Light of the Moon

The Fellowship  |  December 14, 2018

Menahem Pressler

Age: 95 on December 16

Known for: A renowned Israeli-American classical pianist

About him: Born to a Jewish family in Germany, Kristallnacht was a warning to young Menahem Pressler and his immediate family. After that night signaled the Nazis’ murderous intentions, Menahem’s family made aliyah (immigrated) to what was then still British-mandate Palestine. The rest of his family — grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins — all died in Hitler’s concentration camps.

After the war, Pressler’s musical career was launched when he won the prestigious Debussy Internatonal Piano Competition in 1946. Watch him, well into his 90s, play Debussy’s “Clair de Lune” (the “Light of the Moon” in this piece’s title) above. He made his Carnegie Hall debut shortly afterwards.

But Pressler is perhaps most famous as a chamber musician, making his debut with the beloved Beaux Arts Trio in 1955. He became the only original member of the trio to play during its entire existence through 2008.

Pressler returned to Germany in 2008 to mark the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the night on which his family had decided to flee to safety. Six years later, at age 90, he made his debut with the Berlin Philharmonic. Among the many honors this world-class pianist has earned includes being appointed Honorary Fellow of the Jerusalem Academy of Music in Dance due to a life of performance and leadership in music.