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Cedille Celebrates the Legacy of its First Artist


Jim Ginsburg called Dmitry Paperno one evening in 1989 and asked whether he’d be interested in making a recording. Jim wanted to launch a classical record label, and he had listened to tapes of Paperno’s performances he had received from audio engineer Bill Maylone. (Jim was an entering law student at the University of Chicago at the time.) Paperno was watching David Letterman that night and didn’t want to be disturbed. Jim persisted nonethless.

Dmitry Paperno chaired the DePaul University School of Music’s piano faculty after emigrating from the Soviet Union in the late 1970s. When Jim asked him why, a decade later, he hadn’t recorded any albums since making a couple of LPs when he first arrived, Dmitry’s said simply, “Nobody asked me.”

Dmitry Paperno (left) with producer Jim Ginsburg (right) and engineer Bill Maylone (center) at a Cedille Records recording session
Dmitry Paperno (left) with producer Jim Ginsburg (right) and engineer Bill Maylone (center) at a Cedille Records recording session

As the Chicago Tribune’s Howard Reich recently wrote, Dmitry Paperno “launched his career in a Soviet system that crushed spirits, sanctioned anti-Semitism and demeaned artists of his considerable stature (he was a laureate at the fifth International Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw in 1955).”

Paperno released seven albums with Cedille. That first recording, Dmitry Paperno Plays Russian Piano Music, earned this from legendary critic Richard Freed in Stereo Review:

“All the performances convey the most affectionate conviction . . . [Paperno’s approach] gains a touch of poetry . . . in the least aggressive way: You feel the pianist is really finding it in the music rather than imposing it from the outside. It’s a lovely program lovingly presented. The sound quality, too, is first rate.”

That first recording launched a record label and began a 30-year relationship with one of the great Russian pianists of our time.

Dmitry Paperno died on October 12, 2020 at the age of 91. He is survived by his wife, two daughters, and four grandchildren. He will be missed, but his music will live on through the students he taught, the musical memories he created and, of course, his recordings.


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