Always Something New to Discover: Menahem Pressler and the Beaux Arts Trio.
* Always Something New to Discover: Menahem Pressler and the Beaux Arts Trio, by Cynthia Wilson. Paragon Publishing, 2011. www.amazon.com; 308 pp., $24.95.
Cynthia Wilson's new book looks at both the performing career and the teaching wisdom of one of our greatest living musicians, the seemingly ageless Menahem Pressler. There is an extensive discography, compiled by Jean-Michel Molkhou, and a large and interesting selection of photographs and copies of programs. Pressler's life and career are covered, from the Nazi persecutions in Germany to the teaching life in Bloomington, Indiana. Six of the 11 chapters, not surprisingly, deal largely with the Beaux Arts Trio, its formation and its various reincarnations. While Pressler remained as the one pianist in the group through the years, violinists and cellists came and went, and the author gives each a voice and a profile. This in itself gives us a wonderful picture of the workings and realities of the world of concerts, concert managers, and dedicated and inspired artists.
Teachers will be especially interested in the section entitled "Teaching Music," filled with quotes from Pressler and his students. This is some of the same territory covered by William Brown in his 2009 book Menahem Pressler: Artistry in Piano Teaching. This is not the only section in which we can learn from the master, however. As befits an oral history such as this one, Pressler's voice is heard throughout, discussing music, spinning tales of life on the road and sharing his generous and penetrating perspective. Unfortunately, Wilson's organization of paragraphs and her use of quotation marks can be confusing; sometimes it is not clear who is speaking. On at least one occasion, two different speakers are enclosed in the same set of quotes.
Indeed, the author could have used a more severe and demanding editor and/or copy editor throughout this book. More care would have eliminated the misspellings in English, German and French, and run-on sentences and misplaced commas would have been corrected. There are also careless mistakes in geography: on page 13, Magdeburg is located due south of Berlin, and on page 141 the University of Indiana at Bloomington is evidently located in Illinois.
Despite some difficulty in following the organization of quotes, readers can find a treasure trove of conversation, reminiscence, wit and history in the first-person singular statements throughout the book. Not only Pressler, but also his family, the other members of the Beaux Arts Trio, agents, students, colleagues and friends are heard from. This makes for a wonderful tapestry of thoughts and scenes and ideas, and provides a living flame surrounding this portrait of one of our most accomplished and beloved musicians, Menahem Pressler.--Reviewed by Robert Spillman, University of Colorado Boulder
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