Lou Teicher, of Ferrante & Teicher, Popular Piano Duo of '60s, Dies
By BRUCE WEBER
Lou Teicher, half of the piano duo Ferrante & Teicher, whose florid
and sentimental versions of movie themes and love songs made them
gods of easy listening and earned them wide popularity beginning in
the 1960s, died on Sunday in Highlands, N.C. He was 83 and lived in
The cause was heart failure, said Scott W. Smith, Ferrante &
A classically trained pianist who was something of a prodigy, Mr.
Teicher was a musician of extraordinary dexterity, the speed and
clarity of his and his partner's playing being among their crowd-
pleasing qualities. The two met as children at the Juilliard School
of Music, and their friendship became a professional team in the mid-
1940s. Eventually, with their hit recordings of the themes from the
films "The Apartment" and "Exodus," and "Tonight," from "West Side
Story," among others, they became known as "the movie theme team."
And for their appearances onstage or on television in matching flashy
outfits and at the keyboards of imposing instruments, they were
called "the grand twins of the twin grands."
Louis Milton Teicher was born in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., on Aug. 24, 1924.
By the time he was 6, his family was living in New York City, and
young Lou was enrolled at Juilliard. His future partner, Arthur
Ferrante, then 9, was already there. Mr. Teicher graduated in 1940
and received an advanced degree in 1943. Both he and Mr. Ferrante
joined the faculty. They began performing together in 1947, initially
as a purely classical duo.
Eventually, of course, they became famous for a kind of virtuosic
kitsch: grandiose, emotional playing, embellished with glissandi,
spectacular arpeggios and a back-and-forth communication that often
made it seem as if the pianos themselves were conversing.
"Although we were two individuals, at the twin pianos our brains
worked as one," Mr. Ferrante, now 86, said in a statement after Mr.
Playing alone or with orchestras, with a wide repertory of pop tunes,
show music, movie themes and modernized classical scores, the two men
performed more than 5,200 concerts; made more than 200 television
appearances; entertained Presidents John F. Kennedy, Richard M. Nixon
and Ronald Reagan; and from 1951 to 2001 recorded about 150 albums,
the last dozen or so for their own recording company, somewhat
paradoxically called Avant-Garde Records.
Actually, in the early days of their partnership, they did have
experimental tendencies. Influenced by John Cage, they made several
recordings with "prepared pianos," that is, pianos with objects like
cardboard wedges, rubber stops and sandpaper inserted among the
strings to create a variety of unexpected sounds. This was in the
1950s, when, in addition to making what they called their gimmick
recordings, they were playing 100 or so concert dates a year. At the
time, they appeared in small community halls where the programming
was strictly classical and they performed two-piano arrangements of
works by composers from Bach to Rachmaninoff.
Mr. Teicher is survived by his wife, Betty; three children, Richard,
of Linden, N.J., Susan, of Urbana Ill., and David, of Westport,
Conn.; and four grandchildren.
It was in 1959 that the producer Don Costa moved from ABC Records to
United Artists, taking Ferrante and Teicher with him. There the two
capitalized on the record company's affiliation with a movie company;
Mr. Costa was being sent the scores from United Artists films, and
when he received the theme from "The Apartment," he brought it to the
two pianists; it became their first big hit.
"All of a sudden," said Mr. Smith, their manager, "they'd show up at
some small theater, or a church or wherever they were supposed to
play, and people would be lined up outside the doors to get in, and
they'd be saying, `Are you going to play `The Apartment'?' " Mr.
Smith added: "And they'd say, `No, we're going to play Bach and
Tchaikovsky.' And the people would say, `But we came to hear `The
Apartment!' Literally overnight, they had to come up with a whole new
two-hour program. They said, `People think we're pop stars!' "