Isaac Schwartz was an outstanding composer, who made a great contribution to the Soviet and Russian cinema and theatre. He is the author of several symphonies, ballets, and music for some dozens of stage plays and 110 films.
Isaac Josephovich Schwarts was born on 13 May 1923 in the city of Romny, Chernigov Region, Ukraine, and grew up in an intelligent and well-educated family. In 1930 the family moved to Leningrad (St. Petersburg), where the boy started playing grand piano in a music school. At the age of 12 Isaac already took part in a youth concert in the Leningrad Philharmonic Hall.
In December 1936 Isaac’s father, philologist Joseph Evseyevich Schwartz (1889—1938), who had suffered infarction shortly before, was arrested by NKVD (People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs), accused of counterrevolutionary activities and then executed in a prison camp. In summer 1937 the Schwartz family was exiled from Leningrad to Kirgizia. Isaac’s mother got employed at a clothes factory, and the 14-year old Isaac started teaching private piano lessons to children of local officials.
From1938 Isaac Schwartz took composition lessons from the outstanding teacher V.G. Ferre. In the later years of the exile he worked as a concertmaster in Kirgiz State Theatre. During the Great Patriotic War the musician headed the choir and orchestra of the Red Army Song and Dance Company of the Frunze military district.
In 1943 Isaac Schwartz got married and two years later, when the exile term was over, could return to Leningrad. With support of Dmitry Schostakovich he entered the Leningrad Conservatoire. After graduation, in 1954 Schwartz composed his Symphony F-Minor, which gained him first success. In 1955 Isaac Schwartz was admitted to the Composers’ Union of the USSR.
In the following years he composed a range of ballets, music for stage plays (The Idiot, Woe from Wit, and No Man is Wise at All Times staged by Tovstonogov, etc.) and feature films (altogether more than 110 movies). He composed soundtrack music for many of the favourite classics of Russian cinema, such as The Captivating Star of Happiness (1975), White Sun of the Desert (1970), The Straw Hat (1974), One Hundred Days After Childhood (1974), Melodies of a White Night (1978), and others.
Isaac Schwartz cooperated with many talented Russian film directors, such as Ivan Pyriev, Yuli Karasik, Mikhail Shveitser, Sergei Solovyov, Vladimir Motyl, Pyotr Todorovsky, etc.
Quite prolific was his creative alliance with Bulat Okudzhava. Together they created 32 songs, most of which turned to be popular cinema hits. Okudzhava highly estimated the composer’s rare gift of ‘extracting music from the very poem, that same, the only one possibly existing for each line’.
A master of all possible ways of composition technique, Isaac Schwartz gave priority to sincerity, simplicity and melodious naturalness in music. That was probably why lots of his works gained him all people’s love and glory.
In 2000 the composer again turned to the symphonic genre that initiated his musical fame. He composed the Concert for Orchestra Yellow Stars (aka Purimspiel in Ghetto) in seven parts. Isaac Schwartz dedicated his concert to the memory of the Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who rescued tens of thousands of Jews from perishing during World War Two. The concert Yellow Stars is a lyrical hymn to courage, wisdom, dignity and the unity of people who managed to overcome the fear of death.
The composer lived and worked in the Siverski Settlement of the Leningrad Region. He died in sleep on 27 December 2009. Isaac Schwartz was laid to rest in the necropolis of Men of Letters at the Volkovskoe Cemetery, where the most notable figures of the national culture are buried.