°1904 - †2002
Litouwen - Frankrijk
Vlado Perlemuter was the third of four brothers whose father was a rabbi. Although born of Polish Jewish parents in Lithuania, at the age of four he was taken to Paris where he lived for the rest of his life and is therefore thought of as a French pianist. He began to learn the piano at the age of nine and two years later received piano lessons from Moritz Moszkowski which continued for the next two years. At thirteen he joined the piano class of Alfred Cortot at the Paris Conservatoire and when he was fifteen received a premier prix in piano. At the examination he played Fauré’s Theme and Variations Op. 73
; the composer was chairman of the jury at the examination. The following year, when he was sixteen, he won a prix d’honneur for his performance of the Variations, Interlude and Finale on a theme of Rameau
by Paul Dukas. His success continued when he won the Diémer Prize for which only those students who had already won a premier prix could compete. In 1921 he began to give concerts, subsequently occasionally meeting Gabriel Fauré, for whom he played.
A few years later Vlado Perlemuter heard Ravel’s Jeux d’eau
and the impression this work made upon him led him to study and learn the complete works of Ravel between 1925 and 1927. For six months during 1927 Perlemuter had the rare opportunity of studying Ravel’s works with the composer himself, travelling regularly to the composer’s home in Montfort-l’Amaury. At this time he also studied with Robert Lortat. Two years later Perlemuter performed the complete solo piano works by Ravel in two recitals in Paris, the first pianist to do this. In 1953 he published details of his work with Ravel in a book entitled Ravel d’après Ravel
(Lausanne 1953). He also gave chamber music recitals with Gabriel Bouillon, Pierre Fournier and the Calvet Quartet.
During the 1930s Vlado Perlemuter strove to establish a career as a pianist. In 1934 he played a few pieces by Prokofiev for The Music Society in London, and made his Wigmore Hall recital debut in 1937. It seems that rather than playing the music of Ravel for which he was so suited, he chose a stolid programme which included Bach’s Italian Concerto BWV 971
and Beethoven’s Piano Sonata in F minor Op. 57 ‘Appassionata’
. Two years later he returned to the Wigmore Hall, this time choosing repertoire in which he was acknowledged as an interpreter: Ravel’s Sonatine
, Schumann’s Études Symphoniques Op. 13
, Beethoven’s Piano Sonata in E flat Op. 81a ‘Les Adieux’
and Chopin’s Préludes Op. 28
In 1938, as World War II approached, Vlado Perlemuter was appointed as an assistant professor at the Paris Conservatoire; but by 1942 he was desperately trying to get himself and his wife to Switzerland as his name was on a list of French Jews to be arrested. Cortot, although Commissioner of High Arts in the Vichy government, did nothing to help him, something which Perlemuter never forgave. He was not permitted to perform in Switzerland, so the war years were a difficult time for Vlado Perlemuter, who had a breakdown requiring him to spend three years in a sanatorium. He returned to Paris in the late 1940s, in 1950 resuming his performing career and taking up a teaching post at the Paris Conservatoire: his most famous pupils are Michel Dalberto and Christian Zacharias.
Teaching was an important part of his career. He gave master classes in Japan, Britain and Canada and served on the juries of many piano competitions, but he also performed regularly in Europe, North Africa and Japan. He often visited Britain, but when he played at London’s Wigmore Hall in 1962 The Times’s critic referred to the concert erroneously as his London recital debut. Although Perlemuter rarely visited America, he was Pianist in Residence at Indiana University in Bloomington, Illinois; however he apparently returned to Europe before the end of his contract. He was made an Officier de la Légion d’honneur and a Commmandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.
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