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Murray Perahia: Biography, Hand Injuries, Music Career & Music Center

Murray Perahia: Biography, Hand Injuries, Music Career & Music Center

Murray Perahia, an American pianist, has become one of the most sought-after and beloved pianists of our day, playing in all of the major world music centers and with every major orchestra over his more than 40 years on the concert stage.

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Last updated: Aug 11, 2021 | Aug 12, 2021

Table of Contents

Murray Perahia Early LifeMurray Perahia’s Music CareerMurray Perahia Hand Injuries Recent Activities Of Murray PerahiaMurray Perahia’s Jerusalem Music CenterMurray Perahia Teaching Career

Murray Perahia, an American pianist, has become one of the most sought-after and beloved pianists of our day, playing in all of the major world music centers and with every major orchestra over his more than 40 years on the concert stage. He is the Principal Guest Conductor of the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, with whom he has toured the United States, Europe, Japan, and Southeast Asia as a conductor and pianist.

Mr. Perahia, who was born in New York, began playing the piano at the age of four and went on to Mannes College to study conducting and composing. He spent his summers at the Marlboro Festival, where he worked with artists like Rudolf Serkin, Pablo Casals, and the Budapest String Quartet. He also studied with Mieczyslaw Horszowski during that time. In the years that followed, he formed a strong relationship with Vladimir Horowitz, whose viewpoint and personality he found to be an endless source of inspiration. Mr. Perahia won the Leeds International Piano Competition in 1972, and in 1973, he performed his debut performance at the Aldeburgh Festival, where he collaborated closely with Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears, performing numerous lieder recitals with the latter. From 1981 until 1989, Mr. Perahia served as the Festival's co-artistic director.

Murray Perahia, an American pianist, has become one of the most sought-after and beloved pianists of our day, playing in all of the major world music centers and with every major orchestra over his more than 40 years on the concert stage. He is the Principal Guest Conductor of the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, with whom he has toured the United States, Europe, Japan, and Southeast Asia as a conductor and pianist.

Mr. Perahia, who was born in New York, began playing the piano at the age of four and went on to Mannes College to study conducting and composing. He spent his summers at the Marlboro Festival, where he worked with artists like Rudolf Serkin, Pablo Casals, and the Budapest String Quartet. He also studied with Mieczyslaw Horszowski during that time. In the years that followed, he formed a strong relationship with Vladimir Horowitz, whose viewpoint and personality he found to be an endless source of inspiration. Mr. Perahia won the Leeds International Piano Competition in 1972, and in 1973, he performed his debut performance at the Aldeburgh Festival, where he collaborated closely with Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears, performing numerous lieder recitals with the latter. From 1981 until 1989, Mr. Perahia served as the Festival's co-artistic director.

Mr. Perahia will embark on a recital tour of Japan, followed by his historically first appearances in Australia, where he will perform at the Sydney Opera House and in Melbourne in November 2013. After completing a tour of North America with a debut recital in Mexico in the 2012-13 season, Mr. Perahia will embark on a recital tour of Japan, followed by his historically first appearances in Australia, where he will perform at the Sydney Opera House and in Melbourne in November 2013.

Mr. Perahia's discography is extensive and diverse. The First 40 Years, a unique boxed set version of all of his recordings, including many DVDs, was released by Sony Classical. His 2011 Gramophone Award-winning CD of Brahms Händel Variations has been hailed as "one of the most satisfying Brahms performances currently accessible." A 5-CD boxed collection of his Chopin recordings, Bach's Partitas Nos. 1, 5, and 6, and Beethoven's Piano Sonatas, Op 14, 26, and 28, are among his earlier solo recordings. He has received two Grammy Awards and many Grammy nominations for his performances of Chopin's complete Etudes and Bach's English Suites Nos. 1, 3, and 6. Mr. Perahia has also been honored with several Gramophone Awards.

Mr. Perahia has begun work on an ambitious effort to edit all of Beethoven's sonatas for the Henle Urtext Edition. He also recorded and edited many hours of recordings of Alfred Cortot's newly found master courses, which culminated in the critically praised Sony CD release "Alfred Cortot: The Master Classes."

Mr. Perahia is a Royal College of Music and Royal Academy of Music honorary fellow, as well as a recipient of honorary doctorates from Leeds University and Duke University. His Majesty The Queen bestowed an honorary KBE on him in 2004 in appreciation of his exceptional contribution to music.

Murray Perahia Early Life

Murray Perahia was born in the Bronx neighborhood of New York City to a family of Sephardi Jewish heritage. According to the blurb on his Mozart piano sonatas CD, his first tongue was Judaeo-Spanish or Ladino. The family originated in the Greek city of Thessaloniki. His father migrated to the United States in 1935.

Perahia started learning the piano at age four, with a teacher, he claimed, who was "extremely restrictive" because she had him perform a single piece until it was flawless. He started his musical tastes developed at age 15 for reasons he can't explain, and he started to practice actively. At 17, Perahia entered Mannes College, where he studied piano, directing, and composition with his instructor and mentor, Mieczyslaw Horszowski. During the summer, he also attended the Marlboro Music School and Festival, where he studied with musicians Rudolf Serkin, Alexander Schneider, and Pablo Casals, among others. He performed duets for piano four hands with Serkin, who subsequently appointed Perahia his assistant at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, a post he maintained for almost a year.

In 1965, Perahia won the Young Concert Artists International Auditions. In 1972, he was the first North American to win first prize in the Leeds Piano Competition, helping to establish its reputation for advancing the careers of young pianistic talent. Fanny Waterman has stated (in Wendy Thompson's book Piano Competition: The Story of the Leeds) that Horszowski called her before the competition, and informed her that Perahia would be the winner.

murray perahia

Murray Perahia’s Music Career

At the Aldeburgh Festival in 1973, Perahia collaborated with Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears, as well as fellow pianist Radu Lupu. From 1981 until 1989, he was the Festival's co-artistic director.

Perahia was asked to collaborate with Vladimir Horowitz, a fan of his music, in the 1980s. According to Perahia, this had a significant impact on his pianism. He became close to Horowitz, whom he played for throughout the older pianist's last four years.

Perahia recorded solely for Columbia Masterworks, now Sony Classical, from 1973 until 2010. Mozart's 27 piano concertos were his first major recording endeavor, which he directed from the keyboard with the English Chamber Orchestra. In the 1980s, he collaborated with Bernard Haitink and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra to record Beethoven's five piano concertos. Perahia signed with Deutsche Grammophon in 2016.

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Murray Perahia Hand Injuries 

Perahia had a wound on his right thumb in 1990 that got infected. He was prescribed antibiotics for this illness, but they hurt his health. In 1992, a bone irregularity in his hand caused inflammation, necessitating many years away from the keyboard and a series of surgeries, putting his career in jeopardy. He claims that learning Johann Sebastian Bach's music provided him with comfort throughout that period. In the late 1990s, after regaining his health, he released a series of award-winning recordings of Bach's keyboard compositions, including a noteworthy performance of the Goldberg Variations.

Perahia's hand issues resurfaced in early 2005, forcing him to leave the stage on the advice of his physicians. He postponed numerous performances at the Barbican Centre, as well as a 10-city national tour of the United States, but resurfaced in 2006 with recitals in German towns and at the Barbican in April 2007.

He finished a ten-city tour in the United States in the fall of 2007. Perahia canceled a February 2008 solo performance at the Barbican Centre and a tour in the United States with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields due to a hand issue and on the recommendation of his doctor (March and April 2008). In August 2008, he returned to the stage with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra under Bernard Haitink, then in October and November, he went on an Asian recital tour.

Recent Activities Of Murray Perahia

Chopin's études and Schubert's late piano sonatas have both been recorded by Perahia. He's working on a new Urtext version of Beethoven's piano sonatas right now.

He performs with the Guarneri and Budapest String Quartets regularly, in addition to his solo work. He also records and performs with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, where he is Principal Guest Conductor. Perahia has been a constant presence on the concert circuit since his comeback during the 2008 Proms season.

On April 1, 2014, Perahia performed Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K 466, with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, directed by Sir Neville Marriner, for his 90th birthday event.

Perahia has signed with Deutsche Grammophon after 43 years (1973-2016) with Sony Classical (and its precursor, Columbia Masterworks). Bach's French Suites, his debut album for the label, was released in October 2016.

The Los Angeles Times said this about Perahia's rendition of Beethoven's Hammerklavier Sonata:

With a fierce focus, Perahia pushed himself into everything. The first left-hand jump to the fugue's triumphant concluding cadence 40 minutes later seemed like a single motion, a life passing by while falling and landing safely over a cliff. The epic Adagio was outstanding. Beethoven is having a bad day. The tangled harmonies and unending melodic lines move from one direction to the next, never reaching closure or comfort. This was an unavoidable sorrow for Perahia, but it was not to be dwelled upon. His ability to bring life to each note was very touching.

Murray Perahia’s Jerusalem Music Center

Murray Perahia was named president of the Jerusalem Music Center, which was founded by violinist Isaac Stern, in January 2009. "Music symbolizes an ideal universe where all dissonances resolve, where all modulations—that are trips—come home, and where surprise and stability coexist," he said in an interview with Haaretz.

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Murray Perahia Teaching Career

Perahia was asked to teach chosen pupils at the International Piano Foundation Theo Lieven (now the International Piano Academy Lake Como). He's conducted masterclasses at places like the Juilliard School, Stanford University, and the Peabody Institute, to name a few. In July 2017, he taught young Israeli pianists aged 12 to 18 at the Jerusalem Music Centre, including Niv Yehuda, Amir Ron, Yoav Levanon, Tom Borrow, Talmon Pachevsky, Yuval Shmila, and Tom Zalmanov. As president of the JMC, he continues to conduct master classes regularly. Eden Agranat Meged, Elia Cecino, Yan Fang, Hyunji Kim, Song Hyeon Kim, Michael Lu, Nathalia Milstein, Misora Ozaki, Maksym Shadko, and Clara Isabella Siegle are among ten young professional pianists who will participate in a series of masterclasses on Beethoven Piano Sonatas in Munich, hosted by the renowned publisher G. Henle Verlag.

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