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Posted by Bob Sherman, September 2009

Let me start with a few repetitions from earlier updates:

•  If you haven’t seen the remarkable NR video prepared by, and stored at the University of Maryland’s Piano Library, you’ll find a link to it on the recordings page, along with a link to NR’s now-available-on-CD historic cycle of the complete Mozart Piano Concertos, with Alfred Wallenstein conducting.

•  We’ve always listed 1922 as the year the Reisenbergs arrived in New York, because that was Nadia’s recollection. Turns out she was wrong. According to Barry Moreno, of the Ellis Island Immigration Museum, the family actually arrived in New York Harbor on 19 December, 1921, and were questioned in the Great Hall on the 20th. Groves, please note.

•  In honor of Steven Glaser’s promotion to full Professor at Ohio State University, he was asked to select a volume to be plated for the University Library. His choice: “Nadia Reisenberg: A Musician’s Scrapbook.” This too is available from the Piano Library.

And now on to some new — and glad — tidings.

•  I’m delighted to add three more artists to the roster of former NR students:

Lisa Szilagyi Grad, who maintains a teaching studio in New York, and 25 years ago established a Nadia Reisenberg Piano Scholarship (“because her generosity to me had to be passed on to others”);

Jungeun Kim, the concert coordinator at the Curtis Institute and executive director of the New York Summer Music Festival (“Mme. Reisenberg taught me how to be a true musician”);


Pascal Nemirovski, a professor at the Royal Academy in London, who recalls  that “she had a kind of aristocracy in her playing, and also as a person.”

•  The press and public reaction to the four-CD “Chopin Treasury” was so gratifying that Bridge Records will be releasing NR’s 1947 Carnegie Hall recital. The B Minor Sonata was included on the Treasury set, but Bridge felt it was historically important to represent the complete program, so it will reappear here, along with an appreciation by Gary Graffman. The full music listing:

Handel Suite #9 in G Minor
Mozart Sonata #8 in A Minor, K. 310
Weber Rondo Brilliante in E-flat, Op. 62
Chopin Sonata in B Minor, Op. 58
Barber Four Excursions, Op. 20
Scriabin Six Etudes (from Op. 42 and 8)
Stravinsky Etude in F#, Op. 7 #1
Prokofiev Etude in D Minor, Op. 2 #4
plus encores of Chopin, Khatchaturian and Tchaikovsky
If all goes well, the two-CD set will be issued before the end of the year.

•  The NR Memorial Recital Series at the Ossining Public Library was so successful that a new cycle of three concerts has been announced for the fall season, beginning October 11. Again it will present teenage laureates of the New York Piano Competition, sponsored by the Stecher and Horowitz Foundation.

•  The Foundation has just licensed two historic photographs of Clara (one with Leon Theremin) to the Musical Instrument Museum that is currently scheduled to open in Tempe, Arizona, in the spring of 2010. The pictures have been restored by Clara’s nephew, Steve J. Sherman, and will be displayed in the Museum’s special electronic music exhibition.

•  David McGill, principal bassoonist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and a 2001 Grammy winner, has become something of a CR junkie — after admiring her work for some twenty years, he bought a Moog theremin, has been analyzing Clara’s finger techniques, and spent several days going through her archives at the University of Maryland. He is now writing a book — to be ready, we hope, on time for publication during CR’s centennial year of 2011 — tentatively titled “Observing Clara Rockmore: The Life and Art of the World’s Greatest Thereminist.” The word “observing,” Mr. McGill explains, was chosen in part “because of my comprehensive examination and detailed codification of her fingering technique — the first of its kind.”

•  Among other centennial projects under consideration are the release (perhaps in conjunction with the book) of CR and NR’s home recording of the Franck A Major Sonata, and live performances on my old WQXR Listening Room series, the latter including Bach and Glinka pieces with NR and guest violinist Erick Friedman.

•  Sometimes the most gratifying comments are those that arise unsolicited, and  from unexpected sources. Case in point: on a blog from Stephen Hough, posted June 6, 2009, the superb pianist held forth on the subject of slides. “However bad a violinist is,” Stephen wrote, “if he or she adds lots of portamenti I’m an instant fan. It’s a stylistic trait which has all but disappeared from use today — indeed for about seventy years now.  Yet composers writing around the turn of the 19th and 20th century would have expected players to know what to do and to do it without shame. I always ask conductors to encourage the string players in the orchestra to include slides in Rachmaninoff, but it’s rare to get it to happen properly. My recordings with Andrew Litton and the Dallas Symphony were a happy exception.”

Stephen then posted a link to a pair of CR and NR performances that showcased “great musicians inflecting and sliding in a style which would be impossible to hear today — but maybe not tomorrow?” “Note the accompanist,” he added, “the great pianist and teacher, and student of Josef Hofmann, Nadia Reisenberg. This is the most captivating performance of Rachmaninoff’s ‘Vocalise’ I know.”

When conductor Andrew Litton saw the posting, he sent the following response to Stephen: “I was very touched, and not just for the message, to which, needless to say, I whole-heartedly subscribe, but the fact that Nadia Reisenberg was my last piano teacher and the grandmother of one of my greatest friends in the whole world, Steve Sherman. (By the way, there is no better photographer on the planet than Steve, so if you need some new shots done, he is your man.) Clara Rockmore was one of the most fun, inspirational and ageless people I’ve ever met. I think it is so great that through her music she continues to enthrall those who ‘get it’.”

•  Where there are blogs, can twitters be far behind?  One of NR’s former students, Wayne McEvilly, tells me that he is “becoming a Geek at the age of 73, and keeping the memory of Nadia Reisenberg green is one of my goals on twitter. Her spirit will live forever.” You can look in on his tweets at www.twitter.com/waynemcevilly.

•  And a final reminder that tax-exempt donations to the Nadia Reisenberg / Clara Rockmore Foundation are always welcome, and well help fund such planned-for-the-future events as a CR centennial exhibition at the University of Maryland, and the CD release of more NR performances, including chamber music with members of the Juilliard String Quartet.

Nadia Reisenberg

Clara Rockmore