At age five, he enrolled in the Gnessin Special School of Music in Moscow where his primary teacher was Tatiana Zelikman. When he turned eighteen, he enrolled at the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory, as a student of the legendary teacher, Lev Naumov, and he holds a graduate degree from that institution.
As a teenager Kobrin won several youth piano competitions, but he won his first adult competition, the Glasgow International Piano Competition when he was 18. The next year, in 1999, he won the Busoni Competition, after several years in which the first prize had not been awarded because no competitor's performances had been deemed worthy. In 2000, the year Yundi Li was the winner, Kobrin was third at the International Chopin Competition in Warsaw, and Li says that one of his favorite memories of the competition occurred at the awards ceremony, when Kobrin lifted him in celebration of his victory. Kobrin later tied for second prize, with no first awarded, at Japan's Hamamatsu competition.
In June 2005 he won the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. Among his prizes included a $20,000 cash award, a compact disc recording, concert tours and professional management both in the United States and Europe, a professional attire stipend and subsidized travel in the United States.
Even before his Cliburn victory, Kobrin maintained an extensive schedule of engagements in Europe and Asia. He has performed with the Moscow Virtuosi, the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, the Virtuosi of Salzburg Chamber Orchestra, the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra, the Rio de Janeiro Symphonic Orchestra, the English Chamber Orchestra, and the Osaka and Tokyo Symphony Orchestras.
Kobrin is especially interested in the music of the classical and romantic periods. He has recorded an all-Chopin compact disc along with the compact disc of some of his performances at the Van Cliburn competition. He teaches at the Gnessin State Academy of Music in Moscow and when he is not touring, divides his time between Moscow and Fort Worth. He is an accomplished soccer player and enjoys 19th century German literature.
Alexander Kobrin is a Yamaha Artist.