Isabelle Vengerova

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Isabelle Vengerova
Born 1 March 1877
Died 7 February 1956
New York City
Genres Classical
Occupation(s) Pianist, music teacher
Instruments Piano
Years active 1906–1956

Isabelle Vengerova (1 March [O.S. 17 February] 1877 – 7 February 1956) was a Russian, later American, pianist and music teacher

She was born Izabella Afanasyevna Vengerova (Изабелла Афанасьевна Венгерова), in Minsk (now in Belarus). Her elder brother Semyon Vengerov was a venerable literary historian. She studied the piano at the Vienna Conservatory with Josef Dachs, and privately with Theodor Leschetizky; in Saint Petersburg she studied with Anna Yesipova. From 1906 to 1920 she taught at the Imperial Conservatory in St Petersburg and then toured the USSR and Western Europe from 1920 to 1923, when she settled in the USA.

In 1924 she helped found the Curtis Institute and in 1933 joined the faculty of the Mannes College, teaching at both institutions until her death in New York in 1956. Vengerova was also known for her painstaking attention to detail and for a psychological insight that brought out the best in each pupil. While she denied having a particular method, she drilled all students in techniques designed to achieve expressive playing and beautiful tone, keeping the fingers close to the keys for evenness and a seamless legato; playing deeply in the keys while using the weight of the forearm and a flexible wrist to achieve a full singing tone without harshness, and controlling tone by higher or lower positions of the wrist.

Among her pupils were Ralph Berkowitz, Samuel Barber, Leonard Bernstein, Lukas Foss, Anthony di Bonaventura, Gary Graffman, Abbey Simon, Gilbert Kalish, Jacob Lateiner, Leonard Pennario, Menahem Pressler, and Stanley Babin.

She was the maternal aunt and first teacher of Nicolas Slonimsky.


  1. R. Gerig. Famous Pianists and their Technique (Washington DC, 1974)
  2. G. Graffman. I Really should be Practicing (New York, 1981)
  3. R.D. Schick. The Vengerova System of Piano Playing (University Park, PA, 1982)
  4. J. Rezits. Beloved Tyranna: the Legend and Legacy of Isabelle Vengerova (Bloomington, IN, 1995)