Pianist Grant Johannesen Dies in Berlin at 83

Pianist Grant Johannesen Dies in Berlin at 83

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Pianist Grant Johannesen, a native of Salt Lake City, died Sunday in Berlin at 83, friends and relatives said.

"He was one of the most marvelous pianists of the century, in the United States and the world," composer Crawford Gates told The Salt Lake Tribune. "It's the end of an era and a great loss to the whole music world."

The cause of death was not known, and arrangements were pending, said his sister-in-law, Beverley Sorenson of Salt Lake City.

Elisabeth von Rummelhoff, a lifelong friend, said Johannesen had been visiting friends in Berlin. He was practicing the piano Sunday morning, complained of back pain, lay down to rest "and slipped away," von Rummelhoff said.

Despite being based in New York most of his life, Johannesen always maintained close ties to his hometown.

"As long as I've been away, I feel more and more like a Utah man," he told the Tribune before a 2001 concert with the Utah Symphony. He was one of the orchestra's most popular soloists, performing more than 30 concertos with the orchestra.

"He was an inveterate champion of the Utah Symphony," said Roger Miller, University of Utah music professor, program annotator and longtime associate. "He was always concerned about the quality of musical life in Salt Lake."

He also advocated for Utah composers such as Leroy Robertson, Arthur Shepherd and Helen Taylor, his wife of seven years, who died in an auto accident in 1950.

Johannesen also was married to cellist Zara Nelsova from 1963 to 1973.

One of the last projects Johannesen completed was "Mormoniana," a piano suite by 16 composers who share roots in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He arranged the disparate compositions in sequence and recorded them.

Johannesen was born July 30, 1921, in Salt Lake City. He went to New York to study with pianist and composer Robert Casadesus at age 17.

Johannesen's fame grew with international tours with the New York Philharmonic under Dimitri Mitropoulos and the Cleveland Orchestra under George Szell.

Johannesen also made solo tours of Europe.

He also was president of the Cleveland Institute of Music from 1977 to 1985.

The New Grove American Dictionary of Music said he was best-known for his interpretations of music by French composers such as Francis Poulenc, Darius Milhaud and Gabriel Faure. He was the first artist to record Faure's complete piano works.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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