Murray Perahia was born in the Bronx borough of New York City to a family of Sephardi Jewish origin. According to the biography on his Mozart piano sonatas CD, his first language was Judaeo-Spanish, or Ladino. The family came from Thessaloniki, Greece. His father moved to the United States in 1935.
Perahia began studying the piano at age four with a teacher he says was "very limiting" because she made him play a single piece until it was perfect. He says his musical interests blossomed at age 15 for reasons he can't explain, and he began to practice seriously. At 17, Perahia attended Mannes College, where he studied keyboard, conducting, and composition with his teacher and mentor Mieczysław Horszowski. During the summer, he also attended Marlboro, where he studied with musicians Rudolf Serkin, Alexander Schneider, and Pablo Casals, among others. He played duets for piano four hands with Serkin, who later made Perahia his assistant at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, a position he held for over a year.
In 1965, Perahia won the Young Concert Artists International Auditions. In 1972, he was the first North American to win first prize at the Leeds Piano Competition, helping to cement its reputation for advancing the careers of young pianistic talent. Dame Fanny Waterman recalls anecdotally (in Wendy Thompson's book Piano Competition: The Story of the Leeds) that Mieczysław Horszowski had phoned her prior to the competition, announcing that he would be the winner.
In the 1980s, Perahia was invited to work with Vladimir Horowitz, an admirer of his art. Perahia says this had a defining influence on his pianism. He became close to Horowitz whom he visited to play for during the elder pianist's last four years.
From 1973 - 2010, Perahia recorded exclusively for Columbia Masterworks, now Sony Classical. His first major recording project was Mozart's 27 piano concertos, conducted from the keyboard with the English Chamber Orchestra. In the 1980s, he also recorded Beethoven's five piano concertos, with Bernard Haitink and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. In 2016, Perahia signed with Deutsche Grammophon.
In 1990, Perahia suffered a cut to his right thumb, which became septic. He took antibiotics for this condition, but they affected his health. In 1992, his career was threatened by a bone abnormality in his hand causing inflammation requiring several years away from the keyboard, and a series of operations. During that time, he says, he found solace through studying the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. After recovering, he produced a series of award-winning recordings of Bach's keyboard works in the late 1990s, most notably a cornerstone rendition of the Goldberg Variations.
In early 2005, Perahia's hand problem recurred, prompting him to withdraw from the concert stage on the advice of his doctors. He cancelled several appearances at Barbican Centre, as well as a 10-city national tour of the United States, but returned with recitals in German cities in 2006 and at the Barbican in April 2007.
In autumn of 2007, he completed a triumphant 10-city tour of the United States. Owing to his hand problem, and on the advice of his doctor, Perahia cancelled a February 2008 solo recital at Barbican Centre and a tour in the United States with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields (March and April 2008). He returned to the platform in August 2008, touring with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra under the direction of Bernard Haitink, and had an Asian recital tour in October and November.
Besides his solo career, he is active in chamber music and appeared regularly with the Guarneri and Budapest String Quartets. He is also Principal Guest Conductor of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, with which he records and performs.
Since his return at the 2008 Proms season, Perahia has been continually active on the concert scene.
On 1 April 2014, Perahia appeared on Sir Neville Marriner's 90th birthday concert, playing Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K 466 alongside the Academy of St Martin in the Fields conducted by Marriner.
After 43 years (1973-2016) with Sony Classical (and its predecessor, Columbia Masterworks), Perahia has signed with the German label Deutsche Grammophon. His first release for the label, Bach's French Suites, came out in October, 2016.
Perahia threw himself into everything with a ferocious concentration. The opening left-hand leap to the fugue's landing on a triumphant final cadence 40 minutes later felt like a single gesture, a life passing by during a fall and safe landing off a cliff. The epic Adagio was exceptional. Beethoven is in a black mood. The twisted harmonies and endless melodic lines keep shifting, trying to go one way and then the next, never finding resolution or solace. For Perahia this was inescapable pain, but not to be dwelt upon. His ability to find the life in each note proved intensely moving.
Jerusalem Music Center
In January 2009, Murray Perahia was appointed president of the Jerusalem Music Center established by violinist Isaac Stern. In an interview with Haaretz newspaper he said: "Music represents an ideal world where all dissonances resolve, where all modulations —that are journeys— return home, and where surprise and stability coexist."
Leeds International Piano Competition
- 1972 Leeds International Piano Competition First Prize
Seventh International Schumann Festival
- 2000 Robert Schumann Society Claudio Arrau Memorial Medal
- Gramophone Award for best concerto recording, 1984, Piano Concertos 15 and 16 of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
- Gramophone Award for best concerto recording, 1986, Piano Concertos 3 and 4 of Ludwig van Beethoven
- Gramophone Award for best instrumental recording, 1986, works of Franz Schubert and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart with Radu Lupu
- Gramophone Award for best instrumental recording, 1995, works of Frédéric Chopin
- Gramophone Award for best instrumental recording, 1996, works of George Frideric Handel and Domenico Scarlatti
- Gramophone Award for best instrumental recording, 2001, Goldberg Variations by Johann Sebastian Bach
- Gramophone Award for best instrumental recording, 2003, Etudes by Frédéric Chopin
- Gramophone Award for best instrumental recording, 2011, piano music of Johannes Brahms
On March 8, 2004, Queen Elizabeth II made him an honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire. (This entitles him to use the post-nominal letters KBE, but not to the title "Sir".)
In 2012 he was awarded the Jean Gimbel Lane Prize in Piano Performance from Northwestern University.
A species of solitary bee from Israel was named in his honor in 2016.
- Schumann: Davidsbündlertänze, Op. 6; Fantasiestücke, Op. 12 (1973)
- Chopin: The Chopin Preludes. (1975)
- Schumann: Études Symphoniques op. 13 & Études Posthumes; Papillons (1977)
- Schubert: Wanderer Fantasy, Op. 15; Schumann: Fantasy in C major, Op. 17 (1986)
- Mozart, Beethoven: Quintets for piano and winds (1986)
- Mozart: Sonata (K. 448); Schubert: Piano Sonata for four hands (1986; with Radu Lupu)
- Beethoven: Piano Concertos Nos. 3 and 4 (1986)
- Brahms: Piano Quartet (1987)
- Beethoven: Piano Sonatas Nos. 17, 18 and 26 (1987)
- Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 5 (Emperor) (1987)
- A Portrait of Murray Perahia (1987)
- Mendelssohn: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 2 (CD 1987, but recorded in 1974 and originally issued on LP) — with Neville Marriner and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields
- Mozart: Piano Concertos Nos. 11, 12 and 14 (1987)
- Mozart: Piano Concertos Nos. 22 and 24 (1987)
- Chopin: Piano Concerto No. 1, Barcarolle, etc. (1987)
- Beethoven: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 2 (1987)
- Mozart: Piano Concertos Nos. 9 and 21 (1987)
- Schumann: Symphonic Études, posthumous études, Papillons; Chopin: Piano Sonatas Nos. 2 and 3 (1988)
- Schumann: Davidsbündlertänze; Fantasiestücke (1988)
- Beethoven: The five piano concertos (1988) — with Bernard Haitink and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
- Schumann: Piano Sonata, Op. 22; Schubert: Piano Sonata, D. 959 (1988)
- Bartók: Sonata for 2 Pianos and Percussion; Brahms: Variations on a Theme by Haydn (1988)
- Schumann, Grieg: Piano concertos (1989)
- Schubert: Impromptus (1990)
- Chopin: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 2 (1990)
- Murray Perahia in Performance (1991)
- Murray Perahia Plays Franck and Liszt (1991)
- Brahms: Sonata No. 3, Rhapsodies, etc. (1991)
- Mozart: Concertos for 2 and 3 pianos, Andante and Variations for piano four hands (1991) with Radu Lupu
- Mozart: Piano Concertos Nos. 21 and 27 (1991)
- The Aldeburgh Recital (1991)
- Mozart: Piano Sonatas (K. 310, 333, and 533) (1992)
- Bach: Harpsichord Concertos (1993)
- Immortal Beloved Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (1994)
- Greatest Hits: Grieg (1994)
- Chopin 4 Ballades: Waltzes Op 18&42, Nocturne Op 15, Mazurkas Op 7,17&33, Études Op 10 Sony Classical #SK 64 399 (1994)
- Beethoven: Piano Sonatas (Op. 2, Nos. 1–3) (1995)
- Murray Perahia: 25th Anniversary Edition (1997)
- Schumann: Kreisleriana, Piano Sonata No. 1 (1997)
- Schumann: Complete works for piano and orchestra (1997) — with Claudio Abbado and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
- Murray Perahia Plays Handel and Scarlatti (1997)
- Bach: English Suites Nos. 1, 3 and 6 (1998)
- Songs Without Words: Bach/Busoni, Mendelssohn and Schubert–Liszt (1999)
- Mozart: Piano Concertos Nos. 20 and 27 (1999)
- Glenn Gould at the Movies (1999)
- Bach: English Suites Nos. 2, 4 and 5 (1999)
- Bach: Goldberg Variations (2000)
- Chopin: Études (2001)
- Bach: Keyboard Concertos Nos. 1, 2 and 4 (2001)
- Bach: Keyboard Concertos Nos. 3, 5, 6, 7 (2002)
- Schubert: Late Piano Sonatas (2003)
- Murray Perahia Plays Bach (2003)
- Beethoven: String Quartet, Op. 127; Piano Sonata, Op. 101 (2004) (The string quartet is transcribed for full string orchestra and conducted by Murray Perahia)
- Bach: Partitas Nos. 2, 3, 4 (2008)
- Beethoven: Piano Sonatas Op. 14, Nos. 1 and 2, Op. 26, Op. 28 (Pastorale) (2008)
- Bach: Partitas Nos. 1, 5, 6 (2009)
- Brahms: Handel Variations; Two Rhapsodies, Op. 79; Six Piano Pieces, Op. 118; Four Piano Pieces, Op. 119 (2010)
- Bach: French Suite No 5 (2011)
- Beethoven: Piano Sonata No 27 Op 90 (2011)
- Chopin: Mazurka C-Sharp Minor Op 30 No 4 (2011)
- Bach: The French Suites (2016)
- Murray Perahia in Performance (1992)
- Mozart: Piano Concertos Nos. 21 and 27 in rehearsal and performance (1992)
- Schubert: Winterreise (with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau)
- Beethoven: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 3 (1988)
- Beethoven: Piano Concertos Nos. 2 and 4 (1988)
- Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 5 (1988)
- "Expanding the Love of Music". Haaretz.com. Retrieved 21 December 2015.
- 'I don't really have any technique'. Telegraph, 27 February 2003.
- "Previous Winners", Leeds International Piano Competition Official Website, 2006. Accessed June 3, 2007.
- "Perahia, Murray", Grove Music Online, 2007. Accessed June 3, 2007.
- Bargreen, Melinda (2002-04-05). "A grand pianist: Murray Perahia's mastery and modesty go hand in hand". The Seattle Times. Archived from the original on 2007-03-19. Retrieved 2012-12-22.
Living in London, Perahia — who is married with two sons — is able to take part in one of the world's most spectacular cornucopias of the arts (it is no accident that Alfred Brendel, another émigré, is a longtime London resident).
- "Murray Perahia in recital – 12 February 2008 / 19:30 – Barbican Hall (Cancelled)". Barbican Centre. 2008-01-31. Archived from the original on 2008-04-04. Retrieved 2011-06-25.
Unfortunately, due to a problem he is suffering with his hand, Murray Perahia has been forced to cancel this recital on the advice of his doctor.
- Smith, Steve (2008-04-10). "Unexpected Conductor and Soloist; Expected Results". Then New York Times. Retrieved 2011-06-25.
Murray Perahia, the ensemble’s principal guest conductor, withdrew from its American tour because of illness.
- "Murray Perahia", The Academy of St. Martin in the Fields Official Website, 2006. Accessed June 3, 2007.
- "Sir Neville Marriner at 90 concert, Royal Festival Hall, review", The Telegraph (Accessed: 17th April 2014).
- "Watch: Neville Marriner's 90th birthday concert", Classic FM (Accessed: 17th April 2014.)
- "Pianist Murray Perahia scales the Everest of Beethoven's 'Hammerklavier' in a momentous performance" by Mark Swed, The Los Angeles Times, 28 April 2016
- "Murray Perahia (Piano, Conductor) – Short Biography". Retrieved 21 December 2015.
- "Murray Perahia (pianist and conductor)". Gramophone. Retrieved 12 April 2012.
- "News". Retrieved 21 December 2015.
- Eight new species of Andrena Fabricius (Hymenoptera: Apoidea: Andrenidae) from Israel—a Mediterranean hotspot for wild bees. Zootaxa 4189(3), http://www.mapress.com/j/zt/article/view/zootaxa.4189.3.3
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- Official site
- Full Biography
- Masterclass with Murray Perahia at the on YouTube
- Interview with Murray Perahia by Bruce Duffie, March 13, 1997
- David Dubal interview with Murray Perahia, 3-Apr-1981