Safonoff was born at Itschory, Russian Caucasus, February 7, 1852, and is the son of a Russian officer of Cossacks.
He was educated at the Lycee Imperial Alexandra, St. Petersburg, and at the St. Petersburg Conservatory of Music. He graduated as Bachelor of Laws, and won the gold medal of the Conservatory, where he studied, 1881-1885.
He was also a pupil of Leschetizky and Zaremba. Safonoff was made professor of the pianoforte at Moscow Conservatory, 1885, and four years later became director of that institution.
He retired from that position in 1890, and has since become well known as a conductor, and has acted in that capacity with nearly all the
principal orchestras in Europe, including the Philharmonic Orchestras of Berlin, Vienna and Prague, the Lamoreaux Orchestra, of Paris, the London Symphony and the Santa Cecilia, of Rome. In this capacity, of course, he is well known in America, on account of his work with the New York Philharmonic Society. He got most excellent results from this organization, though his audiences were somewhat puzzled by the fact that he never used a baton.
As a teacher, Safonoff has earned a very high reputation for himself. He was director of the National Conservatory of Music, in New York, and has numbered many distinguished musicians among his pupils. Perhaps the most notable are Scriabine and Josef Lhevinne.