Alexis Weissenberg

July 26, 1929 - Sofia — January 8, 2012

Alexis Weissenberg was a Bulgarian pianist. He is considered to have been one of the greatest pianists of the 20th century.

Born in Sofia, into a Jewish family of Vienna Conservatory-trained musicians, Weissenberg started taking piano lessons at the age of four and he made his debut at the age of eight. As fascist terror deepened, he tried to go to Turkey with his mother but they were caught and brought in a concentration camp. Weissenberg’s music saved them, since he played for a German guard who loved music and eventually freed them.

In 1945 he was in Palestine, where he studied with Leo Kestenberg and performed with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1946, he continued his studies with Olga Samaroff at the Juilliard School. A year later he won the Leventritt Award competition, then he made his debut with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3, conducted by George Szell: it was the beginning of his international career.

From 1957 to 1966 he abandoned performing to develop his technique. After this period of silence, he performed in Paris, then in Berlin, where he played the Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1. Herbert von Karajan, who conducted the performance, affirmed on that occasion that he was "one of the best pianists of our time".

He founded the Alexis Weissenberg's Piano Master Class in Engelberg, in Switzerland, attended by musicians such as Kirill Gerstein, Simon Mulligan and Nazzareno Carusi.

His discography includes Liszt's Piano Sonata, Beethoven’s piano concertos Nos. 4 and 5, works for piano and orchestra by Chopin, Debussy's Piano works, Rachmaninoff’s Piano sonatas Nos. 1 and 2 and completePreludes, as well as Brahms' Sonatas for violin & piano Nos. 1-3.

He died January 8th at his home in Lugano, Switzerland, at the age of 82 years.