Yakov Milstein School

Russian school of Fortepiano

Igumnov’s Class. photo 1948

Yаkov Isaacovich Milstein

Eminent piano teacher and musicologist (PhD in 1941). Editor of numerous works of Russian and European piano music, including piano works by Chopin, Liszt, Schubert, Tchaikovsky, Scriabine etc. Author of the monographs “Franz Liszt”, “Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier and it’s performing”, “Constantin Igumnov”; numerous essays and articles on different subjects of the history of music and the art of piano performing.

A brilliant pianist and teacher, researcher and musicologist, but most importantly an outstanding person, Yakov Milstein was born on the 4th of February 1911 in Voronezh, his father was a maker of musical instruments and tuner. From early childhood the boy showed extraordinary musical talent. He was taught music from the age of six, first at home, then in the local musical college in the class of M. Berlin-Pechnikov. In 1923 an event happened that shaped the young man’s entire future: Voronezh was visited by the great teacher and pianist, professor of the Moscow Conservatory, Constantin Nikolaevich Igumnov. He heard the twelve year old boy play and immediately noted his talent and advised him to go study in Moscow.

In 1925 the 14 year old Yasha enrolls in the Moscow Conservatory in the class of Igumnov’s assistant, S.A. Kozlovsky. In a few years he entered K.N. Igumnov’s class, then graduates from the Conservatory, and in 1935 from the postgraduate program. The young and talented pianist’s life was closely tied to his professor for about twenty years. Igumnov was one of the greatest Russian musicians and instructors of the 20th century. He founded a whole school of piano performing. Basically when in our time someone speaks of the Great Russian Piano School, first of all what they refer to is Igumnov’s art, his school, his students and followers. In the course of his long artistic life, he brought up more than 500 students. His students include the greatest pianists of the last century: B. Berlin, М. Grinberg, Y. Flier, N. Orloff, A. Diakov, O. Boshniakovich, B. Davidovich, M. Gambarian, N. Shtarkman, A. Babadjanian, А. Ioheles, I. Mikhnovsky, L. Oborin, R. Tamarkina.

Igumnov valued Milstein’s talent and recognized in the young musician a gift for teaching. In 1931 Igumnov invited Milstein to his class to work with his students. This was a great honor for Mistein and to the end of his beloved professor’s life he worked as his assistant. Igumnov passed on in 1948, and Milstein inherited his class and continued to work on that post to the end of his own days in 1981. In the years of his work at the Conservatory, he taught more than a hundred pianists. Many of them became laureates of international competitions and themselves lead a wide specter of performing and teaching activity.