Piano legend dies, aged 99

Piano legend dies, aged 99


norman lebrecht

May 06, 2023

I am very sorry to report that Menahem Pressler died today at 1.15, eight months short of his centenary.

Menahem was pianist of the Beaux Arts Trio for 53 years, its entire existence.

After he dissolved the trio he became a concert soloist, making his debut with the Berlin Philharmonic at the age of 90.

His piano studio at the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University was oversubscribed. He was also a coach to many professional ensembles, such as the Emerson Quartet.

Born in Magdeburg, Germany, he was fortunate to escape with his parents to Palestine in July 1939. Most of his wider family were murdered.

He was one of the sweetest men I have ever met, a quality tempered with rigour in his performances.
We shall miss him forever.


  • R. Brite says:

    I’m terribly sorry to hear this. He was one of my favorite pianists for many years for the clarity and limpidity of his playing, impeccable technique, impish smile and sheer joie de vivre. May his memory be a blessing.

  • Herbie G says:

    A grievous loss. An outstanding musician, both as pianist of the magnificent Beaux Arts Trio and as a soloist. Thankfully we have a wealth of fine recordings as a fitting and heart-warming memorial.

  • Steve Wogaman says:

    Menahem was my teacher for a decade in the doctoral program at Indiana University. I owe my musical soul to a decade of his loving guidance.

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    A life well lived with extraordinary music making, with family tragedy in the background. A lesson to the younger generations, to be sure!!

  • SlippedChat says:

    My wife and I attended Indiana University, twice, although not as music majors.

    On one of our walks across the campus, we encountered the maestro, on his way to the School of Music, and stopped and told him how much we’d enjoyed his art, and wished him many more years of it. He was friendly, gracious, no exhibition of ego, and acted as if he was the person being honored, by a couple of young people he didn’t even know.

    He had been at IU since 1955. In this era full of careerists who “jump ship” for a passing opportunity or “better offer,” almost no one does that anymore, i.e., that kind of commitment to an institution or place. An amazing artist with an amazing life story.

  • Tim says:

    Very sad news, but what a long and distinguished life he led! Rest in peace.

  • Ruben Greenberg says:

    When asked who his favorite pianists were, Arthur Rubinstein mentioned Richter…and Menahem Pressler. -a wonderful chamber musician and a long, extremely worthwhile life spreading joy to people and learning to his students.

  • Beth Guterman Chu says:

    Fantastic musician, incredible life and legacy, and it is a huge loss that he died. He was very charming and totally dedicated to music. But sweet man? Quietly tempered? I don’t think so. Not when I performed and recorded chamber music with him. Not from what I’ve heard others say, too. He had a huge temper and an iron will. Still, a huge loss!!!!!!

  • Sotto Voce says:

    Wonderful musician. I remember a performance in Berlin. Pressler played Chopin’s C minor Nocturne as an encore in a small circle of light with Christian Thielemann sitting on the podium at his feet as he played. It was an extremely moving moment. Rest in Peace.

  • Serge says:

    A fantastic teacher, chamber musician and person. Rest in peace.

  • Marjan Kiepura says:

    He was an inspiration to all of the many pianists’ lives he touched, including my own. He had good innings. Rest in peace dear friend.

  • Kathryn Fuller says:

    I heard one of the final performances of the Beaux Arts Trio at the Jacobs School of Music in 2008. They were joined by an extra string player, and for an encore played the Andante of the Brahms Piano Quartet, Op. 60. The choice of encore was announced by Menahem Pressler, who told us that Brahms had written it to express his love for Clara Schumann. As the encore was being played, I could see other women in the audience dabbing at their eyes. The Op. 60 was new to me, and I have loved it ever since that concert. I always imagine Pressler hunched over the piano when I hear it. Unforgettable, and now even more so….

  • Joel Kemelhor says:

    His early stereo recordings of Chopin concerto No. 2 and Mendelssohn No. 1 (Swarowsky conducting) have long been in my LP collection, and still get turntable time.

  • A Pianist says:

    The Beaux Arts trio was is and always has been the gold standard. Pressler truly left his mark on our beloved music.

  • Anthony Sayer says:

    A great man. RIP and thank you.