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Pianist Niel Immelman has Died, Aged 78

The South African-British pianist was renowned both as a performer and as a pedagogue


Pianist Niel Immelman, who held a professorship at London's Royal College of Music (RCM), has passed away aged 78.

Born in South Africa in 1944, Immelman grew up in Jacobsdal and Bloemfontein, where he received his earliest piano lessons from his mother. He then studied with Cyril Smith, Ilona Kabos, and Maria Curcio at the RCM.

He was launched into the public eye when the late Bernard Haitink heard him play, and offered him the opportunity to perform Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini with the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

Soon afterward, invitations were extended for Immelman to perform at the Royal Festival Hall, the Royal Albert Hall, and the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. His highly successful concert career saw him perform all over the world under some of its best conductors.

Immelman is also highly regarded for his discography. He completed the first full recorded cycle of the works of Josef Suk and made a number of other recordings across a very wide range of repertoire.

As a pedagogue, Immelman served for many years as a professor at the RCM and also gave masterclasses at the Chopin Academy in Warsaw, the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, the Moscow Conservatoire, the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, Stockholm’s Royal College, Toronto’s Royal Conservatory, and the Universities of Berlin and Vienna.

"Niel's dedication to his craft was unparalleled," wrote Harry Nowakowski-Fox, a former student of Immelman. "His profound passion for music ignited the spirits of countless young pianists over the years, including myself. He guided many on their musical journeys with unwavering patience and a boundless knowledge of the piano literature."

"His gentle demeanor and enthusiasm created an environment where learning and growth flourished, leaving a mark on the hearts and minds of all of us who had the privilege to learn from him," he added.

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