Maria Yudina was no ordinary musician. An incredibly popular pianist, she lived on the fringes of Soviet society and had close friendships with such towering figures as Boris Pasternak, Pavel Florensky, and Mikhail Bakhtin. Legend has it that she was Stalin's favourite pianist.
Yudina was at the height of her fame during WWII, broadcasting almost daily on the radio, playing concerts for the wounded and troops in hospitals and on submarines, and performing for the inhabitants of besieged Leningrad. By the last years of her life, she had been dismissed for ideological reasons from the three institutions where she taught. And yet according to Shostakovich, Yudina remained a special case.