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In a wide-ranging chat from 2015 with the German journalist Holger Noltze, Menahem Pressler, who will be 93 in December, explains the importance of music, not just pianism, to his life.

The German-born Israeli-American pianist is celebrated as a long-time member of the Beaux Arts Trio, in addition to more than 60 years teaching at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. In a discursive mood, he ranges from recollections of escape from Nazi Germany to evocations of other pianists, such as Simon Barere, who in Balakirev’s Islamey offered ‘virtuosic playing like no other, not even Horowitz’. Pressler recalls that Barere played every note of the daunting work, whereas ‘Horowitz played with much more depth, even if he sometimes left out notes’.

He compares Arthur Rubinstein, a ‘great man’, to his Russian-born rival: ‘Horowitz was different. Horowitz seemed always much more like a hothouse plant… Then there is someone like [Artur] Schnabel, who never doubted that he was good, that he knew the answers. There is a Rubinstein, who for long hardly practiced because he was so enormously talented, a child of the sun… Or [Claudio] Arrau whom I have always admired because he was so faithful. He played quite late the most important works, his hands were supple, and he was famous for his memory. And he was always very kind to his students.’

Unforgivingly hypercritical about his own recordings, even acclaimed ones, Pressler expresses a perhaps surprising interest in period instruments, among other thoughts meriting translation into English.

BENJAMIN IVRY Read the full review on Agora Classica


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