The name Menahem Pressler is, to many, almost synonymous with the Beaux Arts Trio, the group he founded in 1955, the same year the busy pianist joined the faculty at Indiana University. Incredibly, he has remained active in both roles for 50-plus years now. The Beaux Arts Trio has often been cited as one of the world's finest piano trios, and most of the credit for its success must go to Pressler, who has, not surprisingly, been the only enduring member down through the years. The group, in residence at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., has concertized widely throughout the world, typically giving around 100 concerts a year. The trio's vast repertory includes staples by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann, Brahms, Dvorák, and many others. But, of course, Pressler has also made a name for himself as a soloist and recitalist, as well as a freelance pianist working with many other artists and groups, such as the Juilliard, Emerson, and Guarneri string quartets. He has made more than 50 recordings with the Trio and over 30 as a soloist, most appearing on such major labels as Philips, Deutsche Grammophon, and Summit Records.
Pressler was born in Magdeburg, Germany, on December 16, 1923. A talented pianist in his teens, he was forced to flee Germany in 1938. His family settled in Israel, where Pressler received most of his advanced musical education.
In 1946 Pressler won the Debussy International Piano Competition in San Francisco. Shortly afterward he appeared with the Philadelphia Orchestra under Eugene Ormandy. Though his career as a piano soloist and recitalist was successful, Pressler became increasingly involved in chamber music and founded the Trio in 1955. The other original members were violinist Daniel Guilet and cellist Bernard Greenhouse. Their debut was at the 1955 Berkshire Music Festival.
Guilet was replaced in 1969 by Isidore Cohen, and Greenhouse in 1987 by Peter Wiley. Several other changes came shortly afterward, with Ida Kavafian and Young Uck Kim holding relatively brief tenures. The group in 2007 — violinist Daniel Hope, cellist Antonio Meneses, and Pressler — has been in place since 2002. Along with teaching since 1955 at Indiana University (Jacobs School of Music), Pressler has regularly served as a jury member at the Queen Elizabeth and Van Cliburn Competitions. His recordings include a disc of cello sonatas by Fauré and Franck, with Shauna Rolston, on Summit Records.