Emil Gilels was born in Odessa, Russia in 1916. He first studied at the Odessa Conservatory and then in Moscow with Neuhaus. His first performance outside of the USSR in 1933 was in Vienna. In 1937, Gilels was the victor in the first Queen Elisabeth piano competition in Brussels. He made his U.S. debut in 1955, returning on many occasions. He died in 1985.