Menahem Pressler: On Following Your Heart

E.E. Cummings once said “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”

For many years, I didn’t understand what that meant. But it’s starting to make more sense.

After all, it’s easy to follow a well-worn path, to do the safe thing, or to take others’ advice when it comes to figuring out what we should do with our lives.

But artists seem to find their own way. Artists learn to listen to that inner voice, and have the courage to follow – even if they have no idea where it will take them.

And whether we fall in love with their art or not, we respect the artist within them. Because we see their courage, and that resonates with the artist within us – which wants only to do the same. To follow our own path.

Say hello to Menahem Pressler

Pianist Menahem Pressler has had a remarkable career spanning nearly seven decades. As founding member of the Beaux Arts Trio, he has recorded pretty much the entire piano chamber music repertoire over the trio’s 50+ years. In his 60 years of teaching at Indiana University, he has guided students to prestigious teaching positions around the world and prizes in all of the major international piano competitions.

And now, at age 89, he maintains a performance and teaching schedule that makes me tired just thinking of it.

In this interview, you’ll hear the wisdom and insight he has gained from a lifetime of performing and teaching – and what it takes (and means) to truly be an artist.

In addition, he shares his insights on…

  • The keys to preparing oneself for great performances
  • And what it really means to be prepared (it’s not just about your fingers)
  • What he thinks about while performing (on good days, and on bad days)
  • How to deal with critics
  • How to deal with the ups and downs from one performance to the next
  • How to gain the respect of one’s peers
  • And much more…

Listen now

Download (Duration: 29:08 – 55.9MB)

Take action

What was your biggest takeaway from this interview? I’m curious to hear what resonated with you most; share below in the comments!

Want more Menahem Pressler?

Recommended recordings

Overwhelmed by Pressler’s discography and not sure which recording to start with? Try reverse chronological; here are some brand-new releases that he recommended:

Beethoven, Schubert & Chopin: Piano Works – MP3‘s or CD

Schubert, Mozart & Beethoven: Vienna Tales – MP3‘s or CD

Recommended reading

Menahem Pressler: Artistry in Piano Teaching

A compilation of Pressler’s thoughts on teaching, technique, musical expression, and practicing – essentially a more in-depth elaboration of everything he touches on in the interview.

One of my favorite parts of the book is a play-by-play of his thoughts and notes on selected repertoire from a Beethoven concerto to a Chopin Sonata to the Ravel Piano Trio.

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  1. Cindy says

    “It’s not the city that makes you, it’s not the hall that makes you, it’s you that makes you.” Simply brilliant. Thanks for sharing!

  2. says

    I’m still absorbing this inspiring story, but it’s time to say a resounding “thank you” for this blog. There’s always something stimulating, practical, inspiring. I deeply appreciate those who can write and share experiences of high value and depth.

  3. Mary Lou van Schaik says

    Wonderful interview! “Play for the appreciation, not the applause…” I loved how he spoke about continually discovering the message in the music, and many other wise gems. Thank you so much!

  4. Harriet says

    There were a lot of things I loved about this. I especially liked the way he made it clear that not every performance is perfectly comfortable (even with his many years of experience), but you have to carry on.

  5. Wayne Johnson says

    His humility, respect and reverence for the power of great music and his relentless ongoing concern and devotion toward communicating beauty and feeling to others at the highest level possible is what impressed me most–especially for someone of his advanced age and stellar reputation.

  6. says

    “Forming an opinion of the music…thoughts that do not belong in a performance…do not exaggerate the playing…everybody has disconnected audiences…faithful to yourself…it is you that makes you…be critical because there is much more to be found…the daily life has many things surrounding it that are not beautiful…”

    These are the points that reach me.


  7. sue says

    I have loved Menahem for decades, and I truly enjoyed your interview. His passion as an artist attracted me with the Beaux Arts, and it was a delight to hear him express in words his continued love for performing great works. I’ve had my ticket for Lincoln Center’s performance on 12/14/13 for some months and can’t wait!

  8. Sue says

    I love how he talks about the audience responding most when he plays the styles he loves to play and that resonate within him most…

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