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Pianist Adolph Baller dies at 84
STANFORD -- Adolph Baller, lecturer emeritus in music at Stanford University, died of kidney failure Jan. 23 in Palo Alto. He was 84.
A resident of Palo Alto for 44 years and a Stanford faculty member for 31 years, Baller was an internationally renowned pianist especially known for his mastery of the classical and romantic repertoire for piano.
Over the years, Baller had received many honors. In 1992, he was honored in a special concert tribute by the Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra. In conjunction with this event, the mayor of Palo Alto proclaimed Feb. 9, 1992, "Adolph Baller Day," in recognition of his numerous contributions to the cultural heritage of Palo Alto.
Ten years ago, the Music Guild at Stanford created an endowment fund in his honor. The fund, established by contributions from Baller's friends and students, provides scholarship assistance to piano students at Stanford.
Much of Baller's professional international concert reputation was built during his 27 years with the Alma Trio. The ensemble gave concerts all over the world - as many as 300 in a single season. The trio became known worldwide for its exquisite sound and balanced playing. Baller officially retired from the group in 1970, but continued to perform with its members close to home for many years.
Baller attracted students from all over the world. In addition to his classes at the San Francisco Conservatory and at Stanford, he was an instructor at Dominican College in San Rafael and taught many students privately at his home. Often, the only time he had to practice was at 10 p.m. because he had been teaching all day.
His students have included William Corbett Jones, Roy Bogas, Gita Karaski, Patricia Michaelian and Jerome Rose.
Born in a small town in Poland on July 30, 1909, Baller left his family when he was 9 to study at the Vienna Conservatory. He made his solo debut in the 1920s, as a 13-year-old prodigy performing with the Vienna Philharmonic. He made solo orchestral appearances in most of Europe's major capitals, and his name became known throughout the world of European music.
In 1938, Nazis beat Baller and crushed his hands because he was Jewish and a pianist. His fiancee, Edith Strauss, helped nurse his hands to recovery through a long treatment of massage. The two escaped into Hungary where they were married; then into Yugoslavia. They arrived in the United States in December 1938.
Baller first came to California in 1941 as a guest of violinist Yehudi Menuhin. The two men formed a concert duo and began performing all over the world for the armed forces. Baller continued to perform with Menuhin for 15 years.
In 1943, Baller became a founding member of the Alma Trio, which also came together on Menuhin's estate. The original trio consisted of cellist Gabor Rejto, pianist Baller and violinist Roman Tothenberg. Later, Andor Toth, also on the Stanford faculty, became violinist for the trio.
Baller and his wife, Edith, who died in 1987, often hosted gatherings of music and discussion in their Palo Alto home. Baller is survived by his daughter, Nina Lobban; son-in-law, Peter Lobban; grandson, Andrew Lobban; and niece, Mary Louise Jaffrey.
The family has requested that no flowers be sent and that contributions be made instead to the Music Guild at Stanford, Braun Music Center, Stanford, CA 94305-3076, or to the Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra, 723 Matadero Ave., Palo Alto, CA 94306.
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