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WFIU to celebrate the centennial of pianist Menahem Pressler

‘A Tribute to Menahem Pressler’ to air the weekend of December 16

pianist Menahem Pressler
Photo by: Marco Borggreve/Warner Classics


Bloomington, Ind., December 7, 2023 — On the weekend he would have turned 100, WFIU Public Radio will celebrate the life and work of world-renowned pianist and Indiana University faculty member Menahem Pressler with a special radio program. A Tribute to Menahem Pressler airs Saturday, December 16—on what would have been Pressler’s 100th birthday— at 5 p.m. on WFIU2 and repeats Sunday, December 17 at 6 p.m. on WFIU and will stream on wfiu.org.


The program features excerpts of interviews with Pressler and selections of his music, including chamber and solo performances, several of which were drawn from the IU Jacobs School of Music archives. Hosted by WFIU Music Director Aaron Cain, A Tribute to Menahem Pressler begins with Pressler discussing his life growing up in Germany and his early love of the piano. He began playing when he was five or six years old.


“My father would always say to me after he came home from a day of work, ‘Didn’t you have enough of practicing now?’ I never had enough,” he said.


When Pressler was a teenager in 1939, he and his family, who were Jewish, had to flee Nazi Germany—first to Italy, then to Palestine, and finally to the United States. In 1946, he won first prize at the Debussy International Piano Competition in San Francisco, which helped launch a musical career spanning more than 70 years.

Pressler began teaching at the IU Jacobs School of Music in 1955. That same year, he co-founded the Beaux Arts Trio, which has been called by many the best trio of all time. The group produced 50 recordings, taking its final bow in 2008. Pressler’s teaching career, however, continued up until his death this May at the age of 99.


A Tribute to Menahem Pressler is the first program of a continuing collaboration with the IU Jacobs School of Music to broadcast recordings of music performances from their extensive archives. Support for this program is made possible by the Wennerstrom-Phillips Fund for Classical Music, established by Mary Wennerstrom, Professor and Associate Dean Emerita at the IU Jacobs School of Music. Wennerstrom came to IU in 1957 as a freshman piano major and knew Pressler as a teacher and faculty colleague for several decades.


“This program is the work of several people at both WFIU and the Jacobs School of Music library, which houses the performance archives of the school. Since I had already established separate funds supporting classical music on WFIU and the work of the music library, I was pleased to contribute special support to produce this broadcast of A Tribute to Menahem Pressler and to explore ways the music archives could be used by WFIU in the future,” Wennerstrom said.


About WFIU
WFIU is an NPR member station and south-central Indiana’s source for news and classical and jazz music, broadcasting from the campus of Indiana University in Bloomington. WFIU is available at 103.7 FM in Bloomington and Seymour, 100.7 FM in Columbus, 101.7 FM in French Lick/West Baden, 98.9 FM in Greensburg, 106.1 FM in Kokomo, and 95.1 FM in Terre Haute. WFIU2 is available at 101.9 FM in Bloomington and 100.1 FM in Seymour. Both stations also stream online at wfiu.org.


About the Wennerstrom-Phillips Fund for Classical Music

The Wennerstrom-Phillips Fund for Classical Music supports classical music initiatives at WFIU and was created to preserve classical music programming for future generations.


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