Benno Moiseiwitsch

Benno Moiseiwitsch


• 1890 1963


Benno Moiseiwitsch was the leading late-Romantic Russian pianist based in London during the years after the Russian Revolution.

He was precociously talented, evidenced by his winning the Anton Rubinstein Prize when he was nine years old, after having studied with Dmitry Klimov at the Music Academy in Odessa. At the age of 14 he went to Vienna to study with Leschetizky. Meanwhile, his family emigrated to England, so when he made his debut as a mature artist it was in Reading (1908), followed by an appearance in London in 1910.

His first American appearance was after World War I, in 1919. He achieved an important international concert career, touring extensively throughout Europe, North and South America, East Asia, Africa, Australia, and the Pacific islands.

He adopted a similar stage appearance to that of his friend Sergei Rachmaninov and his fellow Odessan Jascha Heifetz: an undemonstrative, reserved, even cold demeanor. Critics found the same qualities in his playing, yet recordings suggest passionate interpretations, particularly of late-Romantic and Russian music. He frequently played Rachmaninov, with the composer often remarking that Moiseiwitsch played his music better than he did. Moiseiwitsch was one of the new champions of the composer Medtner outside Russia.

Although his repertory centered on the Romantic era (his Classical era repertory was almost invariable made up of Romantic transcriptions), he did premiere several pieces by contemporaries, including Francis Poulenc. He became a British subject in 1937.