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Tragedy: international virtuoso loses his fingers to frostbite

Alexey Zimakov, winner of the 1991 American Guitar Association Competition in Miami, has suffered the amputation of all fingers on both hands after contracting severe frostbite in his home town, Tomsk, in Siberia.

The amputation took place, we are informed, on January 15. He had been due to give a concert with the Belgorod Philharmonic Orchestra, conductor Evgeny Bushkov, on February 2, performing Ponce Concierto del Sur and Paganini Romance and La Campanella. The concert will now go ahead without him, retitled Hommage à Alexey Zimakov.

Of all the misfortunes we suffer in the course of a musical life, few can be greater than this.


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  1. Why would he suffer such severe frostbite? Are living conditions in Tomsk so difficult and is this common?

  2. I believe that should be “Guitar Foundation of America”? According to a Russian guitar site, he fell asleep on the porch of a house after he couldn’t get in coming back from a stag party. The temperature was 44 below zero!

  3. Peter Metrinko says:

    I’ve looked for recordings and all I can find are some fabulous (but poorly recorded) videos on YouTube. Is anyone aware if he made recordings? I’d like to buy one to support him. I could not find his name on Amazon or CD Universe. Sometimes Russian names have different spellings.

  4. Reiner – another reason why I love this site. Thanks for another fascinating insight into Russia and Russian life. I never realised you could get frostbite so quickly and it makes me glad our UK weather is a little more comfortable. What a tragic, horrid accident to happen to anyone, especially a musician.

  5. I just listened to his Baba Yaga on Youtube. Truly magnificent.
    I hope the Russian powers that be will rally around him and provide him the best medical and rehabilitation care available anywhere. I also hope that he will maintain a good spirit and not loose faith in himself and the world around him.

  6. my only sugestion is maybe he could try composing, my consolations to him.

  7. Dr. Marc Villeger says:

    Svetlana is shocked to hear about this: he was a Gnessins Academy graduate, a very nice and talented fellow. We wish him well.

  8. “A spur line from the Trans-Sib was run to Tomsk in the soviet era, putting the city on the rail map – but it still doesn’t have a civilian airport, and people there are forced to make use of Novosibirsk’s super-modern Tolmachevo airport instead.”

    Tomsk has had a civilian airport at Bogachevo since 1967 — I flew there with Aeroflot domestic service from Moscow’s Domodedovo airport in 1994 when I was the first foreign soloist to perform with the Tomsk Philharmonic Orchestra since WWII:

    I went there twice in 1994 and 1995, both times in early autumn when the climate is quite pleasant. It can get very hot in the summer, and swarms of mosquitos can make being outdoors very unpleasant. As to being a small city, it is small if compared to Novosibirsk (500,000 vs. 1,500,000 — this was back in 1995).

    Tomsk was founded in 1604 by Boris Godunov as a fortress to ward off wandering bands of Tatars. After WWII until 1993, Tomsk was a city closed to foreigners, and even the local inhabitants needed permits to travel freely to and from the city until then. The reason was because of the multitude of military factories and installations located there, and also the very top-secret town of Tomsk-7 (now called Seversk, located about 15 km upstream on the river Tom’) where a large part of the plutonium for Russian nuclear bombs was produced after the early 1960′s.

    In 2006, Tomsk was the city where German chancellor Angela Merkel met with Vladimir Putin for the first time.

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