Mister Rogers would have welcomed Ena Bronstein back to the “neighborhood” that she left over 25 years ago. He’d say that she planned to honor her friends, former neighbors, and piano students by giving them a very special reunion concert wrapped in love.
And so it happened that our Fresno “neighborhood” piano teacher who had emigrated to the East Coast, returned “home” to her roots to bestow a musical gift that left an indelible memory.
With my video camera mounted on a delicate tripod, I wound my way to the balcony of First Congregational Church, finding a snug space, keyboard-side for my film landing. From this vantage point, I could zoom in on a 9-foot grand that was pea-size to the naked eye.
It evoked my childhood seat in Carnegie Hall’s last row– with its dizzying gaze upon a stage that hosted Ashkenazy, Richter and Gilels. Their delicate pianissimos were melted pin drops of musical pleasure.
Ena, too, would feed the soul of listeners at the Old Red Church on Van Ness with an expressive palette of tonal colors and textures, framed and styled for each of three composers: Liszt, Debussy and Beethoven.
From the very first silky sound emanating from a well cared for piano, she riveted her audience to every nuance, sculpted phrase, and expressive possibility of all programmed works. It was playing permeated by seasoned maturity, finesse, mood painting and heightened expression. (For students learning about the unity of physical movement with fluid, emotional musical expression, Ena’s supple wrist and flowing, relaxed arms were exemplary models)
An excerpt from Liszt’s 12 Transcendental Etudes
In the culminating Beethoven Sonata, op. 111 the artist left us in spellbound silence at the last fading cadence, needing no encore to disturb a purity of contemplation.
I barely held back tears.
Ena celebrated the birthdays of Liszt and Debussy in a personalized performer to audience soliloquy, then continued to play her heart out.
Pour Le Piano: Debussy Toccata
Prelude: Voiles (with my photo seascapes along the Bay)
For her generosity, and singular benefit performance to restore the Church’s Casavant pipe organ, she was rewarded by large servings of love that circulated through the reception area following her concert. I was one of many former students who begged for a photo with her:
As icing on the cake, I was granted a brief interview with my “neighborhood” piano teacher who, despite her farewell decades ago, will always have an eternal presence in my life and those of others she touched in a unique way.
Ena, please come back home again, soon!
From 12 Etudes Transcendantales
Harmonies du soir Liszt
Preludes – Voiles Debussy
Etudes – pour les Arpeges composes Debussy
pour les Degres chromatiques
Pour le Piano
Sonata Op.111 Beethoven
Maestoso – Allegro con brio ed appassionato
Arietta – Adagio molto, semplice e cantabile
Ena Bronstein-Barton Bio:
“Born in Santiago, Chile, pianist Ena Bronstein Barton began her career in South America, touring her native continent. After winning a national piano competition she traveled to New York to study with Claudio Arrau and Rafael de Silva. Her New York debut at Town Hall was received with critical acclaim. Since then, Ms. Barton’s career has taken her across the United States, back to South America, to Europe, the Near and Far East, Australia and New Zealand. Among her engagements abroad was an extended tour of Israel and Europe, highlighted by performances as soloist with orchestras in Jerusalem, Luxembourg and Rome.
“Ms. Barton has received many honors throughout her career, including an invitation to attend the Casals Festival, a 1976 Martha Baird Rockefeller Grant which resulted in a solo recital at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall, and the 1996 Distinguished Artists Piano Award by Artists International. Her chamber music performances have included appearances with violinist Jaime Laredo and the Guarneri Quartet.
“Ms. Barton taught at California State University-Fresno for 13 years. She was artist-in-residence at Monterey Peninsula College in California and has conducted master classes at the University of Veracruz in Xalapa, Mexico, and in Santiago.
“Recently she gave a recital and master class as part of the centennial celebration of Claudio Arrau’s birthday being held in New York City at the Greenwich House Music School.
“Currently, Ms. Barton is head of the piano department at the Westminster Conservatory of Music, the college’s community music school. She is also a member of the piano faculty of Westminster Choir College of Rider University.”
Donald Munro’s Fresno Bee interview with Ena Bronstein:
The Neighorhood Teacher Lives On: