GOULDSBORO — Renowned pianist Edmund Battersby, who taught at Kneisel Hall School of String and Ensemble Music in Blue Hill and held chamber music performances in the village of Prospect Harbor, died suddenly March 25. He was 66.
Battersby, a professor of piano at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music, died at his home in Bloomington, Ind.
Throughout the course of an international career as a pianist, orchestral soloist, chamber player and teacher, Battersby earned the highest praise from his audiences, critics and colleagues.
He had great affection for Downeast Maine and owned a summer home in the village of Corea.
Battersby was often seen riding his bicycle around the Schoodic Peninsula and lunching at the Corea Wharf Gallery.
“He’s the reason I’m in Corea,” said Rob Hilbrink, who was a close friend of Battersby for more than 30 years and lives across the road from the musician’s bungalow.
Hilbrink said Battersby was an intellectual with a broad personality and range of talents in addition to his music.
“He could talk about any book that had been published,” Hilbrink said. “He was very knowledgeable about music and knew how to bring that across and teach it. He was very down to earth.”
He said Battersby, who was a student at Kneisel Hall as a 12-year-old, looked for a home as far east as Jonesport, took a detour down the Schoodic Peninsula to Corea and decided that was his nirvana.
Battersby was the artistic director of Harbor Music, the Artur Balsam Chamber Ensemble Classes for Piano and Strings, which was held at Oceanside Meadows Institute for the Arts and Sciences in Prospect Harbor and supported by the Indiana University Foundation since 1999.
Deidre McArdle, executive director of Harbor Music, traveled to Indiana University earlier this week to try to offer some comfort to Battersby’s spouse, Christian Claessens, students and colleagues.
She said the Jacobs School of Music was reeling from the loss of a “beloved pianist, scholar, mentor, teacher, colleague and friend to so many.”
“His quick smile and friendly openness made strangers into acquaintances instantly,” McArdle said. “This is a terrible loss for us on a personal community level and for the world of classical music and scholarship.”
Deiran Manning, a graduate student at the Jacobs school and a native of Gouldsboro, said that Battersby “had an incredible insight into how to approach a piece of music” and was a gifted teacher.
“He gave a different set of expectations for different students because he understood that students are capable of different things,” Manning said.
Battersby was born in Detroit, Mich., and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music from The Juilliard School.
He taught at Montclair State College and Kneisel Hall before joining the Jacobs School in 1995.
Battersby played recitals worldwide, most notably in London, New York City and Washington, D.C., and performed with conductors such as McGegan, Schwartz and Schuller with orchestras ranging from the Indianapolis Symphony to the Pittsburgh Symphony.
A frequent guest at the U.S. Library of Congress, Battersby performed in its series with the Vermeer Quartet, and elsewhere with the Tokyo Quartet and the Orion Quartet.
American Record Guide said Battersby’s landmark recordings of Beethoven’s “Diabelli Variations” on modern and period instruments put him “in the company of Brendel, Serkin, Schnabel and Pollini.”
He gave master classes at the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin, Hochschule fur Music in Leipzig and at Princeton, Rutgers and Duke universities.
His many CDs for the Musical Heritage Society, Naxos, Koch and others garnered critical acclaim. His recording of “Goyescas of Granados” was included on the 1992 Grammy short list.
The 2012 Schoodic Sound digital re-release of Battersby’s iconic Musical Heritage Society recording “The Early Romantic Piano,” performed on a Rodney Regier replica of an 1834 instrument by Conrad Graf, was described by Fanfare Magazine as “simply a beautiful recording that should be heard by everyone.”
He is survived by his spouse, Christian Claessens; two children, Justine and Julian, and Joanna Claessens.
There will be a memorial service at the Indiana University in the fall and the Winter Harbor Music Festival will be dedicated to Battersby.