In concert: Menahem Pressler plays Schubert

There can only be one choice of musician this week, Menahem Pressler who died on 6th May at the age of 99. He played with the wonderful Beaux Arts Trio for 53 years (leaving a stunning series of recordings of the core repertoire). And when they eventually disbanded, and Pressler was 84, he launched another career as a soloist.

We heard him a few years later at a very memorable concert in the intimate Peterhouse Theatre in Cambridge, when he played Beethoven’s A-flat major sonata, Op. 110, Debussy’s Estampes, and then Schubert’s last piano sonata D. 960. As I wrote at the time “He talked touchingly at the beginning of the evening, and this was evidently music that meant a great deal to him. Pressler’s … desire to communicate with his audience is undimmed. The Schubert in particular was very affecting: in the second movement, the poignancy of an old man now 87 playing the searing music of a young man facing early death was almost too much to take.”

The photo here is of him with Elisabeth Brauß, characteristic of them both. And Pressler was by all accounts a wonderful teacher and encourager of young players, and held in much affection.

What to choose of his to watch and listen to again? There is a wonderful too brief excerpt here of the Beaux Arts playing the slow movement of the Schubert B flat Trio — their CD recording is so fine. But perhaps for sheer joy, I have to pick this performance he gave with Quatuor Ébène at his 90th birthday celebration, of Schubert’s Trout Quintet. What a delight.

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