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“Pantry of Knowledge” by pianist Jacob Zack

personalities : “Pantry of Knowledge” by pianist Jacob Zack
Yakov Izrailevich Zak

In 1932, the young talented pianist Yakov Zak, who had just graduated from the Odessa Conservatory, came to conquer Moscow. The young man was lucky: he entered the graduate school of the Moscow State Tchaikovsky Conservatory and got into the class of G.G. Neuhaus, a great performer and teacher.

A few years later, the name of Zach became known throughout the Soviet Union, and a little later - throughout the world.

The content of the article

    • Years of study
  • Confession
    • Performing handwriting
    • Repertoire
  • Pedagogical activity of Jacob Zack

Years of study

Zak recalled his first teacher, Maria Mitrofanovna Starkova, all his life with warmth and gratitude. At the Odessa Conservatory, Zack mastered a good pianistic school. From childhood, he was distinguished by hard work, seriousness and self-discipline. These qualities helped the purposeful young man to fully understand everything that M.M. taught him Starkov, and hone all the skills.

Years of study at the Moscow Conservatory became for Zach a time of amazing discoveries. About classes with Neygauz he told so:

“The lessons with Henry Gustavovich were not lessons in the usual interpretation of the word. It was something more: artistic events. They "burned" with touches with something new, unknown, exciting ... We, the students, as if introduced into the temple of sublime musical thoughts, deep and complex feelings ... "

Heinrich Gustavovich Neigauz: “In the art of sound, all without exception finds expression and expression that a person can experience, experience, think and feel.”

Zack attended almost all of Neigauz’s lessons, constantly listened to the game of other students, and skillfully benefited from the professor’s instructions. Diligent Jacob Zack wrote down many comments of the Neuhaus in a special notebook.

For several months of study at the conservatory, Zak studied with another teacher - Konstantin Nikolaevich Igumnov. The same fascinating and fruitful work was going on here, although of a slightly different kind. Igumnov worked great with students to create the artistic image of the work. Noting every detail, Igumnov never lost the feeling of the integrity of a musical work - and taught his pupils this. Zak recalled the teacher: “ how many important, necessary he managed to say, it happened, in a narrow space in some few steps! Sometimes you look, in a half to two hours of a lesson, a few number of pages have been passed. And the work, like a kidney under the spring sun, literally poured juice ... "


The first success came to Zach in 1935. Then he took an honorable third place at the Second All-Union Competition of Musicians in Leningrad. And two years later, an event occurred that put the name of Jacob Zack among the best young musicians. In 1937, the pianist won the Chopin Third International Competition in Warsaw.

Zak himself did not expect that his participation in the competition would end in such a triumph. He prepared for the competition secretly from the teacher, carefully and slowly taught the program. Then, however, he nevertheless showed what Neigauz had learned. The professor approved the work of his student and began to help him with the preparation.

After winning the Chopin competition, Zack immediately became known in the music world and loved by the public. He began to concert, his name began to appear regularly on the pages of newspapers. However, despite the recognition, Zack did not stop working hard. All his life he worked on himself, improving his game.

Performing handwriting

Alschwang called Zack “a smart, subtle and careful artist”

Zack's performing personality has fully manifested itself already in his young years. He played very accurately, simply and technically, but at the same time in his game there was so much poetry, thoughtful contemplation, picturesqueness and breadth that it was impossible not to plunge completely into his performance. In the game of the pianist there was no over expression, simulated emotions, ostentatious virtuosity. He possessed a very subtle sense of proportion, the soft restraint of performance made his game indescribably expressive.

In his younger years, Jacob played rather intuitively, but over time, his performing style received a solid intellectual foundation. From his youth, Zack chose the right path in his understanding of musical performance, and over the years, his playing became even deeper, more thoughtful, even more meaningful.

Jacob Zack is a vivid example of how important the level of internal culture is for a performer. The richer the artist’s inner world, the wider and deeper his knowledge in various fields of art and science, the finer and more felt his performance will be. Zach’s play is an endless series of images and associations, as if the musician were unfolding before the listener more and more new pictures of the world, telling stories, asking questions. And all this can be heard in the long-known musical works - so subtly he plays them.


After the victory of Zach at the Chopin Competition, the work of this composer firmly entered the pianist's repertoire. He outplayed most of the works of the Polish composer. The musician often turned to Beethoven, and Variations on the theme of Diabelli and some of the later sonatas were especially vivid in his performance. Zach's concert repertoire included a huge number of works by Brahms, as well as Rachmaninov’s music. By the way, Zak celebrated the 20th anniversary of his creative activity with the program of Rachmaninoff’s compositions.

The pianist also enjoyed playing the works of Schubert and Metner.

Yakov Izrailevich Zack was very fond of performing Soviet music. At his concerts, one could very often hear Prokofiev (Transience, Sarcasm, Second and Third concerts, many sonatas ...).

Very often Zach turned out to be the first performer of large-scale compositions by such composers as Kabalevsky, Chamo, Chulaki, Bely, Koval, Levitin ... And once Zach gave a concert, the program of which consisted entirely of Soviet music.

Pedagogical activity of Jacob Zack

As a comprehensively developed person, Zach constantly revealed to his students something new in all areas of art

Soon after graduating from the conservatory, Zak became an assistant to G.G. Neigauz, and later - a teacher. During the nearly five decades that this teacher worked at the conservatory, many young pianists passed through his class. Many of them have become famous in the musical world: Petrov, Virsaladze, Cherkasov, Kvernadze, Mogilevsky, Navasardyan, Mirvis, Bakk ...

Zak paid great attention to his teaching activities. Teaching for him was by no means a secondary affair after concerts and tours. Zak sincerely loved his work at the conservatory, invested in it.

Even while teaching students, Zack did not stop his creative pursuit. All the time he strove for a new one, thought, discovered something for himself, "learned to teach." Yakov Izrailevich was able to develop his harmonious system of views, pedagogical principles.

Zach taught his students to really feel the music. To understand it not as a sequence of passages and ornate decorations, but as a movement of the human soul. How images, feelings, moods change within one musical work, how many meanings are inherent in one work ... Only by sorting this out with the student did Zack achieve emotional performance from the student.

Zack sought to bring the musical development of his students to a new level. His students have always played a huge number of pieces. To expand their understanding of music, the teacher gave pupils works of various composers, styles and characters. In addition to the compulsory educational repertoire, students of Yakov Izrailevich constantly played satellite plays. This supporting material contributed to the fact that young pianists began to more finely understand and feel music, as well as more artistically interpret their main works. Zack believed that “ Works by the same author are usually connected by a multitude of internal“ bonds ”. It is impossible to truly perform any of these works without knowing at least the “nearby ...”

“The aesthetics of one art is the aesthetics of another, only the material is different, ” Schumann once wrote; Zack said that he was repeatedly convinced of the truth of these words.

The pedagogical activities of the brilliant pianist were a constant creative search. Speaking of music, Zack constantly drew figurative comparisons in other areas of art. He compared certain musical moments with images of literature, painting, theater, architecture, sculpture ... The music illustrated in this way immediately became more understandable, voluminous, more lively for students. Young pianists learned to compare, contrast, draw analogies, search and find new colors ... It is not surprising that so many wonderful performers, bright personalities, creatively and intellectually rich people came out of the pianistic class of Yakov Izrailevich.

Zach worked very subtly and meticulously with his students on the image of an interpreted work. However, after this image took shape, Yakov Izrailevich no longer “pressed” the student, leaving him to develop independently. After the joint work on the work was done, each student could bring something of his own, individual, only to himself worked out in the game.

In conclusion, we give a quote that can indicate the creative and pedagogical credo of Jacob Izrailevich Zach. He said:

“Each musician should have his own“ pantry of knowledge ”, his precious accumulations of listened, fulfilled, experienced. "These accumulations are like an accumulator of energy that nourishes the creative imagination, which is necessary for constant forward movement.”

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