Victor Merzhanov was born in Tambov on August 15, 1919 and studied at Tambov Musical College with Solomon Starikov and Alexander Poltoratsky. Between 1936-1941 he studied at the Moscow Conservatory in the classes of Samuil Feinberg (piano) and Alexander Goedicke (organ), graduating with distinction.
He achieved international recognition as a pianist in 1945 when he won the first prize (shared with Sviatoslav Richter) at the Third All-Soviet-Union Piano Competition. In 1949, he was placed tenth at the International Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw. Merzhanov became a Moscow Philharmony soloist in 1946.
Merzhanov was a Professor at the Moscow Conservatory from 1947 until his death. Among his students are prize-winners of international competitions: Vladimir Bunin, Oleg Volkov, Igor Girfanov, Yuri Didenko, Mikhail Olenev, Hideyo Harada, Nazzareno Carusi, Tatiana Shebanova, Ruslan Sviridov, Irina Khovanskaya, Anna Yarovaya, Anahit Nersesyan and many others. His name is inscribed on the Moscow Conservatory's marble wall along with those of Alexander Scriabin and Sergei Rachmaninov. He was also a professor at the Tambov Rachmaninov Institute.
During his 60-year stage career, Merzhanov gave more than 2,000 recitals and concerts in Russia, Europe, the United States, China, and other countries, with such conductors as Lorin Maazel, Kurt Sanderling, Kirill Kondrashin, Nikolai Anosov, Aleksandr Gauk, Gennady Rozhdestvensky, Yuri Temirkanov and Yevgeny Svetlanov.
His recordings (on major labels in the United States, Italy, Japan and the USSR) show his repertoire, including works from the Baroque period to contemporary music, from works by Bach and Beethoven to those by Prokofiev and Shostakovich.
From the start of his career he championed contemporary classical music. He was chosen by Prokofiev to give the first performance of his Sixth Sonata. He sat as a jury member in more than 40 international competitions including the Rachmaninov Competition (which he founded), the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, the Chopin Competition in Warsaw, the Bartok-Liszt Competition in Budapest, and international competitions in Montreal, Tokyo, Brussels and others. In addition Merzhanov was the artistic director of the Rachmaninov Piano Courses and contributed to the Rachmaninov Museum at the Ivanovka estate near Tambov.
Victor Merzhanov died on December 20, 2012 in Moscow. He is buried at Novodevichy Cemetery.