Michel Block (January 12, 1937, Antwerp–March 4, 2003, Bloomington, Indiana) was born of French parents in Antwerp, Belgium. He was a renowned pianist and winner of the 1962 Leventritt Competition. As a child, he moved with his parents to Mexico, where his grandfather had settled in 1870. Block studied piano in that country and later at the Juilliard School in New York City.
In one of the most famous of all competition incidents, Block won the Arthur Rubinstein Prize in Warsaw at the 1960 International Chopin Piano Competition. As a contestant in that year's competition, he was only placed eleventh. Outraged with this result, Arthur Rubinstein created a special prize bearing his name on the spot, which carried with it the money corresponding to the second prize, and awarded it to Block. Two years later, Michel Block won the Leventritt Competition in New York, adding his name to the illustrious list of winners, among which Alexis Weissenberg, Van Cliburn, Eugene Istomin, etc.
Like most pianists of renown, Block appeared with the great orchestras and conductors in the United States and in Europe. Among them were the Berliner Philharmoniker, New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, and Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam; and among the conductors, Georg Solti, Carlo Maria Giulini, Riccardo Muti, and Bernard Haitink.
In 1978, Block joined the music faculty of what is now known as the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University Bloomington, and ceased pursuing his career as a pianist. In later years, he performed only rarely in public; when he did, his recitals were eagerly anticipated events. In 1996, The Pro Piano New York Recital Series was extremely honored to present Michel Block in New York for the first time in nearly fifteen years.
His playing was characterized by a rich singing tone, lyrical phrasing, transparent voicing, and wonderful dynamic control. Now widely considered to be one of the great pianists of the 20th century, and a favorite among cognoscenti, his peers and the public alike continue to regard him as a pianist's pianist. In 1997, Block retired from teaching and lived a quiet, uneventful, and happy life.
Block made numerous recordings (many of which are now out of print) for major labels, including EMI, Pathé Marconi, Pro-Piano and Deutsche Grammophon. He recorded music by Sergei Rachmaninoff, Robert Schumann, Frédéric Chopin, J.S. Bach, Franz Schubert, Enrique Granados, Alexander Scriabin, and Isaac Albéniz (including his celebrated disc of the complete Iberia (Albéniz)).
- Rubinstein, Arthur (1980). My many years (1st ed.). New York: Knopf. p. 559. ISBN 0394422538. ISSN 0021-9258. OCLC 5673961. PMID 394.
- Hinson, Maurice (2004). Anthology of Impressionistic Piano Music. Alfred Music Publishing. p. 5. ISBN 978-0-7390-3524-5.
- Oron, Aryeh. "Michel Block (Piano)". Bach Cantatas Website. Retrieved 30 August 2010.