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Nicolai Lomov - an appreciation,


The legacy of any given generation, especially in music, finds expression in the individual musical gifts of those to whom it is entrusted and who keep it alive. The occasions when a great tradition -- such as that of Russian pianism, to name only one -- is so fully embodied by an individual artist, whose very purpose in life would seem to be its exemplification, are rare. More rare still is to encounter such an artist in our midst while he is still alive.

Every now and again a musician surfaces whose talent is so titanic that it can only be regarded as a fluke of nature. Among pianists, Horowitz was such an artist, as were Richter and Michelangeli. In the world of string players, Ginette Neveu was one, Piatigorsky another, as were Callas, Nilsson, Schwarzkopf, Christoff, and Olivero among singers. Each of these artists emerged from obscurity, and not from the cookie cutter mold of the conservatoire. And now to that exemplary list we can add another name: Nicolai Lomov.

Nicolai Lomov
Nicolai Lomov

More often than not, such giants go through life unnoticed, or without the recognition they richly deserve. Great pianists such as Richter, Gilels, Horowitz, Michelangeli, Rubinstein, and Arrau, were fortunate to have found protagonists in the music business and among their devotees who empowered them with the means -- recording contracts and lucrative worldwide engagements -- to bring their artistry to international public attention. So were such wizards as Cortot, Schnabel, Gieseking, Hofmann, Friedman, and Godowsky. In many ways these renowned pianists were lucky, beyond their talents, to have found worldwide fame in their lifetimes.

But other equally extraordinary artists such as Vladimir Sofronitsky, Jacov Fliere, Maria Udina, Ernst Levy, Maryla Jonas, and Andrzej Wasowski, though known to their colleagues and unanimously regarded during their lifetimes as legendary by their peers, tended to languish in obscurity, performing only occasionally outside their native or adopted countries. The subsequent efforts of major recording companies to bring them wider recognition after their deaths, while greatly appreciated by generations of music lovers, were also a tragedy in the final analysis for the artists themselves. They never lived to enjoy the outpouring of love that the entire world would eventually accord them, to speak nothing of the substantial material rewards that eluded them while they were alive.

Imagine my utter shock when, just a few weeks ago, I discovered Nicolai Lomov. I can count on one-hand discoveries of this nature that I have made over the last 40 years. For decades I reasonably fancied myself among the cognoscenti, yet I was at a loss to explain how I could possibly have missed an artist of such enormous presence and imaginative prowess. Indeed, for most of the last decade I was convinced that this particular breed of pianist had vanished forever. With the relatively recent deaths of Horowitz, Michelangeli, Cherkassky, and Richter, was there anyone left in such an exalted league? Sure, we still have Demus, Brendel, Achatz, Hautzig, Fyodorova, Rose, Pressler, Wild, De Larrocha and other master pianists of his and earlier generations, but that's about it.

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Copyright © 2 October 2005 John Bell Young, Tampa, Florida, USA


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