The renowned German-Israeli pianist Menahem Pressler has died at the age of 99. Having fled Nazi Germany for Palestine in 1939 with his family, he rose to fame as an accomplished chamber musician after the war. He also successfully relaunched his solo career at the advanced age of 84.
A dramatic escape
Born Max Pressler to Jewish parents in Magdeburg in 1923, Menahem fled the Nazis with his immediate family in 1939, managing to escape to Palestine via Trieste. After the war, he put down roots in the USA, launching his international career in the 1940s as a soloist. Then, in 1955, he co‑founded the Beaux Arts Trio, which survived until 2008, its beautifully calibrated performances of Classical and Romantic repertoire making musical history.
From 1956 onwards, Pressler gave performances in Germany, not only winning acclaim as a versatile and engaging pianist, but also enjoying huge respect for his magnanimous efforts at reconciliation. When the Beaux Arts Trio disbanded, he returned to his solo career. He died in London on 6 May 2023, aged 99.
His musical legacy
Among the choicest fruits of the final years of Pressler’s life is his solo album Clair de lune, released by Deutsche Grammophon in 2018. His sensitive performances of works by Debussy, Fauré and Ravel reveal him to have been a consummate interpreter of the French repertoire. A year earlier he had recorded a pair of Mozart concertos with the Magdeburgische Philharmonie in the city he had once called home. Pressler’s benchmark recordings with his Beaux Arts colleagues, meanwhile, enjoy cult status. They are immortalised in Decca’s immense Beaux Arts Trio – Complete Philips Recordings edition.
The musical world owes a huge debt to Menahem Pressler, whose legacy will live on in his exceptional and enthralling discography.