It was not a long life but it was an interesting one. The essentially French pianist Samson François may have been born in Germany, made his name as a prodigy in Italy and studied partly in Yugoslavia, but that was due to his wandering parents. When he finally became nominally a pupil of Cortot, his real teacher was Yvonne Lefébure, who did her best to refine this rough diamond. Perhaps François was born a century too late – he was not the man to turn out polished, identical interpretations for the recording age. Sometimes he played badly. But at his best he exuded a nervous concentration which was uniquely compelling.
1930: Plays Mozart’s A major Concerto under Pietro Mascagni.
1931: Enrols at the Belgrade Conservatory and plays for King Alexander I of Yugoslavia.
1934–35: Studies at the Nice Conservatoire, which he leaves with a premier prix.
1935–37: Ecole Normale de Musique in Paris, recommended by Alfred Cortot.
1938–40: Enrols in Marguerite Long’s class at the Paris Conservatoire, winning a premier prix there in 1940.
1943: First prize in the Long-Thibaud Competition.
1947: Begins international career, touring the United States, the Middle East and Europe.
1951: Gives first performance of his own Piano Concerto in Aix-en-Provence.
1953–54: Grand Prix du Disque de l’Académie du Disque Français.
1956: Gives first performance of Pierre Petit’s Piano Concerto at the Festival de Besançon.
1964: Tours China, the first western pianist to do so following the resumption of Franco-Chinese relations.
1967: Tours Japan. Claude Santelli devotes a film to him.
1968: Suffers a heart attack and temporarily cancels his engagements but quickly resumes his travels as a concert pianist, touring Mexico and Europe.
1969: Tours the Soviet Union and appears at numerous festivals in France.
“Music escapes through the fingers. Never play to play well. Never try to create an interpretation or to give a performance that is technically impeccable, because this stops you from listening to what the sounds are telling us.”Samson François