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Menahem Pressler fled Nazi Germany in 1939 and emigrated to Palestine. His career was launched after he was awarded first prize at the Debussy International Piano Competition in San Francisco in 1946. This was followed by his American debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Eugene Ormandy. Since then, Pressler’s extensive tours of North America and Europe have included performances with the orchestras of New York, Chicago, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Dallas, San Francisco, London, Paris, Brussels, Oslo, Helsinki, among others. After a solo career of nearly a decade, he debuted as a chamber musician at the 1955 Berkshire Festival, where he appeared as the pianist of the Beaux Arts Trio, with Daniel Guilet, violin, and Bernard Greenhouse, cello.
Since 1955, for nearly 60 years, Menahem Pressler has taught on the piano faculty at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music where he holds the rank of Distinguished Professor of Music as the Charles Webb Chair. Pressler has had prize-winning students in all of the major international piano competitions, including the Queen Elisabeth, Busoni, Rubinstein, Leeds and Van Cliburn competitions, such as the Van Cliburn Competition from the Ninth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition to the Thirteenth. He worked closely for over 30 years with the Emerson String Quartet.
Among his honors and awards, Pressler has received honorary doctorates from the University of Nebraska, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and the North Carolina School of the Arts, six Grammy nominations (including one in 2006), a lifetime achievement award from Gramophone Magazine and the International Classical Music Awards, Chamber Music America’s Distinguished Service Award, the Gold Medal of Merit from the National Society of Arts and Letters. He has also been awarded the German Critics “Ehrenurkunde” award and election into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2007 Pressler was appointed as an Honorary Fellow of the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance in recognition of a lifetime of performance and leadership in music. In 2005 Pressler received two additional awards of international merit: the German Bundesverdienstkreuz (Cross of Merit), Germany’s highest honor, and France’s highest cultural honor, the Commandeur in the Order of Arts and Letters award. In April 2011 he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Classical Music Awards in Finland.
In addition to recording nearly the entire piano chamber repertoire with the Beaux Arts Trio for Philips, Menahem Pressler has compiled over thirty solo recordings, ranging from the works of Bach to Ben Haim.