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Acclaimed Chopin Performer Ivan Moravec Dies in Prague

By Steve Nagel s.nagel@classicalite.com on Aug 11, 2015 10:01 AM EDT

Despite the purportedly humble demeanor of the famed pianist, Ivan Moravec deserves a requiem as great as any of his forerunners.  The Czech pianist died in a Prague hospital on July 27th after treatment for pneumonia.  He was 84 years old.  Throughout his lifetime, he was particularly acclaimed for his interpretations of Chopin, Mozart, and Debussy.

Performing the works of Chopin is notably difficult.  Even an adequate mastery of the composer's dynamic and rubato-heavy works can certainly fire up a successful career.  However, interpreting Chopin demands further prowess, even for the virtuosic.  The greatest of these interpreters are liable to be a household name but if readers are just hearing the name Ivan Moravec, they shouldn't be ashamed. The man himself appeared to shun the limelight, but his devotion to his art manifested itself in a focused and private way.  A recording enthusiast and highly skilled piano technician, he took particular interest in the final quality of his recordings and the output of the pianos on which he performed.  A 2001 NY Times article relayed that his philosophy stemmed from a desire to not "be molested by mistakes in the instrument... the aim is to be free."

Some of Moravec's recordings are praised to comprise a doctrine for interpreters who seek to acquire a more well-rounded approach to style and execution.  He recorded almost exclusively with Connoisseur Society from 1962 to 1974, followed by several recordings with Supraphon.  Many of these albums were award-winners, selling at such Platinum-level ubiquity that it's conceivable that for a time, his recordings were the sole voice of Chopin for a significant percentage of the populace.

Moravec was not averse to a larger repertoire, however.  The success of his Chopin, Mozart and Debussy recordings demanded further perfection of the three composers for his studio work, but in concert Moravec displayed more versatility, tackling Brahms, Schumann, and native Czech composer Janáček.  Still, beside the giants of Rubenstein and Horowitz, a unique memory of Moravec will seem to live on with respect to Chopin, as New Yorker critic Alex Ross relays, "I have heard Chopin executed more brilliantly, more spectacularly, but never more persuasively."

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TagsIvan Moravec, Chopin, Mozart, Debussy

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