Vancouver Sun

German pianist Frank was student of Schnabel


Pianist Claude Frank, one of the great interprete­rs of Beethoven who performed the composer’s music worldwide for almost 70 years, died Dec. 27. He was 89.

Frank was a student of Artur Schnabel, who could trace his pedagogica­l lineage through Theodor Leschetizk­y and Carl Czerny to Beethoven and who did much to increase the composer’s popularity in the first half of the 20th century. In 1970, the bicentenar­y of Beethoven’s birth, Frank recorded all 32 of the piano sonatas for RCA Victor and performed the entire cycle in several major cities around the world.

Nor was his interpreta­tion of Beethoven limited to performanc­e and recording. He had an affable sense of humour, on one occasion describing preparing to play the chromatic run in the opening movement of Beethoven’s First Piano Concerto as “like brushing one’s teeth, to put it politely.”

Frank was born into a Jewish family in Nuremberg, Germany, on Christmas Eve 1925. With the rise of the Nazis in the 1930s, his father fled to Brussels. Frank joined him there in 1937, moving shortly afterward to Paris, where he studied at the Conservato­ire. The advancing German occupation left him once more fearing for his life and he drove with his mother to the Pyrenees before they made their way on foot over the mountains to Lisbon.

A music store allowed him to practise after trading hours. His sublime playing was soon overheard, and Frank was invited to perform at a party thrown by the Brazilian ambassador. One of the guests, the American consul, was so impressed that he offered Frank a visa to the United States. The aging Schnabel, for whom Frank had played before the war in Europe, agreed to give him lessons, but Frank’s enthusiasm to take American citizenshi­p meant that in 1944 his studies were interrupte­d by military service.

After the war, he resumed his studies with Schnabel and took lessons with Maria Curcio. He also studied theory with Paul Dessau at Columbia University and conducting with Serge Koussevitz­ky at Tanglewood in Massachuse­tts. His New York recital debut was in 1947, followed a year later by an appearance with the NBC Symphony Orchestra. Frank was a finalist in the 1954 Leventritt piano competitio­n in New York, losing out to Van Cliburn, and also appeared as a soloist with the New York Philharmon­ic in 1959 under Leonard Bernstein.

His first London appearance was at Wigmore Hall in January 1950. He returned in 1957 to accompany the violinist Roman Totenberg in a recital by Beethoven and Brahms that one critic noted “really caused the listener to sit up and listen to each work as if with new ears.”

Frank’s repertoire remained largely of the classical era, performed with great depth and remarkable insight, eschewing any form of pianistic pyrotechni­cs.

He was on the juries of several competitio­ns, claiming that he could spot if a competitor had the potential to be a winner from the manner in which he or she walked on stage, even before they started to play.

For many years, Frank made chamber music with the Juilliard Quartet, among others, and taught at the Curtis Institute in Philadelph­ia and at Yale School of Music in Connecticu­t. Yet there were still solo performanc­es, including in 2008 when he was one of a handful of pianists who took part in the cultural program for the Beijing Olympics.

Frank met his wife, Lilian Kallir, a pianist and fellow refugee from the Nazis, at Tanglewood in 1947, but it would be another 12 years before they married. They played duets together, often by Mozart, until her death in 2004. He is survived by their daughter Pamela Frank, a violinist.

 ?? COLUMBIA ARTISTS MANAGEMENT WEBSITE ?? Claude Frank has died at age 89.
COLUMBIA ARTISTS MANAGEMENT WEBSITE Claude Frank has died at age 89.

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