Pianist Luis Batlle was a beloved member of the Marlboro Music community for over five decades. While he came from a family of presidents—his great uncle, his father, and his brother were all heads of state of Uruguay—he was more a Renaissance man than a political power broker. He spoke five languages, was exceptionally well-read, and loved theater, art, film, and, most of all, music and people.
He received his training at the Kolischer Conservatory in Montevideo but also studied privately with Rudolf Serkin in Philadelphia from 1956 to 1957, residing with the Serkin family on Delancey Place. With his winning personality, musical sensitivity, and wry sense of humor, he quickly established a bond with the whole Serkin family, which adopted him as a son and brother. Yet, it was Batlle’s musical knowledge that inspired Serkin to choose him as his co-director of the Institute for Young Performing Musicians, founded in Vermont in 1978. Luis Batlle first came to Marlboro as a young musician in the summers of 1956, 1958, and 1961, and he returned each year starting in 1963, becoming an invaluable member of the community. He also became a beloved member of the music faculty of Marlboro College.
Luis soon became known for his musical sensitivity as well as his broad knowledge of the instrumental and vocal repertoire. With his deep interest in the arts and the humanities more generally, he was vividly able to illuminate and contextualize the vocal and instrumental music that he and his musical partners explored together. When Marlboro Music honored Batlle in 2013, pianist Murray Perahia wrote:
“You will always hold a special place in my heart… From when I first came to Marlboro, I thought of you as a close friend and, as such, I looked to you for advice and direction.”
While Luis will likely maintain the record for most performances in Marlboro history with 399, it is not the number of times he performed but the insights that he offered that made his contributions inestimable to musicians and audience members alike. Even after their summers at Marlboro, artists including Jonathan Biss, Peter Serkin and Murray Perahia would come to Vermont to play new works or programs for Luis, eager to hear his assessment. His generosity of time and spirit—and that of his fellow Marlboro College faculty member Geraldine Pittman, whom he married in 1981—was legendary in both the Music School and College communities. Not only did they invite older participants and staff members to their home for dinners and parties, but they paid special attention to new and more reserved members of our community and to students of the College who were in need of guidance and support. Their warmth and direction, as well as the knowledge that they imparted, deeply touched and enriched generations of Marlboro Music family members.
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