Ivo Pogorelich is among the most provocative pianists on the modern scene, known for entirely original interpretations that may be ungrounded in the notation of the work being played. At the top of his powers he can impart rhythmic drive and intensity matched by few other players.
Pogorelich (originally Pogorelić, and still spelled that way at times) was born in Belgrade, then in Yugoslavia, on October 20, 1958. His father was Croatian, his mother Serbian, and he took Croatian citizenship after the dissolution of Yuglslavia. Pogorelich took up the piano at age seven, studying in Belgrade until his extraordinary talent was recognized; at 12 he moved to Moscow for studies at the Central Music School, and he later earned a degree from the Tchaikovsky Conservatory. Pogorelich's most important teacher was Aliza Kezeradze, who had been a student of Alexander Siloti; he in turn was a student of Liszt. The two married, despite their age difference of more than 20 years (Kezeradze died in 1997). Pogorelich won several competitions before entering the prestigious International Chopin Competition in Warsaw in 1980. He was eliminated in the third round, prompting the resignation from the prize jury by of one of his backers, pianist Martha Argerich. Pogorelich made his debut at Carnegie Hall in 1981 and was signed to the Deutsche Grammophon label the following year, making his debut with a well-regarded recording of Prokofiev's Piano Sonata No. 6 in A major, Op. 82. Over the 1980s and 1990s he played concertos with most of the world's major orchestras and gave numerous recitals. At the peak of his fame he quipped that someone would write a review if he simply dusted off his piano. To aid younger pianists, Pogorelich established an Ivo Pogorelich Foundation in Croatia (1989) and an Ivo Pogorelich Piano Competition in California (1993). He was also unusually active in charitable causes, mounting relief concerts for the citizens of Sarajevo during the Bosnian War in the early 1990s. Pogorelich continued to record for Deutsche Grammophon; critical responses to his recordings were mixed, but he enjoyed strong sales and public enthusiasm. His schedule slowed in the 2000s and 2010s decades, and although a complete set of his Deutsche Grammophon performances was issued in 2015, he made no new recordings until a 2019 album of Beethoven and Rachmaninov piano sonatas.