‘He played like a god – he looked like a god’ Heinrich Neuhaus
Vladimir Sofronitsky was born in St Petersburg in 1901, the youngest of 6 children. He studied in Warsaw with Anna Lebedeva-Getsevich, a pupil of Anton Rubinstein, and, on the recommendation of Glazunov, further studies with Alexander Michalowski.
Michalowski was a pupil of Moscheles, Reinecke and Tausig, so the Beethoven – Mendelssohn – Liszt line was seamless. Composition classes with Maximillian Steinberg (Rimsky’s son-in-law) followed as did a period of study with Leonid Nikolayev, who also taught Shostakovich. In 1917, Scriabin’s daughter Elena enrolled under Nikolayev, and she and Sofronitzky married in 1920 and moved to Paris, where their circle included members of the Scriabin family, Glazunov, Prokofiev (a good friend), Medtner and Cortot. In July 1945 he played for Stalin, Gromyko, President Truman and Churchill at the Potsdam Conference. His career revolved around concerts, recording and teaching, and his repertoire was broad – from Bach and Scarlatti, Clementi, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert, to Chopin and Liszt, Schumann, a little late Brahms, a little Ravel and Debussy and Poulenc. Russian repertoire included Balakirev’s Islamey, and Tchikovsky’s Seasons and some Liadov. Scriabin reigns supreme (except the 7th Sonata ‘White Mass’ Sofronitzky was superstitious), Glazunov, Medtner, Prokofiev, Rachmaninov and Shostakovich also figure prominently. During the Cold War, he took a shine to Glenn Gould, and Van Cliburn, and Lazar Berman was a disciple.
‘I would proceed to the concert as if going on a blind date, anticipating something completely unknown, mysterious and wonderful, in other words, a miracle! He approached the piano and the magic began’ Stanislav Neuhaus, Recollections