John Bell Young

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
John Bell Young
Born (1953-07-08) July 8, 1953 (age 63)
New York City, United States
Nationality American
Occupation Pianist, music critic, author
Musical career
Genres Classical
Instruments Piano
Labels Sony Classical

John Bell Young (born July 8, 1953 in New York City) is an American concert pianist, music critic and author, best known for his performances and recordings of the music of the Russian composer Alexander Scriabin (1871-1915).

Early years, education and training[edit]

John Bell Young’s childhood was spent on the north shore of Long Island.[1] His mother was a librarian, his father, a native American Cherokee, was an amateur pianist and inventor.[1][2] As a child, his first piano teachers were Miriam Freundlich, whose brother-in-law Irwin was chair of the piano division at Juilliard, and later Kyriena Siloti, the daughter of Russian pianist Alexander Siloti.[1] At age nine, Young enrolled in acting classes in New York culminating in a bit part in Carl Reiner's film Enter Laughing.[1] At age fourteen, Bell attended the Putney School in Vermont and entered the music program directed by Norwood Hinkle.[2]

While at Putney, Young was hired one summer by Norman Runnion of the Brattleboro Reformer as a music critic reviewing the Marlboro Music Festival for three years running;[2] this was the beginning of his career as a writer.

Following his graduation from Putney, Young continued his studies at the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music studying music, Russian, and philosophy.[1] He attended Bennington College studying philosophy, French and Russian literature, and semiotics, and the Mannes College of Music where he studied as a student of Bruce Hungerford.[2] He studied privately with Margarita Fyodorova [1] at the Moscow Conservatory. Among his celebrated teachers were Constance Keene, Olga Barabini, Karl Ulrich Schnabel and Kyriena Siloti in New York; Jack Radunsky at Oberlin Conservatory; and Benjamin Kaplan in London. He coached privately with Claudio Arrau in Vermont; Nikita Magaloff and Ernst Levy in Switzerland; Anton Kuerti in Toronto; Shura Cherkassky, Abram Chasins, John Browning, Joseph Villa, William Masselos, Vladimir Feltsman, Konrad Wolff, Eugene List and Garrick Ohlsson in New York; Jean-Michel Damase in Paris; and with Ekaterina Murina and Nathan Perelman in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Musical career[edit]

Best known for his performances and recordings of the music of the Russian composer, Alexander Scriabin (1871-1915),[3] John Bell Young has performed frequently throughout Russia and the Baltics. Endorsed by Scriabin’s daughters, Marina Scriabine[4] and Yelena Scriabina Sofronitsky, he was also a consultant to the first Scriabin International Piano Competition in Moscow in 1995, where a special prize was awarded in his name. Young first came to prominence in 1990 with his critically acclaimed recordings, on the Newport Classic label, of the little known musical compositions of the controversial 19th century German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, which were the first commercially issued discs of his piano and chamber music.[5][6][7][8][9][10][11] Sony Classical has since acquired these recordings for eventual re-release.[12] In 1992 he performed Nietzsche's music in Russia, thus ending a nearly 75-year ban of the philosopher's work. He is widely regarded as a champion of rarely performed repertoire by underrated composers, several of whom were amateurs who became famous in professions outside of music.[13][14][15] In 1991 he founded the Nietzsche Music Project, a venture committed to exploring the relationship between music and literature as well as the musical compositions of other celebrated literary figures.

Young has also performed throughout the United States, Europe, South America, and Asia. He made his formal American debut in 1977 at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.. That same year he performed in London's Christchurch Spitalfield concert series and at Amsterdam’s Koepelzaaal. He made his Paris debut at the Musée Carnavalet in 1987. In the documentary film, Sweet Summer Concert, Dutch television followed him as he performed an open-air concert aboard a tour boat throughout Amsterdam’s canals. In 1978 he became the first American pianist to perform in the People's Republic of China, following its thaw of relations with the United States. He returned to China the next year, and again in 2001, where he gave a recital at the Concert Hall of the Forbidden City in Beijing under the sponsorship of Volkswagen. On radio, he performed often on WQXR in New York; on National Public Radio’s flagship classical music program, Performance Today; on TROS Radio in the Netherlands; and on Russian State radio and television.

In the 1990s, with grants from the Trust for Mutual Understanding, the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Soros Foundation, he led the American delegation to the International Scriabin Festival in Moscow, and also gave a series of two-piano recitals in Russia, Latvia and the United States with celebrated Russian pianist Margarita Fyodorova. In 2001, in collaboration with the distinguished British actor, Michael York, he recorded Enoch Arden, a melodrama for narrator and piano by Richard Strauss, set to the narrative poem of Alfred, Lord Tennyson.[16] Young and York also performed the work throughout the USA and Europe, including concerts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Royal Palace in Stockholm, the Kravis Center in Palm Beach and at Tennyson's estate Farringford, England. The New York Times critic Anne Midgette wrote of their performance at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2003: "At best it's what Mr. York and Mr. Bell [sic] were able to make of it: a pleasant and enjoyable curiosity."[17] He documented his interest in unusual repertoire with his widely praised recording, Prisms, on the Americus Records label, which in addition to works of Scriabin, included music by Hugh Downs, Leo Tolstoi, Michel Block, and Young’s own transcription of Mahler’s Adagietto from the Fifth Symphony.

As an adjudicator for a number of international piano competitions, Young has served on the juries of the Premio Jaén in Spain (alongside Rosalyn Tureck and Dag Achatz), the Greta Erickson in Sweden, the Molodoi Knyaz in Russia, Vladimir Viardo's Russian Music International Competition in California, and the Boston International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs. His popular master classes and lectures have taken him to the Moscow Conservatory, the Boston Conservatory, the University of South Florida, Brown University, the St. Petersburg Conservatory in Russia, the Manhattan School of Music, the Juilliard School, and others.

Writing career[edit]

A prolific writer, John Bell Young was a critic for a number of leading newspapers and magazines, including: the St. Petersburg Times,[18] The American Record Guide, the Brattleboro Reformer, Music and Vision, Clavier, Piano, and Opera News. He is also the author of five books, published by Amadeus Press, about the music of Beethoven, Schubert, Liszt, Brahms and Puccini. His sixth book, Exploring Scriabin, a critical evaluation of the composer and his music, will be published by Rowman & Littlefield in 2015. He was also a frequent annotator for Sony Classical, Angelok Records and other labels, penning descriptive and analytical liner notes for Bo Skovhus, Emanuel Ax, and Sir Charles Mackerras. Young also writes often about dogs, his other passion, for the popular online publication Life with Dogs[19] and also the Boston Globe.[20]

Following a stroke in 2013, Young retired from the concert stage, no longer able to play. He continues to produce recordings for other artists as well as to endorse and advise young aspiring artists about their careers through his group Artistic Spirits Productions.[21]


Beethoven's Symphonies: A Guided Tour. Montclair, New Jersey: Amadeus Press. 2008. ISBN 9781574671698[22]
Brahms: A Listener's Guide. Montclair, New Jersey: Amadeus Press. 2008. ISBN 9781574671711[22]
Liszt: A Listener's Guide to His Piano Works. Montclair, New Jersey: Amadeus Press. 2009. ISBN 9781574671704[22]
Puccini: A Listener's Guide. Montclair, New Jersey: Amadeus Press. 2008. ISBN 9781574671728[22]
Schubert: A Survey of His Symphonic, Piano, and Chamber Music. Montlciar, New Jersey: Amadeus Press. 2009. ISBN 9781574671773[22] The Music of Friedrich Nietzsche for Piano Four Hands. New York, N.Y.: HLH Music Publications. 1992. (Edited by John Bell Young)[23]

Awards and grants[edit]

In addition to the recognition accorded his musical projects, Young’s writing has been recognized with generous foundation awards and grants:

  • Winner, New York Kosciuszko Foundation Chopin Piano Competition (1985)
  • Trust for Mutual Understanding (New York 1992 in support of Young’s participation at the International Scriabin Festival, Moscow)
  • The Pew Charitable Trust (1995)
  • The Kittredge Fund (2008)
  • The American Society of Journalists and Authors (2009)
  • Change, Inc. (2008)
  • The Authors League (2006 and 2013)
  • The Stephen King Haven Foundation (2008 and 2009)
  • The Carnegie Fund for Writers (2008 and 2010)


  • Prisms: Music of Scriabin, Mahler-Young, Leo Tolstoi, Hugh Downs, and Michel Block. John Bell Young, pianist. (Americus Records)
  • Piano Music of Friedrich Nietzsche: John Bell Young, pianist, with assisting artist, Constance Keene, piano. (Newport Classic CD 85513)
  • The Music of Friedrich Nietzsche: John Bell Young, pianist, with assisting artists John Aler, tenor; Nicholas Eanet, violin. (Newport Classic CD 85535)
  • Alfred Lord Tennyson's Enoch Arden: A Melodrama Set to Music by Richard Strauss: Michael York, narrator; John Bell Young, pianist. (Americus Records CD 20021025)


  1. ^ a b c d e "John Bell Young". johnbellyoung. Retrieved 8 August 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c d "John Bell Young". Fanfare Magazine. Retrieved 8 August 2015. 
  3. ^ McIntire, David. Classical Music: Third Ear -- The Essential Listening Companion. Backbeat Books. 
  4. ^ Scriabine, Marina. "Marina Scriabine's endorsement of John Bell Young". 
  5. ^ Ravetz, Elliot (April 24, 1995). "The Melodies of Nietzsche". Time (USA). 145 (17). 
  6. ^ Kosman, Joshua (August 16, 1992). "Composer Nietzsche". San Francisco Chronicle (USA). 
  7. ^ Rothstein, Edward (June 7, 1992). "That 'New' Composer, Nietzsche". New York Times (USA). 
  8. ^ Schonstein, Jurgen. "Die spate Karriere des Komponisten Friedrich Nietzsche". Hamburger Abendblatt. 38: 3. 
  9. ^ Girardi, Maria (September 1994). "Friedrich Nietzsche Piano Music". Nuova Rivista Musicale Italiana (Italy). 
  10. ^ Coates, Steve (February 2, 1993). "The Philosopher as Composer". The Wall Street Journal. CCXX1 (22). 
  11. ^ Bauman, Carl (July 1994). "Nietzsche: A Sylvester Night". The American Record Guide (USA). 57 (4). 
  12. ^ Bauman, Carl (1999). The American Record Guide (USA).  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  13. ^ Madison, William (April 1992). "The Will to Music". Lingua Franca (USA): 6. 
  14. ^ Miklowitz, Paul S. (Summer 1992). "Also Sang Zarathustra". Piano Quarterly (USA) (158): 43–44+46–48. 
  15. ^ Kleiner, Carolyn (2000). "New Orchestral Maneuvers win Fans". US World and News Report (USA). 129 (10): 87. 
  16. ^ "Star Power Helps A Classic Set Sail". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved 9 August 2015. 
  17. ^ "The Attraction of Melodrama, In the Best Sense of the Word". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 August 2015. 
  18. ^ "Judging the Competition". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved 9 August 2015. 
  19. ^ "An Interview with Marlo Manning". Life With Dogs. Retrieved 9 August 2015. 
  20. ^ "Dogs Rely on the Compassion of Humans". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 9 August 2015. 
  21. ^ "Artistic Spirits Productions". Artistic Spirits Recording Production Services. Retrieved 7 August 2015. 
  22. ^ a b c d e "John Bell Young". Hal Leonard. Retrieved 7 August 2015. 
  23. ^ "Monodie à deux ; Nachklang einer Sylvesternacht : piano four hands". Stanford University. Retrieved 7 August 2015. 

Further references[edit]

  • Richard Taruskin: Defining Russia Musically. Princeton University Press. 1997. p. 341
  • Graham Parkes. Composing the Soul: Reaches of Nietzsche’s Psychology University of Chicago Press, 1994. pp. xii, 391, 400, 402
  • Georges Liebert Nietzsche and Music. University of Chicago Press, 2004. Originally published as Nietzsche et la Musique. Presses Universitaire du France. 1994. p. 207
  • Claudia Colli. A Contribution to Culture. Virgin Islander Magazine. Published by Maureen O’Hara. Tortola, April 1980
  • Classical Music: The Essential Listening Companion. Ed. by Alexander Morin; Forward by Harold C. Schoenberg. Backbeat Books, 2002. p. 854
  • Uncredited. Prince Philip Gives Pianist the Shock of His Life. De Tijd. Amsterdam. August 1977
  • Boris Mazo. First Performance of the Music of Friedrich Nietzsche in Russia at The Bieloselsky-Bielozersky Palace. Chaspik. Vol.6. St Petersburg, Russia. January 10, 1992

External links[edit]