He was the driving force and the constant of the world-renowned Beaux Arts Trio, which set standards in chamber music for over 50 years, until he decided to embark on a late solo career in 2008: pianist Menahem Pressler, who made his acclaimed debut with the Berliner Philharmoniker in January 2014 at the age of 90, performing Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 17 K. 453.
Menahem Pressler was born in Magdeburg in 1923 and emigrated to Israel in 1939, where he studied piano under Eliahu Rudiakov and Leo Kestenberg, among others. With a “talent for luck”, as he said, he won the Debussy Competition in San Francisco in 1946 and shortly afterwards made his debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Eugene Ormandy. Numerous appearances with leading international orchestras in the USA and Europe followed. Pressler pursued a successful solo career for almost ten years before embarking on his unparalleled career as a chamber musician. As a founding member of the Beaux Arts Trio, which debuted at the Berkshire Music Festival in 1955, Pressler remained the only pianist in the long history of this legendary ensemble, which existed until 2008. He taught at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music for almost 60 years, ultimately holding the rank of Distinguished Professor. He has also received honorary doctorates from the Manhattan School of Music, the University of Nebraska, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and the North Carolina School of the Arts, among others. Pressler has received countless honours and awards, including the Order of Merit First Class of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Queen of Spain’s Yehudi Menuhin Prize and the Wigmore Medal. In 2015, he was awarded the Echo Klassik for his life’s work.