Alexander Sverjensky

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Alexander Sverjensky
Native name
Александр Борисович Сверженский
Born(1901-03-26)26 March 1901
Riga, Latvia
Died3 October 1971(1971-10-03) (aged 70)
Bondi Beach, Sydney, Australia
GenresClassical music

Alexander Borisovich Sverjensky (Александр Борисович Сверженский) (26 March 1901 – 3 October 1971) was a Russian-born Australian pianist and teacher.

Sverjensky was born in Riga, Latvia, then part of the Russian Empire, in 1901. He started piano lessons at age 12. From age 14, he studied at the Petrograd Conservatory under Alexander Glazunov. (Some sources say he studied under Sergei Rachmaninoff[1] or Alexander Siloti.[2]) He also studied law at Tomsk.

In 1922 he left Russia for China. He accompanied the soprano Lydia Lipkovska on a tour of China, Japan, the Philippines, Australia and New Zealand, and then appeared as a soloist in Europe. He decided to settle permanently in Australia in 1925. He appeared in many recitals and concerts throughout the 1920s and 1930s. He was the first person to play the music of Sergei Prokofiev in Australia, and also championed other Russian composers such as Igor Stravinsky, Alexander Scriabin, Nikolai Medtner, Mily Balakirev, Glazunov and Rachmaninoff. He was naturalised a British subject in 1930. He first started appearing as a soloist with the ABC Sydney Orchestra (forerunner of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra) in 1933, and he founded his own chamber music trio in 1936. He was the first pianist to play Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, in 1941 under Percy Code.[3]

From 1938 he became a piano teacher at the New South Wales Conservatorium of Music, and had a profound influence on a generation of Australian and New Zealand pianists and their own students. These included Nancy Salas, Malcolm Williamson,[4] Larry Sitsky,[5] Romola Costantino, Roger Woodward, Richard Farrell,[6] Stephanie McCallum,[7] Anne Harvey (mother of Michael Kieran Harvey),[8] Neta Maughan (mother and teacher of Tamara Anna Cislowska),[9] Daniel Herscovitch,[10] Julie Adam,[11] Grant Foster,[12] Rhondda Gillespie,[13] Robert Weatherburn,[14] Tamás Ungár,[15] David Miller,[16] Helen Quach,[17] Alison Bauld,[18] Garry Laycock,[19] Pamela Sverjensky,[20] Suzanne Cooper,[21] Julia Brimo,[22] Vladimir Pleshakov,[2] Helen Priestner Edmonds[23] and Edward Theodore.[24] He retired from his teaching position in 1969.

Alexander Sverjensky was married three times. First was Mary Murdoch in 1927; they divorced in 1943. Two months later he married Enith Clarke, a piano teacher. They divorced in 1951, and a month later he married Isla Draper.

He died in Sydney on 3 October 1971, survived by his third wife and two sons (one from his first marriage).

The National Library of Australia holds a collection of his programs and other papers.[25]



  1. ^ "Roger Woodwards (sic) (Piano)". Retrieved 11 January 2012.
  2. ^ a b "Pleshakov Piano Museum". 1 February 2010. Retrieved 11 January 2012.
  3. ^ SSO Program Notes Archived 19 July 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ "Malcolm Williamson's Organ Symphony" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 December 2008. Retrieved 11 January 2012.
  5. ^ Australian piano music of the 20th century. Google Books. Retrieved 11 January 2012.
  6. ^ "Richard Farrell" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 February 2012. Retrieved 11 January 2012.
  7. ^ Elision Ensemble Archived 25 July 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Australian National Eisteddfod Archived 5 January 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ "Great Australian Girls". Retrieved 11 January 2012.
  10. ^ Sydney Conservatorium of Music: Keyboard Staff Archived 26 July 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ "Music Teachers' Association of NSW". Archived from the original on 22 February 2012. Retrieved 11 January 2012.
  12. ^ Southern Highlands International Piano Competition Archived 19 July 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ "Chandos" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 February 2012. Retrieved 11 January 2012.
  14. ^ "Bach In The Evening". ArkivMusic. 13 November 2001. Retrieved 11 January 2012.
  15. ^ "Louisiana International Piano Competition". Retrieved 11 January 2012.
  16. ^ Sydney Conservatorium of Music: Teaching Staff Archived 27 February 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ "A Studies on the Discrimination of Female Conductor with a Psychoanalysist Approach" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 December 2004. Retrieved 22 April 2009.
  18. ^ "Alison Bauld". Alison Bauld. 7 December 2006. Retrieved 11 January 2012.
  19. ^ Paul Bentley. "The Wolanski Foundation". Retrieved 11 January 2012.
  20. ^ "Search - Levine Music".
  21. ^ "Vivo Creations". Archived from the original on 27 October 2009. Retrieved 22 April 2009.
  22. ^ "Windfall". Windfall. Retrieved 11 January 2012.
  23. ^ Pilbara Music Festival Archived 18 April 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  24. ^ "St Francis of Assisi Choir". Archived from the original on 22 February 2012. Retrieved 11 January 2012.
  25. ^ "NLA". NLA. Retrieved 11 January 2012.