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Boris Berman: “My Harpsichord Experiences Have Taught Me Many Things Useful For My Piano Playing”


Boris Berman’s life and career present a fascinating journey filled with diverse experiences and a deep commitment to music. From his early days studying piano with Lev Oborin, a prominent figure and Chopin Competition winner, to his exploration of harpsichord and early music, Berman’s multifaceted interests and collaborations reflect a rich tapestry of musical engagement.

The period he describes, marked by the “thaw” in Russia during the mid-’60s to early ’70s, provides insight into a time when cultural expression, particularly in music, began to experience newfound freedom. Berman’s involvement in the “Music — the Twentieth Century” group and his collaborations with composers like Schnittke, Gubaidulina, and others highlight the vibrant experimentation taking place despite challenges.

His move to Israel and subsequent career development underscore the transformative power of seizing opportunities. Berman’s openness to unorthodox programming and innovative ideas facilitated his integration into the cultural scene, allowing him to share his passion for music with diverse audiences.

The Prokofiev recording project with the Concertgebouw orchestra reflects the organic progression of Berman’s career, shaped by collaborations and a genuine enthusiasm for repertoire. His extensive discography, featuring works by Scriabin, Cage, Debussy, Brahms, and others, showcases his versatility and ongoing exploration of musical expression.

Berman’s pedagogical approach, emphasizing a connection to various musical styles and the importance of serving the composer, provides a valuable insight into his teaching philosophy. The idea of helping students develop their approach to different styles rather than abstract personality development is a noteworthy perspective.

The discussion of masterclasses reveals the delicate balance between addressing individual student needs and engaging the audience. Berman’s improvisational approach to teaching, as demonstrated in the example of incorporating a student’s cadenza, reflects adaptability and a commitment to effective communication.

His books, particularly “Notes from the Pianist’s Bench,” serve as valuable resources for students, performers, and teachers alike. Berman’s intention to create a practical guide, addressing common issues faced by students, illustrates his dedication to musical education.

In summary, Boris Berman’s narrative encompasses a remarkable journey through the evolving landscape of music, marked by artistic collaborations, diverse repertoire exploration, and a profound commitment to education. His experiences provide a unique perspective on the intersection of personal and cultural history with the ever-evolving world of classical music.

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ISSN: 2792-8349

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International Journal of Music