Letters & Quotes

Nicholas Slonimsky wrote to me in July 1969 that "Borovsky was my second cousin; his mother's name was Vengerova, the same last name as my mother's and my aunt's, the well-known piano pedagogue, Isabelle Vengerova, with whom Borovsky studied briefly before he was accepted by Anna Essipova (Vengerova was her assistant at the St. Petersburg Conservatory)." And in November of 1979, Slonimsky wrote that "Borovsky was sent by Essipova to my aunt Isabelle Vengerova for a few weeks of training during Essipova's abseence. Also in New York Borovsky used to come to see Vengerova to play over his pieces before a concert. But these sessions could not be described as formal lessons. How do I know? My aunt told me so."

Borovsky wrote to Slonimsky in 195? "I started to play Bach, I mean all Bach, not only a few transcriptions or occasional Preludes and Fugues, only after 40 years of life. Until about 25 years ago I played a very limited number of Bach's compositions. I knew ONE only English Suite, not a single French, not more than ONE Partita, about six numbers from the Well Tempered Clavier, and several Busoni and Liszt arrangements. Then I learned all the Inventions, and was quiet until about seven years ago when I was asked to make a recording of all the English Suites. It took me many unsuccessful tryings to record them before I really knew them, and it was after THREE years of practicing them almost every day that I could finally record them. And if I would be obliged to record them in earlier days when I was busy giving many concerts, I really don't know how many years it would take me to learn well enough in order to record them. But for the French Suites, it was only two years enough to record without much trouble. But again for the 48 Preludes and Fugues I had a wonderful system. Every year for about 12 years I dedicated the whole summer to learn and to relearn until I could play by heart at least the first volume or the second alternating this choice of the first or the second volume for every summer in about twelve years. And then I recorded them only in the last two years being well over sixty years of age, and this fall they will be issued by the Vox Company."

In July 1969 Alexander Tcherepnin wrote to me "I have heard and known Borovsky since my early childhood. First in St. Petersburg, becoming Petrograd, then in Tbilisi (where I attended most of his recitals and joint recitals with the cellist Beloussoff), then in Paris, finally in Boston I had many chances to be with him, to speak with him. I admired his artistic personality and his extraordinary wide repertoire as good as his unlimited technical abilities. He certainly would have deserved greater recognition that the one he obtained."  

Borovsky further writes in his Memoirs, that about this time he played Prokofiev's Visions Fugitives, Op 22 for the composer while the pieces were still in manuscript. The first work of Prokofiev's Six Pieces for Piano, Op 52, titled, Intermezzo, is dedicated to Borovsky.

The Musical Times of London in August 1916 wrote, "Borovsky is considered the finest exponent of Alexander Scriabin's music...Borovsky's position is the more honorable since no Russian recital programme is complete without Scriabin's name and this artist has therefore many rivals."

In Carnegie Hall on October 18, 1923, Richard Aldrich (the New York critic) wrote "The first American recital of a Russian pianist, Borovsky, known in Europe, but hitherto a stranger to this country, was given last evening. It displayed a singular personality, a singular outlook on the art of playing the piano. The first impression was cheering...he undoubtedly displays remarkable powers in a distinctly limited field; and these were more heartily recognized with generous applause by a large audience which included many musicians."

Lawrence Gilman of the New York Tribune writes, "Mr. Borowsky's rapid achievement of distinction is not surprising. He is a pianist of imposing technical equipment."

Pitts Sanborn wrote, "Borowsky has a tremendous technique; he plays with crystalline clearness, with a sure command of dynamic gradations, with unlimited nerve and dash. But it is always scrupulously clean playing, even when he splashes the tonal canvas with ochre and vermilion. His crescendo is one of the most thrilling things to be heard in our concert rooms these days, and his diminuendo is as faultlessly controlled."

Prince Dmitri Alexandrovich of Russia (1901-1980) was the son of Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich of Russia and Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna of Russia. Dmitri was one of the six nephews of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. Borovsky taught piano to all six of the nephews. Borovsky's piano teacher, Annette Essipova introduced Borovsky and his mother to the Grand Duchess Xenia. 
Musical Courier, October 18, 1917 - Letter from Tatiana Schlozer (1883-1922) second wife of Scriabin......"I also propose the name of Alexander Borovsky, a young professor at the Conservatory of Moscow, who plays almost all the works of Scriabine, and who already acquired a great reputation as a pianist in Russia. Mr. Borovsky is a member of the Scriabine Society."

Virgil Thomson's New York Herald Tribune review of March 18, 1947 printed "Thirty-two Variations on a Theme by Diabelli," and this should have read, "thirty three," (33)

Faculty of National Conservatory of Music, Mexico City, June 1942 Thank You

Aaron Copland telegrams Borovsky, October 17, 1945 on his Carnegie Hall Recital

Arthur Rubinstein (1887-1992) writes on August 28, 1970:

Cellist Raya Garbousova Biss (1909-1997) writes on December 3, 1987:

Rudolf Serkin (1903-1991) writes on November 30, 1970:

Conductor Jascha Horenstein (1898-1973) writes on December 29, 1970:

British pianist Frank Merrick (1886-1981) writes on July 12, 1971:
"I regret to say that I never met Alexander Borovsky. In the Rubinstein Competition that I attended Emil Frey won the Competition Prize, Alfred Hoehn (age 23), the piano playing prize and the only two Diplomas of Honor, mine for composition and Artur Rubinstein for piano playing. I am now at Trinity College of Music teaching staff but was not connected there when Borovsky gave those master classes. Hoping you will have better luck elsewhere, Yours sincerely, Frank Merrick."
Mr. Merrick neglected to mention that honorable mention in piano playing went not only to Artur Rubinstein, but to Emil Frey (who also won the prize for Conposition), and also to Alexander Borovsky. 

In the newspaper Sankt-Peterburgskie vodomosti, August 20, 1910 in the review by Nikolai Bernstein, Mr. Glazunov told one interviewer that "we, the judges, of course looked at the pianists as finished musicians. Technique did not play a role for us: a competition is after all not an exam. For us it was important to determine which of the contestants had the greatest mastery over the listeners with their playing."

Rudolf Firkusny (1912-1994) writes November 23, 1970: "although our acquaintance never developed into a close friendship, I always had a great admiration for Mr. Borovsky, both as a man and as an artist. He always showed a great and sincere interest for me and my work and recommended me warmly to Mr. Iriberri who - upon this recommendation engaged me for my first tour in South America (1943). I saw Mr. Borovsky several times prior to my departure and he very kindly gave me letters of introduction and various practical advices...After Mr. Borovsky moved to Boston, our meetings became rather sporadic but there was always a silent bond between us and I grieved his death very much indeed."


Letter from Igor Markevitch (1912-1983) dated September 6, 1969: "Personally, I must tell you of the remarkable strong memory and influence that this man left for me. Borovsky is certainly one of the most dedicated artists that I have met. His was an eminently classical mind (spirit, inspiration) and the great tradition of music expressed itself through his art...Thus I strongly encourage you in your desire to dedicate work to him. It is important that the younger generation be informed by examples of this kind."

Letter from Victor Babin (1908-1972) and Vitya Vronsky (1909-1992) dated April 19, 1971:

Pierre Soutchinsky (1892-1985), Impresario, writer, and co-publisher of St. Petersburg musical journal wrote December 9, 1970: "When I knew him in Russia after the death of Alexander Scriabine (in 1915) he was very much interested in the technique, style, and execution of his music.  Later we met often in Russia and then abroad with S. Prokofiev...Borovsky was certainly one of the great Russian pianists, who knew how also to pose questions of theoretical and aesthetic nature of his art, which distinguishes him from the other pianists such as Horowitz, for example.

From Alexander Tcherepnin's (1899-1972) letter dated July 23, 1969: "I appreciate your undertaking to write a biography of Alexander Borovsky, whom I have heard and known since my early childhood. First in St. Petersburg, becoming Petrograd, then in Tbilisi (where I attended most of his recitals and joint recitals with cellist Beloussoff), then in Paris, finally in Boston I had many chances to be with him, to speak with him. I admired his artistic personality and his extraordinary wide repertoire as good as his unlimited technical abilities.  He certainly would have deserved greater recognition than the one he obtained."  

Alexander TCHEREPNIN's Piano Concerto No. 1 Op 30 in C-sharp Minor (1919). One of the few works in Borovsky's library. Borovsky had photographic memory and owned very few scores.

Lina Prokofiev (1898-1989), first wife of Sergei Prokofiev, wrote to me on April 22, 1976: "It is a certain fact that Alexander Borovsky was a very fine pianist and master of the keyboard as well as a splendid musician. He was one of my late husband's very good friends. Unfortunately I do not remember details of their friendship in Russia at the time of their youth.  They were both pupils of Anna Essipova, who taught piano at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. We saw each other periodically during the years we lived in Paris; at a time, in 1928, we were neighbors in Paris and met quite often, both our families living on Avenue Fremiet, he, his first wife Maria and their daughter Natacha, who often played with our son Sviatoslav, they were about the same age. Alexander Borovsky was a magnificent pianist and played Prokofieff's works very well...! "Contes de la vielle Grand'mere," some of the early sonatas, "Visions Fugitives," Suggestions diaboliques," "Toccata," "Sarcasms" and other compositions. P.S. I can add that I remember A.B. as being a very jolly man with a joke up his sleeve, often about musicians. He and my husband would laugh and laugh."  

Letter from Emil Gilels (1916-1985), dated December 10, 1966

Letter from Guiomar Novaes (1895-1979)

Letter from Helmer Enwall (1889-1974), Swedish Impresario, November 11, 1969

Letter from Paul Paray (1886-1979), December 3, 1968

Letter from Mieczyslaw Horszowski (1892-1993), February 12, 1971

 Letter from Nikolai Lopatnikoff (1903-1976), July 2, 1969

Letter from Paul Loyonnet (1889-1988 - pianist, student of Isidor Philipp), November 27, 1970
(Handwriting difficult to read): "I met him in Lima and I heard him in a recital which was beautiful and a great success...He had the kindness to recommend me for a recital in Cinseptia (?) in Argentina--he was without the jealously to often the relationships between artists. He was really a very sympathetic man. I have not to tell you he was a great pianist. If I knew his name, when I was touring in Europe, I never met him nor listened to him as possible...virtuosos have to avoid to cross their their way."

Enrico Mainardi (1897-1976, cellist, conductor, composer), June 5, 1970
   "A.K. Borovsky, a great musician and personality. I met him in Berlin 1925 and listed and appreciated his recitals."

 Eugen Jochum (1902-1987), June 18, 1971
"I am sure he played with me in Berlin, but not before 1932. I was with the Berlin Radio from 1932 to beginning 1934...that is also the time for some Gewandhaus concerts, so (Borovsky) is right...in any case I remember him as a great pianist."

Emil Telmanyi (1892-1988, violinist), November 16, 1987
            "I cannot quite remember when or what I played with him but I guess it was some of J.S. Bach's works either violin piano sonatas or other chamber music but I remember that Borovsky was very keen to play Bach as accurate as it was written and didn't want Bach in a romantic way. His playing reminded me of the style of Glenn Gould. That is unfortunately all I can tell you as it is really a very long time ago."

Letter (dated March 15, 1978) from Galina von Meck (1891-1985), 
daughter of Nicholas von Meck & Anna Davydova; 
great-niece of Tchaikovsky; grand-daughter of his patroness Nedezhda von Meck:

"Dear Mr. Jones,
I simply must make an effort and let you know quite a lot about our friendship with Alexander Borovsky concerning his escape out of Russia. I was the person who had the luck to get him out, thanks to several of the high standing members of the then, very short lived Caucasian Georgian government. It coincided with the short case then Georgia became autonomous and her representatives in Moscow, independent from the Soviet government. I knew one of the top gentlemen who had as a boy studied in a college in Moscow and was a school friend of my brother. This was during the early years after the Revolution when artists traveled around Russia giving concerts and various performances. With the help of my Georgian friends Borovsky got an invitation to play in Tiflis, the capital of Georgia, first crossing Russia and playing in another of the important towns. Then, once in Georgia it was quite simple for the authorities there to get him out of the country. I presume through Persia. Anyway, he did come later back to Moscow on a concert tour, but for reasons of security we
Galina von Meck bio
met him only once. He by was by then married and came with his wife. If I remember rightly he came twice. This in short is what happened but the particulars I fear have faded now, and it will have to be checked when actually he managed to escape. As I have lost all contact with my former friends and the little dependent Georgia was very soon after taken by the Soviet Government and destroyed integrated into their country. Concerning his stays and visits at our house in the country I will try and send you some particulars. He was a great friend and was loved by all of us. The summers when he stayed with us were charming full of fun and music every night. My parents met him the first time in Petrograd at a concert. He used to, when in Moscow, come and play to us till late at night. I was astonished that so little is known about him. Do you know that he is the only concert pianist who knew and played brilliantly the Liszt Mephisto Polka! No other pianist plays and knows it. We had curious experiences at home when he played it and Scriabin saw little devils under the piano!"

Letter from Leopold Stokowski (1882-1977) regarding Borovsky's performance:

Gregor Piatigorsky (1903-1976) photo and letter, November 15, 1969
Dear Mr. Jones,

Thank you for your letter. I first met Alexander Borovsky in Moscow about fifty years ago (I will be 67 this April). So impressed I was with his artistry that I rarely missed one of his many concerts. Extraordinary virtuoso musician gave me more than just satisfaction of whatever music he performed. He influence me greatly in my own development while still a student at the Conservatory in Moscow. We became friends-we discussed music and played together privately. After his departure from Moscow, we saw much of each other and we attended each other's concerts in Europe and South America. The last time I heard him was in Mexico City. His was a memorable recital--his Bach so pure and human still sings in my ears. I admired him always, and I think of him as a friend with great nostalgia.

1970 letter from Bernardo Iriberri, Borovsky's Impresario in South America (below is a photo of Borovsky with Iriberri and his family). Translated from Spanish:
"The late Russian pianist, Alexander Borowsky, was in fact very often in the countries of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay.  My first contact with the great pianist was in January 1920 (?) in Berlin where I saw him play with the Symphony Orchestra of that city, directed by the late conductor of great renown....

Certainly I was amazed at the attitude of the public when the interval (intermission) started. To see gentlemen and ladies in grand gala go through the corridors of the theatre, eating all sorts of food while they discussed the performance of the orchestra, the conductor and the soloist. The First World War which the Germans lost had not been over very long yet and things occurred which were strange to us and our traditions. To see some people eating sandwiches while they walked around in the carpeted corridors (very well carpeted indeed). It is an important event, but still unforgettable. I became friendly with Maestro Borowsky and made the acquaintance with his very beautiful and elegant wife who would soon leave him to marry an Italian of high social standing. A cherished reminiscence I have of them and me in Paris. Since we knew each other so well, I proposed to go to a restaurant which I had discovered, where they grilled meat in country fashion. They invited me to join them first in a cafe in the Hotel Imperial where many emigre Russians meet, and there I had the honor of being presented to the great composer Prokofiev, with whom they were having coffee. I sat down for a while but I hardly exchanged some words with the great Russian musician. Frankly, I felt I did not measure up to the merits of that colossus who did so much for his music during his life. Never shall I be able to lament sufficiently that I had not befriended him more and invited him to this country (Argentina) where he would have been very well received, leaving the country with a most wonderful memory.

During the last years, Borovsky was not seen much anymore in concerts. He was now in United States, where he took root and where he married a very good and nice countrywomen of his. I made this visit to Berlin in order to obtain a great piano brand for the establishment where I managed the music department, and the invitation to the concert was made by the owner of the great factory of Bechstein pianos, a brand used by the greatest pianists, amongst others Artur Rubinstein. After the second World War, the brand lost much prestige for one of its owners supported Nazism to the maximum."

Letter dated February 22, 1971 from Mrs. Serge Koussevitzky (1901-1978): "I can merely say that Koussevitzky thought a great deal of Alexander Borovsky, particularly as interpreter of Bach's Music."

Letter from U.S.O. Camp Shows Inc, dated February 10th, 1944

Letter from pianist Olga Samaroff-Stokowski (1880-1948) dated February 28, 1942

Letter from Erich Leinsdorf (1912-1993) dated March 27, 1964

Borovsky performed often in Norway, Sweden and Denmark. These banners were found in Borovsky's archive. "From his Norwegian Musical Friends and Admirers"
"Alexander Borovsky Oslo 4-11 1946"

Leonard Bernstein letter of September 4, 1945 thanks Borovsky for his note of congratulations
perhaps written after Bernstein guest conducted  the Boston Symphony November 24-25, 1944 in Brahms Piano Concerto No 1 in D Minor, Op 15 (Jesus Maria Sanroma) and Shostakovich-Symphony No 5, Op 47 in Symphony Hall, Boston

Borovsky writes from Tel Aviv to Albert Einstein (1879-1955) in Berlin, June 14, 1931
(Thanks to Albert Einstein Archives Hebrew University of Jerusalem Library for sending reproduction of this letter)

Hotel San Remo, Tel-Aviv, Palestine
Much honored Mister Professor!
I am sending you my recital program in Hebrew script (Borovsky had performed works of W.F.Bach-Stradl, J.S. Bach, Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, Liadoff, Stravinsky and Liszt).
Palestine today still is, as always in the past, a wonderland with eternal worries, which the Jews are blamed for in this land. And still, the plentiful Jews feel happier here than elsewhere. Your "Einstein House" on the University in Jerusalem has been opened already and befits the best buildings of this rich Institute. The view from the roof of the Library building is unique in the world! I had a wonderful success in Palestine--imagine that a pianist can give three Piano-evenings in a packed hall in Tel Aviv--and 20 years ago it was still a desert!
With my best greetings to your spouse and to you
I remain, your very obedient
(signed) A. Borovsky
Salzburgerstrasse 15, Berlin (home address)

[It is noted that both men were 100% Jewish by blood (their mothers') but not by upbringing, Borovsky having been raised Orthodox and Einstein Roman Catholic (Borovsky writes in his Memoirs that he and Einstein played violin and piano duets in Einstein's home).]

Letter from pianist, Maria Kalamkarian (1903-1988) dated April 21, 1969. Maria was born in Tiflis where she studied under Nikolai Tcherepnin. She left Tiflis and went to study in Berlin with Gottfried Galston. While there Galston introduced her to Busoni. She was accompanist for Chaliapin.
She writes,
Borovsky I really knew.  My mother was a pianist, a student of Felix Blumenfeld at St. Petersburg Conservatory. My mother was an honorary member of the Imperial Russian Music Society and received musicians who came to Tbilisi, as well as Borovsky, when he performed here,  I cannot remember when he first came to us, as I was still very small. But in his later visits he was with us every day and I remember him very well.  I already could play piano and Borovsky enjoyed leading the fingers of this small girl and to demonstrate some things.  Later I was allowed to attend his concerts. So I heard shortly after the death of Scriabin an entire recital he gave of Scriabin. Also much Rachmaninoff, Chopin Sonata in B-flat minor and for the first time in our home Debussy's Poisson d'Ors. Later, after the Russian Revolution he came with the cellist Evsei Beloussoff and played duets in the evenings. I was allowed to turn pages.  
In Berlin I saw Borovsky in recitals and also the pianist Franz Orborn (1905-1955), my friend. I recall in his recitals playing Wagner-Liszt, "Liebestod," and his transcription of Tchaikovsky's Overture, "Romeo and Juliet." 
With warmest wishes,
(signed) Maria Kalamkarian

Letter written by Annette Essipova (1851-1914), Borovsky's teacher at St. Petersburg Conservatory, January, 1893. Essipova would have been 42 at this time.

Postcard from Abram Chasins (1903-1987) April 17, 1971

Letter from conductor Josef  Krips (1902-1974) of March 17, 1971
..Now it's more than 20 years since I met Mr. Borovsky. Although I do not remember if it was in Brussels, London or Paris, Be sure he was a fine pianist and a real musician, besides that, anyway I feel touched  that he remembered our music making together. (signed) Josef Krips

Frederick Dvonch, conductor-violinist (1912-1976) letter of November 6, 1972
...It was at that concert, December 13, 1942, together with the rehearsals that I met Mr. Borovsky and unfortunately that was the only time we made music together.  I believe the concert was for the benefit of the Red Cross.
That concert stands out in my mind as bringing together the greatest pianists of the day...and as a young conductor it was a great honor.
It is indeed fine of you to gather into a biography the life of this outstanding musician. Sincerely (signed)

Letter from French pianist, Maurice Dumesnil (1884-1974) of June 21, 1973
...But I heard one recital he gave at the new Salle Pleyel and was much impressed by him.  His technic and musicality were of the highest order and reminded me of Sviatoslav Richter.  I went backstage and offered him my warm congratulations and also talked in French with his wife who I was told was a native of Paris...They attended my recital for the Association Wagneriana.  He returned the compliment and that was the last time I saw him.  I still have present in my memory however his wonderful interpretation of Schumann's Krieslerina. (signed) Maurice Dumesnil

Pianist Wiktor Labunski (1895-1974) letter of  November 6, 1969
Labunski was present at Borovsky's 1912 final piano examination from St. Petersburg Conservatory of the Liszt Piano Concerto in E-flat, "a brilliant performance with a second piano"

Letter from pianist, Serge Conus (1902-1988) of February 8, 1971
...."I met Mr. Borovsky very infrequently. In 1921 I heard him in Paris, his excellent performance of the works of Sibelius and Bach. I heard him in Sofia, Bulgaria in 1933 and had dinner with him. Finally I met him in Vienna in 1936 and when he played in Boston at Boston University and Symphony Hall. I have all of his recordings of Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsodies. He was also soloist with virtually major European orchestras.

Letter from French impresario, Yves Dandelot, November 20, 1968
"The great pianist, Borovsky, had a distinguished career in Europe ad in France where our office booked his concerts.
He did not return again to France until 1958......I can only tell you that I have found that Borovsky had concerts December 8,10, 12, 15, 1958 devoted to Beethoven and this was with great success.

from Nellie MELBA's memoirs(1861-1931) biography by Percy Colson published in 1932, p. 79,
                 "The London audiences adored Mischa Elman when he was a little boy with bare legs, because they like bare-legged boys who do wonderful things on the violin, but they ignore Mischa Elman in his great maturity. They grovelled at the feet of Paderewski, but they will have nothing to do with that superlatively fine pianist, Alexandre Borovsky, because has has no tricks up his sleeve."

signed program December 5, 1961 from Soulima Stravinsky (1910-1994) "For dear Maitre Borovsky from his friend and admirer and colleague (signed) Soulima Stravinsky

Signed music excerpt from Marcel Dupre (1886-1971) dated December 14, 1958-"for the grand master Alexandre Borowski in souvenir of our visite at Saint Sulpice,"
note from conductor Dimitri Mitropoulous (1896-1960) dated January 5, 1950
Dear Mr. Borovsky:
I felt very touched by your thoughtfulness in sending my congratulations. Please accept my humble thanks. Gratefully yours, (signed)
Probably in response to his being appointed co-conductor of New York Philharmonic in 1949

Letter from Vladimir Romanoff (1924-1992) one of the 6 nephews of Czar Nicholas II attests that Borovsky and Borovsky's mother taught them piano, c. 1914-1915

Letter of July 20, 1934-- Borovsky writes to the Straits Times in Singapore thanking  his audiences for their wonderful reception to his four concerts there and hopes he will return

Letters from Dr. Gosta Schwarck (1915-2012) (Borovsky's impresario in Denmark) of October 16, 2009 and March 13, 2010 remembering carrying Borosky's briefcase and silent keyboard while on his tour and his overwhelming admiration and his deep appreciation of Borovsky's artistry, especially in the performance of J.s. Bach's music

Typed letter with signed signature from Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) dated 1969 to William Jones 
Telegram from Serge Koussevitzky, February 8, 1944 to Borovsky
Vladimir Golschmann (1893-1972) January 21, 1948 letter from St. Louis Sympho

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