Jacob Flier
Russian Federation, °1912 - 1977
Pianist Jacob Flier was one of the leading Soviet pianists of his day and he might have had far greater success internationally had Cold War politics not encumbered his career. Emil Gilels, then Sviatoslav Richter, and finally Lazar Berman were granted permission by Soviet cultural czars to concertize abroad, and so too was Jacob Flier. But, unlike the other three, he did not live long after he first appeared in the West. He also limited his performing career by devoting much of his energies to teaching, and by abandoning solo concerts for a whole decade (1949-1959). Still, in the 1960s and '70s he managed to develop a conspicuous following in Western Europe and the United States, not to mention the Soviet Union. His repertory was rich in Romantics, favoring Schumann, Chopin, Brahms, Liszt, and Rachmaninov, though it did include contemporaries like Kabalevsky. His recordings were made for the Soviet label Melodiya, but several of them have been reissued on Brilliant Classics, Globe, and Russian Compact Disc.

Jacob Flier studied piano at the Moscow Conservatory under pedagogue Konstantin Igumnov. He graduated in 1934 as one of the USSR's most promising keyboard prospects. He lived up to that hope: in 1936 he won first prize at the Vienna International Piano Competition, ahead of Emil Gilels.

The following year he joined the faculty at the Moscow Conservatory and would eventually become a professor (1945) and chair of the piano department (1965). Over the years his students included composer Rodion Shchedrin, Viktoria Postnikova, and Mikhail Pletnev. In 1938 he finished third in the Eugene Ysaÿe Competition, that year won by Emil Gilels. After fading somewhat during the postwar years because of his exclusive focus on chamber concerts, he began building an international reputation in the 1960s.
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