When Claude Frank was twelve years old his family moved to Paris where they resided from 1937. At this time Frank studied at the Paris Conservatoire, but by 1940 the political situation had become such that Frank had to escape via the Pyrenees and Lisbon to the United States. Not very long after his arrival he began to study with Artur Schnabel, but because he became a United States citizen in 1944 his studies were interrupted by military service. During a period of study at Columbia University he learnt theory with Paul Dessau and composition with Normand Lockwood, and at Tanglewood studied conducting with Serge Koussevitzky.
In 1947 Frank made his New York debut at Times Hall and a year later performed with the NBC Symphony Orchestra. A major part of his career from the early 1950s onwards has involved Frank in music festivals throughout Europe, Africa, Asia and North and South America. He is also highly regarded as a teacher and has taught at Bennington College, Mannes School of Music in New York and in 1972 became a Samuel Simons Fellow at Yale University. He has given master-classes and lectures at the Aspen Music Festival, Yale University’s School of Music and Curtis Institute of Music. Through his teaching at Bennington and its close proximity to Marlboro in Vermont, Frank became involved in the Marlboro Festival in 1953 when he was asked by Rudolf Serkin to help with coaching and playing chamber music.
In Beethoven’s bi-centenary year of 1970 Frank recorded the complete piano sonatas for RCA Victor. He performed them in a series of eight recitals at New York’s Hunter College as well as in many other world venues including São Paulo. During the mid-1970s Frank was giving at least seventy concerts per season on three continents. He has performed with many leading orchestras including the New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony and Chicago Symphony, the Berlin Philharmonic, Concertgebouw, and Royal Philharmonic.
As a chamber music player Frank has worked with the Juilliard Quartet from 1971, and before that was one of the earliest members of the Boston Chamber Players. Other chamber music pursuits include two-piano performances with his wife Lilian Kallir, and a violin and piano duo with his daughter, Pamela Frank. In addition to this, Frank often appears on piano competition juries.
Frank’s repertoire is essentially Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and Brahms. His most famous recordings are those of the Beethoven piano sonatas made for RCA in 1970. These recordings were recently reissued on compact disc by Music & Arts and Donald Manildi, writing in the American Record Guide said of them, ‘In short, Frank retains all the positive elements of Schnabel’s distinctive approach but without the latter’s occasional descents into metrical or technical slovenliness.’
Also for RCA Frank has recorded Brahms’s Liebeslieder Waltzes and Saint-Saëns’s Le Carnaval des Animaux with Lilian Kallir; and with the Boston Chamber Players has recorded works by Brahms, Copland, Garter and Piston. In 1996 Frank recorded some works for violin and piano by Schubert with his daughter Pamela for the Arte Nova label and their recordings of Beethoven for Music Masters have received critical acclaim.
© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — Jonathan Summers (A–Z of Pianists, Naxos 8.558107–10).
Role: Classical Artist