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 76-32 of 32 Available Recordings
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  • 76.
    Mad About Romantic Piano
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 445771 Release Date: 09/20/1994   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Johannes Brahms,  Sergei Rachmaninov,  Franz Schubert  ... 
    Performer:  Rudolf Serkin,  Lilya Zilberstein,  Alexis Weissenberg,  Andrei Gavrilov  ... 
    Conductor:  Claudio Abbado,  Herbert von Karajan,  André Previn,  Neeme Järvi
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra,  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra,  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra  ... 
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  • 77.
    Parents - The Lullaby Album
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 64897 Release Date: 10/12/1993   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Erik Satie,  Frédéric Chopin,  Robert Schumann,  Christoph W. Gluck  ... 
    Performer:  Tzimon Barto,  Alexis Weissenberg,  Christopher Parkening,  Nancy Allen  ... 
    Conductor:  Michel Plasson,  Sir Charles Groves,  Sir Neville Marriner,  Roger Wagner
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Toulouse Capitole Orchestra,  Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra,  Academy of St. Martin in the Fields  ... 
    CD: $11.99
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  • 78.
    Mad About Movies
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 439514 Release Date: 08/10/1993   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Edvard Grieg,  Claude Debussy  ... 
    Performer:  Rudolf Serkin,  Alexis Weissenberg,  Luciano Pavarotti,  William Purvis  ... 
    Conductor:  Carlo Maria Giulini,  Claudio Abbado,  Neeme Järvi,  James Levine  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra,  London Symphony Orchestra,  Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra  ... 
    CD not available
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  • 79.
    Mad About Piano
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 439520 Release Date: 08/10/1993   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Franz Liszt,  Claude Debussy,  Robert Schumann,  Frédéric Chopin  ... 
    Performer:  Evgeni Kissin,  Alexis Weissenberg,  Stanislav Bunin,  Jean-Marc Luisada  ... 
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  • 80.
    The Best Of Saint-saëns
    Label: Emi Studio   Catalog: 69112 Release Date: 10/25/1990   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Camille Saint-Saëns
    Performer:  Yehudi Menuhin,  Nathan Milstein,  Alexis Weissenberg,  Aldo Ciccolini  ... 
    Conductor:  Pierre Dervaux,  Sir Eugene Goossens,  Georges Prêtre,  Walter Susskind
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestre de Paris,  Philharmonia Orchestra,  Paris Opera Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $11.99
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