Born: Jun 12, 1937 - Antwerp, Belgium
Died: March 4, 2003 - Bloomington, Indiana, USA
The Belgian pianist, Michel Block, was born in Antwerp to French parents. He was still a child when his family moved to Mexico, where his grandfather had settled in 1870. Block's father, likewise born in Europe, had moved to Mexico when he was 19. Block studied piano there as a youth, later relocating to New York where he enrolled at the Juilliard School. Among his teachers was Beveridge Webster. In one of the most famous incidents in the history of piano competitions, Michel Block won the Arthur Rubinstein Prize in Warsaw at the 1960 Frederic Chopin International Competition. Outraged with the jury's verdicts, Rubinstein established the prize on the spot, and personally presented the award to Block. Two years later, in 1962, he won the prestigious Leventritt Award in New York, adding his name to the illustrious list of winners, among which Alexis Weissenberg, Van Cliburn, Eugene Istomin, etc.
Reflecting his international stature, Michel Block has appeared with the world's leading orchestras and conductors in America and Europe. Among them are the Berliner Philharmoniker, New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, and Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam; and among the conductors, Georg Solti, Carlo Maria Giulini, Riccardo Muti, and Bernard Haitink.
In 1978 Michel Block joined the music faculty of Indiana University in Bloomington, and ceased pursuing the pianistic career he had embarked upon as a young man. In recent years he performed only rarely in public; when he did, his recitals are eagerly anticipated events. In 1996, The Pro Piano New York Recital Series was extremely honoured to present Michel Block in New York for the first time in nearly fifteen years. 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 he retired from that institution and lived a quiet, uneventful and happy life.
Michel Block made numerous recordings (many of which are now out of print) for major labels, including EMI, Pathe Marconi, Pro-Piano and Deutsche Grammophon. He has recorded music by Albéniz (including his celebrated disc of the complete Iberia), Sergei Rachmaninov, Robert Schumann, Chopin, Enrique Granados, and Scriabin.