Born in Odessa, in present-day Ukraine, Moiseiwitsch began his studies at age seven at the Odessa Music Academy. He won the Anton Rubinstein Prize when he was just nine years old. He later took lessons from Theodor Leschetizky in Vienna. He first appeared in London in 1909 and made his American debut in 1919. He settled in England and took British citizenship in 1937.
Moiseiwitsch was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1946, for his consistent contributions during the Second World War, performing hundreds of recitals to servicemen and charities.
Moiseiwitsch was particularly known for his interpretations of the late Romantic repertoire, especially the works of Sergei Rachmaninoff (who was an admirer of his playing and referred to Moiseiwitsch as his "spiritual heir"). At the piano, Moiseiwitsch was noted for his elegance, poetry, lyrical phrasing, brilliance, rhythmic freedom, and relaxed virtuosity.
He made recordings for His Master's Voice (now EMI) starting in the 78RPM shellac era, continuing with long-playing records and into the early stereo era. His distinctive style can be heard in his recording of Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini and the Barcarolle, Ballade No. 4 and Nocturne, Op. 62 of Frédéric Chopin. In 1950 critic and musicologist Irving Kolodin said about the Ballade in F minor of Chopin played by Moiseiwitsch: "A featherweight touch in the opening section of this work, an apt feeling for its "once upon a time" narrative quality give Moiseiwitsch pre-eminence among present day interpreters...", thus summing up the sensitivity of the playing by Benno Moiseiwitsch. He worked meticulously and amicably as a chamber musician, including in Rachmaninoff's Trio Élégiaque and Cello Sonata in G minor. American critic Harold C. Schonberg praised Moiseiwitsch's formidable technique and free approach to the music, adding that such freedom was "always tempered by impeccable musicality."
There is currently no comprehensive reissue of Moiseiwitsch's entire discography, but much of his recorded output is available on CD. Although there are duplicates of recordings across the labels, they differ in sound quality because of the different restoration techniques employed by the companies.
Releases by Naxos Records Historical
- Vol. 1: SCHUMANN: Kinderszenen / MUSORGSKY: Pictures at an Exhibition (8.110668)
- Vol. 2: LISZT: Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 / WEBER-TAUSIG: Rondo Brillante, etc. (8.110669)
- Vol. 3: TCHAIKOVSKY: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 2 (8.110655)
- Vol. 4: RACHMANINOV: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 2 and Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (8.110676)
- Vol. 5: GRIEG / SAINT-SAENS: Piano Concertos / LISZT: Hungarian Fantasy (8.110683)
- Vol. 6: DELIUS: Piano Concerto / RAVEL: Jeux d'eau, etc. (8.110689)
- Vol. 7: RACHMANINOV: Preludes / MEDTNER: Sonata, etc. (8.110675)
- Vol. 8: BEETHOVEN: Piano Concertos Nos. 3 and 5 (8.110776)
- Vol. 9: BEETHOVEN: Piano Sonatas Nos. 8, 14, and 21 (8.111115)
- Vol. 10: MOISEIWITSCH, Benno: Acoustic Recordings 1916-1925 (8.111116)
- Vol. 11: CHOPIN: Piano Works (1917–1927) (8.111117)
- Vol. 12: CHOPIN: 24 Preludes / Ballades / Fantaisie-Impromptu (1938–1952) (8.111118)
- Vol. 13: CHOPIN: Recordings 1939-1952 (8.110770)
- BEETHOVEN/BRAHMS/FRANCK: Violin Sonatas (Heifetz) — Moiseiwitsch accompanies Jascha Heifetz in Beethoven's Violin Sonata No. 9 in A major, Op. 47
Releases by APR
- The complete Rachmaninov recordings 1937-43 (APR 5505)
- Benno Moiseiwitsch plays SAINT-SAENS Concerto 2 / GRIEG Concerto / LISZT Hungarian Fantasia (APR 5529)
- Benno Moiseiwitsch plays Beethoven Volume 1 (APR 5530)
- Benno Moiseiwitsch plays Beethoven Volume 2 (APR 5610)
- Benno Moiseiwitsch plays Chopin Volume 1 (APR 5575)
- Benno Moiseiwitsch plays Chopin Volume 2 (APR 5576)
- Benno Moiseiwitsch plays Tchaikovsky
Releases by Pearl
- Benno Moiseiwitsch - The Complete Acoustic Recordings (0142)
- Benno Moiseiwitsch Vol 1 - Brahms, Mendelssohn, et al. (9135)
- Moiseiwitsch In Recital (9192)
Releases by Testament
- Benno Moiseiwitsch Plays Schumann & Brahms (1023)
- Chopin, Schumann, Weber, Medtner, et al. / Benno Moiseiwitsch (1196)
- Delius: Concertos for Violin and Piano, Legende, etc. (1014)
- Moiseiwitsch - Schumann, Grieg: Piano Concertos (1187)
- Moisewitsch In Recital - Chopin, Stravinsky, Liszt (ARBITER 120)
- Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No.2, Beethoven Piano Concerto No.5 (BBC LEGENDS 4074)
- Benno Moiseiwitsch (Great Pianists of the 20th Century series by Phillips)
- Benno Moiseiwitsch (GHCH 2326 Label: Guild Historical) — Live recordings of Delius's Piano Concerto and Rachmaninov's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini from the Proms in 1955. Also included is a studio recording of Rachmaninov's 2nd Piano Concerto also from 1955.
- MOISEIWITSCH, Maurice. Moiseiwitsch, biography of a Concert Pianist, London: F.Muller, 1965.
- Georges Cziffra (EMI DVD Classics 4906819) — Bonus footage of Moiseiwitsch playing Wagner-Liszt: Overture to Tannhauser
- The Art of Piano: Great Pianists of the 20th Century — Moiseiwitsch plays Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No.2 (excerpt), Prelude in B minor Op.32 (the beginning contains commentary) and speaks about a conversation he had with Rachmaninov.
- Presto Classical
- Sergey Prokofiev, Diaries 1907-1914: Prodigious Youth, Cornell University Press (2008), p. 470.
- Irving Kolodin, The New Guide To Recorded Music, Double Day & Company, New York, 1950
- Harold C. Schonberg, The Great Pianists from Mozart to the Present, Simon & Schuster, Second Edition (1987)
- Playing in the Grand Style — Moiseiwitsch discusses the "Grand Style"
- A radio interview transcript — Moiseiwitsch speaks about his career, music and other subjects