On This Day
4 January: Boris Berezovsky Was Born

Pianist Boris Berezovsky, born on 4 January 1969 in Moscow, has been described as “a player of dazzling virtuosity and formidable power.” Winner of the 1990 International Tchaikovsky Competition, he has established himself as a virtuoso pianist and a gifted musician with unique insight and great sensitivity.

Boris Berezovsky

Boris Berezovsky

More recently, in a post-truth moment, he has blamed the West for starting the war in Ukraine and urged the Russian Federation to commit war crimes in Kyiv. Apparently, he will not perform in the West for the next three years, but he did pay lip service to the spin machine by expressing regrets for his comments. Engaging with your audience is one thing, celebrating the slaughter of innocent civilians is quite another.

Boris Berezovsky Performs Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor, Op. 23


Berezovsky was born Elyashberg Boris Vadimovich, and only at the age of seven did his parents change their last name to Berezovsky. He grew up in a musical family as his father was a trumpet player in a variety theatre. Young Boris went to every show and met his first piano teacher. “As a pianist,” Berezovsky explained in an interview, “he was not very successful because he had very small hands and lots of problems with women.”

Little Boris Berezovsky playing the piano

Boris Berezovsky as a young boy

However, Berezovsky concedes that he was a fantastic musician, communicating important ideas about technique. His first teacher, however, had been his father. He introduced his son to the piano, and young Boris functioned on “the ice cream bonus.” That means he practiced 3 to 4 hours a day on the promise of getting some ice cream.

Sergei Rachmaninoff: 13 Preludes, Op. 32 (Boris Berezovsky, piano)

First Performances

His parents quickly realised that little Boris had big potential, and he played his first concert in a theatre at the age of five on the promise of chocolate cake. He remembers, “Between the shows, I played a little piece by Kabalevsky to entertain the people. But I played it in the wrong key. I learned it in one key and played it in another. I don’t think I ever noticed.”

His exceptional talent was quickly recognised, and Boris Berezovsky was accepted at the Moscow Conservatory and started lessons with the Georgian pianist Eliso Virsaladze. A student of Heinrich Neuhaus and A. Goldenweiser, Sviatoslav Richter considered her the best female pianist of her time and the best interpreter of Schumann. Berezovsky, in turn, considered her an absolutely fantastic and phenomenal musician.

Boris Berezovsky Performs Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor, Op. 11

Eliso Virsaladze and Alexander Satz

According to Boris Berezovsky, Virsaladze was highly opinionated and she knew exactly what she wanted. Highly demanding, she would constantly tell him, “Oh, I hate that, I hate that, I love that. Out of 10 hate, there would be a single love.” Virsaladze considered Berezovsky a gifted pianist “who frequently sounded under-rehearsed, and could play with more intensity.” Nevertheless, Berezovsky credits her for preparing him to succeed at the Tchaikovsky competition in 1990.

Boris Berezovsky and his father

Boris Berezovsky and his father

After winning the Tchaikovsky competition, Boris Berezovsky studied privately with the Russian pianist and educator Alexander Satz, who was living in exile in Austria. For Berezovsky, Satz would become his guru and main influence as he introduced him to an extended and new repertoire that aroused a real interest in music. “I played the Tchaikovsky Competition on autopilot, but Satz actually made me fall in love with music,” he explained.

Franz Liszt: Piano Sonata in B Minor, S178/R21 (Boris Berezovsky, piano)

Future Ambitions

Eliso Virsaladze

Eliso Virsaladze

Boris Berezovsky is still not sure how long he will follow his pianistic calling. “I am not sure because, at some point, it will become routine, and when it becomes routine, there is no point in doing that, for me.” Music, for Berezovsky, is like a natural resource, “and at a certain point, there is nothing more.”

He continues to be interested in a whole range of other activities, including translating literature or even driving a taxi. One thing is for sure: after his recent foot-in-mouth incident, Boris Berezovsky should definitely stay away from politics.

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Boris Berezovsky Performs Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3

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