Arturo Bennedetti Michelangeli, chamber music, Classical music blog, Friedrich Edelmann, Munich Philharmonic, piano, Rebecca Rust-Edelmann, San Francisco Munich Trio

Poignant recollections about pianists, Michelangeli and Barenboim from the Munich Philharmonic’s principal bassoonist

Friedrich and Rebecca crop

As early Spring weather rolled into Berkeley last Sunday afternoon, I set out for Piedmont Pianos in Oakland to try out various grands, and to partake of the San Francisco Munich Trio. Friedrich Edelmann, bassoonist, and Rebecca Rust, cellist are a couple joined in marriage and music. They sometimes perform as a duo, or with pianist, Dmitriy Cogan.

On March 1, they were part of a trio in an appetizing program that offered the works of Classical, Romantic and Contemporary composers. As icing on the cake, their finale was Max Stern’s moving composition, “Prayer” from Laudations, composed for and dedicated to Friedrich and Rebecca in 2013.

While the concert was a feast of fine playing, the true dessert following, was meeting Friedrich and Rebecca at Bacheesos Persian restaurant in Berkeley. They’d been invited by a Classical Music Meet-up Organizer, Alana Shindler, who staged the gathering.

To my immense delight, the couple shared many colorful experiences that spanned decades. It was an oral music history that I was determined to memorialize on video.

My wish came true when the pair graced my apartment and filled the air with even more poignant reminiscences.

Friedrich who was perched beside my iMac, in full screen image, recalled his 17 years playing in the Munich Philharmonic as Principal Bassoonist under the legendary baton of Rumanian born Sergiu Celibidache. Subsequently he’d worked with James Levine and other notable guest conductors: Giulini, Ozawa, Boehm, Solti and many others. His service to the orchestra totaled 27 years!

With a little prompting, Edelmann recounted stories about pianists, Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli and Daniel Barenboim who had been engaged by the Munich orchestra as concerto soloists. What was revealed was compelling and colorful, providing an enticing entree to Friedrich’s book, Memories of Maestro Sergiu Celibidache, published in Japan in 2009.

Interview with Friedrich Edelmann


The Edelmanns are now headed to Germany briefly, but plan to come back to the Bay area where they previously enjoyed the patronage of a music-loving grand dame.

“Gladys Perez-Mendez” adopted the couple and gave them beautiful quarters (gratis) in her Berkeley Hills home. Sadly, she passed away the day before their chamber concert last Sunday, so the duo is in need of sanctuary, or a HOST, to put them up several times a year when they come to California to play concerts, and give master classes.

If there’s a chance this writing will fulfill their wish for housing, then it will be the perfect outcome.

About Friedrich and Rebecca:

E-mail Address: Friedrich Edelmann
(Those interested in purchasing Edelmann’s book in English translation can contact him at the above address)

Article by Tony Sauro about the musical duo:

chamber music, Journal of a Piano Teacher from New York to California, Menahem Pressler, music, practicing the piano, Pressler Masterclasses, wordpress, you tube

Facebook puts Menahem Pressler center stage, practicing “with love.”

An encore tribute to Maestro Pressler caught my eye on FB’s Art of Piano Pedagogy forum. Deborah Rambo Sinn, a fine musician and teacher in her own right posted “My violinist’s interview” with the octogenarian plus ten. It was the perfect supplement to a 2012 blog that I’d dedicated to Menahem that resonates into the present.

Snips of folkore surround this elder statesman of the piano, but aside from occasional slights about his teaching etiquette and temperament, I’ve always adored Menahem Pressler’s artistry.

An “old” 1974 recording of the pianist’s Mozart’s Bb Concerto, K. 450 is an ambrosian delight. The playing is pure singing poetry permeated by impeccable phrasing. An attentive listener will imbibe music that is like fine wine.

Pressler insists that we must be “in love” with a composition we are studying or performing–to own a passion for the composer’s creation and do our utmost to realize the style, emotion, affect and nuance that was intended. By example, the pianist shows us the way.


As for the maestro’s attitude about practicing and teaching, Rambo-Sinn’s posted interview by Monique Mead is perfectly inserted here:


The Backdrop:

In the late 1960’s, as a Merrywood music camper exposed to Tanglewood’s riches, I made a weekly journey to the Chamber Music Shed to hear performances of the Budapest String Quartet and The Beaux Arts Trio of New York, among others.

On one special Wednesday in 1961, Menahem Pressler’s Trio that included Bernard Greenhouse, cello and Daniel Guilet, violin, played a program of Beethoven, Chausson, and Schubert.

The evening was made memorable not only for its inspired music-making and autographed program insert but for a spiritual essence that became my constant companion.

Though the Beaux Arts Trio is no longer, the Internet brings cherished music-making back to life in many forms:

BIO: Menahem Pressler

The Official Website,


Does Practice Make Perfect?

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A pianist is a COLLABORATOR NOT an “accompanist”

The “A” word is officially banished from my vocabulary, even if its residual usage in books, newspapers, old reviews, can’t be controlled.

To boot, anyone who’s been handed a stack of music by the High School vocal teacher to ready for the mid-year Christmas program and a few others in between Thanksgiving and semester break, knows that practicing sonatas, etudes, nocturnes and preludes is ON HOLD for a term of “ancillary” musical service.

NO not ancillary! according to Merriam-Webster
1: subordinate, subsidiary 2: auxiliary, supplementary

Purge this “A” word from the music-related vocabulary!

I must confide that the original verboten “A” word slipped into an e-mail I’d sent to a NY Times editor. And it ruffled the feathers of a world-class soloist and COLLABORATOR who received my prompt apology.


Now here’s a supreme collaborator in a Brahms Piano Quartet performance.


Those of us who’ve “COLLABORATED” know the practicing requirements. They upend family obligations at times, and turn our lives inside out and upside down if you factor in practicing prep, rehearsal schedules and performances.

Take the Beethoven “Spring” Sonata, for example, scored for violin and piano. It’s glaring that the interactive counterpoint between players, precludes thinking of the composition as placing the violinist in a starring role. The SOLOIST domain days are over!

And while pianists may be sitting, THEY WILL INEVITABLY also SIT-IN for proper recognition.

Same for harpsichordists, one of whom stands, gaining long-delayed attention– Elaine Comparone has championed harpsichord rights, erecting a “Brooklyn Bridge” to lift the spirits of her instrument, though she remains a superb collaborator.


In the chamber music venue, I played the Brandenburg Concerto 5 at the Merrywood Music Camp, and my part in the Gigue movement, was no small task. I was “conversing,” overlapping, chattering, through a quick-paced reading with an instrumental group of equals. If I failed, which I did at one point, the music crumbled like a house of cards.

And this whole chatter-boxing dimension of interactive, collaborative performance, brings up the subject of Deborah Tannen’s Book, That’s Not What I Meant.

Collaborators have the challenge of saying what they mean in a musically harmonious fashion.

I remember reading about how Dietrich Fischer-Diskau, with his “strong personality” asked Sviatoslav Richter to tone it down more. And Richter having a robust persona, perhaps didn’t always agree that his contribution should be diminished.. (not literally, of course)

How many times have we heard one collaborator drown out the other, unsettling a balance between them, especially where one of the two had a riveting passage that needed fleshing out.


Naturally, the ART of making musical decisions is pivotal to a convincing performance and begs for good interpersonal communication skills. (consult again, Deborah Tannen, That’s Not What I Meant, You Just Don’t Understand, and I Only Say This because I Love You)

Now back to the High School or Middle School venue.

I remember hauling a stack of albums home, and grimacing at the very thought of practicing a medley of Christmas Carols. Being paid $9 per hour at the time (while holding a Master’s Degree) my classification was “associate.”

Oops, that’s my cue to EXPUNGE still another “A” word from the language! For heaven sakes, NO ASSOCIATE practices for HOURS, DAYS, WEEKS having a back-up pile of spirituals and movie themes to plow through.

And what about navigating those first, second, third and fourth endings sandwiched between dal segnos. DC al Fine–not to mention sifting through slash marks, revisions, and last-minute cuts made by the conductor.

Case in point–On the day of the BIG Holiday performance, the music director did the UNTHINKABLE!

He slashed 4/4 to 2/2 without a word of warning and sent us all hurtling into musical space at break speed tempo!! (I watched his index finger rise and fall like his twitching nose)

Luckily, we made it in one PIECE to the final cadence amidst earth-shattering applause.

Sadly, this death-defying effort, sealed my retirement as a secondary school collaborator! Kaput! Finished! I was off and running back to the serious practice room where I bathed myself in Bach, Brahms and Beethoven.

Fortunately, earlier opportunities, outside the public school venue, were heaven sent by comparison! And these are enumerated:

Mozart G minor Piano Quartet (Appel Farm Arts Camp, Elmer NJ)
Brandenburg 5–Gigue (Merrywood Music Camp–Lenox, MA)
The Beethoven “Ghost” Trio–Fresno CA
Beethoven: Trio for Clarinet, Cello & Piano in B flat major, Op. 11 (with NYC HS of Performing Arts alums–I recall cellist, Marcia Patelson Popowitz)
Schubert Fantasie in D minor.. 4 hands, one piano (with a student)
Beethoven “Ghost” trio again, 92nd Street Y (Yuval Waldman, violin) don’t remember cellist.
Diabelli duets with my cousin Gregory.. 4 hands, one piano
Bach Concerto for Violin and Oboe in C minor, BWV1060 (My cousin Greg played the oboe, alongside Uncle Joe on violin)
Bach Double Concerto (I played violin) so I was still collaborating.
Mozart Concerto K. 453 (collaborating in the orchestra) before stepping out as a “soloist” do I dare say!

Shall we ban the word “soloist” from the musical UNIVERSE!!! !

I think there’s movement in this direction!

And speaking of the soloist venue, here’s Morozova playing the very concerto I performed at the New York City High School of Performing Arts Winter Concert.

We can all agree that Mozart in this orchestration, IS chamber music. (Even the pooches heard in the distance were willing “collaborators”)


The Collaborator Blog Spot

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The value of studying the piano and a second musical instrument

While the study of two musical instruments is time-consuming, it can reap benefits in widening a student’s horizons.

If a pupil plays only piano for years on end he may deny himself the rich experience of participating in an orchestra or small ensemble. And while it’s true that some pianists manage to grab a score in Junior High with a token part in the midst of blaring brass, or heaving saxophones, it’s not enough. Keeping rhythm but being muted into the background does not equal a thoughtful interaction of voices in a group music setting.

Too often, piano players are in a slush pile of extras, waiting for a chorus line call that never comes.

Where a pianist can be on a more equal footing in a jazz combo, or as a vital part of a classical trio or quartet, then the work required will be more substantial and the sense of balancing one part against another comes into play as a growth experience.

There is, however, always a chance that a pianist could be utilized as accompanist or collaborator with any number of solo instrumentalists, but these opportunities may be infrequent, and if they pop up, many pianists tend to sadly shy away from them.

So an alternative is to join in the fun and study a string, woodwind, brass or percussion instrument while still tickling the ivories.


I was lucky to have started my violin lessons at age 11, about 5 years into my piano study, and within 18 months, I had worked so assiduously that I found myself as the first chair leader of the Manhattan Borough-wide Orchestra. Not to say that I deserved to be concert master at that moment in time, but just the same, the chance to be part of a symphony, opened my eyes and ears to a universe of voices that came in different shades and colors. The brass, woodwinds, violas, string basses, etc. all had lines that would sometimes be fleshed out by the conductor, while first violins were subdued. We had to learn to surrender our starring roles as treble melody bearers, and sometimes fill a layer of blended color as directed.

The observance of voicing and dynamic changes that played out in the group musical setting spilled over to the piano with its vast orchestral resource, making me more responsive to the fabric of music from various historical periods.


Studying the violin and piano brought the following adventures: two music camp summers with solo opportunities, orchestra membership and chamber music experience.


A 13-year old camper in Merrywood in Lenox, Massachusetts, I was the second violin in a String Quartet with more advanced players. Naturally, I had to invest significant practice time to be ready for the final recital of Mozart’s String Quartet in G Major, K.387.

(The photo below, old and damaged, has a sad tear through its center)

Eugene Lehner, the man pictured beside me was our chamber music coach. Simultaneously he was principal viola of the Boston Symphony and a member of the Boston Fine Arts Quartet. Lehner, a demonstrative coach, danced around us, cajoled, conducted, smiled and grimaced at points in the music. His teaching was so imbued with passion, pulsation, and musical sensitivity that it easily seeped into our veins.

By coincidence, Lehner had met up with harpsichordist, Elaine Comparone years later in a chamber music class at Brandeis, making our connection even closer than had been thought. In the music world six degrees of separation could easily shrink to three.

Comparone’s bio gives testimony to the value of exposure to more than one instrument.

Here’s a snatch that caught my eye.

“Born into a family of musicians, Elaine Comparone began piano studies at age four with her mother.

“As a child she played violin, flute (with her father as teacher), and pipe organ; but it wasn’t until her student years at Brandeis University that she discovered and fell in love with the harpsichord.”

So with 4 instruments under her belt before choosing the harpsichord in adulthood, she had a firm bedding for a career that reached in more than one direction. Try the Bach Cantata No. 78, with so much going on, that a conductor need know voicing, instrumentation, color, phrasing and more, plus possess a hands-on feel for various instruments including their tuning; timbre; and range of expression.

In my case, simultaneous violin and piano studies brought diverse musical experiences and settings.

In one venue, I was concertmaster, as previously mentioned of a student orchestra. In another I was the second violinist in a string quartet and the same in the the New York City High School of Performing Arts (P.A.) Orchestra.

In still a different setting, I was in a pit orchestra that played for an Off-Broadway show.

Dual roles

When I performed the first movement of Mozart Concerto K. 453 at P.A.’s Winter concert, I left my seat in the violin section to go to the piano, and then returned to the orchestra fold to accompany a cellist playing Bruch’s “Kol Nidre.”

A sight to behold, in the nervous shuffle.


The summer I spent in Merrywood included camp jaunts to Sunday rehearsals of the Boston Symphony in tree-draped Tanglewood.

At least one evening per week we ventured to the Shed to hear chamber music with autographed programs flowing from these outings.

The names “Bernard Greenhouse,” “Joseph De Pasquale,” “Richard Kapuscinski, “Eugene Lehner” and “Sascha Schneider” popped up on Berskshire Festival Chamber Music Programs, and one special hallmark concert that featured Isaac Stern performing Beethoven’s violin concerto with the Boston Symphony produced the most sacred treasure of all.

With tears streaming down the violinist’s cheeks while playing, he had stolen my heart. Just moments past the final cadence, I had no control over my actions or behavior, and made an impulsive break with the camp bus schedule, running to find the soloist wherever he was.

In my haste, I recall passing through a hallway where BSO personnel played poker with visors on. Was I dreaming? Chips and cash bills were floating around. I tried to look the other way.

When I finally located Stern in the Green Room, he wore a silky scarf draped around his neck, and stood beside his mother. Naturally, I nudged a concert program into his hands and begged for a signature. He complied, his eyes still moist.

For my indulgence of his time, and that of awaiting campers in buses that were backed up and stalled, I was grounded from play activities for a heartless week.

Nonetheless, an autographed program, though stigmatized, survived decades of time and resides somewhere in this room.

Meanwhile, another that managed to turn up in a musty closet.


My piano and violin studies co-existed for at least 6 years, at which point I turned toward my true love, the piano and pledged fidelity forever. Time was sparing and my practicing needed focus.

Still, to this day I hunt down opportunities to play chamber music in my role as pianist. These have included performing the Beethoven “Ghost” Trio when I resided in Fresno, and the Brandenburg Concerto No. 5, Gigue movement, memorialized in a blog about Merrywood Music Camp.

Finally, my performance of the Mozart G minor Piano Quartet that dates way back in time to the Appel Farm Art and Music Center in Elmer, New Jersey brought the virtuoso violist, Toby Appel to our ensemble. He was about 9 at the time.

In those days members of the Philadelphia orchestra enriched and cross-fertilized our camp experience, just as learning another instrument besides the piano will accomplish the same for those who embark upon the dual instrumental adventure.


What Pianists Can Learn from String Players

Merrywood Music Camp Adventures

Appel Farm Music Camp and the Chicken Coops

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Appel Farm Music Camp and the Chicken Coops

Was I dreaming? Did I wake up in a chicken coop on a hot and humid July morning? The summer before I was a Merrywood camper, encapsulated in a forest of pines bordering Lenox, Massachusetts. A short journey to Tanglewood for a Sunday morning BSO rehearsal, was followed by a breakfast of sizzling waffles and maple syrup. It was a thoroughly New England experience.

Twelve months later, I was sweating bullets in south Jersey, not too far from Philly. A town called Elmer had a rusty sign pointing to a music camp down a bumpy road.

How did my mother manage to find this place owned by Albert and Claire Appel? Was it a real farm with goats, cows, horses, hens, etc. or a dignified place to make music?

Flashback to Age 6:

Mother loaded me on a train bound for Camp Northover, located in this same God forsaken state of New Joisey. It felt like a punishment for being bad, answering back, wolfing down a dozen Dugan’s muffins on the sly before dinner. Or all of the foregoing.

Joanna, my best friend, who’d coined me “shrimpy” because she enjoyed an extra two inches of height, was my traveling companion and bunk mate-to-be. Together, we boarded a New York Central passenger train feeling like orphans, clutching our pink metal lunch boxes, packed with Super Coolers, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and two hostess cupcakes. It would be our last decent meal before treacherous Northover grub was spooned out in a musty recreation hall. I nearly gagged when something resembling vomit passed off as creamed pork rinds with mushrooms.

For three tormenting weeks, I muffled my nocturnal cries of loneliness in my pillow without a friend nearby to cushion my sorrow. Joanna was placed in another bunk, sobbing the night away, I was told. Then came an onslaught of termites that landed on my cot in a curious fall from the wood beams– followed by a full blown lice infestation that produced rows of kids, tortured with metal combs pulled through their knotted hair in front of our bunk. I was at the head of the line. More screaming, sadness, homesickness all bundled into one unique camp experience.

The total summer was well described in a particular field artillery song, verse 3, that we sang on hikes to nearby swamps where we stopped for picnic lunches.

From, “As the Caissons Go Rolling Along” by Major Edmund Grubs:

Was it high, was it low, Where the hell did that one go?
As those Caissons go rolling along!
Was it left, was it right, Now we won’t get home tonight
And those Caissons go rolling along!
Then it’s hi, hi, hee, In the field artillery
Shout out your numbers loud and strong,
Where’er you go, You will always know
That those Caissons go rolling along!

Appel Farm, 8 years later.

While the chicken coop accommodations were a close match to living in Northover’s godawful bunks, there were redeeming features of the Farm experience. First off, as introduction, I hardly recall a big display of animals on the vast spread of sparsely treed acres. Perhaps one pig, a handful of goats, a small parade of ducks, and a few strutting roosters sauntered the property. The conspicuous chicks were incubated by the “coops,” where we resided.

Faculty from Temple University’s Music Department (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) lived on the grounds, a considerable distance from the chicks, and nurtured young chamber musicians along.

Since pianists were not overflowing, I felt predictably outside the mainstream. What else was new? We piano players had to fend for ourselves and scope out our own chamber music to study. Otherwise we were doomed to be loners.

Being creative, I found the score to Mozart’s G minor piano Quintet which I learned to performance standard, and foraged around for a few campers to fill in the missing string parts. Among the players, was Toby Appel, the camp Director’s son, who eventually became an esteemed concert violist with many performance credits and recordings.

The late pianist Natalie Hinderas, an Oberlin grad, strolled by one afternoon and performed the rip roaring Chopin “Revolutionary” Etude that opened my ears to a remarkable display of shimmering sonorities interspersed with clearly defined passage work. This extraordinary musician played in the camp’s one ultra modern space, custom designed by the Appels for concert appearances of this kind. The abstract, angular structure with a touch of Frank Lloyd Wright’s influence, was an architectural departure from the chicken coop quarters and other barn-like structures on the property.

My shining light of summer was dance instructor, Audrey Bookspan.
(Our musical study was enriched with allied arts activities)

A remarkable performer, once married to the late Micky Bookspan, principal percussionist of the Philadelphia Orchestra, she nursed along campers enrolled in modern dance classes, imbuing them with the Eastern, Zen way of “being,” and a good dose of Jung’s Yin and Yang. Her movement was so impeccably fluid, that I could watch her rehearse alone in a second floor barn space for hours at a time. What an inspiration! I remember how Ravel’s string quartet in F Major wedded with Audrey’s mellifluous movements

The Bookspan name also carried an association to Martin Bookspan, the resonant radio voice of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, who provided a more pleasant listening experience than Milton Cross’s squeaked out commentaries from the Metropolitan Opera each Saturday afternoon on WQXR F.M. (Texaco sponsored)

Not to forget, the many rumored love affairs that spiced up life at Appel Farm. I won’t go further, except to say, that an extremely thin, eccentric Arts and Crafts teacher who wore a goatee disappeared with an attractive faculty member, both having gone AWOL. The biggest mini-crisis of the summer, it was still no match for the day I got grounded in a chicken coop for hounding a concert violinist’s autograph during a field trip. The buses were backed up for over an hour.

The Memorable End of Camp

A concluding concert was scheduled as the culmination of our 6 weeks of music making, but an intruding epidemic of food poisoning zapped the event.

Laid up in the infirmary with the runs and high fever beside rows of cots with ailing camp mates, I fainted just as my parents arrived to pick me up.

It had to be one of my most unique summers with its stunning highs and lows, but nothing compared to “Camp Nowhere,” and “American Pie, Band Camp.”

Finally, here’s a riveting quote from the Appel Farm Alum Facebook Page that amply enriches my narrative.

“This is the group for those crazy people who made art in a fire-trap barn, made theater in a sinking building, lived in a chicken coop, and survived the vagaries of the fastest gossip chain known to man. By that, I mean those who attended Appel Farm. It takes a special kind of person to subject themselves to that, and only Farmers can truly understand it.”

By the way, if you are out there, Audrey, Warren, Gloria, and Marvin, please get in touch.