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Michael Burshtin’s
80th Birthday

“A great artist who composed more than six hundred pieces of various genres, from symphonic canvases to children’s songs and educational pieces, hundreds of transcriptions and arrangements for piano four hands, modern works, and musical folklore of peoples from around the world; one of the world’s best experts in the theory and practice of piano duet; an encyclopedic scholar in the field of musical culture, and at the same time, a person who is ready to share his gifts with anyone who needs it, always ready to help and give of his music, his knowledge, and ideas; a person who can always tell an interesting and little-known musical story and always has an anecdote on the topic – this is Michael Burshtin!”

         (“Fly with One Wing” by A. Barshay, 2023, Israel)

WATCH:  Dr. Kairy Koshoeva Special Birthday Message to Michael Burshtin


Michael Burshtin’s
Life and Career

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Young Michael with his Parents

The composer and concert pianist, Michael Burshtin celebrated his eightieth birthday in 2023. Burshtin represents a generation of contemporary musicians brought up in traditions of performance and composition of the 19th and 20th centuries. Michael Burshtin was born into a musical family. Both of his parents were well-known musicians in Kyrgyzstan. His father, Grigory Mikhailovich Burshtin, served as pianist and conductor of the Ballet Theater, while his mother, Slava Markovna Okun, was an Honored Artist of the Republic, working with opera singers as a concertmaster. Burshtin’s parents both graduated from the Moscow Conservatory before arriving in Kyrgyzstan in 1940 and together, they made significant contributions to the development of musical culture in the republic.

Michael Burshtin began his musical education at the Shubin Music School and Kurenkeev Kyrgyz Music and Choreography College, where he studied piano with Khanaeva and harmony with Yankovsky. It was Yankovsky who discovered and encouraged Burshtin’s gift for composition, and he went on to complete dual training as pianist and composer at the Tashkent State Conservatory of Music, where he studied with G.A. Muschel (student of N.Y. Myaskovsky and A.N. Aleksandrov) and A.A. Malakhov (student of I.B. Nadezhdin).

As he learned to master many modern composition techniques, from dodecaphony to aleatoric, Burshtin’s broad erudition and bold experimentation distinguished the young composer, and he became a member The League of Composers of Kyrgyzstan in 1969. He would eventually also go on to join the Israel League of Composers in 1993. It was also at the Tashkent State Conservatory that Michael Burshtin met Faina Kharmats, who would become not only his wife but also his partner in a duet piano performance. The duo would go on to perform one of the most extensive duet repertoires of their time, inspiring Burshtin to compose and transcribe many new piano duet pieces over his lifetime. 

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Burshtin in Frunze

(now Bishkek)

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Burshtin performing in 1981

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Burshtin with fellow composer Akimjan Jeenbai

Years of Productivity and Inspiration

After graduating Tashkent Conservatory in 1968, Michael Burshtin returned to Frunze (now Bishkek) and joined the Kyrgyz State Institute of Arts, where he taught piano and accompaniment, he led a chamber ensemble, and taught composition. The young musician was a very active performer, not only as a soloist, but also as a collaborative pianist with many well-known musicians in the republic, including instrumentalists and singers. Burshtin’s composing flourished in this period, his experimental style blending modern techniques with the preservation of folk themes and Kyrgyz national culture. In the first few years after graduation, Burshtin composed such striking works as the Symphonic Poem, Concertino No. 1, the Second Symphony, Triptych for the Spiritual Quartet, as well as two piano concertos and numerous popular pieces and arrangements. Speaking of Burshtin’s Symphony No. 2, music critic Bogdanova wrote in the magazine Soviet Music, “The second movement pulls you in with the unity of mood, the refinement of the lyrics, and the restoration of Kyrgyz folklore’s beauty. The third movement is a picture of a national holiday. Dancing and skillfully developed rhythmically active melodies are the basis of this music. Rhythmic sophistication is one of the features of this composer’s style.” Burshtin frequently used elements of Kyrgyz folk tunes, metro-rhythm, and the features of formation in his compositions, most prominently in his beautiful piano sonatas, the Aphorisms Suite, and his brilliant transcriptions of the folk tunes, Kyrgyz Kyy. 

Michael Burshtin also had a very active career as a performer and was one of the leading pianists in Kyrgyzstan at the time. He played not only in Kyrgyzstan, but also in almost all the republics of the former USSR, both as a soloist and as an accompanist. He worked with leading soloists of the Kyrgyz National Opera on concert tours, such as H. Mukhtarov, E. Moldokulova, K. Sartbaeva, just to name a few. Burshtin’s wide-ranging solo repertoire included compositions by Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, Rachmaninov, Stravinsky, Shchedrin, and others. Burshtin also actively performed works by Kyrgyz composers of various genres, from instrumental pieces and ensembles to operas, ballets, and symphonies. “He had no equal in the performing arts,” recalls the composer V. Roman. Michael Burshtin proved to be not only an excellent virtuoso, but also as an original interpreter, with a truly unlimited range of performed music of different styles and directions.

In the 80s and early 90s, Burshtin continued writing in a variety of styles, composing such works as the orchestral "Kyrgyz Etudes" and "Jewish Dances," Marches for brass band, Concertino for cello and string orchestra, piano and violin sonatas, and instrumental pieces were born. He continued to compose for piano, his favorite instrument. Among many creative aspirations, one of the distinguishing powers of Burshtin's music is the incorporation of Kyrgyz folk music into his compositions. He once said of his music, “by blood I am Jewish, by language Russian, by musical language [as a composer] I am Kyrgyz.”

Burshtin's music is modern in form and content, consonant with the pulse of the time, and is recognizable by its characteristic sound. It is dynamic, sometimes tough, but always expressive. The composer's works have been repeatedly performed by the leading musicians of the republic, and many of them are still kept in the Golden Fund of the Kyrgyz Broadcasting Corporation. Burshtin's works have been and are being performed far beyond the borders of Kyrgyzstan, and were published in Moscow at the All-Union Publishing House "Soviet Composer," as well as in Alma-Ata (Kazakhstan), Leningrad ( St. Petersburg, Russia), Kiev (Ukraine), and other cities. Twenty collections were published, and in 1988, the publishing house "Kyrgyzstan" published an author's collection of the composer.

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Burshtin performing at the League of Composers Convention in 1982

Professor Burshtin

For almost a quarter of a century, Michael Burshtin served as Professor of the Department of Special Piano and worked at the Beichenalieva Kyrgyz Institute of Arts and at the Kurenkeev Kyrgyz Music and Choreography College. Burshtin’s erudition, pedagogical skills, and personal attributes helped him inspire dozens of like-minded musicians to become enthusiasts of the art of music and professional musicians. His students performed at numerous competitions, festivals, and concerts, including recitals focusing on Kyrgyz music, Czech music, and various composers (e.g. Mozart, Bartok, Shchedrin). They went on to work around the world, in Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Germany, England, USA, South Korea, and Costa Rica, and many remain in touch with Professor Burshtin to this day. 

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Professors Michael Burshtin and Faina Kharmats with music students in 1993, before their departure for Israel

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Burshtin, backstage after a recent performance

Into the New Millennium

In 1993, Michael Burshtin and his family emigrated to Israel. The late 1990s and early 2000s were a fruitful time for the composer and pianist. With his wife, Faina Kharmats, they performed as a celebrated piano duo in Israel and Europe, including five concert tours to Germany. Their extensive repertoire included almost all compositions ever written for four-hands piano.  During those years, Burshtin continued to create new transcriptions for piano duets to expand their concert repertoire with Faina Kharmats, including the following compositions: Aria from St. Matthew's Passion No. 47 by J.S.Bach, Seven Sonatas by D. Scarlatti, Erlkönig by F. Schubert, Six Tangos and Tristezza de un double A by A. Piazzolla, the Final Trio by Shostakovich and Rachmaninov's Romance (for 6 hands) just to name a few.


Scarlatti's sonatas, written about 350 years ago, stand out among the listed arrangements by their boldness of conception, the desire to find instrumental techniques related to duet technique that are close to the original. Burshtin’s passion for Scarlatti is inspired by his musical lineage, having studied with Abram Vladimirovich Shatskes, a well-known editor of Scarlatti's sonatas, who himself studied with Nikolai Karlovich Medtner, a Scarlatti specialist. Piano duets and transcriptions for four-hands piano are considered to be one of Burshtin’s most significant contributions and remain of great interest to pianists and researchers. These include numerous transcriptions for the piano ensemble, masterfully prepared by Michael Burshtin and just as brilliantly performed by the Kharmats - Burshtin ensemble in numerous concerts around the world.

Music Sheets
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Michael Burshtin & Faina Kharmats together after a performance

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The Kharmats-Burshtin duo

in performance

The Kharmats - Burshtin Piano Duo

Michael Burshtin and Faina Kharmats met at the conservatory during their student years. At first, they only played a few duets together, but over time, it became a central part of their musical life and careers. In ensemble performance, inner kinship is important, and their shared education certainly also contributed to their work, having studied with the same teacher, A. M. Litvinov, a student of A. V. Shatskes.

In 2015, the Burshtin-Kharmats Duo celebrated its 50th Anniversary. During all these years, the celebrated duet performed together all over the world, including countries of the former Soviet Union, Europe, and Israel. Their repertoire is simply huge. As Professor Burshtin described, “Our programs combine the masterpieces of classical music with little-known works from different eras. We honor the Russian tradition of enlightenment and education and want people to listen not so much to us as to the music itself, although there are probably no less popular things in the programs.” (Alexander Barshay “Piano Duet as a Destiny”, Israel, 2015.)

 J.S.Bach                                                   M.Musorgsky                                         F.Poulenc                                          

Ch. Burney                                                P.Tchaikovsky                                       A.Ogonbaev 

F.X.Dusek (Duschek)                              E.Chabrier                                              J.Rodrigo

J.Haydn                                                    A.Dvorak*                                             A.Khachaturian

J.Ch.F.Bach                                              E.Grieg                                                   L.Wajner

J.G.Bach                                                   A.Napoleao                                            L.Khamidi

G.F.Benda                                                 Z.Fibich                                                 D.Shostakovich

M.Clementi                                               L.Janacek*                                            A.U.Boskovich   

W.A.Mozart*                                            M.Moszkowski                                    M.Kabelac

L. van Beethoven*                                    C.Debussy                                            G.Mushel

A.Diabelli                                                  F.Busoni                                                 Z.Nagan

G.Rossini                                                   S.Komitas                                              V.Persichetti      

J.Fild                                                          S.Rachmaninov*                                   G.Schuster                      

F.Schubert                                                 A.Schoenberg                                       A.Piazzolla

G.Donizetti                                                M.Ravel                                                  A.Boyarsky* 

F.Mendelssohn-Bartholdy*                       M.De Falla                                           A.Haidu

F.Chopin                                                    I.Stravinsky                                             R.Schedrin

R.Schumann                                               P.A.Grainger                                         B.Bayakhunov

F.Liszt                                                        C.Orff                                                       V.Bibergan

Ch.Alkan                                                    M.Gnessin                                              V.Gavrilin

Ant.Rubinstein                                            S.Prokofiev                                           E.Val

J.Brahms                                                     P.Hindemith*                                        E.Kalendar

A.Borodin                                                   G.Gershwin                                           M.Burshtin*

                                                                    V.Sapozhnikov                                      D.Smirnov

* Almost complete works for piano duet

F.Kharmats-M.Burshtin  Duo Repertoire (4 hands)

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Faina Kharmats performing in her youth


In Memory of Faina Kharmats

In blessed memory of Faina Kharmats, a graduate of the Tashkent and then graduate school of the Leningrad Conservatories, who taught piano for more than a quarter of a century to students of the Kyrgyz State Institute of Arts, where she was an associate professor at the department of the special piano. A person of great musical culture and rare spiritual beauty, Faina Kharmats trained dozens of first-class pianists, music teachers, and people who came to love music. For many students, was not just an educator but a mentor and friend. Many called her a musical mother.

“Faina Efimovna inspired me with her piano playing and a very kind, reverent attitude towards each of her students. She never raised her voice and always explained everything very patiently and lovingly. And when she demonstrated pieces we had been working on, it seemed to me that I stopped breathing from such delight and inspiration! Faina Efimovna and Michael Grigorievich have done so much for me, I just can’t express in words how they influenced my life!”  

                – Dr. Kairy Koshoeva, Honored Artist of Kyrgyzstan

                        Source: Alexander Barshay “Music Wins”, 2021, Israel

Faina Kharmats teaching

Kairy Koshoeva, Bishkek

Sheet Music


Video Gallery of Performances:

Kharmats-Burshtin Piano Duo:

Burshtin’s Arrangements for Piano:



  1. League of Composers of Kyrgyzstan: Michael Burshtin 2010, 2019. (website)

  2. History of the Composers’ League of Republic Kyrgyzstan, 2019. (website) 

  3. Svetlana Sintsova: “Michael Burshtin: Interpretation of Classics”, Collection of materials for the International Science Conference “Varied Interpretations of Belletristic Texts” “Petrozavodsk State Conservatory named after A. Glazunov, Petrozavodsk, Russia, 2013.

  4. Alexander Barshay “Piano Duet as a Destiny”, Israel, 2015.

  5. Alexander Barshay “Music Wins”, Israel, 2021.

  6. Alexander Barshay “Fly with One Wing”, Israel, 2023.

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