I’m a pianist, living downstairs from the world’s greatest player

I’m a pianist, living downstairs from the world’s greatest player


norman lebrecht

December 29, 2013

Zsolt Bognar is a fine young pianist who is making a good career. His problem? He lives in Cleveland beneath Daniil Trifonov, the Tchaikovsky winner and finest pianist of his generation. Why is that a problem? Over to Zsolt:

zsolt bognar


‘Not only do I hear him in class, but he also happens to be my upstairs neighbor, so I hear him practicing as well (laughs). Like Babayan, he is a similarly lively and inventive character. He will sometimes knock on my door at two in the morning, “Zsolt, I have to tell you something that Murray Perahia told me about the Schubert B-flat Sonata. I have to demonstrate to you what he said,”. And I’ll reply, “But, it’s two a.m.”, and he will say, “This is important!”. He then proceeds to do an illuminating analysis of the piece.’

Read Elijah Ho’s fascinating interview with Zsolt right here.



  • One of my addresses when I lived in Paris was 11 rue de l’Arc de Triomphe. In the courtyard and occasionally in the street I could hear that I had a neighbour who was a fine pianist. After a year or so all was explained when I bumped into Charles Rosen in the street — he lived at No. 9.

    • cabbagejuice says:

      I thought that Paris had the most restrictive laws against piano “noise”. Only at certain hours of the day are pianists allowed to be heard. At least, that is what I was told.


    In the wondrous world of music, the hours of day and night do not interfere with exciting explorations and discoveries. There are stories of Klemperer and Cage communicating with friends and students at all hours to discuss a musical passage or a new idea or a query. And that is wonderful. . . even at 2 A.M.

  • Polly says:

    Coming from a family of seven pianists, I can assure you that a knock would come on my bedroom door or a phone call if I was away from home, to talk “shop” at any hour of the night. Such was our enthusiasm for sharing musical thoughts. Sadly, the most impulsive one of us all to start the chain reaction, died in 1996. RIP Dad.

  • cabbagejuice says:

    Maria Callas used to ring up her directors in the wee hours of the morning as well to clarify certain points.

  • m2n2 says:

    This sounds like something that Glenn Gould apparently used to do occasionally as well at all hours after midnight, though mostly over the phone, so DT is in a pretty good company.

  • anon says:

    As the anecdotal evidence suggests, musicians wanting to talk music at all hours is hardly news. What’s more refreshing is Mr. Bognar’s bold and unapologetic slamming of the classical music industry here. I wish more youngsters would speak out honestly on behalf of musical values. It takes some courage.

  • Hank Drake says:

    Zsolt tells it like it is with regard to the major recording labels. They’ve become more interested in feeding off the contents of their vaults with bargain priced big boxes (which is fine if, like me, you like older recordings). But when it comes to young musicians, they’re too busy promoting the latest “superstars” as opposed to nurturing young musicians who exhibit continuing musical growth. If one wants to hear those, one must rely on boutique labels like LP Classics or self-produced CDs – or go to live concerts.

    By the way, Zsolt’s very fine recording of Schubert and Liszt (charmingly titled Zsolt Bognar plays Franz & Franz) is available through Amazon.

  • Anon says:

    Hank – except that’s not really true. The bigger labels no more “promote the latest superstars” now than they ever did. I suggest DG are nurturing Trifonov, Lisiecki and others; Decca with Benjamin Grosvenor, Alisa Weilerstein; Warner/EMI with Frang and Helseth. Sony seem to be a little lacking in the nurture department, though a decade ago they were championing Hilary Hahn and rightly so.

    And there’s certainly nothing wrong with needing to go to concerts to hear new talent; I would actively encourage it.

    • anon1 says:

      But no–I’d argue that Lisiecki is exactly an example of the “superstar” problem: flash-in-the-pan hired because of his looks and not much of a musician. Likewise Ott, Wang…if we must name names. But they sell albums, apparently.