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We lost another great pianist

Posted By: AndrewG

We lost another great pianist - 09/09/02 01:05 PM

Source of article: London Telegraph

Vlado Perlemuter
(Filed: 06/09/2002)

Vlado Perlemuter, the Polish-born French pianist who died on Wednesday aged 98, won an international reputation not by dazzling pyrotechnical display but by his deeply penetrating insights and musicianship.

Perlemuter was regarded as the outstanding interpreter of Ravel's keyboard music. This he learned in its entirety between 1925 and 1927, and then played it to the composer at his home before performing it in two Paris recitals.

Ravel encouraged him to simplify the style of his playing and to develop the ability to convey the orchestral sonorities to be found in such masterpieces as Gaspard de la Nuit. In 1957, in collaboration with Helene Jourdan-Morhange, Perlemuter wrote his Ravel d'apres Ravel in which he described his work with the composer.

But he was admired equally for his playing of Chopin. Here his beauty of tone, allied to the subtlest of rhythmic sensitivity and a wide command of tone-colour, resulted in performances that were essentially simple and direct rather than ostentatious. It is true that his memory occasionally let him down and that his technique was not flawless.

His rejection of showiness occasionally led him into slightly pedantic interpretations - something evident in the A flat major waltz, Op 42, during a Chopin programme at the Festival Hall in January 1964. But those who appreciated humane, cultured and elegant pianistic artistry easily forgave him tiny slips.

Fortunately, his Ravel and Chopin are preserved in a series of discs made when he was in his seventies by the English Nimbus company, which recorded him in long "takes" so that his structural command of a work emerged as he conceived it.

Vlado Perlemuter was born at Kowno (now Kaunas, in Lithuania), on May 26 1904. Aged four, he moved to Paris and later entered the Conservatoire as a pupil of Moszkowski and of Alfred Cortot. In 1921 he won the Prix Diemer, competing with winners of the first prize for piano in the previous decade. Almost 30 years later, in 1950, he became a professor of piano at the Conservatoire.

Perlemuter was mainly heard in the recital room, although a London Promenade Concert audience heard him as soloist in Beethoven's C minor concerto in 1973. He had made his first appearance at the Proms in 1962, when he gave a fine performance of Ravel's concerto for the left hand.

Although The Daily Telegraph felt that he had had "mainly indifferent support from the orchestra", Perlemuter received praise for the "hard, glittering tone" he produced, and the "grace and rhythmic subtlety" of his reading of the cadenza.

He was not immune from jitters. In February 1967, after a flight in Japan which encountered serious turbulence, Perlemuter suffered from a series of giddy spells. A fortnight later, he made four unsuccessful attempts to start Chopin's Mazurka in F sharp minor, Op 6 No 1, before walking off the stage of the Royal Festival Hall during a concert which was also being broadcast on the Third Programme. He returned a few minutes later to tackle a 90-minute recital perfectly.

Perlemuter also gave master classes in Canada and Japan, and was one of the artists whom William Glock invited to the Dartington Summer School of Music. He gave a series of Schumann recitals in London in 1981 and at this time, too, gave master classes and recitals at the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester.

In 1987, just before his 83rd birthday, he marked the 50th anniversary of Ravel's death by repeating at the Wigmore Hall the two recitals of the complete piano works with which he had established his reputation in Paris 60 years before. In 1990, he gave an effortlessly noble performance of Ravel's Tombeau de Couperin at the Wigmore Hall.
Posted By: Tavner

Re: We lost another great pianist - 12/09/02 04:35 PM

There is a nice article on Perlemutter by Charles Timbrell in the current issue of International Piano. I never realized his connection to so many of the great pianists of the early 20th century. I listened recently again to his Nimbus recording of the Chopin Preludes. Very refined and subtle playing, although not quite my preference in many of the tempi for these pieces. I do like his sound, however. The Int'l Piano issue also has a long tribute to Earl Wild. Truly, the last of the "Romantic" generation.
Posted By: zongora

Re: We lost another great pianist - 01/14/03 04:59 PM

Thank you for the informative article on Perlemuter. I'm a recent addition to Piano World, so my response is a bit late.

I only heard a few recordings by him some time ago on New York's WQXR and I recall, if I'm not mistaken, he played some of the background music to the motion picture "Impromptu". (Portion of Chopin' life with Sand)

I thought he was a great pianist.
Posted By: David Burton

Re: We lost another great pianist - 01/16/03 04:46 AM

Of the late Vlado Perlemuter,

Originally posted by zongora:
I thought he was a great pianist.
Yes, some of his recordings were broadcast on a program of The Grand Piano on NPR, unforgettable performances really, some rare elegance, refined, not over showy, French, restrained, a quality to be sought in one's own playing. I'm surprised, not intended to be funny, that he was still alive only a few days ago. Those who comprehend the French contribution to pianism will or should always remember Perlemuter as the next in that line of pianists from Cortot.
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