Russian-Jewish pianist dies on stage

by | Oct 20, 2017 | Obituaries

The celebrated Russian-Jewish pianist Mikhail Klein collapsed and died on stage while performing his own composition in his hometown of Irkutsk.

Klein, who in 1987 was awarded the prestigious title of Honored Artist of Russia, reportedly died of heart failure at the foot of a grand piano of the Irkutsk Philharmonic Orchestra earlier this month before a crowd of hundreds, according to an official of the Siberian city, which sits near the border with Mongolia. He was 72.

He was playing This is all Russia, a jazz composition that he wrote featuring fragments of several famous Russian songs, before he collapsed. “I was sitting in the front row and, seeing that Mikhail Leonidovich was ill, ran up to him,” the head of the city department of culture, Vitaly Baryshnikov, told RIA Novosti.

Two of the city’s most prominent physicians could not revive Klein with cardiac massage.

Klein was a member of the Irkutsk Philharmonic for 45 years, all while living in the city, the orchestra wrote in an obituary mourning his death.

Known in Russia and beyond for his renditions and interpretations of works by Rachmaninoff, Beethoven, Brahms and other great composers, Klein also was a prolific jazz composer and enthusiast.

With his “fanatic devotion to the arts,” the obituary said, he “brilliantly represented Russian musical art in many cultural and educational activities” locally and abroad. The obit also noted his passion for sports and loyalty to his friends. (JTA)