Cellists: Verbal Virtuoso

Gregor Piatigorsky has been known to audiences for nearly half a century as one of the world's great cellists. But in the music world, he is almost as noted for his borscht-accented conversation—sharp and sagacious—as for his musicianship. Last week, as he observed his 65th birthday on his rambling estate in Los Angeles, the far-from-retiring Piatigorsky gave one of his inimitable offstage performances in a four-hour talk with TIME'S Los Angeles bureau chief, Marshall Berges. As these excerpts show, he is as much of a verbal virtuoso as ever.

On aging:

I consider myself an extremely young man but a fairly...