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After performing for over twenty years, I am looking forward to traversing the US to orchestras in a variety of repertoire. I always feared that new music would lose a place in society due to inaccessibility amongst the wary audience. Fortunately, there are composers aplenty who have revived the lush neo-Romantic style coupled with a breath of fresh air in harmonic, melodic and rhythmic textures.
In addition to recording Ellen Taaffe Zwilich works for piano and orchestra in 2009, this season will bring out a remarkable piano concerto by Keith Emerson, who was the electrifying keyboardist of Emerson, Lake and Palmer, plus many performances of Lowell Liebermann’s Third Piano Concerto. The Liebermann project began in 2003, and it is only now that I will be able to sit at the piano and enjoy the performances with the co-commissioning orchestras.
At long last, Leroy Anderson’s 2008 centennial is upon us. Since 1992, I have embraced his delightful piano ‘Concerto in C’, and the Naxos recording I did with Leonard Slatkin and the BBC Concert Orchestra will be jubilantly released in January 2008. On a personal note, I cannot begin to express the utmost pleasure and distinct honor to have worked with Maestro Slatkin. We met over twenty years ago–all I can remember was that I played the ‘Islamey Fantasy’ for him in a room at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall. I had only dreamed of working with him, and the reality of that dream was well worth the long wait. Earlier this season, after another long wait, I had the pleasure to work with Andrew Litton and the Colorado Symphony with Liebermann’s Third Concerto. As a pianist as well, Maestro Litton grasped the score and understood every nuance and every move I made, which made for a wonderful first collaboration–and, he is one heckuva guy and musician!
Naturally, a fear is always to become stereo-typed, and fortunately, I have made sure not to allow myself to lose my love for the standard repertoire. I will include the Rachmaninoff Third Concerto and Prokofieff Third Concerto this season, along with Beethoven’s ‘Emperor’ Concerto.
I look forward to meeting new people throughout the US, and will be better at posting new blogs during the season.
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I am in Gadsden, AL this weekend to premiere Daniel Dorff’s delightful Piano Concerto with the ever-resourceful Maestro Mike Gagliardo and his Etowah Youth Symphony. Some know Daniel as a composer of wonderful music, or as Head of Publications at Theodore Presser Inc.The youngsters play their hearts out, and last night, we were treated to a special concert featuring an Electric Strings ensemble made up of members of the Etowah Youth Symphony. These beautiful instruments are made by the amazing Mark Wood, a founding member and artist with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. I was amazed! The sounds Mark is able to get from his electric violin was astounding–much more than saying it is like an electric guitar with a bow–it’s very special. Youth orchestras should seek him out for a special guest visit. The kids were terrific and he enjoyed working with them immensely.
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A wonderful pianist and friend, Matthew Cameron (who himself transcribed Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik for solo piano, published by International and up at You Tube as well as Liszt’s Les Preludes) encouraged me to get my music on You Tube. Before the videos of Rachmaninoff’s Second and Prokofieff’s Third Concerti will be up this spring, Matthew created a wonderfuil montage of Chopin photos to accompany a live, unedited performance of Chopin’s Double Thirds Etude. I share it with pleasure:
YouTube – Jeffrey Biegel performs Chopin Etude Op. 25 No. 6
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I hope this will be of interest to piano teachers and students. The new Schirmer Student Piano Library has made my edition of SchumannÂ´s Scenes from Childhood available at the Hal Leonard website www.halleonard.com The new edition is true to the original Schumann text, and provides a foreword, historical overview, performance comments and a cd which I recorded for the edition. I hope it will be enjoyed for many generations to come!
SCHUMANN – SCENES FROM CHILDHOOD (KINDERSCENEN) OPUS 15
Schirmer Performance Editions SeriesSeries: Educational Piano Library Publisher: G. Schirmer, Inc.
Medium: Softcover with CD
Editor: Jeffrey Biegel Composer: Robert Schumann
Perfect literature for the intermediate to early advanced pianist, these miniatures by Schumann have been favorites of many generations of students. The pieces are an excellent introduction to Schumann’s piano music and to Romantic musical literature in general. Includes the famous “Träumerei.”
Contents: Of Strange Lands and People (Von fremden Ländern und Menschen) “Curious Story (Kuriose Geschichte) “Blindman’s Bluff (Hasche-Mann) “Pleading Child (Bittendes Kind) “Perfect Happiness (Glückes genug) “Great Adventure (Wichtige Begebenheit) “Reverie (Träumerei) “By the Fireside (Am Kamin) “On the Rocking Horse (Ritter vom Steckenpferd) “Almost Too Serious (Fast zu ernst) “Hobgoblin (Fürchtenmachen) “A Child Falling Asleep (Kind in Einschlummern) “The Poet Speaks (Der Dichter spricht)
View Songlist$9.95 (US) Inventory # HL 00296641ISBN: 1423405439UPC: 73999753141Width: 9Length: 1232 pages
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I received a phone call today that the piano for the third performance of Lowell Liebermann’s Third Piano Concerto was not quite on the level they thought I would expect. The middle pedal was not working either–well, I only use that one once in the concerto, so it is ok. They also expect only 60 people to attend–that means more people on stage than in the Stadtheater in Heide, Germany. Did I want to cancel out and the orchestra play something else? I said I was paid already to play all five concerts–but the option was mine.
My choice: bum out and hang out doing nothing, or face the challenge and meet my ‘blind date’ piano. Not just because I am paid to do so, I think it is exciting to see just what the piano is all about. I said, ‘I will go and play–you know me well enough that I can say with all humility–I can try to make any piano sound good! That’s what my teacher taught us. That’s my job.” Not to mention the fact that if I bummed out, that’s what they would remember more than the other four performances–and that lessens your chances to get re-engaged! Maestro Gerard Oskamp is one of the kindest and finest conductors I have met–he has brought me to Flensburg to his Schleswig-Holstein Symphony Orchestra three times in less than four years–that’s quite hospitable! We’ve done Saint-Saens 2 and Liszt 1 in the first visit (yes, both in each concert!!!!), then Grieg in the second visit, and then he agreed to bring the orchestra into the Liebermann global project as one of the 18 co-commissioning orchestras. It’s the official European premiere. Too bad this is his last season–I only hope the orchestra and new music director will remember me. No–I wasn’t about to stay at the hotel and forego the concert.
After getting lost a few times, I spotted the Stadtheater sign and the taxi driver let me out. I went into the hall, a tender and charming hall, and found the Steinway “C”. Well, never agree with anyone until you see for yourself. OK–the middle pedal doesn’t work and the sound is occasionally thin, but I know exactly what to do. After a short meeting with the piano, I found the soft spots and made it sing. It’s a finer piano than I had anticipated. And–I walked around the entire little town in the brisk cold–it is absolutely charming–I loved it. I am now sitting in the Heide Hof restaurant–the young chef had a nice but not overbearing buffet–excellent food! And now I get to play the concert shortly. See what I would have missed if I said ‘no?’
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In 1997, pianist Jeffrey Biegel pioneered the first live audio/video internet piano recitals in New York and Amsterdam. The recording engineer cleverly reorded a DAT master simultaneously which resulted in a commercially released cd titled, cyberecital.com. In the age of digital download distribution, this historic recording is now available at: http://www.rhapsody.com/jeffreybiegel/cyberecitalcom
For more information about Jeffrey Biegel, please visit him at www.cyberecital.com. News featuring new editions of Schumann’s Scenes from Childhood and The Sonatina Album in music book form with audio cd for the Schirmer Student Piano Library Performance Editions, distributed through the Hal Leonard Corporation, will be announced in February.
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The ever brilliant and resourceful maestro Leonard Slatkin introduced a rare find to me: pianist Emile Naoumoff’s transcription for piano and orchestra of Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition”. Naoumoff provides a wonderful case for this work which sounds fine for solo piano, or solo orchestra–however, he felt, as do I, that the piece screams for collaboration for the piano and the orchestra. Maestro Slatkin suggested I explore this piece, and I am glad I did. I have the cd of Naoumoff performing the work and Boosey and Hawkes houses the score and parts. The Naoumoff cadenzas are quite fine, and give ample opportunity for the pianist to expand some of the motivic material. The dialogue between piano and orchestra is well done. It allows both parties to have their share of the piece comfortably. Personally, I would like very much to include this in my repertoire, and will do my best to share this with conductor friends.
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In teaching Ravel’s ‘Le Tombeau de Couperin’, I am curious if teachers reading this post instruct their students to search online for information about the dedicatees of each movement of the suite. I was playing ‘Forlane’ for one student and realized halfway through that it reminded me of a boat chant, perhaps–and in searching for the translation of ‘tombeau’, I was directed during my student’s lesson to a site describing the piece. We looked up Gabriel Deluc, the dedicatee of the ‘Forlane’, as I was not familiar with his name. Deluc was a famous painter–one painting he titled, ‘Le lac’– who was trained as a nurse and died in World War I, as did all the dedicatees of each movement. His paintings were hanging in Ravel’s home which he owned after the war. I instructed my student to search each name online for each movement’s dedicatee and see what he learns–I think it will have a deeper effect on him and draw him closer to the work and the composer. He could certainly do a wonderful lecture recital on this–although, perhaps it’s been done many times and I am finding this for the first time.
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What an unusual experience: returning to pieces I have not played for so long–in an attempt to try to repeat the way I played twenty years ago, I am somewhat relieved that I am not playing as I did twenty years ago. What does that mean? In my young search for the ultimate interpretations of standard repertoire, I remember so much of the process–tonal production, tempi, pedaling, phrasing, dynamics. In returning to these pieces, it almost seems too easy–everything falls into place without the same thought and stress of ‘what to do’. I find I am playing fast pieces a bit slower, and slow pieces a bit faster. What’s that all about? Perhaps it has something to do with age and experience–teaching, performing, arranging, who knows. I don’t find the need to play as fast–although it probably still is fast as necessary–and I was never ridiculed or criticized for doing so, or for trying too hard to make a musical statement. I find more simplicity now–clearer thoughts, musical lines–not to say I am finding things more matter-of-fact, quite the contrary–I simply find it easier to do what’s on the page and alittle more, without it sounding drippingly over-Romantic or underestimating the emotional state of the composer at the time of writing. I am finding a marriage of heart, mind and spirit which is not as ‘mindful’ and cerebral as it might have been, rather, more of a natural language than it has ever been. Then comes the question: am I doing enough? Well, I am still able to sing out loud as I play and float the melodies on a single breath without feeling the need to grasp for air (I have always sang along as I practiced, as did my teacher, Adele Marcus). I am not sure if my fingers can fly as fast as they did–though in encores after concerti, they do, but musically, I can’t do that–it doesn’t seem appropriate to play too fast when the music doesn’t speak naturally–
There is a renewed sense of inner trust–to do what comes naturally–trusting the years of effort placed on thought and reason. I trust I will do exactly what is appropriate. I have grown to like that word ‘appropriate’–it is not a definite interpretation when one says it is ‘appropriate’, because it is appropriate for the now–not right, and not wrong. What was appropriate twenty years ago is not now. I can play a slow movement to a Mozart Sonata and a Brahms Intermezzo appropriately now–not overdone, not underdone (yes, like a steak!) I am not as worried that it is too slow, or too fast–it is the singing line that predominates my sense of pulse now. I don’t use a metronome–my sense of pulse is based on the natural vocal lines, and Andante for Mozart is not so slow, nor is Adagio for Brahms. The word isn’t metronomically as important to me as it is a sense of the phrase and the rhythmic flow.
The acid test will come when I perform recitals in Norway in January. This new sense is not as apparent in the concerto playing, because we have to keep a beat with the conductor and have the orchestra playing along. In recital, however, is where we are alone and the interpretation has ebbs and tides. I am curious to hear the reactions–especially from people who have not heard me perform these works for nearly 20 years.
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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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