Russian-American pianist (1889-1968)

Alexander Borowsky's first piano teacher was his mother who herself had been a pupil of Safonov. He then studied with Anna Essipova, at the St. Petersburg Conservatory where he won a gold medal and the Anton Rubinstein prize. He concertized extensively throughout Europe, the United States and South America, eventually settling in America. Among those who attended is concerts enthusiastically were Sergei RachmaninoffLeopold Godowsky, Mischa Levitzki, Artur Rubinstein, Artur Nikisch, Alexander SilotiClaudio Arrau, and Elly NeyAs a teacher, he taught at Moscow Conservatory and ended his long career at Boston University.

Throughout his career critics were very enthusiastic about his playing. In 1915, a Moscow newspaper printed "Alexander Borowsky is a pupil of Anna Essipova. He is a pianist of great skill, power and alluring charm, with strong rhythm and well modulated dynamics. Mr. Borowsky respects the composer's design and has the gift of bringing the spirit of it. Scriabine's Tenth Sonata (the last composed), a most difficult work of account of its complexity and theosophical spirit, was performed by Borowsky at his recital with rarely deep analysis, glowing with fire progressively in a climax." and "Occasionally, in the midst of scores of concerts, most of which are only of mediocre quality, we are reminded of the adage that while, "many are called, few are chosen." "One of the chosen, musically speaking of course, is the Russian pianist, Alexander Borowsky, who is certainly a rising star in the tonal heavens. One must hear him play Bach in order to admire his precision, clear articulation, dynamics and colorful shading. But not only does he excel in the classics, but he seems also to be a born interpreter of modern music, especially of the young Russian school. His success here was a genuine one."

Lawrence Gillman of the New York Tribune wrote: "Mr. Borowsky's rapid achievement of distinction is not surprising. He is a pianist of imposing technical equipment." And Pitts Sanborn wrote: "Borowsky has a tremendous technique; he plays with crystalline clearness, with a sure command of dynamic gradations, with unlimited nerve and dash. But it is always scrupulously clean playing, even when he splashes the tonal canvas with ochre and vermilion. His crescendo is one of the most thrilling things to be heard in our concert rooms these days, and his diminuendo is as faultlessly controlled." This last review is a sad reminder of what I dislike particularly about music criticism, but you get the idea. Unlimited nerve and dash? He splashes the tonal canvas with ochre and vermillion?? Really???

Alexander Borowsky's Bach is very interesting to me. It is energetic while maintaining very clear integrity of voicing. While I am partial to the Tureck-Gould approach on the one hand, and Feltsman on the other, I find myself drawn to these recordings, wishing I could hear the entire set. I am hearing things in the music that are given more significance than I am accustomed to hearing, and loving it.

Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsodies are not my favorite Liszt, but there are a few of which I am quite fond. I am thinking of the second and the fourteenth at the moment. Alexander Borowsky avoids fussiness and unnecessary drama. Under his fingers, one can easily imagine this music played on a cimbalom under the night sky in the Hungary of two centuries ago. At times, he manages with his articulation to recall the sound of that wonderful instrument to mind - authentically beautiful playing.

The below is surely an eclectic collection of examples of Alexander Borowsky's playing. i would dearly love to hear his Beethoven and Brahms, his French palette, and his performances of the then young modern Russian composers. And his own mention of his playing of the music of MacDowel is nothing less than titillating.

Bach  Preludes and Fugues from the Well Tempered Clavier, Book I

1 in C major, BWV 846

2 in C minor, BWV 847

3 in C major, BWV 848

13 in F major, BWV 858

Bach  Preludes and Fugues from the Well Tempered Clavier, Book II

recorded in 1955

1 in C major, BWV 870

Bach  Concerti for Harpsichord
Eugène Bigot conducting l'Orchestre des Concerts Lamoureux

recorded in 1935

1 in D minor, BWV 1052 (arr. Busoni)

i Allegro
06:51  ii Adagio
12:32  iii Allegro

5 in F minor, BWV 1056

i Allegro moderato 
02:52  ii Largo 
05:13  iii Presto

Bach-Liszt  Fantasia and Fugue in G minor

Liszt  "Au bord d'une source" from Années de pèlerinage, Deuxième année: Suisse

recorded in 1938

Liszt  Hungarian Rhapsodies, S 244

recorded in 1937

1 in C minor (beginning)


3 in B major

4 in E major

7 in D minor

8 in F minor

9 in E major

10 in E major

14 in F minor

15 in A minor

Rimsky-Korsakoff  "Flight of the Bumblebee" from The Tale of Tsar Saltan

recorded in 1931

recorded in 1935

Rachmaninoff  1 "Elegie" from Morceaux de fantaisie, Op 3

Welte piano roll

For those of you who enjoy murder mysteries, here is my first with a strong musical polemic as background

Murder in the House of the Muse

which is also available as an audiobook.

And this is the more recently published second mystery in the series:

Murder Follows the Muse

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