Born: July 30, 1921 - Salt Lake City, Utah, USA
Died: March 27, 2005 - near Munich, Bavaria or Berlin, Germany
The eminent American pianist and pedagogue, Grant Johannesen, was discovered at the age of 5 by an irate teacher who lived across the street. He imitated whatever he heard her play, and she did not appreciate it. He studied with Robert Casadesus at Princeton University (1941-1946) and with Egon Petri at Cornell University. He also took courses in composition with Roger Sessions and Nadia Boulanger.
Grant Johannesen made his concert debut in New York in 1944, when he was 23. In 1949, at the age of 28, he won 1st prize at the Ostend Concours Internationale, which was the beginning of his international career. He toured extensively, both as a soloist with orchestras and and as a solo performer. He toured Europe with Dimitri Mitropoulos and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in 1956 and 1957; made another European tour with Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra in 1968. His performances in Moscow were especially well received. He was once encored 16 times. He was a frequent soloist with both the Cleveland Orchestra and Utah Symphony Orchestra.
Grant Johannesen acquired a reputation as a pianist of fine musicianly stature, subordinating his vinuoso technique to the higher considerations of intellectual fidelity to the composer's intentions; he was panicularly esteemed for his performances of American and French music, and recorded the complete piano works of Gabriel Fauré. He also composed some piano works.
From 1960 to 1966 Grant Johannesen taught at the Aspen (Colorado) Music School; in 1973 he became music consultant and adviser of the Cleveland Institute of Music; subsequently was its music director (1974-1977), and finally its president (1977-1985). He also taught at the Mannes College of Music in New York and at the Salzburg Mozaneum.
Grant Johannesen was married to the composer Helen Taylor (whose works for piano were among his recordings) from 1943 until her death in an automobile accident in 1950. He was married to his second wife, the cellist Zara Nelsova (with whom he sometimes performed), from 1963 until their divorce in 1973. From his first marriage, he had a son, David Johannesen.
Grant Johannesen died in 2005 at the age of 83 in Germany, where he had been visiting friends. The New York Times reported that he died "near Munich" and another source said "near Garmisch in Bavaria." In their obituaries, the Salt Lake Tribune and the Associated Press, citing his lifelong friend Elisabeth von Rummelhoff, reported that he died in Berlin. The Mormon Artists Group, with which he was a collaborator, also announced that he died in Berlin.