Ivo Pogorelich is one of the most provocative and unpredictable major pianists, known for dynamic and original interpretations. He started studying piano when he was seven. At the age of 12 he went to the Central Music School in Moscow where he studied with Timakin. He graduated to the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow. In 1976 he became a pupil of the famous teacher Aliza Keseradze, whom he married in 1980. She died at an early age in 1996.
Pogorelich won the Casagrande Competition in Terni, Italy, in 1978 and the Montreal International Competition in 1980. At the International Chopin Competition in Warsaw of 1980 controversy erupted when the jury voted to eliminate him after the third round; it touched off a firestorm, sparked by the public resignation of Argentine pianist Martha Argerich in protest. She proclaimed Pogorelich a "genius" and a group of Polish critics banded together to award Pogorelich a special prize. (The eventual winner was Dang Thai Son of Vietnam.)
Pogorelich made his Carnegie Hall debut in 1981, creating a sensation. He debuted in London the same year. Since then, he has pursued a notable international career as a recitalist and as soloist with the major symphony orchestras of the world. Pogorelich began recording for Deutsche Grammophon, becoming one of their exclusive artists in 1982. An early recording was an electrifying account of Prokofiev's Sixth Piano Sonata.
His playing is marked by exceptional strength and accuracy. He has a power and momentum in pieces requiring driving rhythmic interpretation that is rarely matched. His interpretations are often unorthodox; controversy continues to be a feature of his performances.
He has also sought to use his fame and earnings for humanitarian purposes and to assist young artists. In 1986 he established a foundation in Croatia to grant scholarships for young artists to study abroad. In 1994 he established a fund in Sarajevo to build a hospital and provide further medical support for that violence-torn city. Each year he plays some concerts for the benefit of UNESCO and for such charities at the Red Cross and for organizations fighting illnesses such as cancer and multiple sclerosis. UNESCO has named him an "ambassador of goodwill."
In 1989 he established an annual Ivo Pogorelich Festival. It invites promising young artists to perform in ensembles with mature, renowned artists. In 1993 he initiated the Ivo Pogorelich Piano Competition in California.