About Ilya

Johann Sebastian Bach International Competition (2010)


George Enescu International Competition (2011)


Southeastern Historical Keyboard Society harpsichord competition (2007)


XX Concorso Sala Gallo Piano Competition


Grieg Competition - USA (2009)


A musician with a fiercely inquisitive mind, impeccable technique and an intensely poetic vision, Ilya Poletaev is an artist equally at home on the modern piano or on historical keyboards:  harpsichord, fortepiano, and chamber organ. Hailed as “one of the most significant pianists of his generation” by the Süddeutsche Zeitung, he launched his career after capturing First Prize at the prestigious International Johann Sebastian Bach Competition in Leipzig in 2010 — the only Canadian ever to win that competition. He has since appeared at the Leipzig Gewandhaus, KlavierFestival Ruhr, Dresdner MusikFesttäge, Leipzig BachFest, Montreal Bach Festival, Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center and Chamber Music Society, St. Paul’s Ordway Center, Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall, Caramoor Festival, Chamber Music Northwest, and many other prestigious venues. He also was the Grand Prize winner of the 2008 Concorso Sala Gallo in Italy, a laureate of the 2008 Canadian Stepping Stone, a top prize-winner at the 2007 SEHKS harpsichord competition, and a prize-winner at the 2011 George Enescu Competition in Bucharest. In 2009 he joined the roster of Astral Artists and is currently an Astral Artist laureate.

On the modern piano, he has appeared with the Toronto Symphony, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Moscow State Symphony Orchestra, Samara Philharmonic, Sinfonia Toronto, Orchestra Filarmonica di Cluj,  collaborating with such conductors as David Robertson, Peter Oundjian, Rossen Milanov, Nurhan Arman, John Holloway and Leo Kraemer.

Known for the breadth and creativity of his programming choices, Poletaev has in past seasons offered solo performances ranging from the complete 2nd Book of J.S. Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier (which he performs in its entirety on both modern and historical keyboards); to traditional recitals and concerto performances of both well-known and neglected repertoire (C.P.E. Bach, Dussek, Medtner,  Enescu, Nielsen, etc.), to inter-disciplinary events combining performances on different instruments, poetry readings, spoken commentary, and historical narrative.

In performing Baroque and Classical repertoire on the modern piano, an area in which he is well-known, Ilya Poletaev strives to bring together a personal vision and wide palette of instrumental colors with the most scrupulous attention to sources and historical performance techniques. “An expert harpsichordist, he played Bach on the piano as well as any I have heard…All that he played was deeply considered…His intelligence was luminous.”(Berkshire Eagle). “The Bach Overture was set forth with delightfully springy rhythms, a constantly stimulating interplay of contrapuntal lines, and tone that was clear and warm with no suspicion of harshness. Stylish as it was, with intricately detailed embellishments, this was also romantic playing.” (Seen and Heard International).

In his interpretations of the traditional Romantic literature, Mr. Poletaev combines the improvisatory flexibility derived from his experience with period performance practice with psychological insight and a gift for large-scale musical narrative.  Of a recent performance of Schumann’s Humoreske, a critic wrote: “There was no attempt to sand down Schumann’s jagged edges, to soften the blows of sudden changes in thought and mood. Through a liberal amount of rhythmic distortion, Poletaev revealed the wonderful truth in Schumann’s anxieties, obsessions, and wild tangents — that his was a reality apart. Resolution (sanity) was all the more sweet in the penultimate section, which the pianist rendered in the most tender shades of sincerity.” (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Among his many musical interests, Poletaev has a special devotion to the music of the great Romanian composer, George Enescu. His performances of the violin and piano works with Axel Strauss, published by Naxos in two volumes,  have been hailed as “the finest readings…  aside from the recordings that Enescu himself made” (American Record Guide); “formidable” (Gramophone), and “highly compelling” (The Strad). A recent performance of Enescu’s Piano Sonata No. 1 at a Philadelphia Chamber Music Society recital “seemed to transport to another time and place” (Philadelphia Inquirer).   In February 2017, Poletaev organized a first-ever mini-festival of Enescu’s works in Canada, combining efforts by internationally renowned performers, prize-winning students and alumni of McGill University.

An avid chamber musician, Mr. Poletaev is the founding member of the Trio de Montreal (Axel Strauss, violin, and Yegor Dyachkov, cello) and Trio Séléné (Mingzhe Wang, clarinet, and Elizabeth Lara, cello). Trio Séléné’s debut recording, featuring music by Fauré, Zemlinsky, and the Catalan composer Fernando Buide, is scheduled to be released in 2018. Mr. Poletaev has also appeared alongside such vocal artists as Susan Graham, Miah Persson, James Taylor, Thomas Cooley, and Dominique Labelle; cellists Gary Hoffmann and Joshua Roman; violinists Donald Weilerstein, Colin Jacobsen, Mark Steinberg, Stephen Copes, and members of the St. Lawrence, Juilliard, and Alcan string quartets; flautist Ransom Wilson, and many others.

As a solo harpsichordist, Mr. Poletaev appeared at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall, the Pierpont Morgan Library, Helicon Foundation, Ordway Center in St. Paul, Minnesota (with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, both in chamber formations and under the leadership of Christian Zacharias), Montreal’s Salle Bourgie, the Aston Magna Early Music Festival, Amherst Early Music Festival, and Yale’s Collection of Musical Instruments. As a continuo player, he has performed with Masaaki Suzuki, Andrew Lawrence-King, Steven Stubbs, Nicholas McGegan, Simon Carrington, Graham O’Reilly, Matthias Maute, and Helmuth Rilling. He can be heard in both solo and continuo roles on several recordings with the Yale Schola Cantorum (Bach’s 1725 St. John Passion; Bertali’s Missa Resurrectionis, among others) — all issued on the ReZound label.

Mr. Poletaev’s performances and interviews have been broadcast on the BBC; WQXR in New York; Minnesota Public Radio;  CBC Radio-Canada;  Radio Berlin-Brandenburg, MDR, NDR, and WDR networks in Germany; Radio Romania; Radio Rossiya (Russian Federation), and others. His recording of George Enescu’s violin and piano works with Axel Strauss has been heard on radio stations world-wide.

A dedicated teacher, Mr. Poletaev is currently Associate Professor of Piano at the Schulich School of Music at McGill University in Montreal. He is also Assistant Director at the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival’s Choral Week.  He previously served on the faculty of Yale University as a Lecturer in Early Music.  He has given numerous master classes and talks on performance practice in many of the world’s most prestigious music schools, including the San Francisco Conservatory, Boston University Tanglewood Institute, the Buchman-Mehta Music Academy in Tel-Aviv, Rubin Academy in Jerusalem, Royal Conservatory in Toronto, and the Conservatorio di Milano.

Mr. Poletaev began studying in Moscow at the age of six and continued his studies in Israel until he moved to Canada at the age of 14. He holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Toronto, where he studied with pianist Marietta Orlov and harpsichordist Colin Tilney, as well as Master’s and Doctorate degrees from Yale, where he studied with Boris Berman.

Artist’s website: ilyapoletaev.com

Watch some of Ilya’s performances

Additional information


  • First Prize at the 2010 International Johann Sebastian Bach Competition
  • First Prize at the 2009 Grieg International Competition (USA)
  • First Prize winner of the XX Concorso Sala Gallo Piano Competition
  • A prizewinner at the 2011 George Enescu International Competition
  • Top prizewinner at the 2007 Southeastern Historical Keyboard Society harpsichord competition


“The Bach Overture was set forth with delightfully springy rhythms, a constantly stimulating interplay of contrapuntal lines, and tone that was clear and warm with no suspicion of harshness. Stylish as it was, with intricately detailed embellishments, this was also romantic playing – which, in my opinion, all good playing is.”

“…a recital of not merely high promise but already high achievement”.

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Bernard Jacobson, Seen and Heard International

“Poletaev, now 36 and a Montreal resident, made good on the promise — stunningly, many times over — in a recital of Bach and Schumann…”

“…in making connections among voices, delineating distinct colors, not to mention the small matter of building expressive points of arrival and release, pianist and composer joined. They were as a single poet.”

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Peter Dobrin, The Philadelphia Inquirer

“Enescu couldn’t have hoped for better advocates. Fang, 27, a Curtis Institute graduate now under the wing of Astral Artists, and Poletaev (an alum of the program) highlighted everything that makes Enescu’s Violin Sonata in A Minor, “Torso,” so aesthetically unusual and beguiling.”

“… both players shifted easily from great delicacy to generous sweetness”.

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Peter Dobrin, Philadelphia Inquirer
“Bach May Be Familiar, but SPCO Makes It Memorable”

“But you can… marvel at how brilliantly guest harpsichordist Ilya Poletaev handles his notoriously difficult part.”

Ron Hubbard, The Pioneer Press

“Ilya Poletaev . Keept that name in memory. He has all the prerequisites to become a world pianist. Not since I Gregori Sokolov’s performances in Malmö several years ago , I heard a pianist with such brilliance and musicality”

Skånska Dagbladet

“That the Russian-born Ilya Poletaev in America belongs among the most significant pianists of his generation was clearly heard in the farthest corners by the packed audience in the Seefelder Schloss”

“Poletaev created music which fully differentiated between the many styles.”

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Reinhard Palmer, Süddeutsche Zeitung

“…a pianist with an extraordinary subtle understanding of sound…”

“This rare quality enabled him to reveal a variation in tone colors that was magical”.”

“The pianist’s playing was dream-like in the Larghetto movement. It showed his feeling for the beauty and elegance of Mozart…”

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Hartmut Schütz, Dresdner Neueste Nachrichten

“An expert harpsichordist, he played Bach on the piano as well as any I have heard. The Allemande in the Partita No. 4 in D major, BWV 828, played with all the repeats, was an apotheosis of the spiritual dance. This pianist can play with a kind of lightness that makes the piano an old instrument. All that he played was deeply considered. There was nothing there to provide a cheap thrill. His intelligence was luminous”

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Keith Kibler, Berkshire Review for the Arts


J.P Sweelinck            Variations “Mein junge Leben hat ein End”

J.P Sweelinck            Variations on “Ich führe mich über Rhein”

G.A.Frescobaldi       Toccata and Ricercar

J.Ph.Rameau            Suite in A minor (1728)

J.K. Fischer                Chaconne from Suite in D minor

C.P.E. Bach               Sonatas, Rondos, and Fantasies from “Kenner und Liebhaber” (various books)

J.S. Bach                  Partitas nos. 2, 3, 4, 6

J.S. Bach                 Well-Tempered Clavier

J.S. Bach                Art of Fugue : Contrapuncti 1, 4, 8

J.S. Bach                Fantasias and Fugues, BWV 894, 904

J.S. Bach                English Suites in G minor, E minor

J.S. Bach                French Suites in D minor, G major

J.S. Bach                Italian Concerto

J.S. Bach               French Overture

L. v. Beethoven       Sonatas op. 10 no. 3, op. 90, op. 101, op. 109, op. 110, op. 111

W.A. Mozart            Sonatas K. 333, K.533/494, K. 576

J. Haydn                  Sonatas C major Hb. XVII: 48; E flat Hb. XVII: 52

J.L. Dussek               Sonata in F minor (L’Invocation), op. 77

 J.L. Dussek              Sonata in F-sharp minor op. 61 (Elegie Harmonique)

F.Schubert                Sonata in C minor D. 958

F.Chopin                 Sonata no. 3 op. 58

                                 Polonaise-Fantaisie op. 61

                                 Ballade no. 4, op. 52

                                 Scherzo no. 4 op. 54

                                 3 Mazurkas op. 59

                                 2 Nocturnes op. 62

                                 Etudes op. 10 no. 1, 4, 5, 7, 12 op. 25 no. 1, 2, 9, 11, 12

R. Schumann         Intermezzi op. 4

                                 Davidsbündlertänze op. 6

                                 Symphonic Etudes op. 13

                                 Kreisleriana op. 16

                                 Arabeske op. 18

                                 Humoreske op. 20

                                 Waldszenen op. 82


J.Brahms              Sonata in F minor op. 5

                               Variations on a theme by Handel op. 24

                              Klavierstücke op. 117, 119

F.Liszt                 Sonata in B minor

                            Ballade no. 2 in B minor

                            La Lugubre Gondola (no. 2)

E.Grieg              Ballade in G minor, op. 24

G.Fauré             Nocturnes no 1, op 33 no. 1; no. 7, op. 74; no. 11, op. 104; no. 13, op. 119

C.Debussy:      Images, Book 1

                           Preludes, Book 1 (complete)

                          6 Etudes: (Pour les cinq doigts; Pour les notes repetées; Pour les sonorites opposées; Pour les octaves; Pour les harpeges composées; Pour les accords)

M.Ravel          Le Tombeau de Couperin

N.Medtner    Sonata-Reminiscenza op. 38 no. 1

                        Canzona Matinata e Sonata Tragica, op. 39 nos. 4-5.

                        3 Tales op. 42

                        Tale op. 26 no. 2

A.Scriabin           Sonata no. 10

C.Ives                   Concord Sonata (movements 3, 4)

A. Schoenberg    Klavierstücke op. 11

A. Berg                 Sonata op. 1

B.Bartok             Sonata (1926)

G.Enescu           Sonata op. 24 no. 1

                           Toccata and Pavane from Suite op. 10

C. Nielsen       Chaconne op. 32

                         Suite op. 45 “The Luciferan”

D.Shostakovich   Preludes and Fugues in C major, A minor, C minor, B minor, G-sharp minor, B-flat minor, D major, F-sharp minor, F minor, D minor.


J.S.Bach                     Brandenburg Concerto no. 5 BWV 1050

J.S.Bach                     Concerto in D minor BWV 1052

J.S.Bach                     Concerto in A major BWV 1055

J.S.Bach                     Concerto in F minor BWV 1056

C.P.E. Bach               Concerto in D minor Wq. 23

C.P.E. Bach               Concerto in E minor H. 420 

W.A.Mozart              Concerto no. 20 K. 466 in D minor

W.A.Mozart             Concerto no. 21 K. 467 in C major
W.A.Mozart             Concerto in D Major K. 537  “Kroenungskonzert”
W.A.Mozart             Concerto no. 27 K. 595 in B flat major 

F.Chopin                 Concerto no. 1 in E minor op. 11

F.Chopin                 Concerto no. 2 in F minor op. 21

J.Brahms                 Concerto no. 1 in  minor op. 15

S. Rachmaninov    Concerto no. 3 in D minor op. 30

N.Medtner              Concerto no. 3 in E minor op. 60


Preludes and Fugues 1-12

Preludes and Fugues 13-24

Beethoven op. 109
Beethoven op. 110
Beethoven op 111

J.K. Fischer: Chaconne in D minor from “Uranie”
Carl Nielsen: Chaconne op. 32
Yevgeniy Sharlat (b. 1977): Chaconne from Piano Sonata or D. Shostakovich: Prelude and Fugue op. 87 no. 24 in D minor

R. Schumann: Humoreske op. 20 or Kreisleriana op. 16 or Davidsbundlertaenze op. 6

Bach: Partita no. 4 or French Overture
Enescu: Sonata op. 24 no. 1

Chopin: Ballade no. 4 op. 52
Debussy: Reflets dans l’eau from Images, Bk. 1
Liszt: La lugubre gondola I
Liszt: Ballade 2

G. Frescobaldi: Toccata I (Libro Secondo, 1638)
F. Chopin: Polonaise-Fantaisie op. 61

J. J. Froberger: Tombeau sur la mort de Mr Blancrocher
F. Chopin: Ballade no. 4

J. Kuhnau: Tomba di Giacob from Biblical Sonatas
F. Liszt: Sonata in B minor

Rameau: Suite in A (1728)
Schumann: Waldszenen op. 82 or Intermezzi op. 4

Dussek: Sonata in F-sharp minor “Elegie Harmonique” op. 61
Chopin: Sonata in B minor op. 58

A multi-instrument event, exploring the historical and musical roots of Shostakovich’s monumental cycle of Preludes and Fugues, op. 87. Additional works by Merulo, Sweelinck, Purcell, Handel, Bach, Medtner and Mussorgsky. On modern piano, harpsichord, chamber organ. Includes narration.

C. P. E. Bach: Fantasy in C (Wq. 59/6); Sonata in E minor (Wq. 59/1)

J. L. Dussek: Elegie Harmonique op. 61

C. P. E. Bach: Rondo in C minor (Wq. 59/4) ; Largo from Sonata in B flat (Wq. 59/3)

J. L.  Dussek: Sonata op. 77 “L’invocation”

Sweelinck: Ich fuehre mich ueber Rheine
Carl Nielsen: Chaconne op. 32
Edvard Grieg: Ballade op. 24
Jean Sibelius: Sonatina op. 67 no. 1
Carl Nielsen: Suite op. 45 “Det Luciferiske”

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