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Perahia Awarded $50,000 Jean Gimbel Lane Prize in Piano Performance

Northwestern University Bienen School of Music honor includes residency and public recital

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March 13, 2012 | by Judy Moore

EVANSTON, Ill. --- The Northwestern University Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music today (March 13) announced that Murray Perahia is the 2012 winner of the $50,000 Jean Gimbel Lane Prize in Piano Performance. 

A two-time Grammy Award recipient, Perahia has performed at all of the major international music centers and with every leading orchestra. He first rose to prominence after winning the 1972 Leeds International Piano Competition and has since become one of the world’s most sought-after pianists.

The Bienen School of Music’s biennial award was established in 2005 to honor pianists who have achieved the highest levels of national and international recognition. Previous winners are Richard Goode (2006), Stephen Hough (2008) and Yefim Bronfman (2010). 

In addition to receiving the $50,000 cash award, the Jean Gimbel Lane Prize winner spends two to three non-consecutive weeks in residency at the Bienen School and engages in master classes, chamber music coaching and lectures. The prize winner also performs a public recital on the University’s Evanston campus. 

Perahia is expected to visit the Evanston campus during the 2012-13 academic year and to return the following year. The dates and details of his activities will be announced later.

Toni-Marie Montgomery, dean of the Bienen School of Music said, “As a pianist, I have long admired the lyrical and introspective nature of Mr. Perahia’s performances. He is an artist of the highest order, and the Bienen School looks forward to his residency activities and recital.”

Perahia’s many honors include the Avery Fisher Prize, the Royal Philharmonic’s Instrumentalist Award, the Claudio Arrau Memorial Medal of the Robert Schumann Society, and numerous Gramophone awards. In recognition of his outstanding service to music, Perahia was appointed as an honorary Knight Commander of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II in 2004.

In thanking the Bienen School for his award, Perahia said, “I feel very privileged to accept the Jean Gimbel Lane Prize and I look forward to meeting the students and faculty of Northwestern University and sharing musical experiences with them.”

Perahia’s reputation as a leading pianist arises from his unique fusion of meticulous technique with intellectually powerful and imaginative interpretative ability. He attributes the distinctiveness of his style to a deep engagement with music theory and his desire to illuminate “the thing that lasts forever, the thought behind the music.”

During his 40-year professional career, Perahia has produced a varied discography consisting of more than 50 recordings. Regarded as one of the world’s great Bach interpreters, he received his first Grammy Award in 1999 for his recording of the composer’s “English Suites Nos. 1, 3 and 6.” A second Grammy Award followed in 2003 for his performance of Chopin’s complete “Etudes.” More recently, his 2010 release of Brahms’Handel Variations” has been called “one of the most rewarding Brahms recitals currently available.” Other recordings, such as his early duets with the Romanian pianist Radu Lupu, are considered benchmarks in classical music. 

Perahia recently initiated an ambitious project to edit the complete Beethoven “Sonatas” for the Henle Urtext Edition. He also produced and edited numerous hours of recordings of recently discovered master classes by the legendary pianist Alfred Cortot. Those recordings, which were released as “Alfred Cortot: The Master Classes,” have won widespread acclaim.

Born in New York, Perahia has lived in London for most of his professional career. He began playing piano at the age of four and later attended Mannes College, where he studied conducting and composition. A former student of Mieczyslaw Horszowski, Perahia spent the summers of his formative years at the Marlboro Festival. There he collaborated with and was influenced by legendary musicians Rudolf Serkin, Pablo Casals and others. 

The prize is made possible by a generous gift from Jean Gimbel Lane and the late Honorable Laurence W. Lane. Jean Gimbel Lane is a 1952 graduate of Northwestern University who majored in art history. 

Northwestern’s Bienen School of Music also sponsors the Michael Ludwig Nemmers Prize in Music Composition. A $100,000 biennial award established in 2004, the Nemmers Prize has thus far honored John Adams, Oliver Knussen, Kaija Saariaho and John Luther Adams.