Alexei Sultanov was born on Thursday, August 7, 1969 in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan. His parents, violinist mother, Natalia Pogorelova and cellist father Faizul Sultanov immediately identified him as a prodigy.
They gave him small violin and start teaching, but he had less than three lessons and after that he smashed the violin. He started to learn piano playing when he was three.
“I started to play very early. When I was three, I repeated all the melodies, which I heard in radio or television”, he said. (Interview in Polish Television)
Then he started to learn in Uspensky School in Tashkent with Tamara Popovich. He has his formal debut at the age of seven.
In the free time he read books written by Arthur Conan Doyle and practiced Taekwondo. He also started his lessons in Moscow Conservatory with Prof. Lev Naumov, going several times a year by train or plane. When he was 13 years old he participated in the International Radio Competition “Concertino Praha” in Prague (1982).
After graduating the school in Tashkent, together with his parents and younger brother, under seven years, Sergey, Mr. Sultanov moved to Moscow, when he began to study at Central Music School of Moscow Conservatory in the class of Lev Naumov (a pupil of Harry Neuhaus).
“I was very sickly and for this reason my parents wanted to be near me to have an opportunity to care of me. Father wanted to sell his cello to raise money for the journey” he said. (Moskovskj Komsomolec)
In the same year Mr. Sultanov participated in the International Peter Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow, but lid of the piano in the practice room fell and broke his finger.
“There was a complete break of the bone. I had special massages, hormones, all kind of things. I was in incredible pain, but my martial arts training helped me tremendously”, he said (The Dallas Morning News)
A year earlier he wanted to take part in Chopin Competition, but was disqualified as too young.
In 1986 the new chapter in Alexei Sultanov’s life was opened. On April 20, during famous Vladimir Horowitz’s recital in Moscow, where the artist came back after 60 years, Sultanov met his late wife, Latvian talented cellist Dace Abele, who came to Moscow to continue her music studies.
Mr. Sultanov started his professional musician career when he was only 19, after his enormous success at the 8th International Van Cliburn Piano Competition in Fort Worth, Texas in June 1989.
Less than two weeks after the triumph he had his American debut in Ambassador Auditorium in Pasadena. Critics claimed about his incredible contact with the audience.
Mr. Sultanov was also invited to participation in famous American television programs such as: the “Today show”, the “Tonight show” with Johnny Carson, and “Late Night show” with David Letterman.
After one of the program he was invited to Vladimir Horowitz’s apartment, where they played together Schubert’s Fantasy for four hands.
In November 1989, a few days before Vladimir Horowitz’s death, who inviting him on his birthday, (but Mr. Sultanov cannot attend the party because of the CD’s recording), Mr. Sultanov recorded his first CD for the prestigious company Teldec Classics. This CD includes two concertos: the First Tchaikovsky Concerto and the Second Rachmaninov’s Concerto with London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Maxim Shostakovich.
Again the reviews were enthusiastic:
“…Sultanov’s patently virtuosic execution stands him in good stead for both of these popular Romantic war-horse concertos, and his type of Horowitz – influenced sonority (that is, bright and nervy rather than plush in the Rubinstein tradition) draw sparks, as one might have predicted…”
He planned to give concert with wonderful conductor Herbert von Karajan, but, “Two weeks before our common concert this legendary conductor died” he said. (Glos Wielkopolski)
After the recording of the CD and earlier the concerts in London, Lucerne, Helsinki, Bonn, Milan, Rotterdam, Venice, Zurich, Amsterdam, Warsaw, Berlin and of course in the United States particularly in Fort Worth, Mr. Sultanov came back Moscow.
Already in January 1990 he started again his concert tour throughout the United States.
The enormous success was Alexei Sultanov’s debut in Carnegie Hall on May 3, 1990, during which the artist played Mozart Sonata KV 330, Beethoven’s “Appasionata”, Scriabin’s Sonata No 5, Prokofiev’s Sonata No 7 and Liszt’s “Mephisto” Waltz adding for the encore Chopin’s Waltz E flat major Op. 18, Revolutionary Etude and Racmaninov?s Etude-Tableaux Op. 39 No 5 in e flat minor. He played on the piano of his favorite pianist Vladimir Horowitz.
“His incredible technique thrilled the audience, but it was his musical intellect that inspired the crowd, stamping and cheering to call him back for three encores”
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
On Halloween 1990 he married Dace Abele in Tarrant County Courthouse and made Fort Worth his home. They settled in southwest side of the city sharing modest home with their animals: several cats and later iguana.
In February 1991 Mr. Sultanov had his first tour throughout Japan starting with Concerto b-minor by Peter Tchaikovsky. All the time he had various concerts and recitals in the United States with excellent orchestras and conductors such as: the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Rochester Philharmonic, and the symphonies of Pittsburgh, Detroit, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Dallas, and Atlanta.
In 1992 he gave concerts in Finland and in March 1993 he visited Poland for the second time, now with Rachmaninov’s second Concerto.
Two years later (1995) Mr. Sultanov received the highest prize at the 13th International Frederic Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw, Poland. The public always welcomed him with enthusiasm. After the final performance the applause was tremendous and it lasted a dozen or so minutes, although Competition bylaws prohibited the competitors from appearing on the stage again.
In the end of the competition the public honored him its award called “The Audience’s Favorite Award”.
Mr. Sultanov said: “My heart will stay with you forever” (Interview for Polish Television)
After the competition he performed on November 9 in Studio S-1 in Warsaw appeared with Tchaikovky’s First Concerto. The public called him back for four encores!
In December, the same year, he had recital in Milan’s La Scala with Chopin’s music.
In March 1996 he was on his second tour throughout Japan, after which he had to interrupt his concerts because of illness (stroke). He planned to give concerts in Lancut and Krakow (Poland).
He came back on stage in October (1996) with recitals and concerts, on which he played Rachmaninov’s Second Concerto on the opening concert of the 11th International Henryk Wieniawski Violin Competition in Poznan.
In this way he told about Wieniawski’s music:
“…I was brought up on his music. It has been my companion ever since I can remember, because my mother is a violinist. She played Wieniawski music, her pupils played it too, dreaming of trying their chances at the competition in Poznan. I do not know whether any of them has ever made it. I certainly have. As a pianist I have been lucky to open the violin competition”. (Glos Wielkopolski)
In March 1997 he performed on Taiwan, and then he had his third Japan tour. Again he visited Helsinki. A year later he participated again in the International Peter Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow. He received then award of Moscow Society “For artism”.
During Chopin’s Year (1999) Mr. Sultanov gave concerts and recitals in the United States, Japan and of course Poland. Again he was welcomed in a very enthusiastic way. He also took part in the International Queen Elizabeth Piano Competition in Brussels.
In August he played benefit recital for the Foundation of Stanley Brenton, neurologist, who died in January 1999. Barbara Brenton (his wife) says: “Alexei was a unique talent”. (Daily Camera Boulder)
In September he gave concert in Athen’s amphiteater during annual “Maria Callas Commemorative Concert”. The concert-gala takes place every year on 16 September at the “Herod Atticus” Theatre to commemorate the day of Maria Callas’s death. He played pieces by Chopin and Liszt. He also performed during Festival in Lipava in Latvia (2000) and Riga, the birth place of his wife Dace, as well as he played in his hometown in Tashkent.
Mr. Sultanov also played concerts in Washington D.C. (Kennedy Center), Krannert Center, in Hamburg’s Musichalle, in Frankfurt, Paris, Santiago, Zagreb, Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, in Ambasador Cultural Foundation, during festivals of Berlin, La Roque D’Antheron, in Lucerne and Helsinki.
He also had Horowitz’s transcriptions in his repertoire as well as chamber music, which he played together with his wife, wonderful cellist, Dace (mainly pieces by Beethoven, Brahms and Prokofiev).
Dace Sultanov was his main manager. They planned together four-month concert tour, which was projected for late 2001. But their plans interrupted the pianist’s illness in February the same year.
After the surgery of a subdural hematoma and strokes Mr. Sultanov became partially paralyzed. He worked very hard, to achieve full recovery. There was also the support of his incredibly loving and devoted wife, Dace and, of course, the family. Directly in the United States Dace and Alexei Sultanov had the support from Mrs. Sultanov’s mother, Benita Abele (the pianist) and Mr. Sultanov’s father Faizul (the cellist). From Moscow, from Mr. Sultanov’s mother, Natalia Pogorelova and his brother Sergey (also the pianist) continuously poured in the words of encouragement and support. As well as from Mrs Sultanov’s father Janis from Riga.
He had a wonderful professional medical care thanks to his fantastic neurologist and friend Dr. Edward L. Kramer, other doctors, therapists and friends particularly wonderful Beverly Archibald.
Fans from the United States, Poland and Japan organized in their countries benefit concerts to raise money for his rehabilitation.
In February 2002 Russian Committee of the Records of Planet gave Sultanov diploma for the Outstanding Pianist of the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century.
Alexei Sultanov wanted to come back on stage very much to his beloved audience around the world and particularly in the United States, Japan, and Poland.
When he could not play he composed. He recorded one piece on battery-operated keyboard entitled “Alexei’s song”. It is really very touching.
When he regained strength in his right hand together with his wife Dace, playing on cello and, in solo piano pieces the left hand part, they gave concerts in nursing homes, hospitals and at the University sharing their incredible talents.
Many people could hear their touching rendition of “America the Beautiful” during the ceremony on which they earn American Citizenship, on November 9, 2004. In this way Alexei Sultanov fulfilled his longtime dream.
He said: “I love people. I think I will be good American” (The Dallas Morning News).
His death on Thursday, June 30, 2005 shocked all the people. He died in his sleep in his home in Fort Worth, and had only 35 years. His wife Dace was with at his side at the time of his passing.
The ceremony of the life of Alexei Sultanov was held on July 5, 2005 at Modern Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. Among the audience was the pianist Van Cliburn. During the ceremony the tapes with Sultanov’s recordings were played: his renditions of:
Liszt’s Sonata b – minor, Chopin’s “Minute” Waltz and Andante Spianato. After that Van Cliburn said, recalling the competition, that Sultanov “captured the jury’s heart, captured our hearts and captured the world’s heart”. In the end of the ceremony the Liszt’s Mephisto Waltz was played.
Mr. Sultanov recorded seven CDs for Teldec Classics, DVD with Tchaikovsky Concerto. There is also documentary from Van Cliburn Competition and the recordings from Chopin Competition.
There are no words to describe his magic. On stage he was not only the pianist, but the great artist, actor (it came into his grandmother – actress) and magician.
One newspaper wrote once that Mr. Sultanov could be called the greatest pianist on earth. Yes, he is, and will be always the greatest artist in the world for all of us. His star will continuously shine because of its power, originality and incredible personality. It is our inspiration and gives us its power. But we must support it, that it will never stop shine.
We not only believe, but we are sure and know together with his wife, that his star will never stop shine!