Menahem Pressler, pianist and Beaux Arts Trio founder, dies at 99 Lalrp


Menahem Pressler, a German-born American pianist who was a co-founder of the Beaux Arts Trio in 1955 and remained with the acclaimed ensemble till it broke up greater than a half-century later, died Might 6 in London. He was 99, and he had continued taking part in concertos and solo recitals by way of latest years.

Indiana College, the place he spent a lot of his life as a music professor, confirmed the loss of life in a press release. No different particulars got.

The Beaux Arts Trio was fashioned on the invitation of violinist Daniel Guilet, who had been the concertmaster of Arturo Toscanini’s NBC Symphony from 1951 to 1954. Bernard Greenhouse, a much-admired cellist who had been one of many solely long-term college students of Pablo Casals, had grow to be mates with Mr. Pressler and recommended him to spherical out the group.

It was an impressed determination, because the Beaux Arts Trio would go on to play greater than 4,000 concert events all through the world whereas recording just about all the usual trio repertory.

The teamwork was not all the time simple. “Guilet was a taskmaster, a horrible taskmaster,” Mr. Pressler informed the Philadelphia Inquirer in 2008. “Each second phrase within the rehearsal was an insult. I didn’t really feel it as a lot as Greenhouse did. He reacted violently. However through the efficiency, the chemistry and the inspiration was one thing we have been grateful for and completely satisfied about.”

The group performed its debut at Tanglewood in 1955 and had its American farewell in the identical place in August 2008 earlier than presenting its ultimate live performance in Lucerne the next month. By then, the Beaux Arts Trio had included 5 totally different violinists and three cellists.

All through these 53 years. Mr. Pressler was the one fixed — and he knew his value. “The pianist in a trio is a primary amongst equals,” he informed the New York Occasions in 1987. “He’s the heartbeat of the trio; that’s how the scores are written.”

Many distinguished composers over the centuries have written piano trios however the type stays a problem for composers and gamers, because the piano is a way more sonorous instrument than every other instrument with which it could be teamed; certainly, it could usually be heard over a full orchestra. It was due to this fact left to Mr. Pressler to play extra softly than is common for a live performance pianist, whereas retaining creative authority.

When the Beaus Arts Trio carried out at New York’s Principally Mozart Pageant in 1990, critic Allan Kozinn wrote within the Occasions that Mr. Pressler’s “crystalline, songful taking part in was the middle of gravity.”

Menahem Pressler was born in Magdeburg, Germany, on Dec. 16, 1923, to oldsters who owned a clothes retailer. They fled Germany after the state-directed, antisemitic Kristallnacht assaults in November 1938 destroyed Jewish properties, companies and locations of worship.

The 14-year-old Mr. Pressler, his dad and mom and his siblings arrived within the British Mandate for Palestine.His father opened a grocery along with a clothes retailer close to their house in Tel Aviv, with their son specializing in his already prodigious curiosity in music. Many members of his prolonged household who remained in Europe perished in focus camps.

In accordance with Mr. Pressler, he was a “psychological wreck” after the odyssey to Palestine and, at some point, he fainted throughout a piano lesson whereas he was taking part in Beethoven’s Sonata No. 31 in A-flat Op. 110.

“I’m certain it was my emotional response to this magnificent work which summed up what I felt, all the things that had occurred,” he informed the Guardian in 2008. “It has idealism, it has hedonism, it has remorse, it has one thing that builds like a fugue. And on the very finish, one thing that may be very uncommon in Beethoven’s final sonatas — it’s triumphant, it says, ‘Sure, my life is value residing,’ and that’s what I really feel.”

From then on, Mr. Pressler started a routine of working towards a number of hours a day, one which he maintained for the remainder of his life. There have been years when he would go to mattress for some time early within the night, get up, apply for 3 hours after which proceed his sleep.

“I really like apply, as a result of that’s the place the seek for music takes place,” he informed the New York Occasions in 1996. “The deep moments of musical epiphany are nearly all the time within the apply.”

Mr. Pressler, whose chief tutor in Palestine had been the eminent music educator Leo Kestenberg, moved to america in 1946. That 12 months, he gained the Debussy worldwide piano competitors in San Francisco, which earned him $1,000 in prize cash and led to a sponsored debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra beneath the management of conductor Eugene Ormandy.

A Carnegie Corridor debut adopted in December 1947, with Occasions music critic Olin Downes praising Mr. Pressler’s interpretation of the Schumann Piano Concerto in A Minor Op. 54.

“He is likely one of the few of the younger pianists who think about his instrument the agent of glamorous tune and never merely a contraption of wires and keys,” Downes wrote. “This, certainly, was the taking part in of a free artist, safe in his birthright.”

Mr. Pressler was then engaged for a live performance tour that took him all through a lot of America. He settled right into a job at Indiana College and stayed with the establishment because it grew to be one of the vital revered conservatories within the nation. He additionally taught grasp lessons all through the world, influencing 1000’s of scholars.

Mr. Pressler was married to Sara Scherchen, one in every of his Israeli college students, from 1949 till her loss of life in 2014. Survivors embody his companion and longtime supervisor, Annabelle Whitestone; two kids from his marriage, Ami Pressler and Edna Pressler.

After the Beaux Arts Trio broke up, Mr. Pressler returned to solo efficiency. At 90, he performed the Berlin Philharmonic’s New 12 months’s Eve celebration in a televised live performance beneath the path of Simon Rattle. Per week later, he was in Massachusetts Common Hospital in Boston, the place he underwent surgical procedure to take away an aortic aneurysm. Mr. Pressler rested for a number of weeks after which resumed his actions.

A lot of the Beaux Arts Trio’s recordings have been made for the Philips label, and the corporate issued a 60-CD set in 2015 to honor the group on the sixtieth anniversary of its founding.

He by no means thought-about retiring. “Once I play, I don’t really feel older than 50,” he informed the Occasions of Israel in 2016. “Once I train, I don’t really feel older than 40.”

Then he laughed. “Once I stroll up the steps, it’s one other story!”