At 95 years of age, Menahem Pressler, born in 1923 in Magdeburg as Max Pressler, is the oldest concert pianist in the world.
When he was 22, he won first prize in the 1946 Debussy International Piano Competition in San Francisco, and subsequently overnight was elected a rising star by the American press. To make it easier to accept the many engagements that followed, engagements which, for example, brought him together with famous orchestras such as the Philadelphia Orchestra, Menahem Pressler moved his main residence from Tel Aviv to the USA. At the same time, “Max” became “Menahem”, in an expression of his Judaism and his commitment to the State of Israel.
In the years that followed, Menahem Pressler predominantly gave concerts as a soloist in North America. In the 1946/47 season alone, he performed 107 times in 94 cities, 59 of these concerts taking place with leading symphony orchestras. His repertoire quickly grew to encompass all the major piano concertos, from Mozart to Rachmaninov. Musicians such as Darius Milhaud, Egon Petri, Isabelle Vengerova, Robert Casadesus and Artur Schnabel were among his role models, and were also artists with whom he had personal contact.
In 1955, Menahem Pressler took the decision to dedicate more of his time to chamber music and piano teaching. To this end, together with violinist Daniel Gullet and cellist Bernard Greenhouse, he founded the Beaux Arts Trio and became a professor at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music in Bloomington. Menahem Pressler proved to be the one constant during the 53-year existence of the Beaux Arts Trio, and thus became the driving force behind its conceptual and artistic ideas. The worldwide popularity of, and regard for, the trio came from his genius and his disposition. Following the trio’s final performance in 2009, Menahem Pressler returned to work as a soloist at the age of 86. Since then he has played with a variety of musicians, orchestras and ensembles, and continues his professorship at the Jacobs School of Music. He likewise acts as a juror for music competitions and gives masterclasses across the globe.
In 2014, at the age of 90, Menahem Pressler gave his first concert with the Berliner Philharmoniker, and in 2016 performed with Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen just before his 93rd birthday. He was presented with the ECHO Klassik “Lifetime Achievement Award” in 2015.
Since 2017, the German state of Saxony-Anhalt has awarded the Menahem Pressler Preis annually in his honour. This prize is aimed at music students whose high level of artistic achievement during their music school training and whose exceptional success in competitions sets them apart.
Last updated: January 2019