"The pianist's pianist"
"As pianist and musician,
he has everything - fingers, heart, style, temperament,
the arching line.
The man seems to be imbued with music,
and he in turn imbues everything he touches with poetry and majesty."
"What Moravec offers is what makes him, for me, one of the greatest pianists in the world today."
The world-famous pianist Ivan Moravec is one of the most important representatives of Czech piano art of the 20th century. He was born on November 9, 1930, in Prague. After graduating from the Prague Conservatory in 1952, where he studied with Erna Grünfeldová), he continued with Prof. Ilona Štěpánová-Kurzová at the Faculty of Music of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. In 1957-1958, he completed piano master classes with Arturo Benedetti-Michelangeli in Arezzo, Italy. Ivan Moravec was subsequently invited to London for his two debuts — a solo recital at Wigmore Hall, and Prokofiev's First Piano Concerto with the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Gunnar Staern at the Royal Festival Hall. His two performances met with great critical acclaim in both The Daily Telegraph and The Times. Following his success, Ivan Moravec was invited in 1962 to make two recordings for the American Connoisseur Society featuring works by Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, and Franck.
At the end of the 1950s, he also made his public appearance with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra under Karel Ančerl. He was again invited to London for concerts with the Philharmonia Orchestra and conductor Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt. When the legendary conductor George Szell heard the recordings of Ivan Moravec, he invited him to the United States as a soloist in Beethoven's Fourth Piano Concerto. Four concerts with The Cleveland Orchestra in Cleveland, Hartford, and New York's Carnegie Hall turned out to be a resounding success and launched the artist’s international career, during which time Ivan Moravec visited virtually every major international venue. He was a regular guest at music festivals in Tanglewood, Ravina, Blossom, Montreux, Salzburg, Edinburgh, Aldeburgh, Schleswig-Holstein, and the Mostly Mozart Festival in New York. He performed at a total of twenty-one concerts at the Prague Spring Festival between 1962 and 2012.
Ivan Moravec collaborated with a number of the world's most renowned conductors (Jiří Bělohlávek, Herbert Blomstedt, Mariss Jansons, Kurt Masur,Zubin Mehta, Erich Leinsdorf, Simon Rattle, Leonard Slatkin, Franz Welser-Möst, David Zinman, and others) and orchestras (Boston Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, The Cleveland Orchestra, The Philadelphia Orchestra, Berliner Symphoniker, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Concertgebouw Amsterdam, Czech Philharmonic, Gewandhaus Leipzig, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Tonhalle Orchester Zürich, and many others).
He made numerous recordings at home and abroad, which were released on gramophone records and CDs. Most of the recordings made in the United States were awarded Recording of the Year, and they were repeatedly nominated for a Grammy Award. Phillips included a selection of these recordings in its prestigious anthology Great Pianists of the 20th Century, in which Ivan Moravec is the only one representing Czech piano art. His recording of four Mozart concertos with Sir Neville Marriner and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields achieved remarkable success at the MIDEM festival in Cannes, which was awarded the best recording in the category of 18th century music. Consequently in 2002, he also received a “Lifetime Achievement” Award in Cannes.
In the United States, Ivan Moravec recorded for the Connoisseur Society (reissued by VAI and Supraphon), and for other prestigious labels (e.g., Nonesuch, Dorian, Hänssler Classics, VOX, and Supraphon).
Romantic European music and Czech music became the focus of Moravec’s interest. His repertoire included piano compositions by Ludwig van Beethoven, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, César Franck, Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel, Bedřich Smetana, Antonín Dvořák, and Leoš Janáček.
His art also found its way into the classic films of the 1980s: Excerpts from his recordings of Janáček's compositions On the Overgrown Path and In the Mists were used in Philip Kaufman's feature The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and the 3rd movement of Mozart's Piano Concerto in E flat major, K 482 was utilized in Miloš Forman's Amadeus.
In 1969-2014, Prof. Moravec was a teacher at the Music Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. Many of his students have become successful pianists themselves. He offered piano master classes for universities in the United States. He also taught at courses in the Czech Republic and Germany. In 2010-2013, he led master classes at the Prague Music Performance Institute and Festival. Ivan Moravec was often invited to the juries at international interpretation competitions — as a judge, he participated in the Queen Elizabeth Competition in Brussels (1978, 1983, 1987), Leeds (1969), Vienna (1975), and Washington, D.C. (1987).
The artistic and pedagogical activities of Prof. Ivan Moravec were awarded the State Medal for Merit in Culture in 2000 by the President of the Czech Republic, Václav Havel. On November 22, 2000, he was awarded the Charles IV International Award by Charles University in Prague.
Ivan Moravec died in Prague on July 27, 2015 at the age of 84.