He began playing and improvising at the piano at the age of two. At the astonishing age of six he was admitted to the Gnessin School of Music for Gifted Children. His teacher there was Anna Pavlovna Kantor, who remained his only teacher.
He debuted playing Mozart's K 466 Piano Concerto with the Orchestra of Ulyanovsky. His first solo recital was in Moscow at age eleven.
In March, 1984, when he was twelve, he played both Chopin Concertos in the Moscow Conservatory Great Hall with Dmitri Kitaenko conducting the Moscow State Philharmonic. At this age he began making his first recordings, which remain in the catalogue.
His debut in the West was in the 1987 Berlin Festival, where he played Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto with the Berlin Philharmonic under Herbert von Karajan. He was then sixteen, and was hailed as a remarkable and mature artist. Recording contracts with western companies resulted. He returned to Western Europe on a tour in 1988 with the Moscow Virtuosi, Vladimir Spivakov conducting.
In the same year he debuted at the BBC Promenade Concerts with David Atherton conducting, and closed out the year at the traditional Berlin Philharmonic New Year's Eve concert under Karajan.
The two Chopin concertos were his American debut vehicles with Zubin Mehta and the New York Philharmonic. Ten days later he followed this up with a sensational New York Recital debut at Carnegie Hall. Predictions of a major piano career were common, and have been borne out.
His amazing finger dexterity and power are coupled with an electrifying stage personality. His performances are dramatic and beautifully judged, musically. He tours widely, and his records are eagerly awaited.
He appeared on the 1992 Grammy Awards ceremony, and in 1995 became the youngest person ever awarded the Musical American Instrumentalist of the Year. In 1996, the Russian government granted him the Triumph Award for Excellence, one of its highest honors for culture. In 1997 he was the first ever to give a solo piano recital as one of the BBC Proms concerts. The six-thousand-plus seats of the Hall were sold out. ~ Joseph Stevenson, Rovi