Sad news: Legendary pianist dies

Sad news: Legendary pianist dies


norman lebrecht

January 08, 2012

Family friends are reporting that Alexis Weissenberg died this morning, aged 82.

Alexis Weissenberg

There has been no official confirmation yet from his two daughters. Bulgarian born, to Jewish parents, Weissenberg was based for much of his career in Paris and is remembered most widely for the Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky concertos he recorded with Herbert von Karajan.

Watch video here of the opening of the Rachmaninov C minor concerto with Karajan and Berlin. read a friend’s tribute here.

And here’s a close-up of his extraordinary virtuosity:


  • Tommy Vichev says:

    He was one of the best pianists! R.I.P.

  • Ludmil Angelov says:

    Actually, he was 82 – born in 1929. I feel so privileged of being able to know him personally!

  • Rosana Martins says:

    I was close to Alexis in the 1970’s and 80’s and had the privilege of enjoying his wonderful sense of humour and kindness. He was one of the most cultivated and interesting persons I ever met. A great pianist as well.
    I learnt of his illness and hope he now has the peace he deserves.

  • Andrew Maginley says:

    Alexis was an amazing music, teacher, and friend. I feel lucky to have seen him perform many times and to talk with him after some of his performances. He always told me that all instruments are at their best when they sound like a really fine singer.

  • Stephan Zind says:

    I had the honour to meet him twice in Lugano; he invited me once to a concert of the Progetto,
    and we spoke during the evening about his life and he wanted to give something back to his country bulgaria.
    It was so touching i will never forget!
    The last few months a friend of mine told me that he doesn’t want to continue in this state of his illness , and it would be a relief to RIP.
    I’m sure he is now good and happier, wherever it might be !

    • Carolyn Barnett-Goldstein says:

      Stephan, do you know, if he , or what he, wound up doing in Bulgaria as you mentioned?
      It would be nice if charities he may have supported, or schools, and foundations, were posted.
      Then, others could donate in his honor.I did know him, and he was a remarkable human being.

  • Wayne Johnson says:

    I never met him as some of you have done, yet his recordings were a tremendous inspiration to me as a young man. His playing was electric and full of fire, yet always tasteful and sensitive. He will be missed.

  • Medi says:

    How sad to learn that Alexis died – I met him many times together with my late husband Peter Girth, he stayed in our house near Darmstadt for some weeks when he prepared his musical “Nostalgie” at the State Theatre of Darmstadt ( the premiere was on Oct. 17, 1992). Alexis was such an intellgent, cultured, refined man.

    • Medi – tell us more about the musical… xN

      • Medi says:

        “Nostalgie” was called “Ein surrealistisches Musical”, book and songtexts by Francis Lacombrade and Bernard Broca. I have a CD from it, label ARCADIA, with the cast from Darmstadt, with Sona MacDonald, and tenor Jeffrey Dowd ,a.o. with the 2 pianists THomas Labé and Hyunsoon Whang. The public in Darmstadt did not appreciate the production so much, a pity, should have been performed in Berlin or so.

  • Betty Sekhri says:

    The first time I heard him live in concert he played the Rachmaninoff 2nd and his
    interpretation. became my favorite. May he RIP.

  • Frank G. Bechyna says:

    Alexis Weissenberg was a great human beeing , full of humour and kindness. He was highly intelligent , spoke 6 or 7 langiages , knew much about lietrture , diffenrent cultures and people . he had always a wide heard for poor , young and ild people . His own performances in the ORTF , Paris, were the best you can imagine when you speakt abour ” How can we get young people in concerts ” . his repertoire was very wide : from J S nach to dtravinsky . And he composed a musical m was a close friend to the chansonniers Arnavour , Charles Trenet et Diana Dufresne .
    I met hin first in the late 1960s with my family in paris after his comeback in Paris and New York .
    Later we became friends an Alexis visited us in our house in germany .
    In 1994 he became severe ill . That finished his ecxiting careere since he won the Leventritt competion in New York .
    I will never forget him and his art .
    Thank you so much Alexis !

  • Scott Colebank says:

    I always thought his recording of the Rachmaninoff Third with Pretre/Chicago Symphony dating from the late 60s was one of the best ever, always in my personal top 10. I saw him perform in recital in Kansas City’s Music Hall on November 20, 1975. I still have the program.

  • Rosana Martins says:

    I don’t know if there is a relation between “Nostalgie” and “The Fugue”, a musical Alexis composed in the late 70’s, also with texts from Francis Lacombrade and Bernard Brocca. Alexis was immensely proud of it!
    In 2008, Martha Argerich decided to pay hommage to Alexis by programming “The Fugue” in her Progetto Martha Argerich in Lugano. Here is the link where one can hear it:

    He had enormous charm and wit. I am certain he is better now. Life in the past few years must have been terrible for such an active man

  • Petra says:

    One of my dearest friends, greatest musician and absolutely wonderful person – warmhearted with a wonderful sense of humor. It’s heartbreaking… Thank you for some of the best hours in my life and about 100 concerts I could visit.

  • Alexandros Rigas says:


    Exactly when EMI decided to release a 10-CD set dedicated to his EMI output:


  • Charles Forster says:

    My memories seem to go back to the 1950’s decade when my piano teacher wanted us young students to know more about the music we were learning to play. Alexis Weisenberg and Jorge Bolet were prime examples for us to emulate.RIP

  • Manuel Castedo says:

    I listenned to A. W. with Nicolai Gedda singing Rachmaninov’s “ne poj krasavica…” at Penn Phila, an old vinile, insuperable version.

  • Gail says:

    I had the pleasure of meeting him when I was 15 and living in France. He was such an inspiration!

  • Mary says:

    I could go to all his concerts in Tenerife. He was the best. Wonderful pianist and very kind person.

  • Dimitar Stoyanov says:

    Although Alexis Weissenberg has left Bulgaria so many years ago, he never missed the opportunity to mention his origin and to point out the influence of our culture on his personality and his art. He was cosmopolitan, citizen of the world, able to understand different cultures and mentalities, but he always kept in his heart warmness and love for the country where he was born.
    The world lost a great artist; we, Bulgarians lost one of our admirable compatriots.

  • Thank you for sharing the great video of Alexis, extraordinary virtuosity! Indeed, Alexis was a great pianist of our time. He will be missed by many.

  • Morgan Hayes says:

    I was rather touched to read about Stephen Hough meeting Alexis Weissenberg on two occasions:

  • Andre Archambault says:

    I had the chance in my life to hear him in person. What a great panist.
    I have always admired him.
    I am also very lucky because I have his autograph that I cherish a lot among many others.
    It is always sad when we loose such a friend.

    Aurevoir Alexis, R..I..P.

  • mary soilex says:

    A great loss to the community, He wil be missed as a great pianist und a great mind as well.
    Rest in peace dear soul.

  • Josseline Letraut says:

    Nous ne nous étions pas revus depuis bien longtemps mais jamais vous ne m’aviez manqué autant qu’aujourd’hui. Je me sens orpheline. Au revoir, pas adieu, Ziggy !