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Posted by Bob Sherman, May 3, 2012
A little over a year ago, we reached Clara Rockmore's centennial with high hopes for several major
celebrations over the following 12 months. Happy to say, they indeed were forthcoming.
We are deeply grateful to theremin experts Andrew Baron and Mike Buffington, who came to the Museum to
help with the installation, make some repairs, and document the precise measurements of the diamond speaker.
To their surprise (and ours -- Clara had never told us about this), there were sufficient modifications made
by Léon Théremin himself to consider this a custom instrument. Mike and Andy even found some old tube labels,
with penciled inscriptions of test results, that they have verified are in the inventor’s own handwriting.
- As reported last November, a talk about Clara by her nephew and grand-nephew (a.k.a. Peter
and Bob Sherman) at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix sparked high interest amongst the curators there.
As a result, a major exhibition opened March 29th in the Museum's Artists Gallery, including Clara's
original RCA theremin (on loan from Peter), a robe she wore at the New York Film Festival's gala screening
of Steve M. Martin's "Theremin - An Electronic Odyssey" at Lincoln Center, a short performance video, and
other materials relating to Clara's life and career.
Several glowing reviews have been posted, but the most gratifying comments came in personal e-mails.
Morey Ritt, head of the piano department at Queens College, wrote "It was all I could do to keep my car
on the road when I heard The Swan, and the repertoire that followed; Clara's and Nadia's music-making is
amazing"; Glenn Dicterow, concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic, and his wife, the distinguished violist
Karen Dreyfus, wrote "We were bowled over by Clara Rockmore’s playing. What an artist!"; and from Albert
Glinsky (author of "Theremin - Ether Music and Espionage"), a request for details of further Foundation
activities: "I'm interested in all things Clara," he said.
- The most personally satisfying highlight of Clara's centennial year was the release of "Music In and
on the Air," a CD derived from a historic 1979 live WQXR radio broadcast, also featuring Nadia, the
violinist Erick Friedman, and eight members of the Violincello Society. The CD is available from
Roméo Records or via a minimum $50
(tax-deductible) contribution to the Foundation. Please make checks payable to the Nadia Reisenberg /
Clara Rockmore Foundation, and mail to 5 Tavano Road, Ossining NY 10562.
And from thereminist Charles Richard Lester, an extended and insightful reaction, excerpts form which,
with his permission, we proudly share with you here:
"I literally sat here transfixed. Then I listened to it (the CD) again, and it's playing
a third time as I am writing this email to you. Oh my goodness, what a priceless
gem is this recording! It's truly wonderful, as you pointed out toward the end of
the broadcast, to hear Clara playing in a live performance. It's pure musical magic.
And indeed, we highly cherish Charles' heartfelt and heartwarming words.
Her virtuoso musicality and refined musicianship shine on this CD, and it's just an
absolute thrill to hear her playing in ensemble with the string players. The Bach "Air
on a G String" and the Villa-Lobos "Bachianas Brasileiras" were especially thrilling
and inspiring. And, of course, it is wonderful to hear her playing with Nadia
Reisenberg. What a treasure and inspiration she has been to us all! Their rendition
of Cassado's 'Requiebros' is nothing short of stunning. I've heard a couple of different
recordings of them playing this, which are all beyond reproach, but in this recording
they are at their finest, with an absolutely spine-tingling performance.
Thank you SO MUCH for making this recording possible. I certainly shall cherish it."
Speaking of Nadia,
- The fourth biennial Nadia Reisenberg Recital Award auditions, sponsored by the Foundation,
were held this past January at the Mannes College of Music. German pianist Magdalena Muellerperth
received a cash award, while the top laureate, Minnesota-born Reed Tetzloff, will make his New York
debut at Merkin Hall in the fall. Both artists will also be featured on the long-running "McGraw-Hill
Companies' Young Artists Showcase” series on New York Public Radio’s WQXR.
- The fifth annual Nadia Reisenberg Young Artists Series at the Ossining Public Library is in the
planning stages, in collaboration with the Stecher and Horowitz Foundation. Three winners of the
New York Piano Competition (to be held in June) will be featured at these Sunday afternoon concerts
- Two new NR CDs are in the works, both taken from live recitals and planned for release later this
year. One derives from a 1977 recital at the 92nd Street Y, the violinist Erick Friedman and Nadia
playing Sonatas of Mozart, Brahms and Franck, plus an Elegie by Alexander Tcherepnin (in tribute to
the composer, who had died a few weeks earlier).
The other documents a 1979 faculty concert at the Juilliard School, when Nadia was partnered by
members of the celebrated Juilliard String Quartet -- Robert Mann, Earl Carlyss, Samuel Rhodes and
Joel Krosnick -- in the Mendelssohn D Minor Trio, Rachmaninoff’s G minor Cello Sonata, and the Faure
C Minor Piano Quartet. That will be a two CD set, possibly filled with Nadia's solo recording
(originally released on Westminster) of Moussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition," or maybe the
Tchaikovsky Sonata. More news of these pending releases in future newsletters, including confirmation
that the Juilliard set, and possibly both albums, will be issued on the Roméo label.
Two new websites should be of interest theremin, but most especially CR fans:
- From Russia, Peter Theremin (the inventor's grandson), announced the launching of Theremin Times,
"opened for the centenary of Clara Rockmore, but a site that will continue to be dedicated to her life and work.
I think she would be pleased to know of our love and memories of this wonderful person," he says, noting
further that "Additions to the site are welcome, since it will eventually contain a special commentary
section called 'Modern Thereminists Speak About Clara.'" You can reach Peter via Email
- Back on this side of the pond, the aforementioned Messrs. Baron and Buffington announced the official
public launch of RCATheremin.com, a site, as its title suggests, designed specifically for devotees of
the instruments manufactured by RCA. "It was time," they wrote us, "to convey what we've learned during our
combined years of study of these unique and fascinating instruments. Others have done a great job covering
deeper technical matters and playing techniques. What always seemed to be missing, however, was practical
knowledge on setting up, operating and caring for RCA theremins. In short, this is exactly the kind of
information we would love to have seen when we first got into these fabulous instruments."
A special "Lev Built" section of their site is devoted to Théremin's custom-made instruments, including
Clara's 1938 theremin, much of which has never before been presented or published. Go to the
Home Page; going on to /38 rockmore.php will yield the additional information on her
And in the Don't Count Your Chickens Department:
- Anna Giulia Volpato, a young electronic musician in Venice is writing a book about women in electronic
music and, she says, "of course a chapter will be dedicated to Miss Rockmore." If all goes well, it will
be published this summer by Auditorium Edizioni.
- Prize-winning Belgian film-maker Pieter Dirkx is in the pre-production phase of a movie, set in the
1930's, whose plot revolves around a mesmerizing theremin performance. It may involve an actress portraying
Clara herself, or a different character inspired by her. If nothing else, Mr. Dirkx says, "we can film
a scene where Clara Rockmore's name is printed on a concert poster."