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Vlado Perlemuter, 98; Pianist Specialized in Ravel's Music

September 07, 2002|From Associated Press

Vlado Perlemuter, a pianist who tried to capture the diverse colors and tones of a symphony orchestra in his solo playing, has died, his recording company said Friday. He was 98.

Perlemuter, best known for his interpretations of Maurice Ravel and Frederic Chopin, died Wednesday in a Paris hospital, said Adrian Farmer, music director for the British record label Nimbus.

Over a seven-decade career, Perlemuter performed throughout Europe and in Asia, the United States and Canada. He was especially well-loved in Britain, where he often played and taught. But he neither sought nor attained the stardom of some contemporary pianists.

Perlemuter worked to give his interpretations an "orchestral" sound, and would endlessly try out new fingerings in search of new musical colors, Farmer said.

Perlemuter was born in 1904 in Kaunas, Lithuania, to Polish parents. After coming to Paris as a child, and taking French nationality, he studied with the acclaimed teacher and performer Alfred Cortot and won first prize at the Paris Conservatory at only 14.

In the mid-1920s, Perlemuter, already a success, spent months working with Ravel. Perlemuter's scores were covered with notes from the master, and the pianist was generally considered the keeper of Ravel's musical traditions for the piano.

Once, for a Nimbus recording, Perlemuter sat down at the keyboard and played more than two hours' worth of Ravel's music, nonstop. The resulting recording was not edited or touched up, Farmer said.

Perlemuter, a Jew, was forced to flee to Switzerland during World War II. It was an experience he preferred not to talk about.

"It was the great embitterment of his life," Farmer said, especially because Cortot, with whom he was very close, did not leave France with him.

Perlemuter gave his last performance when he was approaching 90. Farmer, who knew Perlemuter for the last two decades, said the pianist would occasionally burst into tears after playing.

"If you said, 'That was beautiful, what's wrong?' he would say, 'Yes, but I will never play it so well again.' "

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