Menahem Pressler returns to his first love

Menahem Pressler returns to his first love


norman lebrecht

March 11, 2018

The Israeli pianist found an international career when he won the Debussy competition in San Francisco in 1946.

More than 70 years later, at the age of 94, he has recorded a Debussy album.

And dedicated it with love to his companion, Lady Annabelle Weidenfeld.


  • Costa Pilavachi says:

    Sublime. Thank you!

  • La Verita says:

    Interesting to note that he won that competition under the name “Max Pressler”. And apparently there was no age limit, as the 2nd prize went to a pianist 20 years his elder, Olga Barabini – whose name was quickly forgotten until she resurfaced as Garrick Ohlsson’s teacher.

  • Rosana Martins says:

    Beautiful! Thank you for posting it.

  • Bill Ecker says:

    Israeli pianist? He lives in America and holds an American passport. I know he holds an Israeli passport as well, but he was born in Germany and the Israeli passport is an add-on.

    • G Bernstein says:

      Forced by the nazis to flee from near Dresden wher he and his family lived.

      • Helene Kamioner says:

        He and his family left Magdeburg immediately following Kristallnacht. They came to Israel via Italy. He has always kept a very close relationship with the city of his birth and of course Israel. Menahem is a tireless world traveler and may his travels continue at least til he is 120. I met his brother once in Berlin, and have had the privilege of knowing his devoted daughter, Dr. Edna Pressler.

  • Esfir Ross says:

    You get Israeli passport if you just move there-you wanted or not. MP didn’t have much of performing career while living in Palestine. The most performing was Ella Goldshtein and Pnina Saltzman. Ella Goldshtein won Busoni competition in 1952 as Palestinian even Israel became a state 1948. I bet MP Israeli passport’s long expired as mine.

    • Helene Kamioner says:

      I know for a fact that Menahem Pressler is a proud of his Israeli heritage and I would bet millions that his Israeli passport is still active. In fact he was awarded a very important prize from the official Israeli government for his 80th birthday *which I, as his press agent at that time arranged. Anyway, what’s your point?

      • Esfir Ross says:

        There no Israeli heritage in Menahem Pressler. Him and his family moved to Palestine for refuge. MP left 1946 for permanent home in USA after few years, like most young talented musician and they still do. State of Israel was established 1948. So don’t confuse Jewish and Israel heritage-apple and oranges.

        • Helene Kamioner says:

          OK, so Menahem Pressler is an undeniably internationally famous, successful, brilliantly talented musician, artist and Mensch by true definition, who was trained in Germany and ISRAEL, and is always welcome home to Israel. So what’s you point?

          • Esfir Ross says:

            MP was trained in USA. He studied with Egon Petri in mills college that not far from my house. Also studied with eminent E.Stuermann. And he want to study with Arthur Schnabel. Great pianist in USA shaped his pianism.

          • Esfir Ross says:

            Wishful thinking. I bet you didn’t read book about Beaux Arts trio, MP interview. Make a reality check.

          • Anon says:

            He fled to Palestine in 1939 and on to the US in 1940. He was born in 1923. How much piano instruction you think he could enjoy during the one year on the run from the Nazis from Germany to the US, intermediate stop Palestine?
            MP is a born German, and after settling in the US he became a naturalized US citizen. Israel has not much to do with his professional development, not sure why you keep emphasizing that.

          • norman lebrecht says:

            Have you ever asked him? He would tell you the exact opposite. His studies in Israel were formative.

        • Helene Kamioner says:

          I met the Beaux Arts Trio and Menahem in 1979 Munich when I worked for their manager. I represented the then Trio for their 50th anniversary and Pressler’s 80th birthday, including Daniel Hope. And distributed nearly 20 copies of the book about the Beaux Arts Trio to the press of which I still have a few copies on my book shelf. I also have a tape of the first Trio’s meeting when they played for Toscaninni at Wave Hill, next to my house in the Bronx.

  • Esfir Ross says:

    When person try to introduce MP to Arthur Schnabel as winner of C.Debussy competition, AS said: “That doesn’t mean anything. Anybody can play Debussy!”.
    When Karl U.Schnabel, my wonderful teacher ask me why I never play Debussy for him. I rather spend time to learn Classic-Romantic composers from him.

    • Helene Kamioner says:

      Menahem Pressler recieved his early piano training in Magdeburg, Germany and Israel. By the time he emigrated to the US he was a adult who taught piano.

  • Elisabeth Matesky says:

    Dear Norman Lebrecht ~

    Having known this just released Debussy Album of Menahem Pressler, which he has dedicated to one of my closest London friends, Lady Annabelle Weidenfeld,
    was in process, it is an extra delight to see Annabelle on camera speaking about
    her dream life! She deserves great credit for re contouring the global career of MP, including 24/7 attending to her companion during the very turbulent vestiges of his complicated illness and triumphant recovery ~

    As her friend, I wish to thank you in featuring a love story fused w/ the concert artistry of Menahem Pressler on your website! Love is a great healer, having given Menahem Pressler and Lady Weidenfeld renewed leases on Life through great music with their love for it & each other. How grand to see them flourishing!!

    Elisabeth Matesky *

    *(aka, ‘Lizzie’ in America ~ )

  • Helene Kamioner says:

    Biographical Note
    Menahem Pressler, an internationally acclaimed pianist, was born in Magdeburg, Germany on December 16, 1923. His family emigrated to Israel to escape Hitler and Nazi sentiments in 1939 when he was 15, and it was there that Pressler began his education in music. He was enrolled in the Tel Aviv Conservatory and studied with Eliah Rudiakow and Leo Kestenberg, before beginning to play smaller concerts and on Israeli local television. In 1946, Pressler entered the International Debussy Piano Competition as a contestant to be held in San Francisco, California, and flew there from Israel to compete for the $1,000 prize. His aptitude was recognized by the Competition’s jury and he won the prestigious award, along with the chance to debut his talents on a North American concerto with the Buffalo Orchestra, as well as the Philadelphia Orchestra.

    • Esfir Ross says:

      MP family escape to Palestine 1940 and he left 1946 before state of Israel established. I doubt that there was television in Palestine in 40th-to poor country for such luxury. And this Debussy recording’s pitiful legacy to MP .”Anybody can play Debussy” said Arthur Schnabel. Tribute to a derelict. 2010 I heard MP at local concert-I wonder if he content with his quality of playing. Pianist in decline.

      • Elisabeth Matesky says:

        Dear Madame ~

        If you continue to castigate Menahem Pressler, many will ask themselves What
        your purpose is?? At aged 94, even Leopold Stokowski’s conducting was in retreat, but I don’t recall any vicious assaults on the great Conductor’s Legacy ~

        It might be good to Stop now. To quote Shakespeare, ‘The Lady doth protest too much ~’ Perhaps you might take Shakespeare under advisement …

        I’m sorry you are so offended by a comment Arthur Schnabel made – directed to instrumentalist’s who play the French Impressionist equivalent in Music, Claude Debussy’s, glorious ‘sound painting’s’ ~

        Most Cordially,

        E. Matesky

  • Esfir Ross says:

    I admire Arthur Schnabel for saying that. 8 years ago in concert that I attend MP reveal his declining pianistic and artistic abilities on piano. Recently he played Mozart concerto and got smooth review. The same critic admit privately that his performance was poor, inept. Baronesse Annabelle created a bubble not cultural treasure.

  • June Sperber says:

    This fine gentleman ,whom I have met, should be spoken of with the great respect he deserves.He continues to play with great delicacy and the gentlest of touch.All negative opinions about him at his great age should be be kept private.