Ukranian-born Soviet pianist (1913 - 1976)

Yakov Zak was a pupil of Heinrich Neuhaus.  He won the first price and the Mazurka prize at the 1937 Chopin Competition in Warsaw.  He was named People's Artist of the USSR in 1966. Among his prominent students were Nikolai Petrov, Evgeny Mogilevsky, Lubov Timofeyeva, Valery Afanassiev, Ludmila Knezkova-Hussey, Eliso Virsaladze and Youri Egorov.

Ah the Neuhaus sound!  I don't know why Yakov Zak has not enjoyed the international acclaim of Gilels, Richter, and Berman.  It can'e be because he didn't have as pretty as face as his colleagues.  I suppose it might be due to the fact that he died just as the fever of discovery of great Russian pianists was peaking in the USA in the mid-70s. But he is every bit as worthy of adoration.

The performance of the opening movement of the Chopin 3rd sonata is spectacular.  It is perhaps the most dynamic and most masculine, if I may say so, interpretation I know, and very exciting. Where is the rest of the sonata?  And yes, I like it much better than that of Gilels.

Yakov Zak's 1939 recordng of Alfred Grünfeld's  "Soirée de Vienne" is an extraordinary document.  His Kinderszenen rocks. The Chopin B minor waltz, in spite of the eerie sound, is among the most perfect performances of any Chopin waltz. And his recordings of the Kabalevsky 3rd and especially the Prokofiev 7th sonatas are to die for.

Yakov Zak's performances with orchestra are spectacular. His playing, a combination of beautiful tone, incredible subtlety and larger than life force is overwhelming.  In my book, the recording of the Prokofeiv 2nd concerto stands along side the one by his pupil, Nikolai Petrov, as one of the most wonderful concerto performances ever. And the others by Rachmaninoff, Ravel, Chopin and Brahms, are equally fine.  I was particularly interested to hear the Brahms conducted by the great Soviet violinist David Oistrakh whose accompaniment is superb.

Yakov Zak performed and recorded many works for two pianos with Emil Gilels.  A number of these wonderful recordings can be enjoyed by visiting the Gilels-Zak Piano Duo page.

Chopin  Piano Concerto 2 in F minor, Op 21
Kurt Sanderling conducting the Leningrad Philarmonic Orchestra

i Maestoso
13:12ii Larghetto
21:56iii Allegro vivace

recorded in 1948

Chopin  Mazurkas

in C minor, Op 63~3
in C minor, Op 30~1

recorded in the 1940s and 1950s

Chopin  Piano Sonata 3 in B minor, Op 58
i Allegro maestoso

Chopin  Waltz 10 in B minor, Op 69~2

recorded ca1949-1950

Schumann  Kinderszenen, Op 15

Von fremden Ländern und Menschen
2 Kuriose Geschichte
3 Hasche-Mann
4 Bittendes Kind
5 Glückes genug
6 Wichtige Begebenheit
7 Traümerei
8 Am Kamin

9 Ritter vom Steckenpferd
10 Fast zu ernst
11 Fürchtenmachen
12 Kind im Einschlummern
13 Der Dichter spricht

Liszt  "Apres une lecture de Dante"

recorded in the 1950s

Brahms  Piano Concerto 1 in D minor, Op 15
David Oistrakh conducting the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra

i Maestoso
ii Adagio
iii Rondo - Allegro non troppo

recorded live in 1969

Brahms  10 Klavierstücke

Intermezzo, Op 118~1
01:33Intermezzo, Op 118~2
06:28Capriccio, Op 76~8
08:59Intermezzo, Op 76~4
11:24Intermezzo, Op 76~7
14:32Capriccio, Op 76~5
16:58Intermezzo, Op 117~1
21:05Rhapsodie, Op 119~4
25:21Intermezzo, Op 117~2
29:05Capriccio, Op 76~2

recorded live in 1966

Grünfeld  "Soirée de Vienne" on themes of Johann Strauss II

recorded in 1939

Debussy  "Golliwogs cake walk"

Sergei Vasilenko (1872-1956)  Piano Concerto in F minor, Op 128 (1949)
Sergei Vasilenko conducting the USSR Radio Symphony Orchestra

Rachmaninoff  Piano Concerto 4 in G minor, Op 40
Kirill Kondrashin conducting the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra

recorded in 1955

i Allegro vivace

ii Largo

iii Allegro vivace

Rachmaninoff  Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini, Op 43
Kiril Kondrashin conducting the USSR State Symphony Orchestra

recorded in 1952

Ravel  Piano Concerto in G major
Evgeny Svetlanov conducting an unidentified symphony orchestra

i Allegramente
ii Adagio assai
iii Presto

recorded in 1959

Anatoly Alexandrov (1888-1982)  Piano Sonata 2 in D minor, Op 12 (1918)

Part I

Prokofiev  Piano Concerto 2 in G minor, Op 16 (1912-1913)

i Andantino. Allegretto
11:11ii Scherzo - Vivace
13:44iii Intermezzo - Allegro moderato
20:54iv Allegro tempestoso

Kurt Sanderling conducting the Leningrad Philarmonic Orchestra

Prokofiev  Piano Sonata 4 in C minor, Op 29

i Allegro molto sostenuto
ii Andante assai
iii Allegro con brio, ma non leggiere

recorded in 1953

Prokofiev  Piano Sonata 7 in B major, Op 83 (1942) "Stalingrad"

i Allegro inquieto
06:58 ➢ ii Andante caloroso
12:56 ➢ iii Precipitato

recorded live in 1966

Kabalevsky  Piano Sonata 3 in F major, Op 46 (1945)

recorded ca1950s

i Allegro con moto

ii Andante

iii Allegro giocoso

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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