Louis Teicher of piano duo Ferrante & Teicher dies at 83

 

Louis Teicher – half of the piano duo Ferrante & Teicher, who recorded hit instrumental versions of 1960s film themes The Apartment, Exodus and Midnight Cowboy – has died at the age of 83.

 

Teicher was a child prodigy who began studying at the Juilliard School of Music in New York at the age of six. He received his piano diploma when he was 16 and started teaching at the Juilliard a couple of years later.

 

Inspired by the two-piano repertoire he had studied at the school, Teicher teamed up with fellow Juilliard graduate Arthur Ferrante to form a piano duo in 1946. They launched a full-time concert career the following year.

 

Supplied with grand pianos by Steinway, the duo – who would later become known as “the grand twins of the twin grands” – performed concerts at colleges and universities across North America. They started out playing only classical pieces, but when they introduced a version of the Latin-tempo nightclub hit ‘Tico Tico’ during a concert in 1948, the audience reportedly went wild … and the pair recognised where their future lay. They went on to become one of the best-selling easy listening acts of the 1960s and 1970s.

 

Although Ferrante & Teicher are best known for their Muzak-friendly records – not dissimilar to the cascading strings of Mantovani – they were actually perceived as ‘cutting-edge’ musicians in the 1950s.

 

Influenced by avant-garde composer John Cage, they experimented with treated pianos. They even modified their Steinways to create ‘space-age’ sound effects by inserting objects into the stringbed, including paper, sticks, rubber, wood blocks, metal bars, chains, glass and mallets.

 

They were able to produce a variety of bizarre sounds that sometimes resembled percussion instruments, and at other times resulted in pioneering special effects that sounded almost electronic – long before synthesizers were invented. They even released an LP in 1956 titled Soundproof: The Sound of Tomorrow Today.

 

Their experimental sounds were highly unique and quite different from their later work, appealing more to hi-fi enthusiasts and space-age pop fans. In recent years, their music has been rediscovered by today’s retro-hip audiophiles.

 

In 1960, Ferrante & Teicher signed with United Artists and soon began to tailor their sound to a more mainstream audience. Many of their subsequent albums featured lush orchestral arrangements by Don Costa, and their ‘classical cross-over’ style of instrumental pop caught on very quickly.

 

During their four decades together, Ferrante & Teicher recorded more than 150 albums containing distinctive twin-piano and orchestral arrangements of familiar classical pieces, film themes and show tunes.

 

They sold more than 88 million records worldwide and notched up 22 gold and platinum awards, beginning with the theme from The Apartment in 1960. They continued touring until their retirement in 1989.

 

As Arthur Ferrante observed on hearing of Lou Teicher’s death: “Although we were two individuals, at the twin pianos our brains worked as one.”

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