The Music Treasury for 3 November 2019 — Lev Oborin, Pianist

by | Nov 1, 2019 | Streams and Podcasts | 0 comments

The Music Treasury for 3 November 2019 — Lev Oborin, Pianist

The Fall broadcast time of The Music Treasury on KZSU 90.1 FM remains Sunday, from 19:00 – 21:00, PDT.  You can also listen online at kzsulive.stanford.edu during the broadcast time.  Dr Gary Lemco will host this week’s installment, featuring Lev Oborin.

Lev Oborin, pianist

First Prize winner at the 1st International Frederic Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw (1927), Lev Oborin (1914-1974) was born into a middle class family. His father was a rail transport engineer and his mother a lecturer at the Faculty of Medicine at the Moscow University. Due to his father’s frequent relocations, Lev Oborin’s early childhood was spent in several cities, including Homel’, Vitebsk, Orsha and Minsk.

In 1914, when the Oborin family settled in Moscow, the talented son, who had long desired to take up an instrument, was sent to music school. As a result of the rapid development of his talent, it was decided that the boy be moved to the Gnessin Music College to study with Professor Elena Gnessina. A former student of Ferruccio Busoni, she taught him a modern approach to the piano according to the teaching of her master. Results quickly followed.

Alongside his piano studies, Oborin took composition lessons with Alexander Grechaninov, with admirable results. In this manner, Elena Gnessina wanted to give Oborin an alternative track for developing his musical abilities, should his career in piano be hindered by his somewhat weak hands.

In spring 1921, Oborin graduated from the Gnessin Music College, playing Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in B flat minor and Chopin’s Impromptu in C sharp minor, Balakirev’s The Lark paraphrase on Glinka’s song, and Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A minor.

That same year (1921) he enrolled at the Moscow Conservatoire in two departments – piano and composition. His teachers for piano and composition respectively were Konstantin Igumnov and Georgy Catoire. After Catoire’s death, Oborin continued his composition studies with Nikolai Miaskovsky. He also took conducting classes with Konstantin Saradzhev, and occasional teaching from Bruno Walter and Hermann Abendroth, who travelled to Moscow for concerts.Oborin’s friendship with Dmitri Kabalevsky, Vissarion Shebalin and Dmitri Shostakovich originated in his student days.

Oborin started performing in public while studying at the Conservatoire. He completed his piano studies in 1926, graduating with honors, with his name being inscribed in gold letters on a white marble plate in the lobby of the Conservatoire’s Small Hall. For his graduation concert, he played Beethoven’s Hammerklavier Sonata, Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in C major, and other works. In autumn 1926, he gave a sensational performance of this concerto with Moscow’s highly praised ‘Persimfans’ Orchestra (short for “Piervyj simfonicheskii ansambl byez dirizhora”, or “First symphonic orchestra with no conductor”).

In December 1926, the announcement for the 1st International Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw reached Moscow. Igumnov immediately thought of his student Oborin. Since Oborin did not have the repertoire required by the competition rules ready, he mastered all the works in a month and played them at a concert at the Great Hall of the Conservatoire on 14th January 1927. Unfortunately, he managed only to play Chopin’s Concerto in F minor with orchestra, having to leave for Warsaw the following week.

Oborin’s performance at the competition was a triumph – he received the 1st Prize. Professor Stanisław Niewiadomski wrote in the Warsaw press:

“The first place among yesterday’s candidates was taken by Lev Oborin …. The general level of playing was of the highest order …. For the Slav listener Oborin’s poetic, touching simplicity, highly spiritual understanding of Chopin’s music, modesty, and spiritual purity of his performing art are uplifting …. Each piece from the beginning to the end had a proper plan, intelligible and appropriate to the content of the work and spirit of the author. In a word, we are standing on real art territory.”

And famous Polish poet and writer Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz wrote on Oborin’s playing:

“With his driving energy, youthful unevenness, phenomenal musicality, and technical bravura, Oborin appears as some fantastic musician from E. T. A. Hoffmann’s stories. Like the Pied Piper he has captivated the Warsaw audience …, which has exploded with hysteria hearing the young Russian …. Oborin’s success took on acute symptoms of psychosis.”

As audiences throughout Poland were keen to hear the young pianist, he went on a country-wide tour playing in Warsaw, Łódź, Cracow, Poznań and Vilnius. He also appeared several times in Germany.

After returning to Moscow, Oborin quickly completed his post-graduate studies with Konstantin Igumnov and started teaching at the Moscow Conservatoire (1928). Until 1945 he performed exclusively within Russia. In 1935 he played for the first time with David Oistrakh, marking the beginning of a long-term musical partnership. In 1936 he gave the first performance of Aram Khachaturian’s Piano Concerto, beginning a series of first performances of modern composers’ works, including Shebalin, Miaskovsky, Prokofiev, and Shostakovich. Between 1941 and 1963, Oborin together with violinist David Oistrakh and cellist Sviatoslav Knushevitsky, formed a world-famous chamber trio.

After World War II, Oborin played in Poland (1949,1950,1955), many European countries, Japan, and the USA (1963).

As a piano teacher, Oborin worked with many distinguished pianists, including Vladimir Ashkenazy, Mikhail Voskresensky, Dmitri Sakharov, Alexander Bakhchiev and Andrei Egorov.

Oborin sat in the juries of the 4th and 5th International Chopin Competitions in Warsaw, as well as competitions in Moscow, Lisbon, Paris, Leeds and Zwickau.

His rich discography includes piano concertos by Balanchivadze, Beethoven, Mozart, Rachmaninov and Khachaturian, solo works by Beethoven, Borodin, Brahms, Glena, Debussy, Liszt, Prokofiev, Rachmaninov, Scribing, Tchaikovsky, Chopin and Schumann, and chamber works by Bach, Beethoven (complete recording of violin sonatas with David Oistrakh), Haydn, Greg, Dona, Mendelssohn, Miaskovsky, Prokofiev, Ravel, Rimsky-Korsakov, Svetlana, Taney, Franck, Tchaikovsky and Schubert.

Program List:
Chopin: 3 Etudes from Op. 25
Chopin: Mazurka in G Major, Op. 50. No. 1
Liszt: Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 in C-sharp Minor
Rimsky-Korsakov: Piano Trio in C Major (w/Oistrakh, Knushevitzky)
Tchaikovsky: The Months, Op. 37b: June, November, December
Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor, Op. 30 (w/Stokowski)
Beethoven: 6 Ecossaises, WoO 83




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