7 things I learned listening to Menahem Pressler

At 90 years old, Menahem Pressler debuted with Berlin Philharmonic in early 2014. Before the year ended, he returned to Berlin to play KV 488. Here are seven things I learned from him.

1. Working keeps you young. Pressler has a tight concert and teaching schedule. He could say, oh, I did very well, I had success, I will retire now. Instead, he took the challenge on debuting with one of the world’s top three orchestras at 90. And return the next season. He's so full of energy. And it's because he keeps moving.

2. Experience gives you clarity. Pressler gives me the impression that he cares most about being clear and about communicating. He is clear in his movements and in how he wants the music to sound. Seeing him move made me understand better what this music was about. I greatly admire him for that.

3. Emotion is the frame of music. From beginning to end, each sound had a connection, a purpose, was alive. He filled every interval with emotion. He felt the piece, gently guiding his audience along the way. And we all felt it with him.

4. KV 488 sounds beautiful if played gently. There seems to be a rather belligerent understanding of the piano part in this concerto. Or, rather, of some sections in it. I really liked that Pressler was always gentle. This is him, in that moment, how he feels the concerto. It is true to the moment and as a listener this is what attracts me to a performer.

5. You connect with your audience in speaking with your sound. It was fantastic for me to see how little he was concerned with technique and how much he was speaking through the sound. The standing ovation was not only due to his long career and respect for Beaux Arts Trio. It was because the audience was moved.

6. A smile lights up the room.

7. Play sound, not the piano. Menahem Pressler is a master of sound. The piano is an instrument for him. The piano is not the destination. Music is the destination.

Maria Busqué coaches musicians to enhance their practice and performance. If you liked this post, sign up here to receive e-mails with workshop dates and a roundup of the latest posts.

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