Russian by birth, later American by choice, Boris Berman has achieved an important place among contemporary pianists in both the music of his native country and the works of other 20th century composers. Showing a consistent concern for balancing intellectual inquiry and temperament in his playing, he has performed worldwide, appearing in more than 30 countries covering six continents. In addition, Berman has proven himself an admirable teacher, holding important positions in Israel and the United States. He has also been active as an organizer of numerous contemporary music series.
Berman's training took place at the Moscow Conservatory. After studies with Lev Oborin, he graduated with honors in both piano and harpsichord. He began almost immediately to perform throughout the Soviet Union, both as a solo recitalist and as a soloist with symphonies, including the Moscow Philharmonic and the Moscow Chamber Orchestra. During this time he performed the Russian premieres of works by such composers as Berio, Ligeti, Stockhausen, and American iconoclast John Cage, and the world premieres of Alfred Schnittke's Serenade and Edison Denisov's Ode.
In 1973, Berman elected to emigrate to Israel, where he quickly became a central figure in that country's musical life. He joined the faculty of Tel Aviv University and remained there for six years, winning respect as an outstanding pedagogue. In 1979, Berman moved to the United States and served on the faculties of several schools (among them, Indiana, Boston, and Brandeis) before heading the piano department at Yale University (beginning in 1984). During that time, he directed the Yale Music Spectrum concerts. In 1995, he presided over the inauguration of the International Summer Piano Institute in Hong Kong, a joint effort between Yale University and the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
Certainly, Berman's position among his colleagues and with the public has been enhanced by the numerous recording he has made, beginning with his sizeable contribution to Chandos Records' complete piano works of Prokofiev. Berman has also recorded a two-CD collection of the sonatas of Scriabin for Music & Arts and a recital of Shostakovich piano works, the latter a winner of the 1990 Edison Classic Award in Holland. Berman's recording of three Prokofiev concertos with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, led by Neeme Järvi, was named CD of the Month by CD Review, an auspicious beginning to Chandos Record's Prokofiev project. In addition to these recordings are discs of piano music by Stravinsky and Schnittke and, for Naxos, two CDs devoted to the piano music of John Cage. ~ Erik Eriksson