The famous Czech pianist Ivan Moravec died on Monday 27 th July 2015 in Prague. Living to be 84 years old, he became the only Czech among the seventy piano players included into the prestigious CD edition Great Pianists of the 20th century. He collaborated with the Supraphon publishing house from the late 1950s and his recordings received many international awards as well as gold and platinum records for successful sales. In November this year, a hitherto unpublished live recording of Moravec’s per­formance from 1987 is going to be released on a CD issued by Supraphon.

The fame of pianists Ivan Moravec who was a soloist with the Czech Philharmonics for many years, has far exceeded the borderline of the Czech Republic. This modest instrumentalist with the reputation of a perfectionist toured all the world with his excellent concert performances. He became the only Czech included into the prestigious edition called Great Pianists of the 20th Century. The life journey of the virtuoso was concluded on Monday 27th July 2015.

Born on 7th November 1930 in Prague, Ivan Moravec began to play the piano at the age of seven. As he himself recalled, no one ever had to force him to play. He had a neck injury when he turned ten, which interrupted his musical development for a while. However, he managed to make up for the lost time thanks to his strong will. „I learned to play using the weight of my arm, which turned out to be a benefit,“ he once told a Czech Radio reporter.

After finishing his conservatory and music academy studies, Moravec attended a master class with Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli in the summer of 1957. The famous maestro then threw the young pianist into the waters of concert performances claiming: „This young man needs no music lessons, he only needs to play.“ A few years later, at the 1962 Prague Spring festival, Moravec appeared with Zubin Mehta, stunning the audience with a brilliant interpretation of Beethoven’s 4th piano concerto. A series of concerts in London followed, receiving the credit of music critics.

This drew attention of George Szell from the Cleveland orchestra and also Alan Silver, the head of the Connoisseur Society. Szell’s invitation to perform overseas marked a turning point in the career of Ivan Moravec, opening up his way to the most famous concert halls worldwide.

His first Supraphon album was issued in 1960, containing Mozart’s Sonata in B flat major and Chopin’s Ballad No 4 in f minor. In 1964 Moravec made his debut in Carnegie Hall, New York. For Silver’s company he recorded two albums with the works of Mozart, Beethoven, Franck and Chopin. These met with such enthusiastic reception that numerous publishers kept asking him for new versions of the compositions.

„This is one of the reasons why Czech music does not have a more significant position in my repertoire, although I do play Janáček abroad quite often,“ he explained. His discography includes many albums recorded for the Connoisseur Society and other companies including his home publisher, Supraphon.

Media worldwide often called Moravec „a poet of the piano“ or „pianist supreme“. It is impossible to characterise his way of playing in a few words, music critics say in unison. He possessed a sparkling technique and a dynamic scale of keystroke, at the same time being able to surprise listeners with subtle shades of moods. Although illness troubled him during the last years of his life and he gave concerts only scarcely, he still managed to get standing ovation from listeners, such as in June 2011 during his sold-out recital in Rudolfinum, Prague, or at the Prague Spring festival a year later.

His work as a music teacher is another remarkable part of his career. A whole generation of great pianists profess his influence on their playing. Even at the age of almost 85, Ivan Moravec fascinated people around him by his openness to new ideas, his interest in the performances of young pianists as well as his readiness to make his recordings available for anonymous comparison in which his students assessed the qualities of each player. It was this openness accompanied by his love of music and musicians that made him so special.

Recently, a hitherto unpublished recording of Ivan Moravec made on 6 January 1987 was found in the Supraphon archives. It is going to be released in the autumn of 2015 under the title Epiphany Concert.

„It is a recital quite typical of his repertoire, finding him at the best of his career. He plays Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and Debussy – composers whose works he performed very often, having almost no equal in this kind of repertoire,“ says the head producer of classical music at Supraphon, Matouš Vlčinský.

Initially, Ivan Moravec hesitated to listen to the newly found recordings, claiming that all of his significant legacy has already been recorded by Supraphon. After his wife made him listen to them, though, he agreed that they were good and gave his consent to their publishing by Supraphon with almost no reservation.

„His repertoire was not extremely wide, but all the material he brought for recording was both polished to minutest detail and lived through with his heart,“ adds Vlčinský.

Performing with the majority of outstanding orchestras and conductors all over the world, Ivan Moravec ranked among the exceptional personalities who dedicated their life not only to playing their instrument, but also to teaching. The professor at the Prague Academy of Performing Arts was also a skilled piano mechanic and sensitive tuner.

When he played his favourite Steinway, it had to be in the best possible shape. This is probably one of the reasons why, in the words of a music critic, „each of his recordings has a beauty of its own, being as rare and stunning as a vase from the Ming dynasty.“

The following Supraphon recordings featuring Ivan Moravec have won international awards:

Wiener Flötenuhr – Preis der Mozartgemeinde Wien for the recording of Mozart’s Concerto for piano and orchestra, 1974

Wiener Flötenuhr – Preis der Mozartgemeinde Wien for the recording of Mozart’s Concerto No 25 in C major, 1975

American Stereo review´s Record of the year Award for the recording of Schumann’s Concerto for piano and orchestra in a minor, 1979

More recent awards with recordings of Ivan Moravec include:

Choc du Monde de la Musique – Le Monde de la Musique for his album featuring works by Smetana, Suk and Korte published in 2000 and Gramophone Editor´s Choice of 2004 for the album on which Ivan Moravec performs works of Beethoven, Franck and Ravel together with the Prague Chamber Philharmonics conducted by Jiří Bělohlávek.

At the MIDEM International music fair, Ivan Moravec received a prize within the prestigious Cannes Classical Awards 2002. In 2004, The Czech Music Council awarded him with the Prize for lifelong artistic work and promotion of Czech music.