel Variations, Beethoven piano sonatas, the complete Liszt Hungarian Rhapsodies, the Liszt Piano Concerti with André Previn and the Pittsburgh Symphony, and Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue with Neville Marriner and the Philharmonica Orchestra, as well as music of Chopin, Mussorgsky, Schubert, Schumann, Stravinsky, and Tchaikovsky. 

He was born in Shanghai in 1945, his Polish parents having fled Poland at the outbreak of World War II. He moved with his family to Los Angeles at the age of two and began piano lessons four years later. Dichter enrolled at Julliard and at the age of 20 entered the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, which helped launch his career.

Dichter said Rachmaninoff was central to his life and to his musical career.

"He's the ultimate pianist," Dichter said. "Pianists hold him very dearly. It's a shame nationalism has to rear its ugly head in Russia. This is a big mistake by the Russians."

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