The Russian pianist, Andrei [Andrej] Gavrilov, began his musical training with his mother, who stressed the need to search for emotional content in performance. By contrast, his second teacher, Tatiana Kestner, was a product of the German school and emphasized form and musical ideas rather than emotion. His official studies concluded with Lev Naumov, an esteemed pedagogue who imposed some order on his young student's unruly temperament. Gavrilov was a protégé of the great Russian pianist Sviatoslav Richter.
Andrei Gavrilov won first prize in the 1974 International Tchaikovsky Competition and in the same year made a triumphant international dèbut at the Salzburg Festival. He has subsequently enjoyed a distinguished international career which has included performances with many of the world's greatest orchestras. He made his London debut in 1976 with Paavo Berglund and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in the Royal Festival Hall. In 1978 he performed with the Berliner Philharmoniker in a major European concert tour. By 1980 he had performed in all the major cultural centres in the world. In 1984 he made a triumphant return to the British concert platform in 1984, after a politically enforced absence, giving recitals at the Barbican and the Royal Festival Hall. He successfully petitioned Mikhail Gorbachev for his freedom, and became the first Soviet artist to be granted permission to stay in the West without having to file for political asylum.
Following his Carnegie Hall debut in 1985, Andrei Gavrilov was proclaimed as a major artist by New York Times' Donal Henahan. He has since performed with orchestras in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and Montreal, London, Vienna, Paris, Berlin, Munich, Amsterdam and Tokyo, with conductors including Claudio Abbado, Bernard Haitink, Riccardo Muti, Seiji Ozawa, Svetlanov and Tennstedt. In spite of certain reservations harbored by critics, the public was ecstatic and responded with standing ovations in venue after venue. He appeared with the leading orchestras and undertook a tour of Japan in 1979. While Soviet officials were delighted to show off their newest piano virtuoso, their pleasure was replaced by censure after reports of Gavrilov's critical remarks about the state of music in the Soviet Union reached their attention.
Upon return to Russia after his Japanese junket, Andrei Gavrilov found his career at full stop. Only after a half-decade of intense difficulties and his eventual accommodation to the regime was he be able to resume his overseas appearances. Coincident with his new tours, both the critics and the public were quicker to comment on his eccentricities and exaggerations. Still, those who longed for the strong stamp of personality allied with an often-staggering technique continued to rate Gavrilov highly. Recent engagements include recitals in Warsaw, San Sebastian, Bilbao, Rome, Tallinn, Athens and Lisbon. During the 2001-2002 season he performed in numerous European cities, as well as making appearances in Korea, China, Canada, and the USA.
Between 1976 and 1990, Andrei Gavrilov was an exclusive artist with EMI, winning several international prizes including a Gramophone award in 1979, Deutscher Schallplattenpreis in 1981, Grand Prix International du Disque de L'Academie Charles Crois in 1985 and 1986, and International Record Critics Award (IRCA) in 1985. Among his other awards are the 1989 Premio Internazionale Accademia Musicale Chigiana (the jury of music critics proclaiming him as the greatest pianist in the world), and the Board of International Research of American Biographical Institute (ABI) "Man of the Year" commemorative medal, "Gold Record of Achievement" and "World Lifetime Achievement" awards, in recognition of his contribution to society. In 1998 Andrei Gavrilov was selected as one of the pianists to be featured in Philips Music Group's Great Pianists of the Twentieth Century collection. In October 1990 he signed an exclusive contract with Deutsche Grammophon, leading to acclaimed recordings of Frédéric Chopin, Prokofiev, Schubert, J.S. Bach and Grieg.
Those not fortunate enough to see Andrei Gavrilov in person have had available a number of impressive recordings, among them a disc of F. Chopin's Op. 10 and Op. 25 etudes. His pacing is frequently hair-raisingly brisk, but a sense of poetry is never lacking. While his recording of Sergei Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 3 released shortly after his Tchaikovsky Competition victory was rapturously acclaimed and won numerous awards, a remake with Riccardo Muti was much less successful, sounding like a compendium of the excesses and peculiarities noted in many of the pianist's live appearances. On the plus side again is Gavrilov's recording of Balakirev's tortuous Islamey, which is full of sweep, passion, and astonishing articulation. Gavrilov, rather surprisingly, has given some notable performances of J.S. Bach: the French Suites, concertos, and the Goldberg Variations (BWV 988) were all committed to disc. After earlier recordings for a major label, Gavrilov was heard on disc in the 1990's as a part of the Edition Monastery Maulbronn.
Andrei Gavrilov has revealed himself as, in the words of Harold Schonberg, "a virtuoso, sometimes an explosive one, who has Horowitz instincts that are not yet under control." Schonberg, reflecting much of the general feeling about Gavrilov, also expressed gratitude for the artist's temperament, an element notably missing from most of his supremely well-schooled, but more cautious contemporaries. In the years since he emerged as such a vivid personality, much remains the same: Andrei Gavrilov, Still intensely Romantic in his playing, is a brilliant artist who does not always command his unquestioned resources, however high the level of excitement. In the new millennium, his live appearances are still dramatic events. Favoring tunics for concert dress, long hair sometimes tied in a ponytail, he remains a highly physical artist, twisting and bobbing at the keyboard, gazing heavenward or staring at the audience.