Biography — Pianist Menahem Pressler and Four Winds

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Pianist Menahem Pressler
Pianist Menahem Pressler

Recognized by the French and German governments with the highest honors those countries award to civilians, Menahem Pressler was made a Commander of Arts and Letters by France, and from Germany received the Federal Cross of Merit. A founding member and the pianist of the Beaux Arts Trio for all of its 51 years, he has established himself among the world’s most distinguished and honored musicians, with a career that spans more than six decades. Both an outstanding chamber and solo performer, Mr. Pressler’s talents have brought him to all of the world’s major music venues. His overwhelming knowledge of piano and chamber music literature have also gained him an international reputation as a remarkable teacher.

Born in Magdeburg, Germany, in 1923, Menahem Pressler received most of his musical training in Israel, to which his family, fleeing the Nazis, immigrated in 1939. His life has always been completely devoted to his music: when not on tour or teaching master classes, Pressler can be found in his studio at Indiana University in Bloomington, where he holds the rank of Distinguished Professor. He holds honorary doctorate degrees from both the University of Nebraska and the University of Kansas. In 1994, Mr. Pressler was honored with Chamber Music America’s Distinguished Service Award and in 1998 he received the prestigious Gramophone Lifetime Achievement Award. Mr. Pressler was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in October 2000, and has received numerous awards, including England’s Record of the Year Award, four Grammy nominations, Musical America’s Ensemble of the Year in 1997 with the Beaux Arts Trio, and the German Recording Award. He was a winner of the Debussy Competition in San Francisco and has served as a juror for the Van Cliburn, Queen Elisabeth, and Naumburg Foundation Competitions. In 2011 he was named the winner of the esteemed International Classical Music Awards’ Lifetime Achievement Award, as well as the prestigious Wigmore Medal. In June 2012 he was presented the Menuhin Prize by Queen Sofia of Spain in an elaborate ceremony, as well as being inducted to the Gramophone Hall of Fame.

Menahem Pressler’s career was launched when he won first prize at the Debussy International Piano Competition in San Francisco in 1946. This was followed by his successful American debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra under the baton of Maestro Eugene Ormandy, and appearances with the New York, Washington, Cleveland, Chicago, Pittsburgh, London, and Paris Symphony Orchestras followed. Since then, Pressler’s extensive tours of North America and Europe have included performances with the orchestras of New York, Chicago, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Dallas, San Francisco, London, Paris, Brussels, Oslo, Helsinki, and countless others.

In 1955 he co-founded the Beaux Arts Trio with Daniel Guillet and Bernard Greenhouse. It is considered one of the most enduring and widely acclaimed chamber music ensembles, and has been credited with giving rise to the enormous popularity of the piano trio repertoire. The Trio had a worldwide schedule of over 100 concerts per year, and recorded and re-recorded almost the entire piano chamber music literature. The Trio had its final performance at Tanglewood – where the Trio had its debut in 1955 – on August 21, 2008.
Menahem Pressler’s other chamber music collaborations have included multiple performances with the Juilliard, Emerson, Pacifica, American, Guarneri, and Cleveland Quartets. In addition to over fifty recordings with the Beaux Arts Trio, Mr. Pressler has compiled over thirty solo recordings, ranging from the works of Bach to Ben-Haim, and has recorded almost the entire chamber literature with piano on the Philips label.

Mr. Pressler resides in Bloomington, Indiana, with his wife Sarah. His authority as an expert on chamber music is enormous, his knowledge of music and the piano is vast, and it is accompanied by much wisdom on producing beautiful music out of the notes written on the page.

Four Winds (New York Chamber Soloists)

Four Winds
Four Winds

MELVIN KAPLAN (oboe), founder/artistic director of the New York Chamber
Soloists and the Festival Winds, has been for more than 40 years one of America’s most influential forces in chamber music, both  as a renowned performer and as manager, teacher, lecturer and writer.  As a soloist, he has premiered  works by  Vaughan Williams, Ezra Laderman, Hugh Aitken, Gunther Schuller, Mel Powell, Heitor Villa-Lobos and Jean Francaix.  On the faculty of the Juilliard School for 30 years, Mr. Kaplan was also for many years featured regularly as a lecturer/performer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  He founded and was Artistic Director of the Vermont Mozart Festival.

ALLEN BLUSTINE (clarinet) is a member of the New York Chamber Soloists and the award-winning new music ensemble Speculum Musicae (of which he is currently the President and Director). An active proponent of new music for the clarinet, he has premiered over 100 solo and chamber works including Milton Babbitt’s “My Ends are My Beginnings,” Donald Martino’s “Triple Concerto,” Elliott Carter’s “GRA (New York premiere),” Pulitzer Prize-winner Wayne Peterson’s “Peregrinations” for solo clarinet and, most recently, Pulitzer Prize-winner Mario Davidovsky’s “Synchronisms No. 12 for clarinet and electronic sounds.” He was principal clarinetist of the Japan Philharmonic in the early 1970s and the Musica Aeterna Orchestra at the Metropolitan Museum and has frequently performed with the New York Philharmonic. He is currently on the faculty of Columbia University and is a founding member of the North Country Chamber Players in New Hampshire and the associate director of the Institute and Festival for Contemporary Performance at Mannes College of Music in New York.

Bassoonist ANDREW SCHWARTZ has appeared throughout the world as a soloist, chamber musician, and orchestral player.  Mr. Schwartz has performed solo concertos in some of the world’s great concert halls, including Boston’s Jordan Hall, Alice Tully Hall in New York, and Vienna’s Musikverein. He is a member of the New York Chamber Soloists, The Little Orchestra Society, and the Scandia Orchestra in New York, and has performed regularly with the Metropolitan Opera and the Orchestra of St. Luke’s.  One of the most prominent musicians playing historical bassoons, Mr. Schwartz is principal bassoon for the leading period instrument organizations: Handel & Haydn Society, Boston Baroque, The American Classical Orchestra, Sinfonia New York, Rebel, Concert Royal, Washington, D.C., Bach Consort, and Musica Angelica in Los Angeles. His many recordings include Mozart’s Da Ponte operas and The Magic Flute, as well as the complete works for wind ensemble on the Decca/L’Oiseau Lyre label.

SHARON MOE is a renowned French horn virtuoso, teacher and composer.  She has performed and recorded music from classical to jazz in concert and on TV, as a soloist and as Principal Horn with chamber ensembles and orchestras in major halls and festivals throughout the United States, France, Spain and Argentina. She was chosen by Leonard Bernstein to be Solo Horn for the world premier and recording of his composition “Mass” at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.  She was critically acclaimed for her solo performance in the world premier of Olivier Messiaen’s “ Des Canyons aux Etoiles” in Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall. She is the French horn professor and chamber music coach on the faculty of LIU C.W. Post, Manhattan School of Music Precollege and New Jersey City University.  Ms. Moe was given the Distinguished Alumni Award from St.Olaf College, the Most Valuable Performer Award from NARAS (National Academy for Recording Arts and Sciences) and is also an acclaimed composer composing under the name of Sharon Moe Miranda. She has the distinction of being nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for her composition “Windows” for orchestra.