By BEN SISARIO
Gyorgy Sandor, a pianist who studied with Bartok and remained a champion of his music throughout a long career as a performer and teacher, died on Friday at his home in Manhattan. He was 93.
The cause was heart failure, said his son, Michael Sandor.
Mr. Sandor was born in Budapest and studied piano with Bartok and composition with Kodaly at the Liszt Academy of Music there. He began to travel widely as a concert pianist in the 1930's, and settled in the United States after his American debut at Carnegie Hall in 1939.
Though the program of his debut at Carnegie featured Brahms, Schumann and Bach, he became best known for his performances and recordings of Bartok and Prokofiev. He recorded the complete solo piano works of Prokofiev and Kodaly, and the piano music and concertos of Bartok, for which he won the Grand Prix du Disque in 1965.
Critics praised his style for its grace and delicate coloration even in the brawniest and most technically demanding music, like Bartok's dense cluster chords. "His playing serves as a chastisement to those who play Bartok with percussive sound," Anthony Tommasini of The New York Times wrote in a review of a four-disc set that Mr. Sandor recorded for Sony Classical after his 80th birthday in 1992.
In the 1940's he gave the premieres of Bartok's Dance Suite and Piano Concerto No. 3, and four decades later performed Bartok's long-lost piano reduction of his landmark Concerto for Orchestra. Bartok produced it in 1944 for a choreographic version of the piece by American Ballet Theater- which never materialized - and it was found in 1985 by the composer's son Peter, who asked Mr. Sandor to prepare it for performance and publication.
Mr. Sandor maintained a busy touring schedule around the world, even after a heart attack three years ago. His last concert was in Turkey in April, his son said.
He was also influential as a teacher. He taught at Southern Methodist University in Dallas from 1956 to 1961 and was then the director of graduate studies in piano at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor until 1981. The next year he joined the piano faculty at the Juilliard School. Among his students were Malcolm Bilson, Barbara Nissman and Hélène Grimaud.
He wrote "On Piano Playing: Motion, Sound and Expression" (1981), and he recently completed the manuscript of a book on Bartok and his music, his son said.
His marriage to Christina Sandor ended in divorce.
Besides his son, of Manhattan, he is survived by two stepdaughters, Alejandra de Habsburgo de Riera of Barcelona, Spain, and Inmaculada de Habsburgo of Manhattan.