During the series, Manny and Eric discuss many of the great pianists of the 20 and 21st centuries. Here you'll find biographies and information on these musicians who have given us wonderful interpretations of the concerto form.

Géza Anda

During his life, Géza Anda was regarded as magnificent pianist, capable of playing with great warmth and intimacy. Since his death in 1976 at the age of 55, his reputation has somewhat faded from the public eye but in classical circles, he is still regarded with great reverence.

He was born in Budapest in 1921 and studied there and in Berlin before fleeing the Germany and settling in Switzerland during the early years of World War Two. There he studied under Edwin Fischer who was a great pianist and proponent of the Mozart piano concertos. When he preformed those works, Fischer preferred conducting from the keyboard instead of the podium. Anda adopted both the practice of bench-led performances and the love of Mozart’s work, exploring all of the composer’s concertos during a time when only the most well known of Mozart’s repertoire was being heard in concert halls.

Anda was noted for the textural and singing qualities in his playing. Although his repertoire was wide and ranged across core Classical-Romantic territory, it is likely that Anda will be most remembered for his interpretations of the music of his countryman Béla Bartók, whose three piano concertos he recorded in 1959 and 1960.

Martha Argerich

Martha Angerich could be described as difficult. She cancels concerts, even entire tours, at the last minute, changes programs at will and can be withering about her own performances. Despite all this, she is widely recognized as one of the great pianists alive today. Argerich made her début at the age of eight, in Buenos Aires, and she was winning European competitions by the age of sixteen. In 1965 she became the first pianist from the Western Hemisphere to win first prize at the Chopin Competition in Warsaw, and the following year, she made her U.S. debut in Lincoln Center's Great Performers Series. Although she plays Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and Schumann, her repertoire centers on composers such as Rachmaninov, Ravel, and Prokofiev, and more modern composers, including Lutoslawski and Messiaen. Early on in her career she gave up playing solo recitals, preferring collaborative musical work and has preformed with pianists Stephen Kovacevich, Nelson Freire, violinist Gidon Kremer and cellist Mischa Maisky.

Vladimir Ashkenazy

Vladimir Ashkenazy has been quoted as saying music for him is indivisible. He is involved in so many aspects of music-making that it would be hard for him to settle on one vocation. Over his career he has been a successful conductor, piano recitalist, chamber musician and an organizer of large-scale music events such as a Spring 2003 four-concert series at the South Bank in London marking the 50th anniversary of Prokofiev’s death. As a pianist, Ashkenazy’s playing is bright and insightful. He has been noted for his clear articulation while performing but that does not deter from the warmth and subtlety one hears when he plays. His repertoire is wide-ranging, from Haydn to the works of Chopin, Rachmaninov and Prokofiev.

Daniel Barenboim

Like his friend, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Daniel Barenboim has had a varied career as a pianist, conductor, accompanist, and chamber music player. He was tutored in music by both his parents and had his recital debut at the age of seven in 1951. What followed were concerts at Salsburg, Paris and New York’s Carnegie Hall. He became a fulcrum of London's Swinging Sixties with his colleagues Zubin Mehta, Ashkenazy, Isaac Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman and the English cellist Jacqueline Du Pre. During his time in England, he staged unforgettable summer festivals on London's South Bank from 1968 to 1970. Barenboim married Du Pre in 1967 and they made several outstanding recital recordings. Their happiness was tragically cut short when she contracted multiple sclerosis in 1972. She passed away in 1987.

Interestingly, as a pianist, Barenboim tends to focus on Mozart, Beethoven, and the early Romantics, while as a conductor he favors later Romantic music, particularly Brahms and Bruckner.

Barenboim is also very politically active. He has brought together an orchestra of young Israelis and Palestinians in Weimar, near the Buchenwald death camp, and boldly given recitals in the insurgent West Bank towns of Ramallah and Bir Zeit. He has also published a book of conversations with the late New York-based Palestinian academic Edward Said.

Malcolm Bilson

Malcolm Bilson has been at the forefront of restoring the fortepiano to the modern concert stage. He began his career on the conventional piano and won the Rudolf Ganz Biennial Award for piano performance in 1963. Four years later, he was hired at Cornell University where he met antique instrument builder, Philip Belt. Belt introduced Bilson to the fortepiano, the instrument that Mozart wrote his sonatas and concertos on. It was a revelatory experience. He found the instrument more agile than the modern piano and felt it’s quiet and less resonant nature was more suited to Mozart compositions. He began performing on the fortepiano first in university settings and eventually concert stages around the world. He has recorded a complete set of Mozart’s piano concertos and in1994 he and his students performed all 32 of Beethoven’s piano sonatas in New York City.

Alfred Brendel

Alfred Brendel is a modest man. He has spoken candidly about his musical beginnings and described himself as being from common stock, not a child prodigy, not a good sight reader and needing eight hours sleep a night like any other person. Brendel feels his career has had a slow and gradual trajectory and there must be something wrong with him. All other pianists have skyrocketed to fame but Brendel found his own path. He studied with Paul Baumgartner and later attended master classes given by Eduard Steuermann and Edwin Fischer. In the 1960s, Brendel embarked upon an international recital and recording career that saw his reputation grow throughout Europe and North America as he became a frequent guest with the world's greatest orchestras. During the 70s, he recorded prolifically, releasing albums of works by Mozart, Liszt and Stravinsky among others. His talents aren’t confined to music. Watercolour painting is one of his loves and he’s found time to published two books of musical essays, Musical Thoughts & Afterthoughts and Music Sounded Out.

Leon Fleischer

It’s any pianist’s nightmare. You are at the height of your career and you lose the use of one hand. Forty years ago, this terrifying experience happened to American pianist Leon Fleischer. In 1964, he lost the use of his right hand to an obscure neurological disorder called dystonia. A former child prodigy, Fleischer admitted the disability nearly broke his spirit but he turned to left-hand repertoire and commissioned new works to be added to that catalog. He also became one of the great piano teachers and some of his students at the Peabody Conservatory of Music referred to him as the “Obi-Wan Kenobi” of the keyboard. All this time, Fleischer never gave up on trying to rehabilitate his right hand and pursued various treatments: acupuncture, biofeedback and surgery. In the 1990s, he had success with a therapy system called Rolfing and quietly returned to performing with both hands. Botox treatments have also helped him recently and that has allowed him to record several new CDs and schedule more live performances.

Glenn Gould

Genius. Eccentric. Hypochondriac. All these terms have been used to describe Glenn Gould. Whatever people thought about him, it is clear that in his relatively short international career, lasting only 24 years, he changed the way the music world thought about performance, recording and an interpretation of the music of J.S. Bach. Gould made his debut playing Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto at the age of 16. From there, he toured Canada and leaped to international fame through his initial recording of the Goldberg Variations. More of a grand reinterpretation of Bach’s work, it established Gould as performer of artistic daring and vast technical prowess. The recording has never been out of print in the 50 years since it’s first release. The international acclaim brought with it constant requests for concert appearances that Gould gave into with increasing reluctance. Eventually in 1964 he shunned the live stage completely and withdrew from all public performances. After he launched himself into recording, writing and radio documentaries. In 1981, he returned to the Goldberg Variations again having come to dislike his previous 1955 version. Gould replaced his fast-paced, swinging performance of his earlier recording with a sober, elegant rendition. Both are equally stunning. He continued to write, record and conduct until he suffered a massive stroke. Gould died a week later on October 4, 1982 at the age of 50.

Friedrich Gulda

Friedrich Gulda successfully straddled the divide between the classical and jazz worlds. He was comfortable with Mozart’s piano concertos or Debussy’s Preludes and could turn around to play improvisations with Weather Report’s Joe Zawinul or two sets at New York’s famous Birdland jazz club. At the age of seven, Gulda began piano lessons and went on to study at the Vienna Music Academy. He won a prestigious piano award in Geneva in 1946. There he got his first exposure to the recordings of Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Charlie Parker. With the exposure to these jazz giants, Gulda’s career began to develop in both directions, with stunning interpretations of Mozart and Beethoven and the flowering of his own compositions, combining classical sensibilities with jazz improvisation. Critics perceived Gulda as an eccentric performer and he was dubbed a “terrorist pianist” by some. Strangely, he faked his own death in 1999 and staged a party for his own resurrection soon after. The real thing was not far behind though and he suffered a fatal heart attack on January 27, 2000. He will be remembered as a rebel who enjoyed rocking the status quo of the classical world with his nonconformist attitudes to both jazz and classical genres.

Vladimir Horowitz

Vladimir Horowitz is considered one of the great pianists of the 20th Century. His technique was noted for its speed, power and clear articulation even though he played with straight fingers, laying them nearly flat on the keys rather using his fingertips. His performances could be criticized for being willful or self-indulgent but his charisma during a concert won over most of the audience. Performing was not easy for him. Horowitz suffered with an irrational fear of failure and found the touring life threatening. Several times during his career, he withdrew from the stage and scheduled concerts rarely after 1970. Possibly the most significant event in Horowitz's long career was his return to the then Soviet Union (he was born in the Ukraine in 1903) for a series of concerts in 1986. This tour became a major political event, coinciding with a new atmosphere of communication and understanding between the United States and the Soviet Union. Horowitz's final recording of music by Chopin, Lizst and Haydn was completed four days before his death on November 1,1989.

Murray Perahia

Often described by critics as a “musician’s musician”, Murray Perahia is noted for his thoughtful performances that don’t rely on splashy displays of prowess or keyboard pyrotechnics. His playing is technically flawless but has a warmth and subtlety, but he is also capable of great speed and power. Perahia is perhaps best known for his performance of Classical and early Romantic repertoire. One of his most loved recordings is a complete cycle of Mozart’s piano concertos that he conducted from the keyboard. Recently, he has gained a reputation as an interpreter of Bach’s compositions. A recording of the Goldberg Variations released in 2000 received two Grammy Nominations.

Ivo Pogorelich

Critics have said that Ivo Pogorelich has taken the tack of the late Glenn Gould when performing. He takes an aloof stance and at times seems almost contemptuous of the audience, and performs his repertoire with shocking contrasts in tempo and dynamics. In interviews, it is not unusual for Pogorelich to make outrageous statements and incite controversy. Regardless, he is one of the most exciting performing onstage today, his playing noted for its exceptional strength, accuracy and rhythmic interpretation. Pogorelich has also used his fame for humanitarian purposes. He has established a foundation in Croatia to grant scholarships to young students and plays annual concerts for the benefit of UNESCO.

Arthur Schnabel

Arthur Schnabel was quoted in 1958 saying “The notes I handle no better than many pianists. But the pauses between the notes--ah, that is where the art resides!” The statement reveals his life-long strategy when composing, teaching or performing. It was all about the pursuit of musical ideals over technical expertise. Schnabel’s favourite musical activity was composition, followed by teaching and then performing. He was reportedly ill-at-ease when on the stage and in the recording studio. Still he was able to stave off his fears and record dynamic interpretations of Beethoven’s piano works. Schnabel was also an accomplished author and published three books Reflections on Music (1933), Music and the Line of Most Resistance (1942), and posthumously, the autobiographical My Life and Music (1961). He died in Axenstein, Switzerland, on August 15, 1951.