Alexander Borisovich Goldenweiser was a Russian and Soviet pianist, composer, teacher, publicist, music critic, and public figure. He was a Doctor of Arts (1940), a People's Artist of the USSR (1946), and the winner of the Stalin Prize of the first degree (1947). Goldenweiser wrote numerous critical articles and a few books.
Alexander Borisovich Goldenweiser (or Golʹdenveĭzer / Goldenveyzer) was born in Kishinev, Bessarabian Province, Russian Empire. He received his first musical impressions from his mother, Varvara Petrovna Goldenweiser, who had a keen artistic taste and loved to sing and play the piano.
At the age of five, having learned to understand notes under the guidance of his older sister Tatiana, he began to play the piano himself. When he was eight years old, his family moved to Moscow, where his musical studies began with V. P. Prokunin, a collector of Russian folk songs and one of Tchaikovsky's students.
Alexander Goldenweiser graduated from the Moscow Conservatory in 1895 in the class of P. A. Pabst (previously, he studied with A. I. Ziloti), and in 1897 he graduated from the course of M. M. Ippolitov-Ivanov in the class of composition. Also, he studied music composition with Alexander S. Arensky and contrapuntal with Sergei Ivanovich Taneyev.
With Sergei Taneyev, Goldenweiser often met at Leo Tolstoy's Moscow home in Khamovnichesky Lane and Yasnaya Polyana. Tolstoy loved to play chess with Taneyev, and later Goldenweiser became the great writer's partner.
He was first invited to Tolstoy's house on January 20, 1896, as a young pianist, and he played for the great writer.
By 1900 Goldenweiser was famous enough that symbolist poet Andrei Bely mentioned him in the poem The First Date.
Alexander Borisovich Goldenweiser is an influential figure in the history of Russian culture during the Soviet period and the formation of music education and piano pedagogy. In 1931 he created a dedicated group of talented children at the Moscow Conservatory. In 1936 it transformed into the Central School of Music, which trained the best musicians in the country.
Goldenweiser, then a professor at the Conservatory (since 1906), was already its director (1922–1924), a post he assumed again in 1939–1942. For almost a quarter of a century (1936–1959), Alexander Borisovich was the director of the piano department.
Alexander Goldenweiser was a close friend of Leo Tolstoy and published memories of their relationship in his book Talks with Tolstoi (originally Vblizi Tolstogo, literally Near Tolstoi). The book contained 15 years of records and consisted of two volumes(1922–1923, 1959).
Their contact lasted until the author's death, which Goldenweiser would witness: the pianist would be one of the signatories of Tolstoy's "spiritual testament."