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Passings : Alexander Slobodyanik

Prominent pianist from Ukraine

August 19, 2008|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Alexander Slobodyanik, 65, a Ukrainian-born pianist who was a star in the former Soviet Union before moving to the United States in the late 1980s, died Aug. 10 of meningitis at a hospital in Morristown, N.J.

Born in Kiev on Sept. 2, 1942, Slobodyanik studied music at the prestigious Moscow Central Special Music School before moving on to the Moscow Conservatory. According to a New York Times obituary, he was recommended to the impresario Sol Hurok by pianist Sviatoslav Richter.

Hurok brought Slobodyanik to the United States, where he made his Carnegie Hall debut in 1968 playing a recital with works by Mozart, Liszt and Schumann. Critics hailed his performance, and through the late 1970s he performed in a number of U.S. cities and venues.

After an appearance by Slobodyanik at UCLA's Royce Hall in 1972, Times critic Albert Goldberg noted, "By any measure he is an extraordinary pianist; his technique is boundless and nearly infallible, his control of tonal effects can be astounding, he constantly commands attention."

Over the years, he appeared with some of the country's leading orchestras, including the Chicago Symphony, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, the San Francisco Symphony and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. A chill in U.S.-Soviet relations in the late 1970s over the invasion of Afghanistan kept Slobodyanik out of the states until 1988, when he returned for a concert tour. He moved to the U.S. permanently a year later. His son Alex is also a leading concert pianist.

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