A man who left 2 LP recordings and a transcription of the highest quality to the piano literature. Few things about Alexander Ikharev (also spelled "Icharev") are known today, and surprisingly there is not much time since he made his last appearence in concert (30 December, 1984 in an all-Schumann recital).
Thanks to his last student help, the great pianist Sergey Schepkin, we now know Alexander Icharev was born in 11 September of 1929 and died unexpectedly of a heart attack at the age of 55 years old on 7 January, 1985, and through Mr.Schepkin I had the pleasure to have a contact by Ms.Galina Ikhareva, daughter of Alexander Ikharev who is providing precious informations about the man and artist.
In her own words: - "Alexander Ikharev started his musical education at the Conservatory Preparatory Music School in Leningrad at the age of nine. In addition to piano he studied percussion and composition. In 1941 his grandmother (incidentally, a former actress in the Alexandrinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg} took him on vacation to Lvov. While there, the Germans attacked making it impossible to return to Leningrad. While in Lvov he earned money for his grandmother and himself by playing in restaurants and pubs (frequented by many German officers}.
Following the advice of a friend, they moved to Warsaw,in 1943. While there, he met some members of the Polish resistance that engaged him multiple times to play Chopin at their meetings. The last time he played for them he was given a large sum of money and told to go home and not leave the building for days. The Warsaw Uprising began the next morning."
A quite interesting historical information about these times is given by Jan Jarnicki, owner of the polish CD label Acte Prealable, in order to understand better Ikharev's sittuation:
"Lvov was Polish town til 17 September 1939. At this date Soviet Union joined the Germans, who start the war against Poland in 1 September 1939. The German took over the west part of Poland and Soviets took part of east part (like that Poland disapear). Ikharev moved to Lvov which was occupied by the Soviets. Unfortunately for him, German declared the war to Soviet on 22 June 1941. And like that, from the ocupant he become occupied.
He moved to Warsaw because there was easier to hide his origin. A part of Poland was not included to the Germany – German created something called “Generalgouvernement für die besetzten polnischen Gebiete”. Warsaw was inside. The life for Polish people was more easy than in the part included to Germany.
Regarding last war, Usually everybody know that Germany started it on September 1st 1939. And almost everybody ignore that Soviet Union was also agressor against Poland and that Poland was shared betevenn Germany and Soviet Union. If I am not wrong,the Soviet part was bigger. Actually Germany and Soviet Union signed the agreement Ribbentrop-Molotov (ministers of the foreign affair of both countiries) in August 1939 where was stated that the both countries will take over Poland.
Because later Germany make a war against Soviet Union (in 1941) and SU was beteween the winners, nobody like to remember that first they were the agressor (against Poland and later Lithuania, Lettonie, Estonia and Finladna and also Romania).
After the war, the eastern territory of Poland was not retourned to Poland. In exchange Poland got the eastern part of Germany.
The history of last war was very complicated and many facts are not konown outside Poland.
Back to Ikharev's biography:
"Some time later they moved to a village until the end of the war. After the war he was not allowed to return to Leningrad because all Russians that survived in German occupied areas lived under a cloud of suspicion. For a year he lived in Vologda, a distance from Leningrad. At that time he made his living playing accordion which he had taught himself to play.
Eventually he was allowed to return to Leningrad and resume his studies at the Conservatory Preparatory Music School where he was provided boarding due to the fact that both of his parents had died during the siege of Leningrad. (...) My father was an only child. My mother and I are the only known musicians in our family. I graduated from the Leningrad Conservatory and have performed occasionally but presently am primarily occupied with teaching."
Ikharev was one of the participants of the scandalous 2nd Tchaikowsky's Competition where the american pianist Van Cliburn was the winner due to Richter's marked "zeros" to other pianists programs. He caused good impressions in Gilels and Kabalewsky since both gave very good notes to him anyway he only received a diploma of participation.
According one of his students, Jasha Nemtov, he was "not a star. But he was a good teacher. He taught not techinique, but aesthetics (...)"
Another of his pupils, Ms.Nina Vasilyeva-Imas, give us some details about him thanks to the contact of Mr.Dietmar Wenninger - who seems to own one of the rare copies of Icharev's transcription of Ravel's la Valse for more than 30 years.
Translated from her words:
"After completing my university studies, I studied piano solo for four years with Alexander Ivanovich (as is customary in Russia, I call my professor at the time by his fatherhood name). At the Leningrad Conservatory (as it was called earlier) there were three or four chairs for piano solo. The methodology of each chair was based on the principles of its founder. Professor Icharev was a student and successor of Professor Halfin and later he taugh in the same chair.
Alexander Ivanovich was an excellent pianist. Because of the war, he only began to receive piano lessons from the age of 15 years. In spite of all the circumstances and the strongest competition, he won a diploma at the 2nd International Tchaikovsky Competition. He was rather small and accordingly his hands were small, but they were not only fast and skillful, but really virtuosic. Alexander Ivanovich said that we (pianists) are in a certain way also athletes. And to the sport belongs speed, power, precision and elasticity. His virtuosity was absolutely ergonomic. Everything seemed organic and easy.
But as it is with all true artists, it was not the most important thing in his playing. Every tone, every sound as the bearer of the content, characterized his interpretation. I was really lucky with all my teachers, but as far as sound engineering is concerned, Ikharev opened for me new Horizonts.
At lessons, he was very generous. A lesson could last up to 3 hours, except for the short smoking breaks. He was almost a chain-smoker, despite his heart disease. And in general, he did not pay much attention to his health. He ignored it and did not change his lifestyle. I think he just could not help it. As an example, he played a highly demanding program at a piano evening in Leningrad's Philharmonic (among other things, his transcription of "La Valse" by Maurice Ravel). Only after this he did investigate about his health. The investigation has shown that he had a heart attack during this period. I guess his life motto was to live shorter, but intensively."
"As I have heard, his widow Vera Markovna Ikhareva with his daughter is emigrated to the US after his death.
I also have a Russian edition vintage 1990 "A Lexicon of contemporary pianists", where has been written about Professor Ikharev.
(...) I know that Ikharev gave masterclasses regularly at Musikhochschule in Weimar."
According to my researches, he had a big repertoire and was a formidable player of Prokofiev and Ravel. He was the first sovietic pianist to play Barber's Piano Sonata.
It is estimate that Ikharev made around five hundred concerts throughout the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe during his career as well as master classes at home and abroad. His repertoire was so extensive that it would be a challenge at this point to accurately reconstruct a list. His memory was so prodigious that attendees at a master class he gave in Weimar commented that he never needed to refer to a printed score the entire time.
For the amusement of pianists and students here I present a very incomplete repertoire of Ikharev, based in the few informations one can find around internet and two concert programs still safe with Ms.Ikhareva.
Gaspard de la nuit
Tombeau de Couperin
La Valse (A.Icharev's own transcription)
Symphonic Etudes Op.13
Preludes and fugues (Selections)
VLADIMIR TSYTOVICH (1931-2012)
Ten Preludes (1963) - dedicated to and premiered by Alexander Ikharev
Ikharev began to perform in the concert halls of Leningrad, Moscow and other cities and won the reputation of a bright performer. Later, the pianist represented Soviet art abroad: specially in Romania, Finland, Poland and Iceland.
According to his contemporaries, Ikharev was not a showman, he has a high sense of responsibility, an enduring admiration for the music performed
Now, 2 rare LPs are already uploaded together with a full all-Chopin Recital in 2 parts in the youtube channel "Alexander Ikharev Archive" ( https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCa14GNczP6lgWvAc8THsaEw/videos ), and hopefully more informations about this quite interesting character will be added in the near future.
RAVEL / IKHAREV - La Valse (Poème Chorègraphique)
Ikharev did write a number of original compositions including a piece entitled "Cantata Russe" that was performed on the radio, however he chose not to save any of his works. He also wrote numerous transcriptions during his years as a student at the conservatory for use in playing for theatrical productions, but none are known to have survived.
Concerning his transcription, Ravel himself made a transcription of La Valse, but his solutions for the score are often related to impossible execution in pratical limits, so every and all recordings of Ravel's own transcription are always missing part of the written notes in order to make the music be heard normally.
This Ikharev transcription is a masterpiece of piano literature, his solutions for the problems of the orchestration are simple great and the music have found a real piano version in this.
Of course, as expected, this version is very difficult and, not surprisingly, much more a real challenge than any playable version of Ravel's attempt - his widow recalls that he wrote the transcription of La Valse when he was around 23. He stated later that he would write it so it would be less difficult and more comfortable for the pianist. Concerning the impossibility of playing Ravel's original version as it is written, Ikharev's version really acheived the original transcriber's plan.
Unfortunately this transcription is basically unknown in today's pianist repertoire and this is why I was asked by Mr. Dietmar Wenninger to make the first (actually the second, after Ikharev's himself) recording of such transcription - a work which I still plan to perform several times in my concerts and even record again!