08 July 2019
By Erica Worth
The likes of Yuja Wang and Yevgeny Kissin pay tribute
Still going strong at the might age of 95, it seems like Menahem Pressler isn't going anywhere anytime soon! With a career spanning over 60 incredible years, we thought we'd ask some big names in the classical music world to pay tribute to a piano great.
John Gilhooly, Artistic Director, Wigmore Hall
‘All he carries as a human being comes out in his playing.’
On stage at his 90th birthday celebrations in Salle Pleyel, 2013
Daniel Hope, violinist
‘Menahem Pressler is a legend. It was the greatest experience of my life making music with him and Antonio Meneses in the Beaux Arts Trio for almost seven years. Menahem simply lives and breathes music. He is a genuine inspiration to us all and a reminder of what music really means. I am so lucky to have him as a friend.’
Left to right: Antônio Meneses, Menahem Pressler, Daniel Hope. © Marco Borggreve
Yuja Wang, pianist
‘I was a huge admirer of Pressler’s recordings as a child in Beijing, and I read his books, because I was fascinated by him. I played for him in lessons at festivals, and finally played Mozart’s Concerto for Two Pianos with him in Verbier, which was an extraordinary experience for me.
Besides learning a lot from him, I find his attitude towards both music and life itself so inspiring and admirable. The passion he has for music, the striving for something better, exploring unceasingly, seeking infinite improvement. I still hope to play for him again one day!’
Wang appeared on the cover of issue 105 of Pianist.
Pressler with Yuja Wang after performing together at the Verbier Festival. © Aline Paley
Yevgeny Kissin, pianist
‘I’ll never forget two evenings in December 1988 when the Beaux Arts Trio performed at the December Nights Festival in Moscow. Their playing was simply incredible, and the most impressive of the three musicians was the pianist Menahem Pressler. Now, many years later, I am truly happy to be friends with this remarkable musician and human being. May he enjoy sound health, inspiration and recognition for many, many more years to come!’
The Beaux Arts Trio in 1962. Left to right: Daniel Guilet, Menahem Pressler, Bernard Greenhouse. © Decca Classics
Angela Cheng, pianist
‘In the summer of 1982, I had come to Bloomington, Indiana to study with Mr Pressler. I had finished my undergraduate degree at Juilliard and was supposed to return to New York after the summer to start my Master’s degree. After a single lesson, I knew I had found my true mentor in Mr Pressler. I realised that I did not want to return to Juilliard and was fortunate enough to be able to continue my studies with him at Indiana University that fall. I was blessed with seven magical years with him, and each lesson was a transforming experience.
Mr Pressler influenced the very core of the way I experience music – how I hear music, how I feel about music and how I learn the music. Every minute of my musical life is influenced by the time I had with him. He would communicate his ideas in so many ways: demonstrating at the piano, singing, conducting, finding the right word. His energy was incredible and the intensity of his listening was astounding. The colours he demanded from me opened my ears to previously unimaginable sounds. He would give me an image and wanted me to not only find a sonority that would project that image, but also to filter that sonority through my
being so that the sound was emotionally connected and not just produced.
Mr Pressler also taught me a love, a respect and a reverence for the music itself which manifests itself in the responsibility I take on when communicating to my students and audiences alike. He never asked more of me than what he asked of himself, and I feel it is my duty to pass this on to my students every day.’
Menahem Pressler with a student
Read Menahem Pressler's insightful interview on his unrivalled career inside issue 108 of Pianist
Main picture: Aline Paley