Alexander Uninsky (Russian: Александр Юнинский, Aleksandr Yuninskij, pronounced You-nin-skee; 2 February [O.S. 20 January] 1910 – 19 December 1972) was a Russian-American classical pianist.
Life and career
Alexander Uninsky was born in Kiev (then in the Russian Empire, now in Ukraine). He initially studied piano there in the conservatory which had been opened in 1913, and whose other graduates included Vladimir Horowitz and Alexander Brailowsky.
He subsequently moved to Paris in 1923, where he studied with Lazare Lévy. He was awarded the conservatory's first prize for piano. In 1932 he won the second International Frédéric Chopin Piano Competition. In fact, Uninsky tied for first place with the blind Hungarian pianist Imre Ungar, and the judges decided to award victory on the basis of the toss of a coin. Ungar lost.
In 1955, he took up a teaching post at the Toronto Conservatory of Music, where he numbered among his pupils the Canadian composer Bruce Mather. Mather commemorated his teacher in his 1974 composition In memoriam Alexander Uninsky
Subsequently he taught at the Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. His pupils included Jeffrey Swann, David Morgan, Carmen Alvarez, Boaz Heilman, Henry Doskey, David Golub and Dubravka Tomšič Srebotnjak.
He died in Dallas in 1972, aged 62.
Recorded legacy and reputation
Uninsky was quickly signed up in the early 1950s by the newly formed Philips recording company. His Chopin playing is well represented in his recordings, including the complete Études, recorded in the 1950s, the complete Mazurkas and Impromptus recorded between 1959 and 1971, the Scherzos and Waltzes, as well as the piano concertos. His other recordings included works by Liszt.
His style is greatly reminiscent of Nikita Magaloff, who underwent the same influences of pre-revolutionary Russia and post-revolutionary Paris. His playing is unsentimental and elegant, but with a rubato that marks him as coming from an essentially early twentieth century aesthetic. It is not surprising that his clean, sober playing impressed the jury of the second Chopin Competition, which has been founded to combat the mannered, virtuoso tradition of Chopin playing which had marked the late 19th century. An indication of the 'modernness' of Uninsky's playing comes from a comment by Dinu Lipatti in a review he wrote in 1937 for Libertatea in which he says "How is it possible that Emil Sauer must play in the small Salle Érard, despite his glorious past, when a Brailowsky or Uninsky can pack the Salle Pleyel?"
• Fr. Chopin: Polonaises (Nos. 1-6), Epic Records LP -LC 3623
• Fr. Chopin: Etüden, Philips LP Nr. A 00405 L undated