Luis Batlle, world-renowned pianist and beloved Marlboro faculty member for 30 years, died on May 25, 2016, following a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. Marlboro College shares heartfelt condolences with all of Luis’s family, here in the U.S. and back in his homeland Uruguay, during this difficult time.
“I am grateful that I have been part of the Marlboro College community long enough to know Luis and to learn of his rich musical legacy here and around the world,” said President Kevin Quigley. “His legacy at Marlboro will play on and on.”
As a young man, Luis studied piano under Wilhelm Kolischer in his native Uruguay, and later with Yves Nat in Paris and Rudolf Serkin in Philadelphia, before becoming the director and teacher of the Kolischer Conservatory in Montevideo. After participating in the Marlboro Music School and Festival regularly starting in 1956, Luis joined Marlboro College as music faculty in 1980.
“The job came with a wife,” Luis was fond of saying, as a few months later he married literature professor Geraldine Pittman. Together they were an adorable and invaluable cultural link between the college and festival over three decades. Luis brought dozens of top musicians from the festival and beyond to play concerts during the school year, a tradition that continues through the “Music for a Sunday Afternoon” series.
“Luis became one of the few direct links between the college and the Marlboro Music Festival, and a reminder of the close ways these unique institutions are intertwined,” said Richard Saudek, chair of the Marlboro College Board of Trustees. “He was loved by many of the world’s great musicians, who would come to Marlboro and play on a phone call from him, but he never showed the slightest hint of pomposity or arrogance. We have lost an extraordinary and inspiring man.”
Teaching at the college was a natural extension of Luis’ many summers of working with world-class musicians on the same campus. “It seemed to me that the college had the same philosophy, the same ethical approach as the festival,” he once said. “Of course, the students are different, but the approach to learning is the same.” All four of his children from a previous marriage went on to graduate from Marlboro College.
“Luis’ generosity was on so many levels,” said music professor Stan Charkey, who worked alongside Luis for all of his 30 years at Marlboro. “He was generous in how many concerts he did for the community, generous with his students. If a student was having trouble, he was there for that student.”
Over the years Luis shared countless solos, duets, trios and other ensembles, attracting eminent musicians to the college to perform works of Mendelssohn, Mozart, Haydn, Schumann, Chopin and many more. He collaborated with the Brattleboro Music Center and the Windham Orchestra, and performed all 32 Beethoven piano sonatas in a memorable series of eight solo concerts in conjunction with a Marlboro course on Beethoven’s life.
For several years Luis was the principal organizer of an annual concert to benefit Morningside Shelter, netting thousands of dollars for the homeless in Brattleboro. His last public appearance was for the dedication of the new Paul and Dorothy Olson music library in the Serkin Center for the Performing Arts, in September 2008, and he retired in 2010.
In April 2016, Marlboro College hosted a concert in Luis’ honor (“orchestrated” by his beloved Geri) featuring celebrated pianists Peter Serkin and Julia Hsu, who played for a full house in Ragle Hall—testament to Luis’ profound impact on the music community here and everywhere. That concert was a benefit for the Luis C. Batlle Chair in Music, which will provide vital support to the music program at Marlboro College for years to come.