His rise to international fame began in 1989, when he won a major prize in the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, followed by winning the Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in 1994. However, it was winning First Prize in the Ferruccio Busoni International Piano Competition in Bolzano, Italy, in 1995, that resulted in Alexander Shtarkman being offered over 60 recitals and orchestral engagements throughout Europe. Since then, he regularly performs and gives master classes in Europe, Asia, South and North America, and in Russia. His thoughtful touch on the piano with gusto, sensitivity, and beauty of sound has impressed audiences all over the world. "It takes a lot of work to become a musician, to become a pianist, to do what we do. It takes even more. It takes some people – the right people, at the right time, at the right place – and above all, for all this to happen, it takes some portion of luck and good fortune. Because it has to be a combination of several things, including talent, including personal abilities, including drive, and determination, and will, and of course ability to work hard, good health. I had fantastic teachers all my life, and I am eternally grateful to all of them." International piano competitions usually consist of several rounds, with an extensive repertoire of three, four hours of music to play. Professor Shtarkman shares his tips of preparing for competitions and performances. "We have to practice every day. It’s like preparing for the sports event, in some way. You have to be psychologically very stable. You have to be ready for anything. It covers a lot a lot of music, a lot of material; our program is big. You have to train, to play the program through, to run it through, to get used to the breathing of the program. There must be a system, because there’s no time enough in a day to practice everything. So then you must come up with a certain system of what you do when and how to distribute your time or your pieces for the time."