Moussia and Natasha, in the spring of 1926. From Moussia’s personal collection.
From 1923 until 1929, the Borovskys did their best to adjust to the exhausting international concert schedule of Alexander. In that period, the Prokovievs and the Borovskys were close friends and Prokoviev’s Diaries give glimpses of their restless life. It sometimes happened that when Borovsky returned from a tour, he had to leave a few days later, as in early December 1926, when he spent two days with his family, ‘en route from Finland to England’. Musicians traveled by train and ship, and to make these long trips worthwhile, tours usually involved many concerts. Borovsky was often away for a month, sometimes two at a time.
Thirty years later, looking back on that period, Borovsky wrote that Moussia stayed at home or was in Poland with her aunt while he was gone, longing to go out with her friends again once he had returned. He, on the other hand, was looking forward to spend these few precious days at home, with his family and his piano practice, preparing for his next concerts. This put the marriage under strain but, in those years, both worked hard to make their union a success, not in the least because they doted on little Natasha.
In 1925, the Soviet Central Committee had decided to invite Prokofiev, Stravinsky and Borovsky to the USSR. Their choice is significant. The three had always taken care to appear as ‘unpolitical’ as possible in the eyes of the Soviet authorities. The tours came about in early 1927. All three worried beforehand, wondering if, once there, they would be allowed to leave. Borovsky decided to take out an ‘insurance policy’ by obtaining Latvian passports for his family, in the summer of 1926, during a concert tour combined with a summer holiday in Riga, together with Moussia and Natasha. But would that very act, in the eyes of the Soviet authorities, prove to be counterproductive?
In October, Alexander’s mother died in Leningrad, in the middle of one of Alexander’ tours. He was not in good form and he got some poor reviews in Poland, Moussia worried about him and, more and more, worry proved to be a factor contributing to her kidney problems. Often, under stress, she became ill – this is even visible when you compare the many photographs of her over time; when she does not feel well, her face is more angular and tense.
Moussia and Natasha on a Baltic beach near Riga, summer 1926. Natasha about two years old.
Photo taken by Alexander Borovsky. From Moussia’s personal collection.
In December, 1926, Borovsky and the Prokofievs went to the Soviet Consulate in Paris, to discuss their Russian entry visas. They were met by a stern looking official who reminded them that although he could give them entry visas, they would be able to leave Russia only as Soviet citizens, so they would have to apply for exit visas over there. A few weeks later, some reassurance was given on that point of worry but Moussia decided not to accompany her husband, her Latvian passport notwithstanding. A revealing observation by Prokofiev: “‘Comrade Consul’ had a fine office and a fine fur coat. Ptashka noticed that he had a severe look about him, Borovsky that he had beautiful hands.”
(to be continued)