Bela Bartok, Bela Bartok, bela bartok, Edvard Grieg, Edvard Grieg plays "Butterfly" from his Lyric Pieces, George Gershwin, Grieg Lyric Pieces, Irina Morozova pianist, Sviatoslav Richter, word press, word, wordpress,, you, yout tube,

Interpreting piano music: Should we truly realize the composer’s intent?

Matters of interpretation came up at the “Y” Gym yesterday when I bumped into the pianist from a North Berkeley house of worship. Aline is a fine musician who intersperses the service with great masterworks. Recently she played Grieg’s “Wedding March” during the basket-passing which lifted spirits as it amassed $$$$.

At that very instant, I thought about how Edvard Grieg might have rendered his own music. (To hear his personal reading would certainly provide authentic tempo references and suggested phrasing) After all, how many times had piano students been told to worship the composer at his altar –channeling his music as he would have intended.

When I studied Grieg’s “Butterfly” from the Lyric Pieces I managed to dig up a scratchy rendering of Grieg’s that was compelling in its departure from my so-called original edition.

But was His the Holy Bible of interpretation compared to others I sampled on You Tube.

Had the Creator set the piece in stone?

How about this reading?

It seemed warmer with judiciously used sustain pedal.

And my personal favorite played by Sviatoslav Richter–he escapes the tendency to race through.

In summary, I didn’t necessarily embrace the composer’s approach to his own music.



Here Bartok plays his hauntingly beautiful “Evening in the Country” with a wide brush of rubato that makes measuring the piece in notational form nearly impossible.

Compare to another rendering that’s compelling.

And now a more “measured out” performance that doesn’t seem to capture the improvised nature of the folkloric idiom, though one may argue that the reading is a personal expression of the artist that doesn’t have to match up with the composer’s so-called ideal.


Gershwin plays Gershwin

“I Got Rhythm”

Updated and transcribed in a virtuoso framing:


Traveling back over centuries where masterworks have no recorded expressions by their creators, we have treatises by C.P.E. Bach, for example, that inform about ornament execution, tempo, affect, etc.

Yet beyond what’s written by historians, the music itself, including melodic and harmonic flow give the player an interpretive map that is individually followed within the historical period of composition. This seems to be a better overall paradigm for interpretation than trying to be a carbon copy of the composer in any era.

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Irina Morozova plays Gershwin!

Here’s a photo-imported version of “I Got Rhythm!” (Click HD)

On the artist’s CD menu are the following treats:

1. Gershwin Improvisations for Solo Piano: Clap Yo’ Hands
2. Someone to Watch Over Me
3. Sweet and Lowdown
4. Maybe
5. S’Wonderful/Funny Face
6. That Certain Feeling
7. Looking for a Boy
8. Earl Wild Seven Virtuoso Etudes on Gershwin Songs: Liza
9. Oh, Lady Be Good
10. The Man I love
11. Fascinating Rhythm
12. Embraceable You
13. I Got Rhythm
14. Somebody Loves Me
15. Gershwin Concerto in F: Allegro
16. Andante con moto
17. Allegro agitato


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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

Anna Serova violist, Irina Morozova pianist, viola playing

The viola will soar to artistic heights in collaboration with pianist, Irina Morozova

Out of curiosity, I GOOGLED Anna Serova, because pianist Irina Morozova announced her collaboration with the violist in New York City on Feb. 8. (Any music-making with Morozova’s autograph draws my attention)

Mannes Building, 150 West 85th Street

“A stellar musical event. A concert showcasing the artistry of internationally acclaimed performers and distinguished faculty members at a leading New York conservatory.”

Free; no tickets or reservations required; seating is first-come first-served

Box Office Information:

For more information call 212.580.0210 x4817

150082_10151247242577514_1758790390_n Morozova and Serova

My first response before heading to YOU TUBE as my next cyber stop was– Viola?.. the old cliche abounded: “Viola players are always taken among the refuse of violinists,” wrote Hector Berlioz.

Another insalubrious quote: “According to spotlight-hungry violinists, violas are only good for filling in a bit of middle-part harmony and should never be trusted with a good tune. And really, argue the cellists, seeing as the viola has the same strings as the cello, just an octave higher, what’s the point?”


When I studied violin back in the late 60s, if you wanted to be a top pick for Big Apple freelance gigs, you advertised yourself as a violist.

But not as soloist, by the way. It wasn’t an option. You were a chamber player, and your neck ached for hours after rehearsal. PULEEZE, when will this be over?

Even Murray Perahia, looked pained, with the thing hanging down, ready to slip into the shadows of a roach-infested musical space at the NYC HS of Performing Arts. He was “sitting in” with his required second instrument. (It was mandatory) Actually, the fire drill alarm went off in the nick of time. It was the fastest disappearing act on record, with an orphaned viola left to burn in hell. Who would notice?

In all honesty, I never heard a violist who drew me into an ethereal universe of beauty, until I sampled Anna Serova’s playing. And I knew at once that it must be shared. (Note: she bows a divinely expressive Amati, 1615)

Performances I’ve selected, Bruch “Romanze” (In my humble opinion, the viola is cradled with such ease–an extension of this artist’s being in every way)

In the second selection, a marvelous conductor and pianist, Filippo Faes, joins Serova in a soulful rendering of Joaquin Turina’s “Scène Andalous.”

and finally— Irina Morozova collaborates with Serova in a Glinka Sonata.

Please, attend the concert in NYC tomorrow evening if these performances have in any way whetted your appetite. If I lived closer to the Apple, I’d be a strap-hanger on the subway train, fighting the theater mob to get to this…


Beth Levin, Elaine Comparone, fingering choices and pianists, Irina Morozova pianist, Mozart, Mozart Allegretto K. 545, Seymour Bernstein, Uncategorized, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Fingering snarls in Mozart’s Allegretto, Sonata in C, K. 545 and suggested remedies from the experts

We all have our nemesis. The last measures (68-73) of Mozart’s rondo: Allegretto, K. 545, Sonata in C Major, have ensnared me, barring smooth passage to final cadence. For others the journey is uneventful.

Who knows? Size of hands, finger length, state of mind, and lack of sleep, might be variables. But more often than not, it’s a booby trap, awkward fingering choice.

That’s why in despair, I called upon 3 fine pianists and an esteemed harpsichordist to dig myself and kindred spirits out of our endless pit of frustration.

To begin with, I uploaded a video segment that explored my initial fingering and practice routines, followed by Irina Morozova’s alternative, and lastly, Seymour Bernstein’s ideas which included an altered landscape of articulation, phrasing, and fingering.

Mozart Allegretto m 68 to 73

In addition, harpsichordist, Elaine Comparone and pianist, Beth Levin, separately e-mailed me their contributions for which I am grateful.

Video 1–where I indicate my chosen fingering in the score. (You can see Irina Morozova’s Right Hand suggestion in the space between staves)

Video 2–I demonstrate Irina Morozova’s choice (RH only–The Left remained unchanged) Fingerings bunched together represent harmonic thirds.

RH 2-4-1-5-2-3-1-2-1-3-24-35-24-13-24-13

Morozova agreed with Seymour Bernstein that there was no fixed fingering to recommend for all pianists.

Video 3
–Seymour Bernstein’s offering

Mozart, K. 545, Allegretto(1)

“For starters, there cannot be a definitive fingering for everyone
since all hands are different. But there are some notational considerations
that will influence our fingering choices. In this case, nothing indicates
legato in M. 68. When there are no slurs, we assume that the tones are to
be played non legato. On the other hand, it is possible that Mozart forgot
to place slurs or other notational indications on particular passages. At
any rate, here are my fingerings, notational signs, and pedal indications.
Notice that on M. 68, the pedal releases are on the second tones of the
slurs, whereas on M. 69 the release is on the 3rds after the slurs. I just
happen to like it that way.”

Elaine Comparone concurred with Morozova, that “the 5 following the 1 works well.”

“for the thirds in the RH, I would
use …..1-2 42-54-42-31-42-31.”

Beth Levin

right hand:

meas. 68: 35152412
meas. 69: 1 2 4/2 5/3 5/3 4/2 3/1 4/2
meas. 70: same as 68
meas. 71: same as 69
meas. 72: 1 5/3/2 5/1 5/1
meas. 73 5/1

left hand:

meas. 68: 31514254
meas. 69: 1 5
meas. 70: same as 68
meas. 71: same as 69
meas. 72: all octaves with 1/5
final meas: 1/5

When all was said and done, this unorthodox fingering worked for me:

2-4-1-5-2-3-1-2-1-2- 42 42 42 31 42 31 (same repeated to the end)
I never would have dreamed that my fingering choice would be a viable alternative, but for my hand, shape, and size, it was a life saver!


Irina Morozova:

Elaine Comparone:
Aglow With Creative Fire

Seymour Bernstein:
Beth Levin

Irina Morozova faculty Mannes College of Music, Irina Morozova pianist, Journal of a Piano Teacher from New York to California, pianist, piano, piano addict, piano instruction, Piano Street, piano teaching, Piano World, piano world-wide, playing piano, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten, The Manhattan School of Music, The Special Music School Kaufman Center, word press, word, wordpress,, you tube, you tube video

Pianist, Irina Morozova blends teaching and performing in a satisfying career (Videos)

Pearly words of wisdom flowed so naturally from the pen of Irina Morozova, a concert pianist and teacher, who responded graciously to my set of pointed questions.

As introduction, she’s a Mannes College of Music piano faculty member and teaches children at the Special Music School/Kaufman Center in Manhattan.

Immersed in a richly rewarding career mentoring students, performing, and giving masterclasses in local and international venues, her inspired thoughts are shared in unedited form with videos interspersed as they pertain.


1) There’s a dualism to your career that’s bound up in teaching and performing. 

How does preparing for a recital grow your mentoring skills?

Frankly, there is no connection whatsoever. To prepare a recital involves time where I concentrate on myself. At least I try.

If we look at this issue somewhat more generally, there are apparent advantages for students to study with a teacher who is active as a performer. Having a vast repertoire, I am able to share some pianistic insights on certain technical issues, “quote” some examples from different works of the same style when I work on a particular piece with a student, give some of my own “recipes” on fingering or re-arranging the texture, or talk about communicating with an orchestra and a conductor if the piece in question is a concerto.

And conversely, how does your teaching influence your performing?

When I demonstrate to a student how to play this or that, I often have to exaggerate a point to be clear, because not every student can immediately detect subtleties. After doing this, I try to avoid “playing like a teacher” when I perform. On the other hand I would say that teaching helps my own learning/practicing process. Without teaching I would perhaps practice on a more intuitive level, but teaching others reminds me to work more conscientiously.

2) You’ve mentioned that your pupils significantly “teach” you. Can you elaborate?

This question is an extension of the previous one. Let’s say that a student is studying a virtuoso piece and some technically demanding sections do not work well. Even if I don’t have a “recipe” to fix it immediately, I am forced to think creatively to help the student. Here is an example: I have been working myself on the finale of Beethoven’s Opus 7 Sonata. There is a tricky place in the C minor section of the piece. After trying out several possible versions of fingering, I still didn’t find a “perfect” one that would allow me to play it with ease. Accidentally, a few days later one of my college students came to a lesson with the Sonata and said “I have a fingering problem in the Finale”. Right away I knew what she referred to. Since she expected me to be able to help her, I found a really good fingering in a couple of minutes. It worked for her and it worked for me. Perhaps I push myself harder when I feel responsible for my students.

3) One of your very young pupils displays unusual talent and musicianship. 
Can you share how you approached his studies from the very beginning of 
lessons with regard to technique and repertoire? And how has he 
advanced along? 

Daniel Mori, a 9-year-old student of mine, is just one of several excellent and promising students I teach. Although he is small and immature (even for his age), he nonetheless demonstrates a rare musical talent, a remarkable devotion to his piano studies, and incredible patience.

I approached teaching Daniel about the same way I would approach teaching any other student.

In the early stages I usually pursue three areas simultaneously: developing musical expression and imagination, reading notes, and laying the technical foundation (we call it “building the house from bricks,” where the bricks are various technical formulas).

We played very simple pieces, many of them duets (kids enjoy them as they sound like “real” music with a few notes in the student’s part). Daniel sailed through many of these easier pieces and I never wanted to skip important stages. Studying works of diverse musical styles, learning musical “vocabulary” of different composers and times has been an important goal from the very beginning. 
While not giving him “mechanical” technical exercises, I have introduced different types of technique, carefully choosing pieces and etudes.

He started playing as a K-student and is currently in the 4th grade. His repertoire progressed from Mozart’s Variations on the “Magic Flute” and “In the Fields” by Gliere, to a Sonata by Cimarosa and the A Minor Invention by Bach, to Debussy’s “Le Petit Negro” and Chopin’s G Minor Polonaise, to the first movements of the F Minor Concerto by Bach and Mozart’s Sonata, K.545, to his current program, which includes two movements from Partita #1 by Bach, the first movement of Haydn’s Sonata XVI:45, and Chopin’s Nocturne in C# Minor. This list does not include many other pieces and etudes by Czerny, Berens, Loeschhorn, and Bertini that he studied.

(Update: Mori recently performed a Bach/Marcello transcription)

4) You’ve praised the great teachers that mentored you. What made each stand out as having a pervasive influence on your musical development?

I love and worship my wonderful teachers. Once a student asked me “Do you know that at every single lesson you mention or quote one of your teachers?” I did not realize that but it’s probably so.

While all of them had distinctive musical personalities, they all came from the St.Petersburg Conservatory and so belonged to the same tradition. It’s difficult for me to distinguish their influence on me. All of them taught me to understand music as a language, to be honest to the composer’s intentions, to think about music I perform rather than about “expressing myself”, and to be technically comfortable.

5) How would you advise piano students to practice with regard to developing a solid technique?

The famous Russian pianist Vladimir Sofronitsky wrote that, “There is actually no technique but a vivid imagination and strong willpower.” The most important factor in developing what we call the piano technique is our ear. Teachers always say, “Listen to yourself,” but this is too general.

Listening should be an active and focused process aimed at particular tasks. Listen to even 16th notes, listen to hands being perfectly together, listen to the correct balance between hands, etc. In my opinion, no book of exercises teaches solid technique. It’s not what you play; it’s how you play it.

Of course, students have to be fluent in scales and arpeggios, practice Etudes by Czerny, Clementi, Cramer, etc. However, for each technical issue with each student there is a trick or two (or five!) that can help solve it.

Napoleon once stated something to the effect of, “Locating a problem is 50% of solving it.” Inexperienced students often play the same difficult place many times, repeating the same mistake in hopes that the next time around it’ll go away. Instead, they learn their mistake really well! I always ask students to “zoom in” and try to verbalize what exactly is not working.

Often, this alone fixes the problem, or at least makes it clear what to “drill”. At this stage, it usually takes a teacher to reveal a “secret” (often a psychological one!) or demonstrate a special movement, to create an exercise or a way to practice.

6) You enlist a conspicuous wrist forward follow-through motion in your playing, that in part, feeds your gorgeous singing tone. What, in fact, are the physical ingredients of a molto cantabile?

All of the movements I use are dictated by common sense with regard to piano playing. The basics of technique were “instilled” in my brain and hands a long time ago, in my early years. Every single movement had been explained, analyzed and learned at some point. However, the main component of a molto cantabile is definitely not physical.

From watching great pianists it is obvious that they incorporate quite different movements to achieve the same goals, because people do not play piano with fingers but rather with the mind and the ear. Again, it is the clear image of what kind of sound one wants to achieve, combined with the knowledge of how to get it. The “knowledge” part is, of course, the physical ingredient that you are asking about, but it takes years and a great teacher to understand all of these secrets.

7) Do you present workshops on performance practice, piano technique, etc. and when and where is your next presentation?

I have been giving master classes and workshops throughout the US and several other countries. This coming summer I’ll be teaching private lessons and giving master classes in Italy for the International Music Academy in Cremona.


Piano; B.M. with Honors, Rimsky-Korsakov College of Music; M.M., Manhattan School of Music; piano studies with Vladimir Shakin, Galina Orlovskaya, Arkady Aronov; performances include Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra, New American Chamber orchestra; participated in Film America’s “Music in the 20th Century” series; awards include Frinna Awerbuch, San Antonio International Piano Competitions; teaches, performs at International Keyboard Institute and Festival in NY; faculty, Mannes College of Music, Manhattan school of Music, Special Music School.


Irina Morozova plays Chopin

Morozova performs Gershwin virtuoso transcriptions

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Irina Morozova, pianist, shines playing Gershwin Virtuoso Transcriptions on CD!

Irina Morozova, a name that drew my attention amidst a flood of star-studded “Irina’s” in the teaching and performing realm, came through with shining colors in her nuanced readings of George Gershwin Improvisations. The CD title, “Gershwin Virtuoso Transcriptions” encompasses “improvisations” originally delivered by the composer himself on piano rolls, later transcribed by Artis Wodehouse, (7 of 8 attributable to her), with a set of virtuoso Etudes arranged by Earl Wild.

Yeol Eum Son, delivered a riveting performance of an embellished “Embraceable You,” heard far and wide on the Internet, but not played as well as Morozova who reveals a broader palette of color and tasteful rubato perfectly crafted to the jazz era.

Morozova’s peak performances of “Man I Love,” “I’ve Got Rhythm,” to name a few, are engaging because of their rhythmic vitality and melodic intensity. Add in technical mastery that’s jaw-dropping and you have a sizzling CD that demands instant replays.

The icing on the cake for me was the artist’s show-stopping reading of the composer’s Concerto in F transcribed by Grace Castegnetto that left me breathless and panting for more!

On the CD menu were some of the following tantalizing treats:

From the Solo Improvisations

“Someone to Watch Over Me,”
“S’Wonderful/Funny Face”

Earl Wild Seven Virtuoso Etudes on Gershwin Songs

A few snatches besides those songs already noted:

“Oh Lady Be Good”
“Fascinating Rhythm”
“Somebody Loves Me”

The back story:

Irina Morozova, a Mannes College of Music faculty member, first captured my interest when a friend shot off an e-mail that mentioned still another Irina in framed superlatives. To that point I’d been blogged out, waxing rhapsodic about Irina Gorin, piano pedagogue supérieure, and Irena Orlov, (with an E separating her from the pack) an icon among master teachers. Could I make a space for still another IRINA of star caliber?

Just then, Morozova popped up on my screen in a heavenly Romantic ambiance, out-playing herself on You Tube with a set of mesmerizing Chopin selections. Such listening enticements begged for more, adding to my list of Favorites.

This particular Chopin Impromptu performance stole my heart with its divine molto cantabile (singing tone) from first measure to final cadence!



“Irina Morozova made her New York debut with a solo recital at Carnegie Hall in 1996 after winning Artists International Auditions. Critics raved, “Morozova possesses an astonishing beauty of sound and power of ideas…she is the sort of pianist who can turn a simple phrase into magic….”

“Born to a musical family, Irina Morozova began her musical studies at the Leningrad Special Music School for Gifted Children and graduated with honors from the Rimsky-Korsakov College of Music where her major teacher was Galina Orlovskaya. Studying with Vladimir Shakin at the Saint-Petersburg Conservatory, she performed in the concert halls of Saint-Petersburg, Moscow, Kiev, and many other cities in the former Soviet Union. She also toured former East Germany and appeared with the Berlin Radio Symphony in the famed Schauspielhaus.

(A list of performance credits is too long to tabulate, though they encompass a variety of international venues.)

“Ms. Morozova received her Master of Music degree from the Manhattan School of Music where she studied with Dr. Arkady Aronov. Since 1997 she has been on the faculties of Mannes College of Music and the Special Music School at Kaufman Center.”


Irina Morozova

Irena Orlov

Irina Gorin