John Bell Young

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Pianist John Bell Young is an expert on the works of Russian composer Alexander Nikolayevich Scriabin, which until modern times had generally been overlooked, if not totally ignored. With the full approval…
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Pianist John Bell Young is an expert on the works of Russian composer Alexander Nikolayevich Scriabin, which until modern times had generally been overlooked, if not totally ignored. With the full approval of Scriabin's children, Yelena Scriabina Sofronifsky and Marina Scriabine, Young twice participated in Moscow's International Scriabin Festival, where he acted as head of a U.S. contingent. A prize was instituted in Young's name in 1995 at the International Scriabin Piano Competition.

Within the walls of the Scriabin Museum, Young has three times performed all-Scriabin recitals. The museum, in conjunction with Sovietskii Kompozitor, has printed his treatise on the Russian composer. Thanks to grants bestowed by the Pew Charitable Trust and the Rockefeller Trust for Mutual Understanding, Young has embarked on numerous Russian tours. Among the venues he has played are St. Petersburg's Composers Union and Latvia's Riga Philharmonic. After his 1976 U.S. debut in Washington, D.C., Young also played stages in Paris, London, Rome, Hong Kong, Buenos Aires, Tangiers, Amsterdam, and Rio de Janeiro.

Young's Sony Classical and Newport Classics albums of Friedrich Nietzsche's compositions have received worldwide attention. The pianist brought Nietzsche's musical works to Russia in 1992, breaking a ban on the philosopher's compositions that had lasted for three-quarters of a century. On one of these recordings, his collaborators included tenor John Aler, violinist Nicholas Eanet, and pianist Constance Keene. These works are included on the soundtrack of Zarathustra's Drinking Song, a documentary. Dutch television filmed Young in concert, and the resulting documentary was titled Sweet Summer Concert.

As he did with Scriabin and Nietzsche, Young has frequently concentrated on compositions by lesser known composers, among them television journalist Hugh Downs, Lionel Barrymore, and author Boris Pasternak. In 1999, Americus issued a CD of the pianist playing Scriabin, Downs, Leo Tolstoy, and others. Among Young's musical instructors were Constance Keene, Ernst Levy, Margarita Fyodorova, Benjamin Kaplan, Bruce Hungerford, and Olga Barabini.