A great pianist has died

A great pianist has died


norman lebrecht

July 27, 2015

We have received news of the death this morning in Prague of Ivan Moravec, at the age of 84.

Ivan was a pianist’s pianist. Especially praised for his Chopin and Debussy, he was Czech to the core and probably prized Mozart above all composers. Most, including the Philips Great Pianists series, numbered him among the indispensables.

Ivan recorded extensively on Supraphon.

ivan moravec

Personal memoir here.


  • Respect says:

    Very saddened by this; the phrase great piamist is tossed around lightly by many publicists, but this is one of the rare true greats. Regrettably, his discography is not what one could hope, but magnificent.

    • gary lemco says:

      I met Ivan twice, and I heard him first in Atlanta as part of a concert series organized by (the obnoxious) Frank Bell. Ivan performed the Chopin Third Scherzo as few could, with as much poetry as controlled fire. He knew of unabashed admiration for Vaclav Talich, of whom he spoke with a reverence that words alone can barely capture. He sent me, at his own expense, many Talich rarities he located in Prague. I gave t ohim in return, in SF, seated next to Garrick Ohlsson, a CD transfer of Karel Ancerl’s appearance in MA Vlast at Tanglewood with the BSO. I will celebrate Ivan on my show, “The Music Treasury,” on KZSU-FM Stanford this coming Sunday: go to kzsulive.stanford.edu on Sunday, August 2, at 7 PM (PST).

      • Larry Aronberg says:

        Mr. Lemco, do you have any idea what has happened to Frank Bell? I’ve known him for about 40 years, and lost touch about 9 months ago. He seems to have vanished. Any information would be appreciated.

        • David Ohmann says:

          I have also know Frank Bell for a long time, and he seemed to have fallen off the face of the Earth. Has anybody else heard from him?

  • Ian Walsh says:

    His recording of the Chopin Nocturnes was one one of the first recordings I purchased and remains the best Chopin playing I have heard. It is remarkably beautiful from start to finish.

  • James McCarty says:

    I was privileged to hear and to meet him when he came to play for the Cliburn series in Fort Worth several years ago. He was a giant among pianists. RIP.

  • Tom says:

    What a shame. Truly one of the greatest and most distinctive artists of all, who had the incredibly rare knack of shining fresh light on almost everything he played, yet never crossed the line into eccentricity. He had such a beautiful, pellucid sound and the keenest sense of rhythm (just listen to the finale of the Pathetique Sonata in his recording). Thank goodness that Vox and Supraphon between them got him to record some key parts of the piano literature (especially Chopin – the nocturnes, preludes and ballades, plus a scattering of the mazurkas; and some highly distinctive Debussy, Mozart and Beethoven).

    Lovely man too; he gave a recital at St Luke’s in Old Street a few years ago, which I was lucky enough to attend. At the end, he went for a beer and was very happy to stay and chat with everyone.

  • Arto says:

    He recorded the best Brahms 2 concerto!

  • TI says:

    I am sure that there are several others who first heard him play as part of the soundtrack to the film “Amadeus” (the last movement of the K.482 concerto). I loved the clarity and the tone that were the hallmarks of his playing – there is a Chopin Mazurka I used to practice and I could never get the sound that he did.

    I know that he was very fussy about his pianos to the extent that he would tinker with the voicing. There is a NYT article on that here:

    I have his complete Chopin Nocturnes which I acquired on a visit to the States a few years ago. I will be listening them later today in tribute.

  • Tim Walton says:

    Sad news indeed. I had the privilege of hearing him twice in Birmingham Town Hall (1968 and 1985) and once at the Wigmore Hall in 1983.

    I also have a signed photograph in my collection.

  • Neven P. says:

    Rest in Peace. A truly great artist!

  • Stephen Cera says:

    The world has lost a great pianist and an artist of rare eloquence. Ivan Moravec was also a man of great dignity and humility. I first heard him in London in 1971, when his program included the four Chopin Ballades. I can still recall the warm sound he summoned from the instrument — never a hint of harshness — and the prismatic range of colors under perfect control … above all, the surpassing poetry of his conceptions. His legacy is embodied in those early and legendary Chopin recordings for Connoisseur Society: the Nocturnes, Preludes and Ballades.

  • 110 says:

    Like all great artist he mastered the story .
    I feel a personal loss