Aleksandr Ziloti

Tchaikovsky Research
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Aleksandr Ziloti (1863-1945)

Ukrainian pianist, conductor and teacher (b, 27 September/9 October 1863 near Kharkov; d. 8 December 1945 in New York), born Aleksandr Ilyich Ziloti (Александр Ильич Зилоти); also known outside Russia as Alexander Siloti.


Aleksandr was the son of Ilya Ziloti and his wife Yuliya Arkadyevna (b. Rakhmaninova, 1835–1925). Through his maternal line, Aleksandr was a first cousin to the composer and pianist Sergei Rachmaninoff.

Ziloti graduated from the Moscow Conservatory in 1882, having studied for seven years under Nikolay Rubinstein, Sergey Taneyev, Nikolay Hubert, and also attended Tchaikovsky's classes in harmony. From 1883 to 1886 he worked with Franz Liszt at Weimar, before returning to Moscow as professor of piano at the Conservatory (1888–1891), where his students included his cousin Sergei Rachmaninoff. He left the conservatory in 1891 and spent the next eight years touring in Russia, western Europe and North America.

Tchaikovsky and Ziloti

In 1887, Ziloti married Vera Tretyakova (1866–1940), daughter of the Russian businessman and art collector Pavel Tretyakov (1832–1898) and a cousin of Tchaikovsky's sister-in-law Praskovya. Ziloti was a strong advocate of Tchaikovsky's music, which he often performed in Europe and America. The composer entrusted Ziloti with the proof-reading of his works, and making piano arrangements of his compositions (such as the ballet The Sleeping Beauty). After Tchaikovsky's death, Ziloti published his own versions of the First and Second Piano Concertos, the Piano Sonata in C-sharp minor, and an orchestral suite from the ballet The Sleeping Beauty.

Ziloti returned to Russia in 1901 as director of the Moscow Philharmonic Society (1901–02), and between 1903 and 1917 he organised his own influential series of symphonic and chamber concerts in Saint Petersburg. He fled Russia after the revolution, settling first in England and later becoming a United States citizen in 1921. From 1925 to 1942 he taught at the Julliard Graduate School, while still performing occasional recitals.


In 1893, Tchaikovsky dedicated his Scherzo-fantaisie — No. 10 of the Eighteen Pieces, Op. 72 for piano — "à Mr. Aléxandre Ziloti".

Correspondence with Tchaikovsky

67 letters from Tchaikovsky to Aleksandr Ziloti have survived, dating from 1886 to 1893, of which those highlighted in bold have been translated into English on this website:

70 letters from Ziloti to the composer have survived, of which 69 are in the Tchaikovsky State Memorial Musical Museum-Reserve at Klin (a4, Nos. 1252–1320), and one in the Russian State Archive of Literature and Art in Moscow.


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