Lazar Berman
Lazar Naumovich Berman was a Soviet Russian classical pianist
A pianist is a musician who plays the piano. A professional pianist can perform solo pieces, play with an ensemble or orchestra, or accompany one or more singers, solo instrumentalists, or other performers.-Choice of genres:...

. As a technician, Berman was extraordinary in terms of sheer evenness, control, and rhythmic panache, yet he always channeled his considerable craft toward musical ends.

Berman was appointed an Honoured Artist of the RSFSR in 1988.


Berman was born to Jewish parents in Leningrad
Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg is a city and a federal subject of Russia located on the Neva River at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea...

. His mother, Anna Lazarevna Makhover, had played the piano herself until ear problems stopped her. She introduced the boy to the piano, and he entered his first competition at the age of three, and recorded a Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart , baptismal name Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart , was a prolific and influential composer of the Classical era. He composed over 600 works, many acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, concertante, chamber, piano, operatic, and choral music...

Fantasia (music)
The fantasia is a musical composition with its roots in the art of improvisation. Because of this, it seldom approximates the textbook rules of any strict musical form ....

 and a mazurka
The mazurka is a Polish folk dance in triple meter, usually at a lively tempo, and with accent on the third or second beat.-History:The folk origins of the mazurek are two other Polish musical forms—the slow machine...

 that he had composed himself at the age of seven, before he could even read music. Emil Gilels
Emil Gilels
Emil Grigoryevich Gilels was a Soviet pianist, widely considered one of the greatest pianists of the 20th century.His last name is sometimes transliterated Hilels.-Biography:...

 described him as a "phenomenon of the musical world". When Lazar was nine, the family moved to Moscow
Moscow is the capital, the most populous city, and the most populous federal subject of Russia. The city is a major political, economic, cultural, scientific, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the continent...

 so that he could study with Aleksandr Goldenweiser at the Conservatoire
Moscow Conservatory
The Moscow Conservatory is a higher musical education institution in Moscow, and the second oldest conservatory in Russia after St. Petersburg Conservatory. Along with the St...

, as well as Sviatoslav Richter
Sviatoslav Richter
Sviatoslav Teofilovich Richter was a Soviet pianist well known for the depth of his interpretations, virtuoso technique, and vast repertoire. He is widely considered one of the greatest pianists of the 20th century.-Childhood:...

, Vladimir Sofronitsky
Vladimir Sofronitsky
Vladimir Vladimirovich Sofronitsky was a Russian pianist, best known as an interpreter of the Russian composer Alexander Scriabin, whose daughter he married.-Biography:Vladimir Sofronitsky was born to a physics teacher father and a mother from an artistic family...

 and Maria Yudina
Maria Yudina
Maria Veniaminovna Yudina was an influential Soviet pianist.Yudina was born to a Jewish family in Nevel, Russia. She studied at the Petrograd Conservatory under Anna Yesipova and Leonid Vladimirovich Nikolayev. She also briefly studied privately with Felix Blumenfeld. Her classmates included...

. The next year he made his formal debut playing Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 25
Piano Concerto No. 25 (Mozart)
The Piano Concerto No. 25 in C major, K. 503, was completed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart on December 4, 1786, alongside the Prague Symphony, K.504. Although two more concertos would later follow, this work is the last of the twelve great piano concertos written in Vienna between 1784 and...

 with the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra
Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra
The Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra is an orchestra based in Moscow, Russia. It was founded in 1951 by Samuil Samosud, as the Moscow Youth Orchestra for young and inexperienced musicians, acquiring its current name in 1953...

. In 1941, students, pupils and parents were evacuated to Kuibishev
Samara, Russia
Samara , is the sixth largest city in Russia. It is situated in the southeastern part of European Russia at the confluence of the Volga and Samara Rivers. Samara is the administrative center of Samara Oblast. Population: . The metropolitan area of Samara-Tolyatti-Syzran within Samara Oblast...

, a city on the Volga
Volga River
The Volga is the largest river in Europe in terms of length, discharge, and watershed. It flows through central Russia, and is widely viewed as the national river of Russia. Out of the twenty largest cities of Russia, eleven, including the capital Moscow, are situated in the Volga's drainage...

, because of World War II. Living conditions were so poor that his mother had to cut the fingers from a pair of gloves to allow him to continue to practise without freezing his hands.

Berman refused to play Chopin
Frédéric Chopin
Frédéric François Chopin was a Polish composer and virtuoso pianist. He is considered one of the great masters of Romantic music and has been called "the poet of the piano"....

, explaining that "Of course I used to play him, but many years ago I entered for a Chopin competition in Warsaw
Warsaw is the capital and largest city of Poland. It is located on the Vistula River, roughly from the Baltic Sea and from the Carpathian Mountains. Its population in 2010 was estimated at 1,716,855 residents with a greater metropolitan area of 2,631,902 residents, making Warsaw the 10th most...

 and I did not qualify. It was a tremendous blow to my pride, and I vowed that I would never play him again." His playing of Chopin, however, is well documented, in both a concert film and a DGG recording of the polonaises from the 1970s.

He subsequently began to acquire a small international visibility. At the age of 12 he played Franz Liszt
Franz Liszt
Franz Liszt ; ), was a 19th-century Hungarian composer, pianist, conductor, and teacher.Liszt became renowned in Europe during the nineteenth century for his virtuosic skill as a pianist. He was said by his contemporaries to have been the most technically advanced pianist of his age...

's La campanella to a British audience over the radio; in 1956 he won a prize at the Queen Elisabeth Music Competition
Queen Elisabeth Music Competition
The Queen Elisabeth Music Competition, a founding member of the World Federation of International Music Competitions has been, since its foundation, considered the world over to be one of the most prestigious and most difficult. It is devoted to violin , piano , to composition and to singing...

 in Belgium, with Vladimir Ashkenazy
Vladimir Ashkenazy
Vladimir Davidovich Ashkenazy is a Russian-Icelandic conductor and pianist. Since 1972 he has been a citizen of Iceland, his wife Þórunn's country of birth. Since 1978, because of his many obligations in Europe, he and his family have resided in Meggen, near Lucerne in Switzerland...

; and in 1958, he performed in London and recorded for Saga records.

Although he was known to international music aficionados who had heard the occasional recording on the Russian Melodiya
Melodiya is a Russian record label. It was the state-owned major record company/label of the Soviet Union.-History:It was established in 1964 as the "All-Union Gramophone Record Firm of the USSR Ministry of Culture Melodiya"...

 record label, as well as those who visited the Soviet Union, he was not generally well known outside Russia before his 1975 American tour, organised by the impresario
An impresario is a person who organizes and often finances concerts, plays or operas; analogous to a film producer in filmmaking, television production and an angel investor in business...

 Jacques Leiser
Jacques Leiser
Jacques Leiser is an international artists manager and photographer who has represented and collaborated with many of the world's greatest concert pianists, composers, violinists, composers and singers.-Biography:...

. His now legendary New York debut at the 92 Street Y, where he played Liszt's Transcendental Etudes
Transcendental Etudes
The Transcendental Etudes , S.139, are a series of twelve compositions for solo piano by Franz Liszt. They were published in 1852 as a revision of a more technically difficult 1837 series, which in turn were the elaboration of a set of studies written in 1826:...

, struck the music world like lightning. He became an overnight sensation. Before that, he had been generally restricted to the Soviet concert circuit, playing on old and decrepit pianos to audiences of varied degrees of interest. Invitations to tour outside the Soviet Union were ignored by the Soviet state concert agency, Gosconcert. He lived in a tiny two-room apartment in Moscow, with a grand piano occupying an entire room. But after his 1975 tour, he was immediately in great demand, with Deutsche Grammophon
Deutsche Grammophon
Deutsche Grammophon is a German classical record label which was the foundation of the future corporation to be known as PolyGram. It is now part of Universal Music Group since its acquisition and absorption of PolyGram in 1999, and it is also UMG's oldest active label...

The EMI Group, also known as EMI Music or simply EMI, is a multinational music company headquartered in London, United Kingdom. It is the fourth-largest business group and family of record labels in the recording industry and one of the "big four" record companies. EMI Group also has a major...

, and CBS
CBS Broadcasting Inc. is a major US commercial broadcasting television network, which started as a radio network. The name is derived from the initials of the network's former name, Columbia Broadcasting System. The network is sometimes referred to as the "Eye Network" in reference to the shape of...

 vying to record him. He recorded the Tchaikovsky
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (Russian: Пётр Ильи́ч Чайко́вский ; often "Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky" in English. His names are also transliterated "Piotr" or "Petr"; "Ilitsch", "Il'ich" or "Illyich"; and "Tschaikowski", "Tschaikowsky", "Chajkovskij"...

 First Piano Concerto
Piano Concerto No. 1 (Tchaikovsky)
The Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor, Op. 23 was composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky between November 1874 and February 1875. It was revised in the summer of 1879 and again in December 1888. The first version received heavy criticism from Nikolai Rubinstein, Tchaikovsky's desired pianist....

 with Herbert von Karajan
Herbert von Karajan
Herbert von Karajan was an Austrian orchestra and opera conductor. To the wider world he was perhaps most famously associated with the Berlin Philharmonic, of which he was principal conductor for 35 years...

, as well as broadcasting it on international television with Antal Doráti
Antal Doráti
Antal Doráti, KBE was a Hungarian-born conductor and composer who became a naturalized American citizen in 1947.-Biography:...

, to mark United Nations Day
United Nations Day
In 1947, the United Nations General Assembly declared 24 October, the anniversary of the Charter of the United Nations, as which "shall be devoted to making known to the peoples of the world the aims and achievements of the United Nations and to gaining their support for" its work.In 1971 the...

 in 1976. His recordings with Claudio Abbado
Claudio Abbado
Claudio Abbado, Cavaliere di Gran Croce OMRI , is an Italian conductor. He has served as music director of the La Scala opera house in Milan, principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, principal guest conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, music director of the Vienna State Opera,...

 conducting (particularly the works of Rachmaninoff
Sergei Rachmaninoff
Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninoff was a Russian composer, pianist, and conductor. Rachmaninoff is widely considered one of the finest pianists of his day and, as a composer, one of the last great representatives of Romanticism in Russian classical music...

) are still in high demand.

Most of his British appearances came in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In December 1976, he performed music by Sergei Prokofiev
Sergei Prokofiev
Sergei Sergeyevich Prokofiev was a Russian composer, pianist and conductor who mastered numerous musical genres and is regarded as one of the major composers of the 20th century...

 and Franz Liszt at the Royal Festival Hall
Royal Festival Hall
The Royal Festival Hall is a 2,900-seat concert, dance and talks venue within Southbank Centre in London. It is situated on the South Bank of the River Thames, not far from Hungerford Bridge. It is a Grade I listed building - the first post-war building to become so protected...

, in 1978 he played Liszt's A major concerto
Piano Concerto No. 2 (Liszt)
Franz Liszt wrote drafts for his Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 2 in A major, S.125, during his virtuoso period, in 1839 to 1840. He then put away the manuscript for a decade. When he returned to the concerto, he revised and scrutinized it repeatedly. The fourth and final period of revision...

 with Klaus Tennstedt
Klaus Tennstedt
Klaus Tennstedt was a German conductor from Merseburg; he conducted such orchestras as the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra; Kiel Opera in Northern Germany; North German Radio Orchestra, in Hamburg; the Minnesota Orchestra; and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.-Life and career:He studied violin and...

 and the London Symphony Orchestra
London Symphony Orchestra
The London Symphony Orchestra is a major orchestra of the United Kingdom, as well as one of the best-known orchestras in the world. Since 1982, the LSO has been based in London's Barbican Centre.-History:...

, and in 1984 he played Tchaikovsky's first Piano Concerto with Sir John Pritchard at the Proms
The Proms
The Proms, more formally known as The BBC Proms, or The Henry Wood Promenade Concerts presented by the BBC, is an eight-week summer season of daily orchestral classical music concerts and other events held annually, predominantly in the Royal Albert Hall in London...


The Soviet authorities even then intermittently restricted his international travels; in 1980 his scheduled appearance at the Llandaff Festival had to be cancelled. It was at that time when after a trip to the West, American literature banned in the Soviet Union was found in his luggage by the KGB watchdogs. As the result, his name was black-listed, and his career was black-flagged by the Soviet authorities. His being Jewish only aggravated the issue (in the Soviet Union, Jews were considered potential dissidents and suspected of wishing to flee the country.) The frequency of this interference declined, however, as the Soviet Union entered the last phase of its existence, and he finally left Russia for Italy in 1990, settling in Florence
Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with approximately 370,000 inhabitants, expanding to over 1.5 million in the metropolitan area....

 in 1995.

Lazar Berman died in 2005, survived by his third wife, Valentina Sedova, also a pianist, whom he had married in 1968, and a son, the talented violinist and conductor Pavel Berman. His students included Sonya Bach,, Italian pianists Maurizio Baglini
Maurizio Baglini
Maurizio Baglini is an Italian pianist.Prizewinner in major international piano competitions such as Concorso Busoni in Bolzano, Fryderyk Chopin Competition, he subsequently was awarded the 1998 William Kapell Competition's 3rd prize in Maryland, and 1999, aged only 24, he won the World Music...

, Enrico Elisi
Enrico Elisi
Enrico Elisi is an Italian pianist from Bologna, Italy.Enrico Elisi regularly performs to acclaim throughout the Americas, Europe, and Asia. In Italy he has appeared in prestigious venues such as La Fenice Theatre, Venice; Palazzo Vecchio, Florence; Bibbiena Theatre, Mantua; Teatro Comunale Luciano...

, and Enrico Pace
Enrico Pace
-Biography:Enrico Pace was born in Rimini, Italy in 1967. He studied piano with Franco Scala, mainly at the Rossini Conservatory in Pesaro. He was also active as conductor and composer. In 1987 he won first prize at the International Yamaha Competition in Stresa and in 1989 he was first prize...

, Vardan Mamikonian and Victor Chestopal.

Recently, his memoirs were published in German and in Russian. The book is titled "The Years of Peregrination: Reveries of a Pianist."

External links

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