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Perahia, Murray

Murray Perahia

Pianist

Concert pianist Murray Perahia has gained critical acclaim for his masterful but unpretentious technique. His musical interpretation, uniquely crafted to fit each piece he plays, is succinct and elegant. And the list of classical music lovers who rate Perahia as one of today's top pianists has grown steadily since his Carnegie Hall recital debut in 1966. The Grammy Award winner suffered a setback in 1995 after an operation on his right thumb, but returned to performing and recording in 1998 with great success. In the 2000s, despite continuing physical problems, his critical reputation held up against competition from younger artists.

Just three years old when he was taken to his first concert at New York's Lewisohn Stadium, Perahia impressed his parents by recognizing Ludwig van Beethoven's Emperor concerto when he heard it again the next day. David and Flora Perahia lost no time in finding him a piano teacher in his own Bronx neighborhood; they also fed his musical appetite by taking him to concerts and operas whenever possible.

Perahia's first musical mentor entered his life when he was six. Jeannette Haien, a 22-year-old student of the legendary Arthur Schnabel, was a disciplined, dedicated teacher whose two-hour-plus sessions were a far cry from the usual twice-weekly run-throughs. Ear training, composition, dictation, and structure were drummed into her student, who often found himself analyzing the same sonata for months at a time. In time, the young pianist went on to study at New York's prestigious High School for the Performing Arts. Two grades ahead of other students his age, he apparently made few friends at school. Instead he opted for the sandlot ball games at the local Sephardic Jewish Center, where his native Ladino (Judeo-Spanish) was a familiar language and many teammates shared his heritage of ancestors who had wandered through Europe after their expulsion from Spain in 1492.

But sports never took precedence over music. Throughout his high school years, Perahia spent summers engaging in intensive chamber music training in Maine. Later, during the five years it took to earn a B.S. in conducting from the Mannes School of Music, Perahia summered at the Marlboro Music Festival in Vermont, where he played in chamber groups alongside such artists as Rudolf Serkin and Pablo Casals. All these experiences taught him the lesson that marks the true artist—that teamwork to carry out the composer's wishes must come before individual stardom. Marlboro also brought Frank Salomon into the young pianist's life. An experienced agent as well as the festival director, Salomon coaxed Perahia into entering Britain's most prestigious competition, the triennial Leeds International Piano Festival, held in 1972.

Perahia considered his options carefully. The competition offered a cash prize of only $1,850, which to his mind was not enough to merit such a pressured challenge. A greater attraction was the chance to discuss his own performance with a 12-person panel of judges eminent enough to include celebrated French music teacher Nadia Boulanger. More tempting still was the winner's award of an introductory season of engagements with major English orchestras. After hesitating, he succumbed to the truly irresistible lure—the prospect of playing with international orchestras like the Amsterdam Concertgebouw and the Israel Philharmonic. Hitherto unable to secure any European concert dates despite a 1968 appearance as a Carnegie Hall soloist, Perahia finally decided that Leeds was a must.

The competition got off to a rocky start. Perahia spent the first four days in the sick bay with what the doctor diagnosed as a virus; he himself characterized it as a bad case of nerves. Whatever the bug may have been, it did not stop him from triumphing over the other 87 young pianists who had entered the contest. Paradoxically, he did not feel ecstatic over his victory; he was instead quite overwhelmed by what lay ahead.

Amid the new whirl of engagements lay an unexpected plum: a contract with Columbia Records. The first pianist to be signed by the company in ten years, Perahia joined an illustrious list that included Vladimir Horowitz, Rudolf Serkin, Glenn Gould, and Andre Watts. He was a little awed by his placement among the century's greatest keyboard artists, but his misgivings were unfounded; his introductory recording, Robert Schumann's Davidsbundlertanze with the Fantasiestücke, easily marked him as their equal.

But the shower of rewards that came with the Leeds success did not compensate for its pressure. Though it was not the first contest he had entered—Perahia had won the Kosciusko Chopin Prize in 1965—the pianist decided that it would be his last. The passage of more than 20 years did not soften this resolve. In reference to such pressured contests, he told Henry Pleasants of Stereo Review: "I find it a tragedy that managers consider them necessary. … They won't take a chance on talent unless it has been demonstrated … in a prestigious competition."

For the Record …

Born on April 19, 1947, in New York, NY; son of David (a garment-center businessman) and Flora Perahia; wife: Ninette; two children. Education: Graduated from High School for the Performing Arts, 1964; Mannes School of Music, New York, B.S., 1969.

Performed with Budapest, Guarneri, and Galimir quartets; made recital debut, Carnegie Hall, 1966; debuted as soloist with conductor Alexander Schneider, 1968; assistant to Rudolf Serkin, Curtis Institute of Music, Philadelphia, 1968-69; instructor at Mannes School of Music, 1970; soloist with New York Philharmonic and Chicago Symphony, both during 1975-76 season; had hand surgery, 1995; made career comeback, 1998; released Bach: English Suites Nos. 1, 3 and 6, 1998; Songs Without Words, 1999; Bach: Goldberg Variations, 2000; Bach: Keyboard Concertos, Volume 1, Nos. 1, 2 and 4, 2001; Chopin Etudes: Op. 10 and Op. 25, 2002; Schubert: Piano Sonatas, D. 958, 959, 960, 2003; Bach: English Suites Nos. 1, 3 & 6, 2004; Murray Perahia Performs Béla Bartók, 2006; and Bach: Partitas Nos. 2-4, 2008; continued to give concerts but suffered from recurring hand problems. Former musical director of Britain's Aldeburgh Festival; has appeared with Claudio Abbado, Leonard Bernstein, Erich Leinsdorf, André Previn, Sir George Solti, and other major conductors.

Awards: Kosciusko Chopin Prize, 1965; winner of Leeds International Piano Festival competition, 1972; Avery Fisher Prize, 1975; 15th Annual International Record Critics Award, 1982; Grammy Award, Best Chamber Music Performance, for Bartok: Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion, 1988; Gramophone magazine award for Chopin: Four Ballades, 1995; Grammy Award, Best Instrumental Soloist Performance (Without Orchestra), for Bach: English Suites Nos. 1, 3 and 6, 1998; Grammy Award, Best Instrumental Soloist Performance (Without Orchestra), for Chopin Etudes: Op. 10 and Op. 25, 2002.

Addresses: Record company—Sony Music, 550 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10022-3211. Management—IMG Artists, 825 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10019, phone: 212- 489-8300, Web site: http://www.imgartists.com. Web site—Murray Perahia Official Web site: http://www.murrayperahia.com.

Nevertheless, awards based on other criteria have come his way. There was the first Avery Fisher Prize in 1975, which was bestowed after screening by 150 musical organizations and musicians, and which brought cash, recital dates, and solo engagements with the New York Philharmonic to both Perahia and the joint winner of the prize, cellist Lynn Harrell. There was also the 15th Annual International Record Critics Award in 1982, presented for his recording of the Mozart piano concertos no. 5, K. 175, and 25, K. 503 on CBS Masterworks. Perahia has also earned several Grammy Awards, including one for Best Instrumental Soloist Performance (Without Orchestra), for his recording of Chopin's complete etudes in 2002.

As his career advanced, Perahia broadened his musical range. One of his prominent sidelines has been conducting—once a serious career option. For sheer musical fun, he has accompanied singers like German baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. Perahia also served as a musical director of Britain's Aldeburgh Festival, which led to the 1991 laserdisc and video recording The Aldeburgh Recital. Recording in the empty concert hall under the lenses of several cameras, Perahia initially feared that the viewer might find the constant shifting of camera angles distracting, but he has since conceded that he and the producer reached a mutually satisfactory compromise.

Perahia's career was in full tilt in 1991 until he suffered an injury to his hand at home. What started as a minor paper cut on the right thumb soon became an infection. After seeing several doctors to investigate the exact cause of Perahia's pain and swelling, it was determined that he had a small bone spur. The pianist had surgery to remove the spur in London in 1995, and began a slow but steady recovery. "It was a terrible time for me," Perahia told Herbert Kupferberg of American Record Guide. "I need music—not just to play it, but to listen to it, study it, be around it. A day without it is a miserable day." Perahia's full return to performing and recording in 1998 was marked by the success of Bach: English Suites Nos. 1, 3 and 6, a recording for which he won a Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Soloist Performance (Without Orchestra). Perahia's subsequent releases included Songs Without Words in 1999, Bach: Goldberg Variations in 2000, and Bach: Keyboard Concertos, Volume 1, Nos. 1, 2 and 4 in 2001.

By the early 2000s, Perahia was among the major concert attractions in the classical piano field. "Murray Perahia has always been able to offer a balance of thoughtfulness and passion in his performances," noted Allan Kozinn of the New York Times. "As his career has developed, those qualities have deepened." The pianist, however, began to suffer from new hand problems. He was despondent for a time, telling Michelle Edgar of WWD that "Playing music isn't just a job for me. It's a language I speak, and without it, it's like having my tongue cut out and being unable to communicate."

For solace, Perahia turned to the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, whose music he had always played to critical acclaim. Perahia released several new Bach CDs, and his 2008 recording of a trio of Bach partitas drew praise from Geoff Brown of the Times of London for "awesome clarity in the fingerwork, yet nothing freezing into a mannerism … Glenn Gould's performance offers strutting quirks, but Perahia takes us close to heaven." During this period he became increasingly influenced by the analytical system of Austrian music theorist Heinrich Schenker, who looked for long-range melodic connections beneath musical surfaces.

Critics differed as to whether there were changes in Perahia's music. Jay Nordlinger of the National Review, reviewing a Perahia disc of Beethoven piano sonatas, opined that "he plays like the Perahia of old, which is to say with penetration and refinement." But Barry Millington of London's Evening Standard, in his review of a Perahia concert in London in 2004, wrote that the pianist "delivered safe readings, technically fluent but undistinguished," and wondered whether Perahia himself might have been "aware that his playing has lost its edge." Still suffering from hand problems, Perahia was forced to cancel a U.S. tour with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields orchestra and an appearance at London's Barbican Hall in 2008, but he continued to give concerts and record to widespread acclaim.

Selected discography

Schumann: Davidsbundlertanze; Fantasiestücke, CBS Masterworks, 1973.

Chopin: Sonata No. 2 in B-flat Minor, CBS Masterworks, 1974.

(With Neville Marriner and the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields) Mendelssohn: Concerto No. 1 in G Minor for Piano and Orchestra, Columbia, 1975.

Perahia Plays Schumann, Columbia, 1977.

Mozart: Piano Concertos, Nos. 5 and 25, CBS Masterworks, 1982.

Schubert: Impromptus, CBS Masterworks, 1983.

(With Radu Lupu) Mozart: Sonata in D. Major, for Two Pianos, Columbia, 1985.

(With Zubin Mehta and the New York Philharmonic) Chopin: Concerto No. 1 for Piano and Orchestra, Columbia Masterworks, 1985.

(With Bernard Haitink and the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra) Ludwig van Beethoven: Concerto No. 1 for Piano and Orchestra, CBS Masterworks, 1986.

Bartok: Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion, CBS Masterworks, 1988.

The Aldeburgh Recital, Sony, 1991.

Mozart: Piano Sonatas in A Minor, A Major, and F Major, Sony, 1992.

Murray Perahia Plays Franck and Liszt, 1992.

Chopin: Four Ballades, Sony Classical, 1994.

(Contributor) Immortal Beloved (soundtrack), Sony, 1995.

Bach: English Suites Nos. 1, 3 and 6, Sony Classical, 1998.

Songs Without Words, Sony Classical, 1999.

Bach: Goldberg Variations, Sony Classical, 2000.

Bach: Keyboard Concertos, Volume 1, Nos. 1, 2 and 4, Sony Classical, 2001.

Mozart: The Piano Concertos; Rondos, K.382 & 386, Sony, 2001.

Bach: Keyboard Concertos Nos. 3, 5, 6, 7, Sony, 2002.

Chopin Études, Opp. 10 & 25, Sony, 2002.

Murray Perahia Plays Bach Sony, 2003.

Mozart: Sonata for 2 Pianos in D Major, K. 448; Schubert: Fantasia for Piano, 4 Hands in F Minor, D. 940, Sony, 2003.

Schubert: Piano Sonatas, D. 958, 959, 960, Sony, 2003.

Bach: English Suites Nos. 1, 3 & 6, Sony, 2004.

Murray Perahia Performs Béla Bartók, Sony, 2006.

Bach: Partitas Nos. 2-4, Sony, 2008.

Sources

Books

The Piano in Concert, Volume 2, compiled by George Kehler, Scarecrow Press, 1982.

Periodicals

American Record Guide, March-April 1998, p. 18.

Audio, July 1992.

Coventry Evening Telegraph (Coventry, England), July 18, 2008, p. 38.

Evening Standard (London, England), June 15, 2004, p. 49.

High Fidelity, January 1973.

Miami Herald, October 24, 2007.

Musical America, January 1973; July 1989; April 1991.

National Review, April 11, 2005, p. 57.

New York, May 18, 1987.

New York Times, February 17, 1974; May 13 2003, p. E8.

Newsweek, January 12, 1998, p. 64.

Pan Pipes of Sigma Alpha Iota, Vol. 12, No. 3, 1975.

Philadelphia Inquirer, April 9, 2008.

Piano Quarterly, No. 119, 1982.

Stereo Review, November 1991; March 1993.

Times (London, England), April 18, 2008, p. 17.

WWD, October 2, 2007, p. 4.

Online

"Murray Perahia," All Music Guide,http://www.allmusic.com (July 25, 2008).

Murray Perahia Official Web site, http://www.murrayperahia.com (December 20, 2001).

—Gillian Wolf and James M. Manheim

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"Perahia, Murray." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. 27 Apr. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Perahia, Murray

Murray Perahia

Pianist

For the Record

Selected discography

Sources

Concert pianist Murray Perahia has gained critical acclaim for his masterful but unpretentious technique. His musical interpretation, uniquely crafted to fit each piece he plays, is succinct and elegant. And the list of classical music lovers who rate Perahia as one of todays top pianists has grown steadily since his Carnegie Hall recital debut in 1966. The Grammy Award winner suffered a setback in 1995 after an operation on his right thumb but returned to performing and recording in 1998 with great success.

Just three years old when he was taken to his first concert at New Yorks Lewisohn Stadium, Perahia impressed his parents by recognizing Ludwig van Beethovens Emperor concerto when he heard it again the next day. David and Flora Perahia lost no time in finding him a piano teacher in his own Bronx neighborhood; they also fed his musical appetite by taking him to concerts and operas whenever possible.

Perahias first musical mentor entered his life when he was six. Jeannette Haien, a 22-year-old student of the legendary Arthur Schnabel, was a disciplined, dedicated teacher whose two-hour-plus sessions were a far cry from the usual twice-weekly run-throughs. Ear training, composition, dictation, and structure were drummed into her student, who often found himself analyzing the same sonata for months at a time. In time, the young pianist went on to study at New Yorks prestigious High School for the Performing Arts. Two grades ahead of other students his age, he apparently made few friends at school. Instead he opted for the sandlot ball games at the local Sephardic Jewish Center, where his native Ladino (Judeo-Spanish) was a familiar language and many teammates shared his heritage of ancestors who had wandered through Europe after their expulsion from Spain in 1492.

But sports never took precedence over music. Through out his high school years, Perahia spent summers engaging in intensive chamber music training in Maine. Later, during the five years it took to earn a B.S. in conducting from the Mannes School of Music, Perahia summered at the Marlboro Music Festival in Vermont, where he played in chamber groups alongside such artists as Rudolf Serkin and Pablo Casals. All these experiences taught him the lesson that marks the true artistthat teamwork to carry out the composers wishes must come before individual stardom. Marlboro also brought Frank Salomon into the young pianists life. An experienced agent as well as the festival director, Salomon coaxed Perahia into entering Britains most prestigious competition, the triennial Leeds International Piano Festival, held in 1972.

Perahia considered his options carefully. The competition offered a cash prize of only $1,850, which to his mind was not enough to merit such a pressured challenge. A greater attraction was the chance to discuss his own performance with a 12-person panel of judges

For the Record

Born on April 19, 1947, in New York, NY; son of David (a garment-center businessman) and Flora Perahia; wife: Ninette; two children. Education: Graduated from High School for the Performing Arts, 1964; Mannes School of Music, New York, B.S., 1969.

Performed with Budapest, Guarneri, and Galimir quartets; made recital debut, Carnegie Hall, 1966; debuted as soloist with conductor Alexander Schneider, 1968; assistant to Rudolf Serkin, Curtis Institute of Music, Philadelphia, 1968-69; instructor at Mannes School of Music, 1970; soloist with New York Philharmonic and Chicago Symphony, both during 1975-76 season; had hand surgery, 1995; made career comeback, 1998; released Bach: English Suites Nos. 1, 3 and 6, 1998, Songs Without Words, 1999, Bach: Goldberg Variations, 2000, and Bach: Keyboard Concertos Volume 1, Nos. 1, 2 and 4, 2001. Former musical director of Britains Aldeburgh Festival; has appeared with Claudio Abbado, Leonard Bernstein, Erich Leinsdorf, André; Previn, Sir George Solti, and other major conductors.

Awards: Kosciusko Chopin Prize, 1965; winner of Leeds International Piano Festival competition, 1972; Avery Fisher Prize, 1975; 15th Annual International Record Critics Award, 1982; Grammy Award, Best Chamber Music Performance for Bartok: Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion, 1988; Gramophone magazine award for Chopin: Four Ballades, 1995; Grammy Award, Best Instrumental Soloist Performance (Without Orchestra) for Bach: English Suites Nos. 1, 3 and 6, 1998.

Addresses: Record company Sony Music, 550 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10022-3211. Management IMG Artists, 825 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10019, phone: (212) 489-8300, website: http://www.imgartists.com. Website Murray Perahia Official Website: http://www.murrayperahia.com.

eminent enough to include celebrated French music teacher Nadia Boulanger. More tempting still was the winners award of an introductory season of engagements with all major English orchestras. After hesitating, he succumbed to the truly irresistible lurethe prospect of playing with international orchestras like the Amsterdam Concertgebouw and the Israel Philharmonic. Hitherto unable to secure any European concert dates despite a 1968 appearance as a Carnegie Hall soloist, Perahia finally decided that Leeds was a must.

The competition got off to a rocky start. Perahia spent the first four days in the sick bay with what the doctor diagnosed as a virus; he himself characterized it as a bad case of nerves. Whatever the bug may have been, it did not stop him from triumphing over the other 87 young pianists who had entered the contest. Paradoxically, he did not feel ecstatic over his victory; he was instead quite overwhelmed by what lay ahead.

Amid the new whirl of engagements lay an unexpected plum: a contract with Columbia Records. The first pianist to be signed by the company in ten years, Perahia joined an illustrious list that included Vladimir Horowitz, Rudolf Serkin, Glenn Gould, and Andre Watts. He was a little awed by his placement among the centurys greatest keyboard artists, but his misgivings were unfounded; his introductory recording, Robert Schumanns Davidsbundlertanze with the Fantasiestücke, easily marked him as their equal.

But the shower of rewards that came with the Leeds success did not compensate for its pressure. Though it was not the first contest he had enteredPerahia had won the Kosciusko Chopin Prize in 1965the pianist decided that it would be his last. The passage of more than 20 years did not soften this resolve. In reference to such pressured contests, he told Henry Pleasants of Stereo Review in 1991: I find it a tragedy that managers consider them necessary. They wont take a chance on talent unless it has been demonstrated in a prestigious competition.

Nevertheless, awards based on other criteria have come his way. There was the first Avery Fisher Prize in 1975, which was bestowed after screening by 150 musical organizations and musicians and brought cash, recital dates, and solo engagements with the New York Philharmonic to both Perahia and the joint winner of the prize, cellist Lynn Harrell. There was also the 15th Annual International Record Critics Award in 1982, presented for his recording of the Mozart piano concertos no. 5, K. 175, and 25, K. 503 on CBS Masterworks.

As his career advanced, Perahia broadened his musical range. One of his prominent sidelines is conductingonce a serious career option. For sheer musical fun, he accompanies singers like German baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. Perahia also served as a musical director of Britains Aldeburgh Festival, which led to the 1991 laserdisc and video recording The Aldeburgh Recital. (Recording in the empty concert hall under the lenses of several cameras, Perahia initially feared that the viewer might find the constant shifting of camera angles distracting from the music, but he has since conceded that he and the producer reached a mutually satisfactory compromise.)

Perahias career was in full tilt in 1991 until he suffered an injury to his hand at home. What started as a minor paper cut on the right thumb soon became an infection. After seeing several doctors to investigate the exact cause of Perahias pain and swelling, it was determined that he had a small bone spur. The pianist had surgery to remove the spur in London in 1995 and began a slow but steady recovery. [l]t was a terrible time for me, Perahia told Herbert Kupferberg of American Record Guide. I need musicnot just to play it, but to listen to it, study it, be around it. A day without it is a miserable day. Perahias full return to performing and recording in 1998 was marked by the success of Bach: English Suites Nos. 1, 3 and 6, a recording for which he won a Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Soloist Performance (Without Orchestra). Perahias subsequent releases include Songs Without Words in 1999, Bach: Goldberg Variations in 2000, and Bach: Keyboard Concertos Volume 1, Nos. 1, 2 and 4 in 2001.

Selected discography

Schumann: Davidsbundlertanze; Fantasiestücke, CBS Masterworks, 1973.

Chopin: Sonata No. 2 in B-flat Minor, CBS Masterworks, 1974.

(With Neville Marriner and the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields) Mendelssohn: Concerto No. 1 in G Minor for Piano and Orchestra, Columbia, 1975.

Perahia Plays Schumann, Columbia, 1977.

Mozart: Piano Concertos, Nos. 5 and 25, CBS Masterworks, 1982.

Schubert: Impromptus, CBS Masterworks, 1983.

(With Radu Lupu) Mozart: Sonata in D. Major, for Two Pianos, Columbia, 1985.

(With Zubin Mehta and the New York Philharmonic) Chopin: Concerto No. 1 for Piano and Orchestra, Columbia Masterworks, 1985.

(With Bernard Haitink and the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra) Ludwig van Beethoven: Concerto No. 1 for Piano and Orchestra, CBS Masterworks, 1986.

Bartok: Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion, CBS Mas-terworks, 1988.

The Aldeburgh Recital, Sony, 1991.

Mozart: Piano Sonatas in A Minor, A Major, and F Major, Sony, 1992.

Murray Perahia Plays Franck and Liszt, 1992.

Chopin: Four Ballades, Sony Classical, 1994.

(Contributor) Immortal Beloved (soundtrack), Sony, 1995.

Bach: English Suites, Nos. 1, 3 and 6, Sony Classical, 1998.

Songs Without Words, Sony Classical, 1999.

Bach: Goldberg Variations, Sony Classical, 2000.

Bach: Keyboard Concertos Volume 1, Nos. 1, 2 and 4, Sony Classical, 2001.

Sources

Books

The Piano in Concert, Volume 2, compiled by George Kehler, Scarecrow Press, 1982.

Periodicals

American Record Guide, March-April 1998, p. 18.

Audio, July 1992.

High Fidelity, January 1973.

Musical America, January 1973; July 1989; April 1991.

Newsweek, January 12, 1998, p. 64.

New York, May 18, 1987.

New York Times, February 17, 1974.

Pan Pipes of Sigma Alpha lota, Vol. 12, No. 3, 1975.

Piano Quarterly, No. 119, 1982.

Stereo Review, November 1991; March 1993.

Online

Murray Perahia Official Website, http://www.murrayperahia.com (December 20, 2001).

Gillian Wolf

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Perahia, Murray." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. 27 Apr. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Perahia, Murray." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 27, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/perahia-murray-1

"Perahia, Murray." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved April 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/perahia-murray-1

Perahia, Murray

Murray Perahia

Pianist

For the Record

Selected discography

Sources

Concert pianist Murray Perahia has gained critical acclaim for his masterful but unpretentious technique. His musical interpretation, uniquely crafted to fit each piece he plays, is succinct and elegant. And the list of classical-music lovers who rate Perahia as one of todays top pianists has grown steadily since his Carnegie Hall recital debut in 1966.

Just three years old when he was taken to his first concert at New Yorks Lewisohn Stadium, Perahia impressed his parents by recognizing Ludwig van Beethovens Emperor concerto when he heard it again the next day. David and Flora Perahia lost no time in finding him a piano teacher in his own Bronx neighborhood; they also fed his musical appetite by taking him to concerts and operas whenever possible.

Perahias first musical mentor entered his life when he was six. Jeannette Haien, a 22-year-old student of the legendary Arthur Schnabel, was a disciplined, dedicated teacher whose two-hour-plus sessions were a far cry from the usual twice-weekly run-throughs. Ear training, composition, dictation, and structure were drummed into her student, who often found himself analyzing the same sonata for months at a time.

In time, the young pianist went on to study at New Yorks prestigious High School for the Performing Arts. Two grades ahead of other students his age, he apparently made few friends at school. Instead he opted for the sandlot ball games at the local Sephardic Jewish Center, where his native Ladino (Judeo-Spanish) was a familiar language and many teammates shared his heritage of ancestors who had wandered through Europe after their expulsion from Spain in 1492.

But sports never took precedence over music. Throughout his high school years, Perahia spent summers engaging in intensive chamber music training in Maine. Later, during the five years it took to earn a B.S. in conducting from the Mannes School of Music, Perahia summered at the Marlboro Music Festival in Vermont, where he played in chamber groups alongside such artists as Rudolf Serkin and Pablo Casals. All these experiences taught him the lesson that marks the true artistthat teamwork to carry out the composers wishes must come before individual stardom.

Marlboro also brought Frank Salomon into the young pianists life. An experienced agent as well as the festival director, Salomon coaxed Perahia into entering Britains most prestigious competition, the triennial Leeds International Piano Festival, in 1972.

Perahia considered his options carefully. The competition offered a cash prize of only $1,850, which to his mind was not enough to merit such a pressured challenge.

For the Record

Born April 19, 1947, in New York, NY; son of David and Flora Perahia; wifes name, Ninette; children: two. Education: Graduated from High School for the Performing Arts, 1964; Mannes School of Music, B.S., 1969.

Performed with Budapest, Guarneri, and Galimir quartets; made recital debut, Carnegie Hall, 1966; debuted as soloist with conductor Alexander Schneider, 1968; assistant to Rudolf Serkin, Curtis Institute of Music, Philadelphia, 1968-69; instructor at Mannes School of Music, 1970; soloist with New York Philharmonic and Chicago Symphony, both during 1975-76 season. Former musical director of Britains Aldeburgh Festival; has appeared with Claudio Abbado, Leonard Bernstein, Erich Leinsdorf, André Previn, Sir George Solti, and other major conductors.

Awards: Kosciusko Chopin Prize, 1965; winner of Leeds International Piano Festival competition, 1972; Avery Fisher Prize, 1975; 15th Annual International Record Critics Award, 1982.

Addresses: Management Columbia Artists Management, 165 West 57th St., New York, NY 10019.

A greater attraction was the chance to discuss his own performance with a 12-person panel of judges eminent enough to include celebrated French music teacher Nadia Boulanger. More tempting still was the winners award of an introductory season of engagements with all the major English orchestras. After hesitating, he succumbed to the truly irresistible lurethe prospect of playing with international orchestras like the Amsterdam Concertgebouw and the Israel Philharmonic. Hitherto unable to secure any European concert dates despite a 1968 appearance as a Carnegie Hall soloist, Perahia finally decided that Leeds was a must.

The competition got off to a rocky start. Perahia spent the first four days in the sick bay with what the doctor diagnosed as a virus; he himself characterized it as a bad case of nerves. Whatever the bug may have been, it did not stop him from triumphing over the other 87 young pianists who had entered the contest. Paradoxically, he did not feel ecstatic over his victory; he was instead quite overwhelmed by what lay ahead.

Amid the new whirl of engagements lay an unexpected plum: a contract with Columbia Records. The first pianist to be signed by the company in ten years, Perahia joined an illustrious list that included Vladimir Horowitz, Rudolf Serkin, Glenn Gould, and Andre Watts. He was a little awed by his placement among the centurys greatest keyboard artists, but his misgivings were unfounded; his introductory recording, Robert Schumanns Davidsbundlertanze with the Fantasiestücke, easily marked him as their equal.

But the shower of rewards that came with the Leeds success did not compensate for its pressure. Though it was not the first contest he had enteredPerahia had won the Kosciusko Chopin Prize in 1965the pianist decided that it would be his last. The passage of more than twenty years has not softened this resolve. In reference to such pressured contests, he told Henry Pleasants of Stereo Review in 1991: I find it a tragedy that managers consider them necessary.... They wont take a chance on talent unless it has been demonstrated ... in a prestigious competition.

Nevertheless, awards based on other criteria have come his way. There was the first Avery Fisher Prize in 1975, which was bestowed after screening by 150 musical organizations and musicians and brought cash, recital dates, and solo engagements with the New York Philharmonic to both Perahia and the joint winner of the prize, cellist Lynn Harrell. There was also the 15th Annual International Record Critics Award in 1982, presented for his recording of the Mozart piano concertos no. 5, K. 175, and 25, K. 503, on CBS Masterworks.

As his career advanced, Perahia broadened his musical range. One of his prominent sidelines is conductingonce a serious career option. For sheer musical fun, he accompanies singers like German baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. Perahia also served as a musical director of Britains Aldeburgh Festival, which led to the 1991 laserdisc and video recording The Aldeburgh Recital. (Recording in the empty concert hall under the lenses of several cameras, Perahia initially feared that the viewer might find the constant shifting of camera angles distracting from the music, but he has since conceded that he and the producer reached a mutually satisfactory compromise.)

Dedication to music has not shut out other important aspects of Perahias life. As of 1993 he was living in London with his wife, Ninette, and their two small children, taking time out to read voraciously and prizing the friendship of fellow pianists Radu Lupu and Alfred Brendel.

Selected discography

Schumann, Davidsbundlertanze; Fantasiestücke, CBS Master-works, 1973.

Chopin, Sonata No. 2 in B-flat Minor, CBS Masterworks, 1974.

(With Neville Marriner and the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields) Mendelssohn, Concerto No. 1 in G Minor for Piano and Orchestra, Columbia, 1975.

Schumann, Perahia Plays Schumann, Columbia, 1977.

Mozart, Piano Concertos, Nos. 5 and 25, CBS Masterworks, 1982.

Schubert, Impromptus, CBS Masterworks, 1983.

(With Radu Lupu) Mozart, Sonata in D. Major, for Two Pianos, Columbia, 1985.

(With Zubin Mehta and the New York Philharmonic) Chopin, Concerto No. 1 for Piano and Orchestra, Columbia Masterworks, 1985.

(With Bernard Haitink and the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra) Ludwig van Beethoven, Concerto No. 1 for Piano and Orchestra, CBS Masterworks, 1986. Bela Bartok, Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion, CBS Masterworks, 1988.

The Aldeburgh Recital, Sony, 1991.

Mozart, Piano Sonatas in A Minor, A Major, and F Major, Sony, 1992.

Murray Perahia Plays Franck and Liszt, 1992.

Sources

Books

The Piano in Concert, Volume 2, compiled by George Kehler, Scarecrow Press, 1982.

Periodicals

Audio, July 1992.

High Fidelity, January 1973.

Musical America, January 1973; July 1989; April 1991.

New York, May 18, 1987.

New York Times, February 17, 1974.

Pan Pipes of Sigma Alpha lota, Vol. 12, No. 3, 1975.

Piano Quarterly, No. 119, 1982.

Stereo Review, November 1991; March 1993.

Gillian Wolf

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Perahia, Murray

MURRAY PERAHIA

Born: New York, New York, 19 April 1947

Genre: Classical


Murray Perahia is one of the most accomplished pianists of his generation. During the 1990s, as piano recital series across the United States found it increasingly difficult to survive, Perahia was one of the few pianists who consistently managed to fill concert halls. His evolution as an artist has been steady, deliberate, and on his own terms.

Born in New York, Perahia began studying the piano at the age of three. At five he was studying with Jeanette Haien, who coached him through graduation from the High School of Performing Arts. He attended Mannes College of Music, graduating with degrees in conducting and composition, and studied piano privately with Mieczyslaw Horszowski and Artur Balsam.

Perahia was invited by the pianist Rudolf Serkin to the Marlboro Festival in Vermont, where he had the opportunity to work and perform with some of the biggest names in the classical music worldamong them cellist Pablo Casals, Serkin, Alexander Schneider, and the Budapest String Quartet. For a year he was Serkin's teaching assistant at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia.

In 1968 Perahia made his Carnegie Hall debut and in 1972 he won the prestigious Leeds International Piano Competition, which launched his international career. The prize came with numerous concert dates in prestigious venues, but Perahia turned down about half of them, saying that he really was not ready.

In 1973 he played his first concert at the Aldeburgh Festival, meeting and working with Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears, and accompanying Pears in lieder recitals. In 1975 he won the $50,000 Avery Fisher Prize. In the 1970s he also struck up a friendship with pianist Vladimir Horowitz, who had a profound impact on him.

In 1976 Perahia moved to London, and from 1981 to 1989, he served as co-artistic director of the Aldeburgh Festival, working with Oliver Knussen and Stuart Bedford. In 1990 his career suffered a setback when he got a paper cut on his right thumb. It became infected so he took antibiotics, which made him sick. When he stopped the drugs, his thumb swelled up, and doctors made him quit playing the piano for four years. He used the time to study and analyze music, and, when he returned to performing, his musicianship had deepened.

At the beginning of his career Perahia was known for his mastery of piano color and his ability to create a multidimensional palette of sound. Unlike many pianists, he felt little need to perform everything, preferring to stick to the repertoire he felt he understood best. Mozart, Chopin, and Schubert were favorites. After his hiatus, however, he began to delve into heavier repertoire, and critics noted the extra heft. He also began exploring Bach seriously, recording all the keyboard concertos, the Goldberg Variations and the English Suites. His recording of the Suites earned him a Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Performance in 1998. His recording of the Chopin Ballades won him a Gramophone Award in 1995.

Perahia has recorded the complete Mozart, Beethoven, and Chopin concertos. His chamber-music recordings include a 1989 Grammy-winning disc of Bartok's Sonata for Percussion and Two Pianos with Sir Georg Solti. In 2000 he was named principal guest conductor of the Academy of St. Martin's in the Fields and performs with the group as conductor and soloist.

Perahia is not a virtuoso in the traditional sense, though he has plenty of technical fire. He is not an intellectual pianist in the mode of a Serkin or Alfred Brendel. And he is not a grand romantic in the tradition of Arthur Rubenstein. What he brings to the keyboard is a sense of poetry and a distinctive sound harnessed to a deep understanding of the music he chooses to perform. Impeccably tasteful and uncompromising, Perahia is nevertheless one of the world's most popular classical pianists.

SELECTIVE DISCOGRAPHY:

Bach: Goldberg Variations (Sony, 2000); Bach: English Suites, Nos. 1, 3, 5 (Sony, 1998); Chopin: 4 Ballades (Sony, 1995); The Aldeburgh Recital (Sony, 1991).

douglas mclennan

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Perahia, Murray

Perahia, Murray (b NY, 1947). Amer. pianist and conductor. Début NY 1968. Winner Leeds Int. pf. comp. 1972. Soloist with leading orchs. Frequently conducts from kbd. in perfs. of Mozart concs. First London recital 1973. Co-art. dir. Aldeburgh Fest. 1982–9. Salzburg Fest. début 1989.

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