Alexander Toradze, the world-renown classical pianist who suffered acute heart failure while performing with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra last month, died Wednesday at his home in South Bend, Ind. He was 69.
Toradze hadn’t been feeling well before his April 23 performance at Skyview High School’s concert hall. He eventually walked on stage with help from Dr. Michael Liu, an orchestra member and physician at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center.
After Toradze finished playing pieces by Stravinsky and Shostakovich, Liu drove Toradze directly to PeaceHealth.
Toradze recorded an upbeat video from the hospital the next day to explain why he wouldn’t be playing with the Vancouver orchestra as planned that afternoon before returning home to Indiana.
“What happened last night was a miracle for me,” he said. “I felt utterly, utterly weak. … But with great help and encouragement, I somehow overcame this weakness, and went and played a pretty memorable concert.”
Toradze’s performance in Vancouver was his last. He had been looking forward to performing Prokofiev Piano Concerto No. 3 with the Illinois Philharmonic today, according to a statement by Zurich-based Artists Management Co. Ltd., which represented Toradze.
Toradze was one of the foremost interpreters of Russian music over the past 50 years. He was born May 30, 1952, in Tbilisi, Georgia, then still part of the Soviet Union. He requested asylum from the Soviet Union in 1983 while on tour in the U.S. In 1991 he joined the faculty of Indiana University South Bend where he was the Martin Endowed Professor of Piano until his retirement in 2017.
In 1995, he created the Toradze Piano Studio, which developed into a worldwide touring ensemble receiving critical acclaim for performance projects in Europe and the U.S.
“His personal and intense interpretations of the Prokofiev Piano Concerti remain a milestone within the vast repertoire he possessed,” according to a statement by Artists Management Company Ltd., which described him as “a titanic pianist, a gigantic personality, a very dedicated musician and an immensely generous man.”