Monday, June 25, 2012


Tributes have been pouring in following the death of the French pianist Brigitte Engerer at the age of 59. She had been suffering from cancer for several years. I've always loved her playing and have long felt she deserved far greater recognition on the international scene than she received during her lifetime.

UPDATE, 26/6/12: Obituary of Engerer from The Telegraph.

Below is a short interview with her from French TV, and further info below. (Alas, I have no interview of my own to run here, so this statement is provided by her record company, harmonia mundi).

PARIS — French virtuoso pianist Brigitte Engerer, known for her brilliant interpretations of French and Russian repertoire, died in Paris on Saturday at the age of 59, her agent said in a statement.

Engerer "played with some of the very best", said Concerts de Valmalete, and "brought all of her talent to what was a continual quest for musical truth".

French President Francois Hollande said in a statement he was "saddened" by the news of her death and said Engerer's "talent... honoured France".

Engerer always "supported young musicians... while pursuing a remarkable international career", he said.

"We will all remember her great personal bravery" in "fighting the illness that took her from us."

Engerer had been battling cancer for several years.

Born on October 27, 1952 in Tunis, Engerer started playing the piano at age four and went to study at the Paris Conservatory at the age of 11.

In 1969 she left Paris for the Moscow Conservatory, which gave her a deep affiliation with the works of Russian composers, including Tchaikovsky's "The Seasons" and Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition". She would later release recordings of both.

"A part of her became Russian," her agent said.

Stanislas Neuhaus, her teacher at the Moscow Conservatory, once described Engerer as "one of the most brilliant pianists of her generation".

"Her playing is characterised by its artistry and romantic spirit, its depth, the perfection of her technique and her innate ability to reach the listener," he said.

Invitations to perform as a soloist with some of the world's top orchestras took Engerer from Berlin, Paris and Vienna to Japan and New York's Carnegie Hall, playing under conductors including Daniel Barenboim and Gary Bertini.

Her life was "an unremitting search for musical truth to which she gave all her talent", the Concerts De Valmalete said.

A fan of chamber music, Engerer also regularly performed with other instrumentalists such as the violinist Olivier Charlier and the cellist Henri Demarquette.

She was well-known for her high-profile four-hand piano performances with Russian pianist Boris Berezovsky.

Engerer gave her last concert on June 12 at the Champs-Elysees Theatre in Paris playing Schumann with the Paris Chamber Orchestra, 50 years after first playing in the prestigious venue.

She received a number of honours, including the French Legion of Honour, and in 2011 was given a lifetime achievement award by the French music industry.