Licar also introduced him to the works of Bartók. Having studied in the Conservatoire in Nice from 1932 to 1935, where he again won first prize, François came to the attention of Alfred Cortot, who encouraged him to move to Paris and study with Yvonne Lefébure at the l'École Normale de Musique. He also studied piano with Cortot (who reportedly found him almost impossible to teach), and harmony with Nadia Boulanger. In 1938, he moved to the Paris Conservatoire to study with Marguerite Long, the doyenne of French teachers of the age. He was particularly admired for his performances of Chopin, Schumann, Debussy, and Ravel. Many of these interpretations are now available on compact disc.
François was a keen jazz fan, and claimed that jazz influenced his playing. He composed, among other works, a concerto for piano and incidental music for film. He married Josette Bahvsar, and their son Maximilien was born in 1955. Maximilien published a biography of his father in 2002. Samson François' extravagant lifestyle, good looks, and passionate but highly disciplined playing, gave him a cult status as a pianist. Though, his passion for night life and his reckless behavior (characterized by lavish drinking and drug use) resulted in a heart attack on the concert platform in 1968.
His early death followed only two years later. Critic John Bell Young, in the St Petersburg Times of Florida, called François (on May 5, 2002) "a charismatic figure, an iconoclast and musical maverick", who, along with Long and Cortot, was "the most important pianist in postwar France. There was something of the swashbuckler about him; his playing was as daring as it was rhapsodic, but also notable for its uncompromising integrity and extraordinary intelligence." François himself said never play simply to play well. And, in a remark that was clearly inspired by his jazz influences, It must be that there is never the impression of being obliged to play the next note. Read more on Last.fm.
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