duo pianists, Josef Lhevinne, Rosina Lhevinne, Shirley Smith Kirsten, shirley smith kirsten blog, Shirley Smth Kirsten, word press, you tube, youtube.com

Husband and wife pianists I have known and their legacy

This week’s practicing and You Tubing hearkened back to my student days in New York City. Lillian Lefkofsky Freundlich was my Rosina Lhevinne. She, like her Russian counterpart, was married to a high profile husband, Irwin Freundlich who doubled as her 4-hand piano partner.

When Irwin passed away in his late 60s quite suddenly, as had Josef Lhevinne at about the same age, Lillian, came into her own as the great teacher she had been all along though she’d been otherwise hidden in the shadow of her spouse.


Ena Bronstein, another powerful mentor of mine, was married to her duo partner, Philip Lorenz. Both were Arrau students, and Philip had edited the Beethoven sonatas with Arrau giving him his 15 minutes of fame. But Ena was the more expressive pianist though she dealt with second tier status until the marriage dissolved.


Back to Lillian, my most influential piano teacher…

It just so happened that after watching the riveting documentary about the legacy of Rosina Lhevinne, I pulled up three works Lillian gave me to study at about age 15: Mozart’s Sonata in G, K. 283; the Chopin Nocturnes in Bb minor, Op. 9, No. 1 and E minor, Op. 72 no. 1.

The Chopin E minor had always been a sleepy piece, until I woke up to the burst of passion that Rubinstein and Ashkenazi delivered in their readings tempered by tasteful rubato.

As a reminder to myself, Andante in Italian meant walking and not at a snail’s pace.

Lillian Freundlich had selected the perfect Andante and Larghetto in Chopin’s vernacular that begged for a singing tone and fluid phrasing.

With Mozart’s Sonata, she focused on the operatic dimension of the composer’s works, singing throughout my lesson.

Finally, a musical retrospective that’s framed with Rosina Lhevinne’s inspiring words.

Rosina and Josef Lhevinne

“…discover the world through study, kindness, imagination, and through the integrity of your own quest.”

About Lillian and Irwin Freundlich
Irwin and Lillian Freundlich Collection


“Irwin Freundlich (1908 – 1977) was an internationally recognized piano educator who taught at the Juilliard School in New York for more than 40 years.

“He studied piano with James Friskin and Edward Steuermann at the Institute of Musical Art (parent school of the present Juilliard), and took further studies in musicology with Paul Henry Lang and Erich Hertzmann at Columbia University.

“In 1935, he became a member of the faculty at Juilliard and continued to maintain a heavy teaching schedule there in the piano department. He was the co-author with James Friskin of “Music For Piano: A Handbook of Teaching and Concert Material,” published in 1954 and currently available from Dover Publications.

“His students have concertized throughout the world and have been prize winners in numerous prestigious national and international competitions, such as the Naumberg and Leventritt in New York, the Van Cliburn in Texas, the Mozart in Austria, the Busoni in Italy, the Enescu in Romania, the Liszt-Bartok in Hungary, the J. S. Bach in Washington, D. C. and the Kosciuszko in New York, among many others.

“For thirteen summers (1953 – 1965), Irwin Freundlich held master classes on the campus of Bennington College in Vermont. He also performed recitals and conducted master classes, seminars and workshops at many institutions of higher learning throughout the United States, as well as serving on important juries for national and international competitions. He appeared in many recitals of music for one piano four hands with his wife, Lillian Freundlich.

“Lillian Freundlich was a distinguished member of the Piano Department at the Peabody Conservatory of Music and was also a member, at times, of the faculties at Juilliard Summer School, the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and the North Carolina School of the Arts. Aside from her performances with her husband, Lillian Freundlich also performed solo recitals in the U.S. and Europe.”



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.