Menahem Pressler comforts Zukerman’s students

Menahem Pressler comforts Zukerman’s students

Comment Of The Day

norman lebrecht

June 28, 2021

Reader’s Comment of the Day comes from the renowned pianist Menahem Pressler in response to Pinchas Zukerman’s verbal assault in a Juilliard masterclass on a pair of New York sisters of Asian origin:

It has been my very great privilege and honour to teach the two girls in question over several years at the Musica Mundi chamber masterclasses in Belgium and I have followed them closely ever since. They not only sing like angels but move me to tears each time I listen to them.

Apart from their great artistic gifts they are highly cultivated civilised multilingual human beings, mature beyond their years. I am glad to know that Juilliard reacted swiftly to remove the class from view and I hope these wonderful young artists will manage to put the experience behind them.


  • Music lover says:

    Saying that Koreans don’t sing is like saying Italians don’t sing. Singing is Korean people’s natural culture and in almost every gathering there is singing. What an ignorant comment by Pinchas Zukermann.

    • Jim C. says:

      He wasn’t being serious. I mean, come on people, the guy likes to be a jokester. Ever seen him in rehearsals with other jokesters?

    • Nick says:

      Music “lovers” should not offer their opinion when it comes to professionals like Zukerman! Zukerman is anything but ignorant.

  • Frankster says:

    Thanks for posting this.

  • Violin man says:

    Pinchas Zukerman has long had a reputation as one of the most egregious jerks in Classical music and his treatment of these young people comes as no surprise.

  • E Rand says:

    How soft we’ve become.. Where’s the comfort room with stuffed animals, lollipops and coloring books?

    • Andy says:

      We’ve become hardened. That’s why there’s pushback.

      As for Mr. Zukerman, he’s a dreadful man with modest intellect and middling insight as a teacher. The only surprise is that this sort of blather from him has taken so long to bubble to the surface.

    • BRUCEB says:

      I know! What is the world coming to when you can’t just be an asshole, like in the good old days?

    • Jim C. says:

      I especially like the treatment of these kids as tender plants. They really better toughen up quick in that business. And, learn to dish it back.

      • Tom Clowes says:

        Zukerman should not be treated as a tender plant. We shouldn’t shy away from offering him merited criticism.

    • Tom Clowes says:

      E Rand, you believe Zukerman should not be shielded from harsh criticism because it’s not our job to comfort people with “stuffed animals, lollipops and coloring books?” I agree.

  • Andy says:

    Grace. Class. Wisdom. Generosity of spirit. Mr. Pressler is my hero today.

  • Larry Goldman says:

    According to the article, the sisters are not Korean, they are half-Japanese.

  • HJ says:

    The sisters were not Korean, no?

  • J. E. says:

    The sisters were not even Korean—they are, I believe, American-born and have one Japanese parent. Mr. Zukerman’s remarks were offensive and racist and he should be ashamed.

  • Anson says:

    Pressler is such a class act. Always has been. A treasure.

    • Jan Kaznowski says:

      ==Pressler is such a class act

      Couldn’t agree more

    • Larry says:

      Agree one thousand per cent!

    • HugoPreuss says:

      My thoughts exactly. This is how a gentleman handles a rude transgression. Impeccable manners, combined with an empathetic heart toward the injured and insulted young singers. The phrase “class act” can be illustrated on Wikipedia by a picture of Pressler.

  • anon says:

    I’ve detailed my experience in 2 different Zukerman MC’s in the Zukerman thread. I can only say that I attended the 2nd class because I knew a participant and thought that, surely, Pinky had had a bad day when I saw him the first time. I couldn’t believe that 1st class I observed was typical of him – but, regrettably, it was. I have never had a desire to attend another of his MC’s or even his performances after seeing the real man.

    On the other hand, I’ve observed Pressler MC’s multiple times and my own kids have been privileged to play in youth orchestra with him as a soloist. What a generous, kind man! He was wonderful with the kids, supportive but also giving appropriate and valuable guidance.

    • Jim C. says:

      Z’s a great artist too. If he’s a jerk, so what?

      You need all kinds. Why take it personally? Why fall apart over him?

      • Tom Clowes says:

        I don’t see anyone here “falling apart” over deserved criticism of Zukerman, or withholding criticism because he’s “a great artist.”

    • MusicBear88 says:

      When I was about 19, I went to a master class given by Menahem Pressler. I had called ahead to see what was being played/taught and brought scores. When I got there, the library had not pulled them for Mr. Pressler, who asked if anybody had ones he could see. I raised my hand and was about to give them to him when he said “no, I’m not taking them from you, you’ll come up and sit with me!” The entire time he was following with his finger and would turn to me and whisper “very nice” or “I didn’t like that, did you?” I got him to sign my second volume of Beethoven sonatas that day, too. The classiest of class acts.

    • Jan Kaznowski says:

      As a young man, PZ shot to fame by being co-winner of Leventritt competition where his co-winner was Kyung Wha Chung from…err.. Korea. Apparently it upset Isaac Stern who, as chairman of jury, wanted his protegee PZ to be the sole winner.

  • Anthony Sayer says:

    Didn’t the other article say they were of Japanese heritage?

  • Confused says:

    I remember worrying Mr Pressler may die the night before my masterclass.. this was 20+ years ago.
    Now I think, I’ll probably die myself at some point soon, and wonderful Mr Pressler will still be around (and that’s the way it should be 🙂

  • Keith says:

    Fine words from a true gentleman. Regarding Korean singing, just two words needed: “Sumi Jo”!

  • Nijinsky says:

    It really becomes something strange, when people who have been gifted a lifetime to work with beautiful music and help others relate to it, start insulting and even ridiculing the very people that are there with the passionate urge and willingness and humility to get to know that beauty, and are meant to be given guidance.

    And yet this is standard fare at ANY “music school.” Is the teacher annoyed, they can start using the most offensive descriptions of what they think the student is doing when they find it wrong, as if their anger is some magic to make change, and exemplifies their “sensitivity” and “artistic insights.”.

    When Mr. Zukerman used clearly racist language, it becomes a topic. And not at all to excuse Mr. Zukerman, but there are a whole other slew of insults, were they more politically correct, they wouldn’t be questioned at all. Stuff that’s considered standard, no matter how they get in the way of the student being able to relate to the music for why it’s there at all.

    And the music has a flexibility to be there for anyone, regardless of differences between people, the same as the air it vibrates in.

  • Fan says:

    Did the sisters say they are not Koreans in the article?

  • Nick says:

    What can one expect from Mr. Pressler who does not hear much anyway!

    • Annabelle Weidenfeld says:

      And you clearly neither see nor hear nor know! Otherwise you would not make such a stupid and ignorant remark!

      • Nijinsky says:

        If anyone wants to hear why Manahem makes the heartfelt statement he does, one only has to click here.

        Music that one wouldn’t otherwise hear, that’s delightful to experience. Leclair and Spohr.

        A whole other time that would otherwise be lost. And they’re actually ennobling western culture, bringing light into part of the human experience that’s only removed by the illusion called time…

        And those “defending” Zukerman are doing him a great injustice. He’s acknowledged how culturally insensitive his remarks were. I can’t say whether I know that he’s racist, but I don’t think so, it’s maybe only the remarks that could be seen that way. Maybe he has a tinge or racism, I don’t know.

        It’s more comparable to a remark one makes when comparing baseball teams or something: “Our pitcher doesn’t throw fill-in-the-blank balls, your pitcher can’t throw -fill-in-the-blank.” But one CAN NOT say that about a whole race. And their own way of playing is completely valid.

        And this discussion again isn’t even mostly about what people are going on around from it.

        I have to laugh already *ahem*

  • Marios Papadopoulos says:

    I completely share Professor Pressler’s sentiments. I know the two sisters well and my heart goes out to them. They are indeed angels and their music-making will shine way above any nasty nuances Zukerman or anyone else cares to make on account of their ethnic background.

    Marios Papadopoulos