Alexis Weissenberg

Biography

Born: July 26, 1929; Sofia, Bulgaria   Died: January 8, 2012; Lugano, Switzerland  
If one wanted to make a biographical feature film about a classical musician, the life of the Bulgarian-American-French pianist Alexis Weissenberg would furnish ideal subject material. Born in Sofia in 1929, Weissenberg was taught to play the piano by his mother. Several members of her family were Vienna Conservatory-trained musicians, and Weissenberg grew up in an environment where the sight-reading of chamber music was as common as watching Read more television is for most children today. His second piano teacher was a disciplinarian dentist, his third Bulgaria's top composer and pedagogue, Pancho Vladigerov, at whose house Weissenberg heard Dinu Lipatti perform.

At age 10, Weissenberg gave his first recital, performing, among other works, an etude of his own composition. Shortly thereafter, Weissenberg and his mother attempted to flee Bulgaria for Turkey as fascist terror deepened. They were caught and thrown in a concentration camp. "Only three elements remained constant," Weissenberg recalled. "Silence, singing, and crying." What saved the pair was an accordion Weissenberg had been given as a gift by an aunt. A German guard who liked music let Weissenberg play and after three months put the Weissenbergs on a train to Istanbul, throwing the accordion into their compartment through an open window as they left.

They made their way to Turkey and then to Israel, where Weissenberg studied at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and performed with the Israel Philharmonic under the baton of Leonard Bernstein. He left his accordion with a group of children after playing an outdoor concert and departed for the U.S. in 1946. Weissenberg enrolled at the Juilliard School of Music, studying with Olga Samaroff and at times with Artur Schnabel, and making contact with Vladimir Horowitz, who urged Weissenberg to enter the Leventritt Award competition. Weissenberg won the award in 1947, and his career was launched. His U.S. debut came with the New York Philharmonic, conducted by George Szell, and for the next ten years he toured the U.S. and Europe.

In 1956 Weissenberg moved to Paris, eventually becoming a French citizen. For a decade beginning around that time, he took a hiatus from performing, subjecting himself to a reconstruction of his keyboard technique. His performances of Chopin, Rachmaninov, and Prokofiev were especially notable, and the Bach Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue was a staple of his recital programming. His recordings of the 1960s and 1970s remained well represented in reissues on the EMI label as of the early 2000s, and he remained active into old age. Read less
Browse 26-39 of 39 Available Recordings
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  • 26.
    Arts Archives - Brahms: Piano Concerto No 2, Etc / Maag
    Label: Arts Music   Catalog: 43038 Release Date: 05/25/2004   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johannes Brahms
    Performer:  Alexis Weissenberg
    Conductor:  Peter Maag
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Italian Radio Symphony Orchestra Turin
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  • 27.
    Chopin - The Romantic Pianist
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 62667 Release Date: 06/24/2003   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Frédéric Chopin
    Performer:  Aleksandar Serdar,  Leif Ove Andsnes,  Tzimon Barto,  Alexis Weissenberg  ... 
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  • 28.
    The Very Best Of Montserrat Caballé
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 75891 Release Date: 04/22/2003   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Gioachino Rossini,  Giacomo Puccini,  Vincenzo Bellini,  Xavier Montsalvatge  ... 
    Performer:  Montserrat Caballé,  Flora Rafanelli,  Matteo Manuguerra,  Agostino Ferrin  ... 
    Conductor:  Lamberto Gardelli,  Sir Charles Mackerras,  Riccardo Muti,  Gianandrea Gavazzeni  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra,  London Symphony Orchestra,  Italian Radio Symphony Orchestra Rome  ... 
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  • 29.
    Chopin: Piano Concertos 1 & 2 / Weissenberg, Skrowaczewski
    Label: Emi Classics Encore   Catalog: 74959 Release Date: 03/25/2003   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Frédéric Chopin
    Performer:  Alexis Weissenberg
    Conductor:  Stanislaw Skrowaczewski
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestre de la Société du Conservatoire Paris
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  • 30.
    Brahms: Violin Sonatas / Mutter, Weissenberg
    Label: Emi Classics Encore   Catalog: 74725 Release Date: 01/07/2003   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johannes Brahms
    Performer:  Anne-Sophie Mutter,  Alexis Weissenberg
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  • 31.
    The #1 Piano Album
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 472589 Release Date: 11/12/2002   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Dmitri Shostakovich,  George Gershwin,  Sergei Prokofiev,  Béla Bartók  ... 
    Performer:  Olli Mustonen,  Werner Haas,  Martha Argerich,  Zoltán Kocsis  ... 
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  • 32.
    Montserrat Caballe - Lieder & Arias
    Label: Emi Classics Special Import   Catalog: 67681 Release Date: 01/08/2002   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Giuseppe Verdi,  Giacomo Puccini,  Vincenzo Bellini,  Xavier Montsalvatge  ... 
    Performer:  Elisabeth Bainbridge,  Montserrat Caballé,  Matteo Manuguerra,  Agostino Ferrin  ... 
    Conductor:  Anton Guadagno,  Sir Charles Mackerras,  Carlo Maria Giulini,  Riccardo Muti
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra,  London Symphony Orchestra,  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra  ... 
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  • 33.
    Rachmaninoff For Relaxation / Ormandy, Janis, Starker, Et Al
    Label: Rca   Catalog: 63799 Release Date: 06/19/2001   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Sergei Rachmaninov
    Performer:  Mikhail Kazakevich,  Dmitri Alexeev,  Alexis Weissenberg,  János Starker  ... 
    Conductor:  Yuri Temirkanov,  Michael Tilson Thomas,  Fritz Reiner,  Leopold Stokowski  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra,  London Symphony Orchestra,  Chicago Symphony Orchestra  ... 
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  • 34.
    Best Of The Millennium - Top 40 Classical Hits
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 463240 Release Date: 02/08/2000   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Johann Strauss Jr.,  Sir Edward Elgar,  Richard Wagner,  Antonio Vivaldi  ... 
    Performer:  Michel Schwalbé,  Cheryl Studer,  Mischa Maisky,  Yuli Reyentovich  ... 
    Conductor:  Herbert von Karajan,  Norman Del Mar,  Daniel Barenboim,  Carlo Maria Giulini  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra,  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra,  Orchestre de Paris  ... 
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  • 35.
    Debussy, Ravel: String Quartets, Clair De Lune / Guarneri
    Label: Rca Victrola   Catalog: 60909 Release Date: 07/13/1998   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Maurice Ravel
    Performer:  Alexis Weissenberg
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Guarneri String Quartet
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  • 36.
    Rachmaninoff - Greatest Hits
    Label: Rca   Catalog: 68788 Release Date: 04/15/1997   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Sergei Rachmaninov
    Performer:  Leonard Pennario,  Kathryn Stott,  Byron Janis,  Alexis Weissenberg  ... 
    Conductor:  Arthur Fiedler,  Charles Munch,  Eugene Ormandy,  Leopold Stokowski  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Pops,  Boston Symphony Orchestra,  Philadelphia Orchestra  ... 
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  • 37.
    Karajan Edition - Beethoven: Piano Concertos 1 & 2
    Label: Emi Classics Special Import   Catalog: 66090 Release Date: 03/18/1997   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven
    Performer:  Alexis Weissenberg
    Conductor:  Herbert von Karajan
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
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  • 38.
    Clair De Lune - Debussy: Piano Works / Alexis Weissenberg
    Label: Dg Masters   Catalog: 445547 Release Date: 06/13/1995   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Alexis Weissenberg
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