Igor Kipnis

Igor Kipnis

Igor Kipnis (27 September 1930 – 23 January 2002) was a well-known American harpsichordist and pianist.



The son of Metropolitan Opera bass Alexander Kipnis, he was born on 27 September 1930 in Berlin, where his father was singing with the Berlin State Opera. Although Jewish, the elder Kipnis was popular in Germany during Nazism's rise to prominence. Employing the stratagem of a vocal injury, the elder Kipnis fled Germany for Austria. When the Nazis annexed that country, the family was touring Australia. From there they moved to the US in 1938. He learned the piano with his maternal grandfather, Heniot Levy; attended the Westport School of Music, and received his B.A. from Harvard University. He studied harpsichord with Fernando Valenti, and made his concert debut in New York in 1959. He was an honorary member of Phi Beta Kappa (Harvard, 1977), and in 1993 he was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters by Illinois Wesleyan University.

Kipnis lived in Redding, Connecticut. For five years he was President and Artistic Director of the Friends of Music of Fairfield County, the Connecticut chamber music series, in addition to having served thirteen years as co-artistic director of the Connecticut Early Music Festival. Dr. Kipnis was also a member of the faculty of Fairfield University in the early 1970s, teaching between tours.

He married Judith Robison on 6 January 1953. They subsequently divorced, in May 1996, but reconciled shortly before her death on 1 March 2001.

He died in his home in Redding, Connecticut of renal cancer. His last concert was a solo piano recital in October 2001, in San Francisco. He was survived by his son, film, record producer, and Kipnis Studio Standard creator Jeremy R. Kipnis, and his wife Carolina R. Kipnis.

Musical career

Following his debut in 1959, harpsichordist, fortepianist, duo-pianist, and clavichordist Kipnis performed in recital and as soloist with orchestras throughout the world, including North, Central, and South America, Western and Eastern Europe, Israel, and Australia.

Igor Kipnis performed as harpsichord soloist with the Madeira Bach Festival, Poland's Music in Old Crakow, the Indianapolis Early Music Festival, and Prague Spring International Music Festival.

Kipnis's enormous harpsichord repertoire encompassed not only the traditional 16th through the 18th Century composers but also includes contemporary music and jazz as well. He is especially noted for his entertaining concert-length presentation, The Light and Lively Harpsichord, which samples the full range of the harpsichord repertoire, from Bach to Brubeck, as well as for his informal mini-concerts whose format he has extensively pioneered at college student centers throughout the United States, and, additionally, for his performances and recordings on related early keyboard instruments, the fortepiano and clavichord, and for directing ensembles from the keyboard.

In 1995, he formed a duo with New York pianist, Karen Kushner, internationally performing works for (modern) piano, four hands.[1]


A frequent guest on both television and radio, such as the syndicated program, First Hearing, Kipnis for three seasons hosted his own The Age of Baroque over Grammy Awards telecast.

Editions, reviews and articles

Westminster Records.[1]


He was a prolific recording artist with 106 albums to his credit, of which 93 were solo. Among the honors he received were 9 Grammy nominations, 3 "Record of the Year" awards from Stereo Review, the 1969 Deutsche Schallplatten Prize, and the 1988 Gold Star award from the Italian periodical, Musica. Keyboard, in that magazine's annual readers' poll, named him "Best Harpsichordist" in 1978, 1979, and 1980 and "Best Classical Keyboardist" in 1982 and 1986.

Among his last record releases were The Virtuoso Scarlatti, fifteen sonatas played on five harpsichords after historical prototypes built by Hubbard of Boston and Vivaldi‘s The Four Seasons in which he directed members of the Connecticut Early Music Festival from the keyboard (both on Chesky), Sony CD reissues of The Spanish Harpsichord, the complete Bach Harpsichord Concertos with Neville Marriner conducting, Bach’s Italian Concerto and Second English Suite (together with works for clavichord), Harpsichord – Greatest Hits, as well as the complete Fantasias of J. S. Bach for harpsichord and clavichord (on Arabesque), A Treasury of Harpsichord Favorites and Mozart on the 1793 Fortepiano (two anthologies on Music & Arts), and Igor Kipnis – The First Solo Harpsichord Recordings (on VAI).

He recorded for Epiphany, Chesky, Angel (EMI), Sony Music/CBS, VAI, Arabesque, Music & Arts Programs of America, London (Decca), Musical Heritage Society, Intercord, Teichiku, Nonesuch, MCA, CRI, Grenadilla, Vanguard, Nitepro, King, Start, Golden Crest and Newport Classic.

External links

  • Interview with Igor Kipnis by Bruce Duffie, April 5, 2001
  • Mind My Harpsichord!, In Affectionate Memory of Igor Kipnis, by Bill Newman, Music & Vision, March 15, 2002, retrieved October 4, 2006
  • A Man of Many Talents, by Jennifer Paull, January 25, 2002, retrieved October 4, 2006
  • Stereophile Obituary, by Wes Phillips, February 3, 2002, retrieved October 4, 2006
  • Biography, by Joseph Stevenson, allmusic, retrieved October 4, 2006


  1. ^ a b Obituary 'Farewell to friends'. Classic Record Collector, Summer 2002, Vol 29.