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Alain Barker
Jacobs School of Music

Linda Cajigas
Jacobs School of Music

Last modified: Friday, November 20, 2009

IU Distinguished Professor Menahem Pressler honored by hometown

Nov. 20, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- IU Distinguished Professor Menahem Pressler will receive an honorary citizenship Nov. 22 (Sunday) from his hometown of Magdeburg, Germany, which he fled to escape the Nazis in 1939.

Menahem Pressler will be honored by the German town he fled in 1939 to escape Nazis.

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"In life, it is very seldom that one has an opportunity to make something good that happened many years ago," said Pressler. "That is what's happening here. This is like an act of reconciliation."

Pressler, a legendary pianist and pedagogue on the Jacobs School of Music faculty, will accept the honor from Mayor Lutz Trümper during a concert Pressler will perform at the Magdeburg Opera House.

"We pay tribute to a musician who has gained great achievements internationally and is one of the greatest pianists of our time," said Trümper.

The following day, Pressler, the son of a Jewish textile merchant, will take part in a Stolpersteine ceremony in memory of some of his relatives.

Meaning "stones to trip over" or "stumbling blocks," Stolpersteine commemorates people deported and killed by the Nazis. Once the stone is engraved with the person's name and dates of birth, deportation and death, it is placed flush in the pavement in front of the last residence of the victim.

"This is a difficult, emotional and beautiful occasion," said Pressler.

Pressler has been back to Magdeburg only once, in 2005, to receive the German President's Deutsche Bundesverdienstkreuz (Cross of Merit) First Class, Germany's highest honor.

The 85-year-old pianist was born in Magdeburg in 1923. He joined the Jacobs School of Music faculty in 1955, the same year that he co-founded the Beaux Arts Trio, which set the standard for piano trios for more than 50 years.

In 2007, Pressler was appointed as an Honorary Fellow of the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance in recognition of a lifetime of performance and leadership in music. In 2005, in addition to the German award, he received France's highest cultural honor, the Commandeur in the Order of Arts and Letters award.

Pressler has received honorary doctorates from the University of Nebraska, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and the North Carolina School of the Arts, five Grammy nominations (including one in 2006), a lifetime achievement award from Gramophone magazine, Chamber Music America's Distinguished Service Award and the Gold Medal of Merit from the National Society of Arts and Letters. He has also been awarded the German Critics "Ehrenurkunde" award and election into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

In addition to over 50 recordings with the Beaux Arts Trio, Pressler has compiled more than 30 solo recordings, ranging from the works of Bach to Ben Haim.

Still internationally active as a soloist and chamber musician, additional honors include England's Record of the Year Award and Ensemble of the Year from Musical America in 1997. In addition to his busy schedule as a performer, he has given master classes in Germany, France, Canada and Argentina, and continues to serve on the jury of the Van Cliburn, Queen Elisabeth and Arthur Rubenstein competitions.

"Since the beginning of the season in September," said Pressler before leaving to receive his latest commendation, "I have played 33 concerts all over the world, including South America. I don't know another 85-year-old running around like that."