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Claude Frank (Piano)

Born: December 24, 1925 - Nuremberg, Germany
Died: December 27, 2014 - Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA

The German-born, American Jewish pianist, Claude Frank, lived in Nuremberg until the age of 12, when he joined his father in Brussels. Shortly thereafter, he went to live in Paris, where he studied in the Paris Conservatoire. The German occupation forced Frank to leave France. While in Spain illegally and overheard at the keyboard, he was invited to perform at a party given by the Brazilian Ambassador. There, he won his first 'fee' - a visa to come to the USA granted by the American Consul, who attended the party. Once in New York, Claude Frank studied with Artur Schnabel (for whom he first played in Europe) and Karl Ulrich Schnabel; then he studied with Schnabel's last and favourite pupil, Maria Curcio. He also studied composition and conducting at Columbia University. At Tanglewood, he studied with Serge Koussevitzky.

Leading one of the most distinguished careers of any pianist, Claude Frank continuously appeared with the world's foremost orchestras, at its most prestigious universities, and at major festivals since his debut with Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in 1959. He toured the Orient, Australia, Europe, Israel and South America. Frank repeatedly been a soloist with the great orchestras of five continents, including the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsrtedam, Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, and the orchestras of New Orleans, Toronto, Zürich, Brussels, Hamburg, and Frankfurt. He was heard in performances with the Berliner Philharmoniker, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Radio-Symphonie-Orchester-Berlin, Seattle Symphony Orchestra, Grant Park Symphony in Chicago, Oregon Symphony in Portland, Baltimore Symphony, Kansas City Symphony, Minnesota Symphony, Orchestra of St. Luke's, and Denver Symphony, among others. In August of 2008, Frank performed alongside nine other legendary pianists at “The Olympic Centenary Piano Extravaganza of China” in Beijing, China.

Claude Frank performed in recital throughout the USA and Europe. In chamber music, he appeared with such eminent groups as the Guarneri Quartet, Juilliard Quartet, Cleveland Quartet, Emerson Quartet, American Quartet, Mendelssohn Quartet, Tokyo Quartet, and the London Mozart Players, as well as with Alexander Schneider's chamber ensembles and at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Frank appeared in joint concerts with his wife, pianist Lillian Kallir (1931-2004). In recent years, he gave joint recitals with his daughter, the renowned violinist Pamela Frank (born 1967), in San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Fairfax, and Toronto, as well as numerous performances abroad.

Claude Frank appeared in numerous festivals including Menuhin's Gstaad Festival in Switzerland, the Midsummer Mozart Festival in California and the Klavier Festival Ruhr, as well as festivals in Portland, Highland Park, Norfolk, Schleswig-Holstein, Verbier, Vancouver, and Marlboro. A frequent performer in New York City's Mostly Mozart Festival during its formative years and a festival participant in virtually every season thereafter, Frank appeared in its 25th anniversary celebration at Lincoln Center. During recent seasons, Frank was Artist-in-Residence of the first Laguna Beach Chamber Music Festival (April 2003) and performed W.A. Mozart’s Concerto for Three Pianos with Leon Fleisher and Menahem Pressler at the Ravinia Festival (July 2002).

May 2001 was a very special landmark in Claude Frank’s career. The 92nd Street Y in New York hosted his recital commemorating the 50th Anniversary of his New York recital debut. The program, consisting of works by J.S. Bach, Schubert, W.A. Mozart, and L.v. Beethoven, closely resembled the program Frank performed at Town Hall in 1950.

A renowned teacher as well as performer, Claude Frank is on the faculty at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia and is a professor at the Yale School of Music. Of special interest are his master-classes at Yale University, Duke University, University of Kansas and North Carolina School of the Arts, among many others. He was on the piano faculty of the Yale School of Music since 1973. Many who were his students or attended his master-classes have become renowned pianists in their own right, among them Kit Armstrong, Lenny Cavallaro, Richard Goode, Cory Hall, Ian Hobson, Benjamin Hochman, Dudana Mazmanishvili, Reto Reichenbach, Mordecai Shehori, Craig Sheppard, Christoph Ullrich, and others.

Claude Frank is an internationally acclaimed interpreter of the piano literature of L.v. Beethoven. A milestone in his career was RCA's 1971 release of his recordings of the 32 L.v. Beethoven sonatas and his worldwide performances of the cycle. Critical reception of his best-selling recording was unanimous nationwide. Time Magazine proclaimed it as one of the year's "10 Best," and High Fidelity and Stereo Review recommended it above other renditions. The American Record Guide chose the 1990 re-release of his recording of the 32 L.v. Beethoven piano sonatas above twenty-two other renditions as "the one that reaches an exceptionally high level ... and maintains that level with quite amazing consistency." The Music and Arts Programs of America, Inc. label re-released Frank’s recording of the sonatas, from his original 1971 RCA LP set, in a 10-CD box set. Frank also appeared on ABC television in the highly acclaimed program Beethoven: Ordeal and Triumph! During the 1992-1993 season, a documentary of Claude Frank's life and work went into production as well.

Other recordings include the critically acclaimed direct-to-disc recording of W.A. Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K.466, with George Cleve and the Midsummer Mozart Festival Orchestra for Sonic Arts (LS) and Sine Qua Non's recording of the Archduke Trio in B flat major, Op. 97 with violinist Emmanuel Borok and cellist Leslie Parnas (Digi). His performance of W.A. Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor, K.491 with the New England Conservatory Orchestra with Leon Fleisher as conis on the Audifon label. Frank also recorded the cycle of L.v. Beethoven Violin & Piano Sonatas with his daughter for Music Masters.

Claude Frank wrote his memoirs with co-author Hawley Roddick: The Music That Saved My Life: From Hitler's Germany to the World's Concert Stages. Under submission for publication by their literary agent, it is a story rich in details about European and musical history, tracing Frank's career from days as a protégée of Artur Schnabel to those as a teacher of Richard Goode.

"He caressed the softly sad theme of the slow movement, yet held the tempo at an inexorable Andante sostenuto. The Scherzo was sprightly but never cute. And the final movement, played with wonderful fleetness and clarity, beautifully balanced the qualities of lyrical grace and autumnal gravity that run through this entire work [Schubert's Sonata in B-flat]. The Beethoven piano sonata [No. 32 in C minor], the composer's last, also received a performance of impressive structural clarity and ravishing, richly varied colorings..." - The New York Times

Source: Columbia Artists Management Website (August 2009, including Photos 01-04); Wikipedia Website (October 2011);
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (November 2011, April 2017)

Claude Frank: Short Biography | Recordings of Instrumental Works

Links to other Sites

Columbia Artists Management Inc.: Claude Frank
Saint Paul Sunday: Claude Frank
Claude Frank (International Piano Academy Lake Como)

Claude Frank (Wikipedia)
Claude Frank Biography (Performing Arts Encyclopedia)
Pamela Frank & Claude Frank (Opus 3 Artists)

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