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Posted by Bob Sherman, November 11, 2011

As we near the end of Clara Rockmore’s centennial year, there are many glad tidings to report.

Most importantly, with a major grant from the Smart Family Foundation and donations from individual theremin and Clara fans, a major gap in her recorded legacy has been closed with the release of “Music In and On the Air,” a CD derived from a live 1979 WQXR broadcast. To celebrate the 9th anniversary of a series called The Listening Room, Clara brought her theremin to The New York Times building, and before a full house in the auditorium there, played solos and chamber pieces with her renowned pianist-sister Nadia Reisenberg, the superb violinist Erick Friedman, and eight members of the Violincello Society.

In addition to St. Saens’ “The Swan” and Cassado’s “Requiebros” (available in studio recordings on Delos and Bridge CDs, respectively), Clara and Erick played Rachmaninoff’s “Song of Georgia” in the Fritz Kreisler transcription with violin obbligato, and then, with Nadia continuing to eputize for the orchestra, they shared the solos in the slow movement of Bach’s D Minor Double Violin Concerto. Taking further advantage of Erick and Nadia, who later that year would be appearing in recital at Carnegie Hall and the Caramoor Festival, we prevailed upon them to play two movements of the Franck A Major Sonata.

When the members of the Violincello Society arrived, they warmed up with Beethoven, then accompanied Clara in the celebrated “Air on the G String” and the radiant Aria from Villa-Lobos’ Bachianas Brasileiras #5. Interviews with the artists are included, and the album notes are brightened by a number of never-before- published photos of Clara and Lev Termen himself.

Donors to the cause will receive their copies before the end of the year, but I’m delighted to say that the album will be released and distributed by Roméo Records, probably in January. Can’t wait? You can order CDs directly from the Foundation for a $30 donation (or if you want an extra to give as a gift, $50 for the pair, including shipping within the continental USA.


    • In related news, Clara’s original RCA-model theremin was played on stage for the first time in half a century or so, when her nephew and grand-nephew (a.k.a. Bob and Peter Sherman) spoke about Clara’s life and times in a theremin evening at the Museum of Musical Instruments in Phoenix. Peter demonstrated the mechanics of the instrument, and even bravely ventured an approximation of Gershwin’s “Summertime.” The presentation caused such a stir amongst officials at the Museum that they requested — and Peter has agreed to — an extended loan. If all goes as planned, Clara’s theremin, and various other mementos of her extraordinary career, will soon be on displayed in the Museum’s Artists Gallery.
    • The Foundation has sent a Clara interview clip to Poland for possible inclusion on an album featuring local therminists, and it seems likely that photos of her will be included at forthcoming electronic instrument exhibitions in England and Switzerland.
  • David McGill, who continues to balance his day (and evening) job as principal bassoonist of the Chicago Symphony with his extensive research and work on a forthcoming book about Clara, tells us that he has collected so many fascinations that the project will probably emerge as two separate volumes: the only fully-authenticated biography of Clara and her remarkable family, and the only codified study of her theremin fingering technique, including musical examples, drawings of hand positions, and other graphics. Can’t wait…


    • On the keyboard front, the fourth annual Nadia Reisenberg Young Artists Series is underway at the Ossining Public Library, presented in cooperation with the Stecher and Horowitz Foundation and featuring past winners of the New York Piano Competition. Alan Woo began the cycle last month, Igor Lovchinsky plays this week, and Michael Brown’s recital is scheduled December 11.


    • Looking ahead to 2012, the recipient of the Nadia Reisenberg Recital Award at the Mannes College of Music will be announced on January 20th, following auditions at the school. The distinguished judging panel includes pianists Ann Schien and Morey Ritt, plus the new Mannes Dean, Richard Kessler. The selected pianist will make his/her New York recital debut, probably at Merkin Hall, next fall. Incidentally, an earlier laureate of the same award, Dudana Mazmanishvili, was soloist last month in four performances of Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto with the New Jersey Symphony under Jacques Lacombe.


  • Another student has been found! Frances Joerg Hanson worked with NR from 1967 to 1972, recalling her teacher as “a wonderful woman, a superlative teacher and mentor.” We also heard from Sophie Agranovich who celebrated the Liszt bicentennial with recitals at Barge Music and Weill Hall. Aside from correcting her e-mail address (it’s sofilana@yahoo.com), Sophia also wrote excitedly about a prodigy in her own class, saying she considers 5-year old Tyler Fengya “one of Mme. Reisenberg’s grandchlld students.”



Among other items on the Foundation’s wish list are reissues of NR’s recording of the Brahms Viola Sonatas with Paul Doktor, her Library of Congress performances (Mendelssohn and Faure) with members of the Juilliard Quartet, and home recordings of Nadia and Clara playing works of Lalo and Franck.

Tax-deductible contributions are always gratefully welcomed, and taking a cue from public radio, we even have a few thank-you gifts available:


    • For a $50 donation, we’ll send you a professional 8X10 B/W copy-photo of Clara performing at her final public appearance in 1989, taken by her grand-nephew, photographer Steve J. Sherman.


    • For a $100 or higher contribution, For a $100 or higher contribution, we’ll send you an original 8×10 B/W print of Lev Termen in Moscow in 1985, holding up a glass of wine in honor of Clara (knowing the photo would be given to her. Clara framed this photo and kept it on her piano for the rest of her life.


    • And no pressure or anything, but if you can afford a $500 donation, we’ll send an original flyer for Clara and Nadia’s 1937 Town Hall concert, or if you prefer, an original Town Hall program. Obviously we have only a few of these, so the offer will have to be withdrawn when the supply is exhausted.


Checks should be made payable to the Nadia Reisenberg / Clara Rockmore Foundation, and sent to 5 Tavano Road, Ossining NY 10562.

For our overseas friends, contributions can channel through Paypal by clicking on the button below:


Nadia Reisenberg

Clara Rockmore