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Acclaimed concert pianist, former IUSB professor Alexander Toradze dies at age 69

 Alexander Toradze during his final performance on April 23 with the Vancouver, Wash. Symphony Orchestra.
Vancouver Symphony Orchestra USA
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Alexander Toradze during his final performance on April 23 with the Vancouver, Wash. Symphony Orchestra.

Internationally acclaimed pianist Alexander Toradze died Wednesday in South Bend at the age of 69.

Born in Tbilisi, Georgia in 1952, Toradze began playing piano at a young age and graduated from Moscow’s Tchaikovsky Conservatory in 1978.

While on tour with the Bolshoi Symphony Orchestra in 1983, he requested asylum at the American Embassy in Madrid and moved to the United States.

Toradze had a lengthy career as a piano soloist, playing with many international orchestras including the Berlin Philharmonic and London Symphony and performing with virtually every major orchestra in the United States.

He also spent 25 years as a professor of piano at Indiana University South Bend before retiring in 2017.

“Alexander — Lexo, we called him — Lexo was such a big figure for us. Georgians, especially,” Ketevan Badridze, a professor of piano at IUSB, said.

A fellow Georgian, Badridze first came to the school in 2000 to study under Toradze and later served as his assistant before becoming a professor.

“I knew he had a studio here, so I sent my recording and he just invited me as a student, so I had the opportunity to study with him,” Badridze said. “When I arrived in 2000, it was like I joined this big family of musicians.”

She said Toradze was a “legendary pianist” best known for his performances of Russian compositions — many critics, she said, considered him the best performer of works by Igor Stravinsky and Sergei Prokofiev.

“His repertoire was large, but his performances of Russian music were unique and exceptional,” Badridze said. “His playing was so artistic, radiant, creative — very often, it was like he was creating this music on the spot.”

But Toradze’s biggest legacy, Badridze said, is his work at IUSB — many of his former students have gone on to careers as performers and professors around the United States.

“For a quarter century — more than 20 years — musical life at IUSB was flourishing and booming, and it attracted students from all over the world,” Badridze said. “He cared for each student individually — he was like a friend or even a father for us.”

Toradze’s last performance was on April 23 when he joined the Vancouver, Wash. Symphony Orchestra to perform two of Dmitri Shostakovich’s piano concertos.

He suffered heart failure during his performance, but kept on playing and headed to the hospital afterward. He died on May 11, just two weeks short of his 70th birthday.

“It’s a huge loss,” Badridze said. “Lexo, thank you for all you have done for us, and rest in peace.”

Contact Jakob at jlazzaro@wvpe.org or follow him on Twitter at @JakobLazzaro.

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Copyright 2022 WVPE 88.1 Elkhart/South Bend. To see more, visit WVPE 88.1 Elkhart/South Bend.

Jakob Lazzaro