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Thursday, 20 August 2009


Some 18 months ago, my wife Jennifer’s choir, Cantabile Singers, was looking for a pianist when into their lives walked Larissa Yvonne Snarli, who was born in Russia but was now a Norwegian citizen living in Spain’s Costa Blanca. In her mid-fifties, Larissa was a diminutive package with a prodigious talent. She wasn’t an accompanist, but a concert pianist. The choir felt blessed indeed.

Last November Larissa was diagnosed with cancer and since then she lived for the music every blessed day, courageously performing on stage and teaching her devoted pupils at the piano. This photo shows her at the end of a fantastic performance this June. Though Larissa seemed to be winning after severe surgery and traumatic treatment, sadly additional cancer cells were detected. Eleven days after her birthday, she succumbed, leaving a bereft husband of twelve years, Roger, and a beautiful daughter, Elena.

Any death is sad. Yet it somehow seems particularly cruel when such formidable talent is swept away. Larissa was a linguist, cultured, humorous and highly intelligent.

When Larissa Yvonne, 56, and Norwegian Roger Snarli, 71, met on the Internet nearly twelve years ago it was love at first sight. Just a few months later, Larissa moved from Siberia to Oslo. Naturally, the life, the people and the culture in Russia were totally different from Norway. “But Larissa’s good command of English counterbalanced a great many cultural differences between us,” said Roger. “She had a great flair for languages and she quickly learned to speak Norwegian. She also started right away teaching new pupils at her private piano school in Oslo.”

“I learned the language from my pupils,” Larissa reminisced, “and by watching TV and reading newspapers.” She had a charming Russian-tinged accent when speaking English.

Larissa, or Lara as the family members called her, grew up with a sister eight years older in a privileged and highly educated family in the town of Tomsk, Siberia. Her father was a physicist and an engineer. Their mother worked as an English teacher, so the girls learned the language at their mother’s knee. They had a piano in the house and both sisters were attending music classes after regular school time. Larissa was only six when she took her first piano lessons and it soon became apparent that she had an exceptional talent. At the age of twelve, she held her first piano concert with the philharmonic orchestra.

Later, she extended her studies at the music college and completed her musical education by graduating from the Novosibirsk Conservatory. At 24, she started working as a leader of the orchestra (concertmaster) at Tomsk music theatre and worked there for seven years.

During this period she also performed a number of recitals, one of them being Beethoven’s piano concerto, with Tomsk symphony orchestra on tours in different parts of Russia. She received many awards and prizes from the city council – the highest acknowledgement available in the Soviet Union. In 1983 she was employed as a piano-teacher and an accompanist/concertmaster at Tomsk music college; she was awarded with the highest distinctions both as a teacher and an accompanist. Later on, she was twice chosen to participate in the international music festival for piano-duets.

Larissa became a Norwegian citizen and received her Norwegian passport. Their dream for warmer climes finally turned into reality when they finally got into the car on the first day of March 2006 and headed south. An enormous feeling of freedom engulfed them.

Even though Spain conquered Larissa’s heart, she maintained her bonds with both Norway and Russia. Larissa’s daughter Elena moved to Norway following her mother and has married and settled there; she is now busy studying Chinese at the University of Oslo. Larissa’s 88-year-old mother still lives in Russia.

Her personal motto was: “I wish to plant a seed of music into my pupil’s soul, and hope that it will bring joy and pleasure to their lives.”

Teaching piano gave Larissa the greatest joy in her life. She loved her pupils and they also showed that they appreciated her. The young musicians were of various nationalities: English, Russian, Chinese, Swedish and Norwegian, among others.

Throughout her medical treatment, Larissa tried to maintain a very positive attitude and believed that music would help her through the pain. For such a small lady, Larissa had a big heart and enormous talent to share with audiences and pupils alike. Now she is gone, but for all those whose lives she touched, her music will live on.

Larissa Yvonne Snarli, Norwegian citizen, born in Seversk, Russia, 8 August 1953, died Orihuela Costa, Spain, 19 August 2009.


Rob Innis said...

Nik, What a lovely talented lady she sounds, so sorry you have lost a friend.
I too have recently been helping a friend to battle with illness, fortunately, at the moment, he is winning.

Nik said...

Thanks, Rob. True friends who predecease us live on in us. Let's hope we might do the same when our time comes...
Wishing your friend success in his battle.

a Whisperings Pianist said...

This is a very moving story. Thank you for sharing this.
-Steven Cravis

Nik said...

Thanks, Steven. We're off to the local Norwegian church to make arrangements for next week...


Very touching

Barbara Martin said...

My condolences in your loss of a good friend. An excellent tribute for a gifted pianist.

Nik said...

Thanks, Gary and Barbara. Today I'm struggling with a few obituaries...