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I was teaching Beethoven’s mammoth ‘Hammerklavier’ Sonata today–that last movement fugue is incredibly difficult–pianistically challenging to say the least. My student, who has also brough Medtner’s g minor Sonata and Copland’s Piano Variations, was sharing how Egon Petri and Ernst Levy played the ‘Hammerklavier’–names we almost never hear unfortunately–and when Beethoven heard a 13-year old Franz Liszt–can you imagine the young Liszt being presented to Beethoven? Perhaps Beethoven was my age when he heard Liszt. He asked Liszt to play a Bach fugue–and then transpose it! The great pianists since Beethoven, many of them played the ‘Hammerklavier’–I asked my student why so many don’t today–he said, ‘It’s too hard!’ Well, it also seems hard to see major record labels lay-off top-tier administrators who have dedicated their lives to the industry–and it’s all going digital download–yes, the world is evolving into a new industrial revolution in technology, and we have to adapt to the changes. But we must always remember the great artists and the vast repertoire they performed in recitals–we must keep recitals alive, otherwise, the repertoire will shrink enormously–yet, who can pen a work such as the ‘Grosse Fugue’ or ‘Hammerklavier’ sonata? It always amazes me to think about what it must have been like to be around amongst these giants of composition.

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During a dinner meet with the gifted conductor, Kenneth Kiesler, we discussed repertoire–old and new. I shared with Ken that I was interested in a new Choral Fantasy for Piano, Orchestra and Chorus. I love choral music, and penned some of my own. Ken’s first response was, ‘You should ask Bill Bolcom’. And so I did–he’s charming, down-to-earth and a helluva composer. When we spoke, I had not known that he won a total of 4 Grammy awards in 2006 for his ‘Songs of Innocence’. He agreed to write the piece for me for the 2009-10 season. Doesn’t that sound like eons away? Alas–it is practically around the corner. I am now raising $$ to support his fee and am gathering interest from multiple orchestras–perhaps a global venture as well. Sometimes I think, why do I do these things? It’s tough to raise $$ for new piano concerti–but after it’s done, and I perform the new works with all the co-commissioning orchestras, it’s a good feeling and the fact is there’s new music for future generations. I was able today to get a sizable private grant and a major orchestra to say ‘yes’. It’s a start–it’s like in real estate–you sell a house, and you think, ‘Hey, this is pretty good–it might even be fun!’ I believe the piece will be something very special–there hasn’t been a Choral Fantasy since Beethoven. Maybe pairing the Beethoven and Bolcom will work–who knows. I have a good feeling about the project–and Bill has lots of fans of his music.

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Upstate New York in Glens Falls. Charles Peltz, music director, has been doing some wonderful things here. We first met when we did a concert on Long Island several years ago with the Merrick Symphony–Prokofiev Third Piano Concerto. We’ve stayed in touch, and when I read that his orchestra was doing the World Premiere of Joan Tower’s “Made in America”, I thought instantly that he might be interested in the Lowell Liebermann Third Concerto Project–and he was. That’s what brings us together for this weekend’s opening season concert in Glens Falls.

Last night, one of the integral parts of the prelude to the orchestra concert was a chamber music concert of various players in different combinations ie flute/piano, clarinet solo and w/piano, cello/piano, horn trio, piano trio–to musically illustrate the bridge between two composers. It was illuminating, and I must say the Liebermann Piano Trio was played splendidly as was everything else on the program. Lowell admitted that since his files for some works were gone from his PC back in 2001, he had to re-write everything, then spent a few days on one new work and going full speed ahead for one week in writing his Piano Trio–no food, hardly any sleep–finished the double bar at 4am the morning of 9-11, and finally fell asleep. He remembered three days after 9-11 going outside on the Upper West Side and smelled a very strange odor, and went back to his aprtment. He then declined to compose for a period of time–it just didn’t seem appropriate to him to reflect in musical terms of what had happened.

So composers out there, Charles Peltz is a strong advocate for new music.

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While driving upstate New York today, I put a cd on of Ignaz Friedman, and another of various legendary pianists playing what they played best. It was awesome–the sheer magic of their pianism and the liberties they took in phrasing was so refreshing. What it reminded me most was that we are living in a world which is so troubled, and freedom is restrained–however troubled the world was during these pianists’ lifetimes, as a whole, artists had complete freedom–and the media was not as ‘in-your-face’ as it is today. It was a wonderful escape to drive and listen to beautiful music–a missed note here and there–it didn’t matter. The subtlety and freedom was something wonderful to embrace.

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In 1997, internationally respected American pianist Jeffrey Biegel envisioned and performed the first live internet recitals in New York and Amsterdam, enabling him to be seen and heard by a global audience. These unedited live, ‘historic’ recitals have been saved in digital recording, resulting in the first classical cd with a web address for its title: cyberecital.com. The cd is now licensed for non-exclusive worldwide digital distribution by Turmic Records www.turmicrecords.com Included are works by Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, Brahms, Rachmaninoff, and Biegel’s signature encore, ‘By the Beautiful Blue Danube’ arranged by Artur Schulz-Evler.

In 2006, Jeffrey Biegel has combined his performing and arranging gifts in the new ‘Symphonic Fantasies for Piano and Orchestra’ based on four of Billy Joel’s classical compositions from ‘Fantasies and Delusions’. Mr. Biegel created the virtuosic transcription of the solo piano pieces, assisted by Phillip Keveren in the orchestration. The World Premiere took place with the Eastern Music Festival, Stuart Malina conducting, and was followed by performances with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, and the Boris Brott Festival in Canada. A 2007-08 tour is being planned.

He also assembled the largest consortium of orchestras (over 25), to celebrate the millennium with a new concerto composed for him by Ellen Taaffe Zwilich. The ‘Millennium Fantasy for Piano and Orchestra’ premiered with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in 2000. He has performed the World Premiere of the restored, original 1924 manuscript of George Gershwin’s ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ with the Boston Pops. In 2001, Tony winning composer Charles Strouse composed a new work titled ‘Concerto America’ for Mr. Biegel, celebrating America and honoring the heroes and events of 9-11. Mr. Biegel premiered the piece with the Boston Pops in 2002. He also transcribed the first edition of Balakirev’s ‘Islamey Fantasy’ for piano and orchestra, which he premiered with the American Symphony Orchestra in 2001, and edited and recorded the first complete set of all ‘25 Preludes’ by Cesar Cui. Mr. Biegel recently assembled the first global consortium for Lowell Liebermann’s ‘Concerto no. 3 for Piano and Orchestra’ composed for him by Mr. Liebermann for 2006-07-08. The World Premiere was with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Andreas Delfs on May 12-14, 2006, and is followed by the European Premiere with the Schleswig Holstein Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Gerard Oskamp in February 2007 along with orchestras in the US through 2008.

Until the age of 3, Mr. Biegel was unable to hear nor speak, until corrected by surgery. The ‘reverse Beethoven’ phenomenon can explain Mr. Biegel’s life in music, having heard only vibrations in his formative years. Born a second-generation American, Mr. Biegel’s roots are of Russian and Austrian heritage. A Russian cousin, pianist Herman Kosoff, emigrated to the United States in the early 20th century, and had been accepted into the class of the great Leopold Godowsky in Austria. Mr. Biegel’s grandmother’s cousin, Dr. Sonia Slatin, was a graduate of Columbia University who actively performed and also taught Schenkerian analysis at Brooklyn College.

Mr. Biegel has recorded the World Premiere of veteran composer Lalo Schifrin’s ‘Piano Concerto No. 2 – The Americas’ with the Bayerischer Rundfunk (Munich Radio Orchestra) for the motion picture soundtrack, ‘Something to Believe In’, as well as Leroy Anderson’s ‘Concerto in C’ with the BBC Concert Orchestra, Leonard Slatkin conducting (for 2007 release on the Naxos label).

Leonard Bernstein said of pianist Jeffrey Biegel: “He played fantastic Liszt. He is a splendid musician and a brilliant performer.” Jeffrey Biegel was the unanimous recipient of the First Grand Prize in the Marguerite Long International Piano Competition and First Prize in the William Kapell/University of Maryland International Piano Competition. He studied at the Juilliard School with the legendary Adele Marcus, herself a pupil of Josef Lhevinne and Artur Schnabel. Mr. Biegel continues to perform globally with the world’s finest orchestras, and teaches at the Conservatory of Music at Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He resides in New York with his wife, Sharon, and sons Craig and Evan. Please visit Mr. Biegel’s website www.cyberecital.com for more information.

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On a personal note, we had to put our dog, Minnie, to sleep yesterday–a very difficult experience. She came into our lives in 1990 just after we were married–so the two boys came into this world with mom, dad and dog–their older sister! When I knew she was slowing dying, I brought her to the piano and let her lie down quietly and listen to Chopin Waltzes and some Beethoven. She had already been deaf from vestibular disease three years ago, but I knew she could hear through the floor. When she was younger, she would come into the roon where I was teaching DMA students, and if it was good playing, she stayed. If they weren’t playing well, she always got up and walked out (reminded me of my teacher, Adele Marcus–who would just leave the room when we played less than up-to-snuff!) When she left the room, the students would laugh, and I’d say, ‘The dog is your best teacher!!’

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The Billy Joel “Symphonic Fantasies for Piano and Orchestra” makes its second stop after the premiere at the Eastern Music Festival with the Indianapolis Symphony on July 7 and 8 to celebrate their 25th Anniversary Prairie Summer Series. Stuart Malina will conduct. If you are nearby, please come to the concert–would love to see you there!!

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With over 30 years of songwriting, I had a hunch that Billy Joel wasn’t going to be content with the generic term ‘concerto’ for his music-turned-into-concerto for piano and orchestra. Asked to submit three possible titles, the winner became Stuart Malina’s offering: Symphonic Fantasies for Piano and Orchestra. Perhaps a sister to the Symphonic Variations by Cesar Franck–though the Joel stands on its own at 30 minutes. With the premiere getting close, going through the score and parts and piano part for atleast a near-perfect sounding premiere, is a challenge. Aside from a synthesized demo, which is actually quite remarkable in itself, I am very curious as to the final product. To be continued…

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Just arrived in Milwaukee yesterday (May 10) for the premiere of Lowell Liebermann’s Third Concerto this weekend. The expectation of what the piece might sound like with the piano part I’ve memorized, coupled with the orchestra part I have only conceived in my inner ear, became a reality that is hard to put into words. The colors and the energy is amazing–and having the composer in the hall listening is a great challenge, but the sense of comradry seemed to take precedence. We both attended The Juilliard School in the early 1980s, as did concertmaster Frank Almond (always an amazing violinist) and Maestro Andreas Delfs–though I vaguely remember seeing Maestro Delfs in the halls of Juilliard, and Frank was in my classes, and Lowell was a double major in piano and composition. After over 20 years, we all found ourselves in the same hall, with different parts to play–composer, conductor, pianist, orchestral concertmaster–all for the beauty of introducing a new work to the mainstream repertoire. After today’s first session, Lowell actually admitted that he thinks this third concerto might give his second concerto a run for its money! I think they are both staggering works, and it is a gratifying feeling to know that we are all part of the inception, and birth of a new concerto. Surely it will be played in the future by many-a-pianist–I certainly hope!

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I am proudly posting news that the Billy Joel Concerto will be premiered since its conception in October 2005. Naturally, working with his excellent team, I’ve needed to acquire approval in every step in order to write the piano part, acquire an orchestrator, have Mr. Joel’s approval of the orchestrator, synthesized demo, performances and publicist’s approval of press releases. Aside from this, I arranged the piano part of Billy’s wonderful ‘classical’ pieces with the notion that with such beautiful melodies and harmonies, no doubt a tribute to Chopin, Schumann, Rachmaninoff,Tschaikowsky and others, it’s in a new way which I am hoping will develop into a trend of new Romantically inspired works to emerge. The movie soundtrack composers have indeed kept this style alive, and with their delving into the concert hall (like Gershwin did amongst several Paul Whiteman Experiments in Modern Music in the early 20th century), might we be ready for a revival of this movement amongst today’s composers? The music of Gershwin, Addinsell, and others of this genre might not be considered the most profound of all music, but hasn’t their music helped shape our popular audience attendance, which may have helped entice them to listen to newer forms of music? Is there room for pop icons to follow their heart and write classically contrived melodies? Were they trained classically and might they be able to do this? What might they create? Keith Emerson of Emerson, Lake and Palmer certainly wrote a marvelous piano concerto in 1977, and note John Corigliano popularized himself with The Red Violin. Is there ‘classical’ ability amongst the many hot-ticket-selling pop stars that can contribute to the concert hall today? Many questions for sure, but is it a way to ensure for future symphony orchestra attendance?
Billy Joel Piano Concerto at Eastern Music Festival
Pianist Jeffrey Biegel Performs World Premiere of Pop Music Icon’s New Classical Work on June 24, 2006

Greensboro, NC – The Eastern Music Festival today announced the world premiere of a new and eagerly awaited classical work from pop music star Billy Joel ““ his Concerto for Piano and Orchestra ““ which will be performed on June 24, 2006 at the War Memorial Auditorium of the Greensboro Coliseum Complex in Greensboro, North Carolina. This unprecedented collaboration between EMF, composer Joel and celebrated American pianist Jeffrey Biegel will open the innovative American festival’s 45th season, nationally recognized for both its top classical program and training institute, as well as a diverse schedule of more than 80 events featuring everything from the classics to gospel, blues and Americana.

The June 24 world premiere of Joel’s Piano Concerto will feature pianist Jeffrey Biegel as soloist with the Eastern Philharmonic Orchestra, the summer Festival’s resident orchestra whose members are drawn from top orchestras across the U.S. The performance, which also includes music by Johann Strauss and W.A. Mozart, will be led by guest conductor Stuart Malina, who garnered a “Best Orchestration” trophy at the 57th Annual Tony Awards for his work on Joel’s popular Broadway hit “Movin’ Out”.

In 2001, the classical muse led the six-time Grammy winning pianist singer/songwriter to publish Fantasies and Delusions, a collection of solo piano pieces eight years in the making that was subsequently recorded and spent eighteen weeks as the number one recording on Billboard’s “Top Classical Albums” chart that same year. The new Concerto for Piano and Orchestra is drawn from that material — a winsome tableau of four virtuosic movements for piano and orchestra arranged by Jeffrey Biegel and orchestrated by Phillip Keveren. The four movements are: 1) Fantasy (Film Noir); 2) Sorbetto; 3) Reverie (Villa D’Este); and 4) Nunley’s Carousel Waltz.

Hailed “”¦a brilliant performer” by Leonard Bernstein, internationally renowned pianist Jeffrey Biegel’s brilliant career has been marked by bold, creative achievements and highlighted by a remarkable number of “firsts”. In 1997 for example, he performed the American Premiere of the restored 1924 manuscript of Gershwin’s ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ with the famed Boston Pops (covered by CNN, ABC-TV, NPR, CBC Canada, Associated Press and USA Today). He has recorded Leroy Anderson’s Concerto in C with the BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by Leonard Slatkin for the Naxos label. He performs the world premiere of Lowell Liebermann’s Concerto no. 3 with the Milwaukee Symphony conducted by Andreas Delfs on May 12 to launch the first of 18 co-commissioning orchestra concerts worldwide of the work. His web site is www.cyberecital.com.

Billy Joel has had 33 Top 40 hits and 23 Grammy nominations since signing his first solo recording contract in 1972. In 1990, he was presented with a Grammy Legend Award. Inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1992, Joel was presented with the Johnny Mercer Award, the organization’s highest honor, in 2001. In 1999 he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and has received the Recording Industry Association of America Diamond Award, presented for albums that have sold over 10 million copies.

Having sold more than 100 million records over the past quarter century, Billy Joel ranks as one of most popular recording artists and respected entertainers in the world. In addition to his Grammy Awards, Joel has earned three Awards For Cable Excellence and has received numerous ASCAP and BMI awards including the ASCAP Founders Award and the BMI Career Achievement Award and, in 1994, was given the 1994 Billboard Century Award. Among his many other awards and honors, Billy Joel has been given a Doctor of Humane Letters from Fairfield University (1991), a Honorary Doctorate from Berklee College of Music (1993), and a Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Hofstra University (1997) and a Doctor of Music from Southampton College (2000).

Joel has donated his time and resources to a variety of charitable causes outside the realm of his musical career. A longtime advocate for music education, he first began holding “master class” sessions on college campuses more than 20 years ago, giving sessions at colleges across the country and around the world. In addition, he has held classes as a benefit for the STAR Foundation (Standing for Truth About Radiation) and to establish the Rosalind Joel Scholarship for the Performing Arts at City College in New York City.

Billy Joel has recently launched an ongoing educational initiative to provide seed money, musical scholarships, and endowments to a variety of East Coast colleges, universities and music schools.

Tickets for EMF’s special June 24 Billy Joel Concerto performance will go on sale beginning [sale date] from the Greensboro Coliseum Box Office, select Triad area Lowe’s Food Stores, online from www.tickets.com, or charge by telephone toll-free: 888-397-3100. Ticket prices are $20, $40 and $75; proceeds from the concert will be used to support 2006 School programs and scholarships.

Now in its 45th year, Eastern Music Festival & School is recognized for its prodigious contributions to the field of American music and its commitment to nurturing talented American youth. The Festival brings high artistic quality to both public performances with America’s most sought-after artists and the academy for pre-professional students. The 2006 Season (June 24 through July 29) features a bevy of classical music heavyweights, including violinist Joshua Bell, mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade, the Canadian Brass, pianist Andrè Watts, Pinchas Zukerman, principal conductor Gerard Schwarz, and many others. The Festival also includes a schedule of popular fringe events, featuring everything from alt country and blues, to jazz and gospel. For more information about the Eastern Music Festival or its programs, please visit www.EasternMusicFestival.org, or call toll-free: 1-877-833-6753.

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