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He was born in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, to a Croatian father and a Serbian mother. (Following the breakup of Yugoslavia, Pogorelić became a Croatian citizen.) He received his first piano lessons when he was seven and attended the "Vojislav Vučković Music School" in Belgrade until he was 12, when he was invited to Moscow to continue his studies at the Central Music School with Evgeny Timakin. Later he graduated from the Moscow Conservatory. In 1976 he began studying intensively with the Georgian pianist and teacher Aliza Kezeradze, who passed on to him the tradition of the Liszt–Siloti school. They were married from 1980 until her death in 1996 from liver cancer.
Pogorelić won the Casagrande Competition in Terni, Italy, in 1978 and the Montreal International Musical Competition in 1980. In 1980 he entered the International Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw and was eliminated in the third round. One of the adjudicators, Martha Argerich, proclaimed him a "genius" and resigned from the jury in protest.
Pogorelić gave his debut recital in New York's Carnegie Hall in 1981. He debuted in London the same year. Since then, he has played many solo recitals worldwide and has played with some of the world's leading orchestras including the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the London Symphony Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Vienna Philharmonic, the Berlin Philharmonic, and many others. Pogorelić soon began recording for Deutsche Grammophon and in 1982 he became one of their exclusive artists. He has made recordings of works by Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin, Haydn, Liszt, Mozart, Mussorgsky, Prokofiev, Rachmaninoff, Ravel, Scarlatti, Scriabin and Tchaikovsky. He was the first classical pianist to be invited to perform in Kuwait.
Pogorelić's performances have often been controversial. His interpretations were well received by a large number of concert audiences, but not by some critics. His early recording of Prokofiev's Sixth Sonata received high praise, including a Rosette award in the Penguin Guide to Classical Recordings. However, Harold C. Schonberg criticized Pogorelić for aping Glenn Gould's eccentricities, while having "none of his particular kind of genius." Anthony Tommasini wrote that a 2006 performance of Beethoven's Op. 111 Sonata in New York went from "weirdly fascinating" to "just plain weird", adding, "Here is an immense talent gone tragically astray. What went wrong?"
Other cultural activities
In 1986 Pogorelić established a foundation in Croatia to further the careers of young performers from his homeland. In 1988 he was named an Ambassador of Goodwill by UNESCO, the first classical pianist ever so appointed. He no longer occupies this position (as of August 2009).
From 1989 to 1997, the Ivo Pogorelić Festival in Bad Wörishofen gave young artists the opportunity to perform with renowned artists. In December 1993, Pogorelić founded the "International Solo Piano Competition" in conjunction with the Ambassador Foundation in Pasadena, California. Its mission is to help young musicians develop their career with the first prize of USD 100,000.
In 1994 he helped to provide medical support for the people of Sarajevo by setting up a foundation that organized charity concerts. He has helped to raise money for the rebuilding of Sarajevo, the Red Cross and the fight against illnesses such as cancer and multiple sclerosis.
Pogorelić suffered chronic rheumatic fever during his childhood and hepatitis when he was 21, which left him with a legacy of extreme care for his health. He practises the same biodynamic exercises created for Russian ballet dancers in the 1920s, takes long walks daily, goes to bed when night falls, and rises at 5:30 a.m.
Following the death of his wife in 1996, Pogorelić stopped performing for several years, devoting himself to jewellery design. In the early 2000s he returned to the concert stage. Pogorelić currently resides in Lugano, Switzerland.
First, technical perfection as something natural. Second, an insight into the development of the piano sound, as perfected by the pianist-composers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, composers who understood the piano both as a human voice ... and as an orchestra with which they could produce a variety of colors. Third, the need to learn how to use every aspect of our new instruments, which are richer in sound. Fourth, the importance of differentiation.—Ivo Pogorelić about the most important things Aliza Kezeradze taught him.
- "The key to survival". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 5 May 2010.
- Stevenson, Joseph. Allmusic Biography accessed 18 January 2010
- "Ivo Pogorelić". inyourpocket.com. Retrieved 2012-07-28.
- Schonberg, Harold C. (6 July 1986). "Do Today's Pianists Have The Romantic Touch?". The New York Times.
- Tommasini, Anthony (28 October 2006). "After a Decade Away, an Elusive Figure Returns". The New York Times.
- Stephen Pettit, "Intense and sensitive" (feature on Ivo Pogorelić), ABC Radio 24 Hours, April 2000
- Herbort, Hans Josef (May 15, 1981). "Ich möchte gern mein Publikum sein". Die Zeit. Retrieved June 30, 2015. (in German language)