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Alexander Toradze, Idiosyncratic Pianist, Dies at 69


The Times critic Bernard Holland, reviewing a performance of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in 1988, wrote that Mr. Toradze’s “customary extravagance would have sick fit this music’s classical restraint, so his tactic was to hunt the opposite extreme.” The outcomes, he said, “alternated between the weird and the inaudible.”

Mr. Toradze acknowledged such responses. “I at all times anticipate outraged attacks,” he said in an interview with The Baltimore Sun in 1992.

Alexander Davidovich Toradze was born on May 30, 1952, in Tbilisi, Georgia, to the composer David Toradze and the actress Liana Asatiani. He attended the Special Music School for Gifted Children in Tbilisi and the Moscow Conservatory, graduating in 1978.

While he was a student in Moscow, Mr. Toradze listened to illicit broadcasts of the Voice of America program “Jazz Hour.” To him, he said, jazz represented artistic freedom. When performing in Portland, Ore., during a Soviet-sponsored tour in 1978, he learned that Ella Fitzgerald and Oscar Peterson were to perform twice the following day. Much to the irritation of his manager, he decided to skip a rehearsal in Miami to attend the concert events. Ms. Fitzgerald invited him onstage, where he told her that she was a “goddess for people within the Soviet Union.”

Mr. Toradze’s small catalog of recordings features a 1998 disc of Prokofiev’s five piano concertos, with Valery Gergiev and the Kirov Orchestra, and Shostakovich piano concertos, with Paavo Järvi and the Frankfurt Radio Symphony.

Mr. Toradze, a practicing Orthodox Christian, advised young artists to get within the habit of praying before performances. Speaking about Liszt’s variations on a theme of Bach, he told The Times in 1986: “Bach’s cantata describes worrying, complaining, doubting and crying. Lots of these feelings were a part of my life. However the piece moves steadily and heavily toward a improbable final chorale in major, with the words, ‘What God does is well done.’ That’s my credo.”

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