Murray Perahia

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Murray Perahia

Murray Perahia.jpg
Murray Perahia in 2012
Born (1947-04-19) April 19, 1947 (age 73)
OccupationPianist, conductor
Spouse(s)Ninette Shohet
AwardsSee Awards
Musical career
Labels Sony Classical, Deutsche Grammophon

Murray David Perahia ( /pəˈrə/ ), KBE (born April 19, 1947) is an American pianist and conductor. He is widely considered as one of the greatest living pianists. [1] [2] He was the first North American pianist to win the Leeds International Piano Competition, in 1972. Known as a leading interpreter of Bach, Handel, Scarlatti, Mozart, Beethoven, and Schumann, among other composers, Perahia has won numerous awards, including three Grammy Awards from a total of 18 nominations, [3] and 9 Gramophone Awards in addition to its first and only "Piano Award". [4]


Early life

Murray Perahia was born in the Bronx borough of New York City to a family of Sephardi Jewish origin. [5] According to the biography on his Mozart piano sonatas CD, his first language was Judaeo-Spanish, or Ladino. The family came from Thessaloniki, Greece. His father moved to the United States in 1935. [5]

Perahia began studying the piano at age four, with a teacher, he said, who was "very limiting" because she made him play a single piece until it was perfect. He said his musical interests blossomed at age 15 for reasons he can't explain, and he began to practice seriously. [6] At 17, Perahia attended Mannes College, where he studied keyboard, conducting, and composition with his teacher and mentor Mieczysław Horszowski. During the summer, he also attended the Marlboro Music School and Festival, where he studied with musicians Rudolf Serkin, Alexander Schneider, and Pablo Casals, among others. He played duets for piano four hands with Serkin, who later made Perahia his assistant at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, a position he held for over a year.

In 1965, Perahia won the Young Concert Artists International Auditions. In 1972, he was the first North American to win first prize at the Leeds Piano Competition, helping to cement its reputation for advancing the careers of young pianistic talent. [7] Fanny Waterman has commented (for Wendy Thompson's book Piano Competition: The Story of the Leeds) that Mieczysław Horszowski phoned her prior to the competition, and announced to her that Perahia would be the winner.

Music career

In 1973, Perahia worked with Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears at the Aldeburgh Festival, and with fellow pianist Radu Lupu. He was co-artistic director of the Festival from 1981 to 1989. [8]

In the 1980s, Perahia was invited to work with Vladimir Horowitz, an admirer of his art. Perahia says this had a defining influence on his pianism. [8] He became close to Horowitz, whom he visited during the elder pianist's last four years to play for him.

From 1973 - 2010, Perahia recorded exclusively for Columbia Masterworks, now Sony Classical. His first major recording project was Mozart's 27 piano concertos, conducted from the keyboard with the English Chamber Orchestra. In the 1980s, he also recorded Beethoven's five piano concertos, with Bernard Haitink and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. In 2016, Perahia signed with Deutsche Grammophon. [9]

Hand injuries

In 1990, Perahia suffered a cut to his right thumb, which became septic. He took antibiotics for this condition, but they affected his health. [6] In 1992, his career was threatened by a bone abnormality in his hand causing inflammation, requiring several years away from the keyboard, and a series of operations. During that time, he says, he found solace through studying the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. After recovering, he produced a series of award-winning recordings of Bach's keyboard works in the late 1990s, including a notable rendition of the Goldberg Variations .

In early 2005, Perahia's hand problem recurred, prompting him to withdraw from the concert stage on the advice of his doctors. He cancelled several appearances at the Barbican Centre, as well as a 10-city national tour of the United States, but returned with recitals in German cities in 2006 and at the Barbican in April 2007.

In autumn of 2007, he completed a 10-city tour of the United States. Owing to his hand problem, and on the advice of his doctor, Perahia cancelled a February 2008 solo recital at the Barbican Centre [10] and a tour in the United States with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields (March and April 2008). [11] He returned to the platform in August 2008, touring with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra under the direction of Bernard Haitink, and had an Asian recital tour in October and November.

Recent activities

Perahia has recorded Chopin's études, and Schubert's late piano sonatas. He is currently editing a new Urtext edition of Beethoven's piano sonatas. [12]

Besides his solo career, he is active in chamber music and appears regularly with the Guarneri and Budapest String Quartets. He is also Principal Guest Conductor of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, with which he records and performs. [13]

Since his return at the 2008 Proms season, Perahia has been continually active on the concert scene.

Perahia appeared at Sir Neville Marriner's 90th birthday concert on April 1, 2014, playing Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K 466 alongside the Academy of St Martin in the Fields conducted by Marriner. [14] [15]

After 43 years (1973-2016) with Sony Classical (and its predecessor, Columbia Masterworks), Perahia has signed with the German label Deutsche Grammophon. His first release for the label, Bach's French Suites, came out in October 2016.

Perahia's performance of Beethoven's Hammerklavier Sonata elicited this review from the Los Angeles Times :

Perahia threw himself into everything with a ferocious concentration. The opening left-hand leap to the fugue's landing on a triumphant final cadence 40 minutes later felt like a single gesture, a life passing by during a fall and safe landing off a cliff. The epic Adagio was exceptional. Beethoven is in a black mood. The twisted harmonies and endless melodic lines keep shifting, trying to go one way and then the next, never finding resolution or solace. For Perahia this was inescapable pain, but not to be dwelt upon. His ability to find the life in each note proved intensely moving. [16]

Jerusalem Music Center

In January 2009, Murray Perahia was appointed president of the Jerusalem Music Center established by violinist Isaac Stern. [5] In an interview with Haaretz newspaper he said: "Music represents an ideal world where all dissonances resolve, where all modulations —that are journeys— return home, and where surprise and stability coexist." [5]

Personal life

Perahia lives in London with his wife, Ninette Shohet, who is of Iraqi-Jewish heritage. He has two adult sons, Benjamin and Raphael. [17] [18]


Leeds International Piano Competition

Seventh International Schumann Festival

Grammy Award for Best Chamber Music Performance

Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Soloist Performance

Gramophone Award

Perahia is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Music and Honorary Member of the Royal Academy of Music (1985). [20] In 2007 he was elected to an Honorary Fellowship of Jesus College, Cambridge.

On March 8, 2004, Queen Elizabeth II made him an honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire. (This entitles him to use the post-nominal letters KBE, but not to the title "Sir".)

In 2012 he was voted into the inaugural Gramophone Hall of Fame. [21]

In 2012 he was awarded the Jean Gimbel Lane Prize in Piano Performance from Northwestern University.

In 2013 he was awarded the Royal Academy of Music Bach Prize [22]

In 2015 he was awarded the Wolf Prize in Arts (with Jessye Norman).

A species of solitary bee from Israel was named in his honor in 2016. [23]





From 2000


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  1. "The Humanist — Murray Perahia - Steinway & Sons". Retrieved 2020-05-04.
  2. "Classical Music Review: Perahia Perdures". The Arts Fuse. 2009-03-30. Retrieved 2020-05-04.
  3. "Murray Perahia". 2019-11-19. Retrieved 2020-05-04.
  4. "The Piano Award - Murray Perahia". Retrieved 2020-05-04.
  5. 1 2 3 4 "Expanding the Love of Music". Retrieved 21 December 2015.
  6. 1 2 'I don't really have any technique'. Telegraph, 27 February 2003.
  7. "Previous Winners" Archived 2007-02-28 at the Wayback Machine , Leeds International Piano Competition Official Website, 2006. Accessed June 3, 2007.
  8. 1 2 "Perahia, Murray", Grove Music Online, 2007. Accessed June 3, 2007.
  10. "Murray Perahia in recital – 12 February 2008 / 19:30 – Barbican Hall (Cancelled)". Barbican Centre. 2008-01-31. Archived from the original on 2008-04-04. Retrieved 2011-06-25. Unfortunately, due to a problem he is suffering with his hand, Murray Perahia has been forced to cancel this recital on the advice of his doctor.
  11. Smith, Steve (2008-04-10). "Unexpected Conductor and Soloist; Expected Results". Then New York Times. Retrieved 2011-06-25. Murray Perahia, the ensemble’s principal guest conductor, withdrew from its American tour because of illness.
  12. Finane, Ben. "Listen Magazine Feature - The Humanist". Listen Magazine. Steinway & Sons . Retrieved May 21, 2018.
  13. "Murray Perahia" Archived 2007-07-08 at the Wayback Machine , The Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields Official Website, 2006. Accessed June 3, 2007.
  14. "Sir Neville Marriner at 90 concert, Royal Festival Hall, review", The Telegraph (Accessed: 17th April 2014).
  15. "Watch: Neville Marriner's 90th birthday concert", Classic FM (Accessed: 17th April 2014.)
  16. "Pianist Murray Perahia scales the Everest of Beethoven's 'Hammerklavier' in a momentous performance" by Mark Swed, The Los Angeles Times , 28 April 2016
  17. Tommasini, Anthony. "CLASSICAL MUSIC; Perahia Is Back, This Time, It Seems, for Good" . Retrieved 2018-11-18.
  18. Bargreen, Melinda (2002-04-05). "A grand pianist: Murray Perahia's mastery and modesty go hand in hand". The Seattle Times. Archived from the original on 2007-03-19. Retrieved 2012-12-22. Living in London, Perahia — who is married with two sons — is able to take part in one of the world's most spectacular cornucopias of the arts (it is no accident that Alfred Brendel, another émigré, is a longtime London resident).
  19. "IMG Artists Congratulates Our Gramophone Award Winners – Vasily Petrenko, Murray Perahia and Dame Kiri Te Kanawa". Retrieved 2020-05-04.
  20. "Murray Perahia (Piano, Conductor) – Short Biography" . Retrieved 21 December 2015.
  21. "Murray Perahia (pianist and conductor)". Gramophone. Retrieved 12 April 2012.
  22. "News" . Retrieved 21 December 2015.
  23. Eight new species of Andrena Fabricius (Hymenoptera: Apoidea: Andrenidae) from Israel—a Mediterranean hotspot for wild bees. Zootaxa 4189(3),