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A Domenico Scarlatti Sonata that enables Finger and Forearm Staccato

It’s been decades since my beloved N.Y.C. piano teacher, Lillian Freundlich bestowed upon me the gift of Domenico Scarlatti Sonatas. And at the time, (while I was a student at the New York City H.S. of Performing Arts) I had no idea that those she had selected were permeated with the basics of technique bonded to musical expression.

lillianfreundlich  lil2

Yet, I have no specific recollection of my mentor having isolated finger staccato from that generated by the forearm. Similarly, wrist staccato was even more foreign to her musical vocabulary. (Nonetheless Mrs. Freundlich always checked for supple wrists, and for relaxingly suspended arms without a trace of tension)

Basically, Lillian Freundlich’s springboard was the singing tone, and how to phrase by building smaller measures to larger ones using a free fall relaxed arm and a progressive note-grouping approach. She also doted on the dotted 8th/16th rhythm to smooth out bumpy lines.

As years have passed, and more than one teacher has influenced me during an extended musical journey in and out of the Conservatory, I’ve come to the conclusion that identifying and isolating various types of staccato is part of the enriched piano learning cosmos–that such a physical/musical nexus is intrinsic to growing artistry.

Excuse my wordy introduction, but perhaps it’s a necessary prelude to a tutorial I prepared right after having resurrected Scarlatti Sonata in G, K. 14, L. 387 as part of my spiritual homecoming.

Scarlatti Sonata in G  p. 1

Having observed reams of detached notes in forte and piano dynamic ranges permeating the score, I realized how fortunate I was to have spent inordinate time with my adult students cultivating various kinds of staccato via scales and arpeggios around the Circle of Fifths. It clearly amounted to a common journey of infinite value!

Finally, to have reviewed a Baroque era composition that was exemplary of the Keyboard School of Virtuosity fathered by Domenico Scarlatti, afforded an opportunity to re-explore staccato playing in all its expressive facets.

Play Through:


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Revisiting an old piano piece learned years earlier

I find my current musical journey down memory lane to be joyful and challenging–especially as I cut and paste the Mozart Rondo: Allegro, K. 311 pages to fit comfortably on the piano rack. (Deja Vu, Haydn C Major Hoboken XVI35–Haydn pinned and unpinned)

I wrote to a musician friend during the height of my frustration. “This undertaking is far more complex than the former because my Mozart Sonata Urtext edition, Breitkopf and Hartel, has enormously big pages. Therefore, I must figure out a way, to fraction them, ply them, add parts of measures on my printer/copier, then attach, and re-attach.”

My shabby efforts produced the following:

Mozart Rondo K. 311 2

As comic relief I summarized the process:

“This is the most flagrant cut and paste job to date—the Urtext oversize led to one hour of fidgeting, fumbling, frantic fastening, failing, flailing, faltering, framing—piecing, plying, pairing, pressing, taping, tying and crying. What a waste of time!

“Now I have to memorize the first 2 pages–because even with the taping, tying, plying and sighing, there’s just no room to read across.”

Despite this tangential escapade, I’m drawn back down to earth, believing, if you lay a solid foundation in your earliest learning effort, then a revisit will tap into familiar landmarks, making your review more smooth sailing than you might expect.

Case in point.. Mozart K. 311, the very first sonata my teacher, Lillian Freundlich gave me to study–and one I’d waxed poetic about in my “Sentimental Journey” posting.

What I had learned about learning in my first sonata encounter, aided my re-connection.

1) Phrasing–first movement–Allegro con moto
Freundlich parceled out one or two measures–drawing 16ths back to quarters.. deep in the keys approach
Then moved to 8ths in doublets or pairs, finally extending out to was rhythmic groupings in synch a singing tone moved the piece into an artistic rendering, rather than a typewritten framing.

Incidentally, the singing tone, not surface, key skimming was my teacher’s conception of the Mozartean voice.

AND SLOW MOTION PRACTICE was at the core of developing and shaping all passage work.

2) FINGERING–good decisions were made way back–NO guessing in the dark, or dice throws– No fly by night accidents of fate..
The fingering was set down, like good housekeeping– A table prepared to specification.

3) Harmonic Analysis–The KEY signature was well imprinted. Flow of harmony, the same..
How did certain chords or modulations affect interpretation? (Part of phrasing/harmonic rhythm exploration)

4)Form and Structure–First Theme, second theme, Development, Recapitulation
What key for second theme?.. What happened in the Development section–what keys explored, (modulations), rhythmic devices?

Sequences? Melodic symmetries and asymmetries. We circled what remained the same, and what changed.

All of the above fast forwarded on a consciously unconscious level into the present easily tapped out of a sub layer of knowing.

Last week I’d recorded K. 311, Allegro con brio– And after a few days of revisiting, I had mildly adjusted fingerings to conform with the brisk tempo.

Then moving on to movement 2, I remembered the importance of Mozart’s vocal line, the need for a lush, deep in the keys singing tone so well imbued by Lillian Freundlich. (NO to a frilly, top-layered, superficial approach)

Awareness of harmonic flow/rhythm, marked out in my score from years before, helped me retrieve the long lost movement and bring it back to life in short order.

The Journey continues

Rondo: Allegro, K. 311

Currently, I’m face-to-face with this rapid movement which seems easier to navigate the second time around, but for what I consider a particularly tricky section:

A set of trills in the Left Hand set against a rapid flow of 16ths begs for a crossed hands adjustment but it’s just not feasible.

Mozart rondo k 311

Seymour Bernstein, pianist, teacher and composer, points out that pianists have been known to heist sections of music.. reconfiguring passages, that cannot be easily executed as written.

Emanuel Ax, concert pianist, fleshes out this very issue in a Beethoven documentary. He demonstrates how the composer made it nearly impossible to play a section of his second sonata, first movement, with the right hand only fingering indicated in the score.

Ax posited that perhaps Beethoven considered his personal fingering to be a “cosmic joke” contrived “to annoy everybody!”

Nonetheless Ax, demonstrated how most pianists will divide the passage between hands.

Did I veer off topic?

Not exactly as this side excursion related to my tackling difficult passages with an innovative approach, if applicable.

In the Rondo section attached, the trill in the left hand will be a potential finger-jammer, so post video, I made the choice to play GAGF#, followed by F#GF#E, EF#ED etc.

(In the instruction below I navigate the section through a set of steps and practicing routines:)

Decisions like these made in the course of primary learning experiences, tend to surface again in composition revisits. They certainly further musical development.

Finally, the old, reliable, baby-step, ground up work, done during an original exposure to a composition, is the best gift a student can bestow upon himself as he reconnects with a former love.


The Value of Practicing behind tempo, in slow motion

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A sentimental journey taken with Mozart

urtext Mozart sonatas

A dear musician friend took off for the Catskills with Haydn. His music would fill her cabin space that came equipped with an old grand piano.

My journey ran parallel, only Mozart took the reins.

Wolfgang Amadeus filled my Berkeley apartment with strains of Sonata no. 9 in D, K. 311. It was a revisit after decades past my student days at the New York City High School of Performing Arts. Murray Perahia was a year ahead of me at the time, and a pace-setter. He was strides ahead of us, fledglings, as he read Brahms symphonies at the piano. It was phrase perfect.

I was 13, embarking upon my studies with Lillian Freundlich, who led me by the hand through the great Classical piano literature.

She taught me about the singing tone, how to produce it–and had me drop one note at a time with supple wrists and relaxed arms– Mozart was our vehicle and he could not speed off in a superficial spree of top layer, fingered passages. I had to get into the keys, and draw out the richness of the composer’s operatic musical metaphor. Wolfgang would resonate in all vocal ranges. (The piano, after all, was NOT a percussion instrument) It had an immense reservoir of cantabile.


Lillian played quite beautifully herself. In fact she sang over most of her own music-making, just as Glen Gould was known to do.

Seated at her 1940s Mason and Hamlin grand that upstaged the neighboring Steinway, I felt her looking over my shoulder, drowning out my phrases, shaping lines with her vocal nuances. She sometimes shook her head in a steady beat to prevent me from running off somewhere within my vacillating tempo. She was always there to ground me.

It’s been years! Time waits for no one..

And Mrs. Freundlich is long gone. Yet her presence remains. I felt it keenly when I scooped up an old Mozart Sonata Urtext edition and thumbed my way to Sonata K. 311–the very first one I learned with Lillian.


After 3 hours of careful review, as if I never really left the piece, but merely lifted it from my unconscious, I was uploading the masterwork to you tube.

My REVISIT–At first in slow tempo, (self-instruction)

A brisk play through:

Beethoven's Op. 109 Sonata, classissima,, George Li, Irwin Freundlich, Jeremy Eichler, Journal of a Piano Teacher from New York to California, Lillian Freundlich, NEC, New England Conservatory, pianist, piano, piano repertoire, Russell Sherman, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten, The Boston Globe, Wha Kyung Byun, word press, word, wordpress,, you tube video, yout tube,

George Li’s pianistic idol: Russell Sherman

In a compelling personal interview, Georgle Li waxed poetic about Russell Sherman’s artistry:

“I really admire and love his playing. It’s so colorful, yet so unique that it’s totally inspiring. There is so much character, so much drama, and he does things totally unexpected that it takes your breath away.”

George whet my appetite to find a sample of Sherman’s playing, and it landed me squarely at You Tube where I ingested a wondrous reading of Beethoven’s Sonata No. 30, Op. 109, movements 1 and 2.

Naturally, the name Russell Sherman rang a bell. With less than 6 degrees of separation in the musical universe, I was bound to find a link to one of my past piano teachers, their mentors or students.

From the short Wiki bio:

“Russell Sherman is currently artist-in-residence at New England Conservatory, where over thirty years ago he met and instructed Wha Kyung Byun, a woman who later became a well-known piano instructor herself as well as his wife. (And George Li’s teacher)

“Sherman’s efforts as an educator have produced a number of pianists of note, among them, Christopher O’Riley, Tian Ying, Keren Hanan, HaeSun Paik, Minsoo Sohn, Christopher Taylor, Hugh Hinton, Soojin Ahn, Randall Hodgkinson, Rina Dokshitsky, Sergey Schepkin, Kathleen Supové, Ning An, and Craig Smith.

“Sherman’s book of short essays on piano playing related concerns, Piano Pieces, was published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 1996.

“Among Sherman’s observations in Piano Pieces:

“Music dispels the fear of mortality and the need for rigid and permanent identities. Music rejects the nine-to-five schedule, the hunger for cash, the encroachments and limits of crass appetite.”

I made the connection to George Li’s poetic allusions about music-making when he drew upon Bruce Lee’s Eastern-based philosophy.

Likewise, Russell Sherman had imparted more words of wisdom in a Boston Globe interview, on the occasion of his 80th birthday:

“I have always considered the piano a window to the world….Somehow in playing the piano and making music you have an insight into so many different cultures and ways of thinking about the most important things in life. The repertoire is so enormous, and so representative of really the best things that have been accomplished. I have always had the feeling as a pianist that I don’t have to go to the mountain. The mountain is coming to me.’’

A bio at the New England Conservatory’s website filled in more details about the pianist’s background:

“As a Distinguished Artist-in-Residence at NEC, pianist Russell Sherman offers his insights to students through masterclasses, performance seminars, studio classes, and coachings.

“Sherman’s studies with Edward Steuermann place him in the grand Busoni/Liszt tradition, and Franz Liszt is one of the core repertoire composers with whom he is associated as a teacher and as a concert and recording artist. In 2008 Sherman released a DVD of Liszt’s Transcendental Etudes that captured a live performance from New York’s Angel Orensanz Center for the Arts.

“Sherman is the first American to record both Beethoven’s complete piano sonatas and the five piano concertos. His GM release The Beethoven Piano Concertos: Live at Monadnock features the all-star Monadnock Festival Orchestra.

“Russell Sherman made his debut at Town Hall at age 15 and has been acclaimed as a soloist with many major orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the BSO, the Chicago Symphony, and the Philadelphia Orchestra. He has presented recitals throughout the U.S., Europe, South America, and the former Soviet Union.

“Sherman’s 1996 book of short essays on piano playing and allied activities, Piano Pieces, is perennially in print in the U.S. and has been published in Korean translation.”

B.A., Columbia College (N.Y.). Piano with Edward Steuermann; composition with Erich Itor Kahn. Recordings on Advent, Sine Qua Non, Vanguard, Pro Arte, Albany, GM.


I recalled “Edward Steuermann” having popped up in my New York piano teacher’s bio. Lillian Lefkofsky Freundlich had studied with him at Juilliard following her years at the Oberlin Conservatory. And her husband, Irwin Freundlich had been a pupil of James Friskin and Edward Steuermann at the Institute of Musical Art which had merged with the Juilliard Graduate School in 1926 to become the current Juilliard School of Music.

Sherman, a next-generation pianist, had probably crossed paths with Lillian and Irwin at Juilliard when he was on the faculty in the 80s. (Lillian had mentioned his playing in glowing terms when I took lessons at her Riverside Drive townhouse)

New York City, being a hub of culture, would probably have found Sherman, and both Freundlichs in a triadic musical relationship.

In the same spirit, George Li, Russell Sherman and Wha Kyung Byun enjoyed a kindred trio in the present, making the circle of keyboard life its own testament to immortality.


A Boston Globe article by Jeremy Eichler, replete with Sherman’s inspired quotes, is worth a read:

RELATED: My interview with George Li

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Irina Morozova’s inspiring words flow through a lesson with an adult student (Beethoven’s Fur Elise-in-progress) Video

“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….”

To frame a lesson with these ideas, helps to infuse it with the spiritual, analytical, and nonverbal elements of exchange.

Within this paradigm, one of my adult students continued her study of Beethoven’s “Fur Elise.” (C section, treble chord voicing with bass tremolo)


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What “authentic” edition should a piano student use when learning repertoire of the Masters?

I’m thinking back to my ancient days studying with Lillian Freundlich in New York City. During this period, like any fledgling I relied on my teacher as an “authority” figure to recommend what Mozart Sonata edition, for example, I should buy down at Patelson’s. (This was decades before the quaint hub for musicians seeking authenticity and desired discounts, went out of business.)

Schirmers, by comparison was considered the more pricey location with its yellow churned out publications that became home sweet home hand-me-downs from one generation to another. You might find these in your piano bench collecting dust with a culture of their own. Sometimes albums would crop up in odd places, sandwiched among soft-covered recipe brochures, or old Life Magazines.

I had one particular hard cover, antique edition of the Chopin Waltzes (not Schirmer) bestowed by Ethel Elfenbein, pianist, that literally disintegrated when I opened it. The flakes, spread far and wide over my carpet, were gathered up and moduled on a shelf overlooking my fireplace. So much for the living, breathing presence of Chopin in my musical sanctuary.


Over the years, I realized that Mrs. Freundlich and later teachers at the Oberlin Conservatory would redundantly select the Henle Urtext edition for Mozart and Beethoven Sonatas, as well as for the works of composers from Bach through Brahms, and on into the Impressionistic era. No questions asked, it was BLUE forever! meaning that I might also acquire Beethoven’s death mask or a colorful glossy rendering of a Master in attractive period attire wearing a frilly wig. If nothing else, I could extract a portrait to frame and decorate the walls of my piano studio.

But in a column of negatives, many of the Blues had a sea of emptiness on the page. The open space would befuddle me during my post umbilical cord years, as I journeyed to independence as a private teacher in Fresno, California, of all places. We not only lacked a Patelson’s equivalent, but Miller Sheet Music, our popular mainstay, disappeared one day, when the Internet grabbed the lion’s share of industry commerce.

With some Urtexts lacking simple phrasing and fingering suggestions, I would inevitably hunt around for an edition with more direction. In a word, that’s how Palmer landed on my piano rack.

Before long I had amassed his Introduction to Scarlatti, Mozart, Chopin, etc. with its needed ingredients for my students who were otherwise barely able to adhere to basic fingerings. And what a nice extra  to have an opening set of pages explaining ornamentation, phrasing, and any Period practice formerly plagued by enigma. (I knew my pupils wouldn’t wade through these, but at least I did, so I could pretend to be an “authority” on a particular composer and his era) Little did I know that I might be channeling misinformation.

As an example, I recently posted a You Tube performance of Chopin’s Nocturne in E Minor, Op. 72, No. 1 where I had used Willard A. Palmer’s edition, “from the original sources.”

Here’s what was notated on page 3, for trill execution. (the recommendation was to begin the extended ornament on the upper note)

After I had shared my reading with the distinguished pianist/teacher, Seymour Bernstein, my bubble burst! His comments seriously questioned the edition I used and its trill instruction:

“First, what kind of edition is that with wrong pedal indications and suggestions that those long and some short trills begin on the upper note? Please consult with the Wiener Urtext (Ekier).” (Had I heard “Urtext” a zillion times over in my archived music memory?)

He continued with dismay. “Some theorists hold to Chopin always beginning trills on the upper note, but that practice ceased with late Bach and Mozart. It comes down to personal choice. And choices are usually made on what the melody is doing.”

(At least my “nutty” fingering comment in measure 37, met with Bernstein’s approval. He endorsed my autographed adjustment.)

In stars perfect alignment, I received a timely comment from a reader informing me that Seymour Bernstein had published Chopin Interpreting his Notational Symbols:

Immediately, I raced back to the piano and revised the direction of my trill, to my personal satisfaction. The melody now lingered from the start, without a hint of the Baroque style intruding upon a pervasively Romantic musical landscape.

And speaking of Baroque manuscripts, I’d been startled by performances of Scarlatti’s works posted by fine harpsichordists and pianists that had measures of completely different music than I had practiced for years!

A case in point, where discrepancies abounded, were found in James Friskin’s edition of a dozen or so sonatas in each of two volumes that I was raised on.

From Sonata in A Major, L. 345, K. 113, with its daredevil, crossed-hand passages:

Notice the first page printed below as compared to what is rendered in Gilel’s reading. To my surprise, only one performance of many sampled, reflected what was printed in measures 13 of Friskin. For all intents and purposes a repetitive bar that would have been correct measure 14, was missing. The same played out in measure 18 in most recordings.

Emil Gilels (I wonder what edition he used?)

Here’s one of the few performances that finally matched up with Friskin: (A very sensitive interpretation from Irina Bogdanova)


To further blur the Baroque landscape, I found supposedly missing measures in other Sonatas published by James Friskin, including the celebrated K. 159 in C Major with its hunting horn opener.

Elaine Comparone,  a brilliant harpsichordist with a discography a mile long, prefers to work with manuscripts that are not cluttered with annotations and the rest. She has enough of an erudite, academic and musical background to insert her own phrase marks, fingering, etc. with a high degree of established authority. (

In summary, we may be back to start on what we can trust as the best realization of the masters’compositions.

For certain, there will be clashes of wills and preferences among the finest pianists and scholars, but perhaps it would be instructive to read some of the best treatises and books associated with the composers’ works. Domenico Scarlatti by Ralph Kirkpatrick comes to mind. And I recall having heard Murray Perahia mention Barenreiter in connection with Bach’s manuscripts.

JS Bach.
Catalogues and critical editions

The standard Bach catalogue, with thematic entries, is the Wolfgang Schmieder Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis (BWV), first published in 1950. A complete listing of Bach’s works (by Richard Jones), incorporating new dating, is at the end of the “J.S. Bach” article in New Grove. Bach’s collected works were first published by the Bach-Gesellschaft (Bach Society), 1851-1900. A new edition, the Neue Bach Ausgabe, or NBA (Bew Bach Edition), using the techniques of modern scholarship, began publication in 1954 (from Barenreiter), and is still in progress.

More J.S. Bach sources:

Bel Kaufman, Claudio Arrau, Daniel Waitzman, Elaine Comparone, Eugene Lehner, Franz Mohr, Gerard Schwarz, Herbert Gardner, Indiana University, James Gardner actor, Leon Fleisher, Lillian Freundlich, Lillian Lefkofsky Freundlich, Marble Hill Projects, Marjorie Janove, Menahem Pressler, Murray Perahia, Raphael de Silva, Roselle Kemalyan, Samuel Gardner, Seagate, Seymour Bernstein, six degrees of separation, six degrees of separation in the music world, Theodor Leschetizky, Vladimir Horowitz

Shrinking degrees of separation in the music world?

The musical universe is smaller than we think. And perhaps this writing will incubate a linked chain of “connections” that will go further–especially since my relocation to Berkeley, California (September, 2012)

So here it is:

Now that I’m well past my Oberlin Conservatory student years, I notice that Lillian Freundlich, my beloved teacher during my New York City H.S. of Performing Arts era, is honored posthumously at the Peabody Institute website by students a bit younger than me.

lillianfreundlich  lil2

An Oberlin alumna, she began commuting to Baltimore, launching a second teaching career after her husband, Irwin, former Chair of the Juilliard Piano Department, passed away. That followed my relocation to Fresno in 1979. It’s no wonder that I would stumble upon Leon Fleisher, concert pianist, and Peabody faculty member when he performed on our local Philip Lorenz Memorial Concerts Series. He had spoken glowingly about my teacher.

If one went back far enough, Lillian Lefkofsky Freundlich’s piano teachers would have led to the famous pedagogue, Theodore Leschetizky, a historic name with its own treasure trove of connections. Reeling out his many students and theirs would unleash a gush of them with their tie-ins to the next generation of performing pianists. The list of virtuoso concert artists Leschetizky trained included Anna Yesipova, Ignaz Friedman, Ignacy Jan Paderewski, Artur Schnabel, Mark Hambourg, Alexander Brailowsky, Benno Moiseiwitsch, and Mieczysław Horszowski.

Horszowski crops up on a short list of Murray Perahia’s mentors. The legendary pianist had a connection to the Marlboro Festival in Vermont. (Murray was my classmate at the New York City High School of Performing Arts.)

Speaking of teachers and their descendants, I studied with Ena Bronstein before she left Fresno and continued her career at the Westminster Choir College of Rider University in Princeton, NJ. Ena, a Chilean, was a student of Claudia Arrau’s assistant, Raphael De Silva, but played often for Arrau. When Gilmore award-winning pianist, Ingrid Fliter performed in Fresno, her bio revealed studies with De Silva, and by association a connection to Philip Lorenz, former husband of Ena Bronstein. Lorenz founded the Fresno Keyboard Concerts Series and helped Arrau edit the complete edition of Beethoven sonatas.

Emigration to California and more connections.

No sooner than I had touched down in the richly fertile San Joaquin Valley, I bumped into Lillian’s Freundlich’s Oberlin Conservatory roommate, Roselle Bezazian Kemalyan, from the class of 1933.

Kemalyan had set up the Bezazian piano scholarship at Oberlin, her legacy into the Millennium. The Bezazian name, has its own reservoir of connections.

Before I had even met Lillian Freundlich through her nephew, Douglas, (a well established Lutenist) and former camper at Merrywood in Lenox, Massachusetts, I acquired my first decent piano, a Sohmer upright formerly owned by Lucy Brown, a well-known New York City based concert pianist.

Uncannily, I recently discovered that Seymour Bernstein, the revered pianist and teacher, author of With Your Own Two Hands, had taught a student, who was a former pupil of the late, Lucy Brown, and “loved her.” (Would Lucy have known Ethel Elfenbein, my first West side teacher who played on the East River concert series?) Both had made appearances at historic Town Hall.

In the same e-mail exchange, I discovered that Bernstein had used Franz Mohr to maintain his Steinway B. The piano technician turned up in Fresno in 1990, to help resuscitate my Steinway “M.” Dispatched by Steinway and Sons, after my article “How Could This Happen to My Piano?!” was published in the Piano Quarterly, Mohr had just completed a book memorializing his years as Vladimir Horowitz’s personal tuner.

Not to forget that Bernstein lists Alexander Brailowsky (a tie to Leschitizky) as one of his teachers.

Rosina Lhevinne, ushers in another gush of connections too long to tabulate, except to mention that I attended Lhevinne’s 80th birthday celebration concert at the Juilliard School back in 1960. Van Cliburn, John Browning, and Mischa Dichter, among her many illustrious students, were no doubt present at that event.

Flash forward:


Having met Elaine Comparone, harpsichordist, through her Internet postings and You Tube channel a few years ago, I discovered that she played chamber music with Daniel Waitzman, recorder virtuoso, who was a Marble Hill Projects dweller when I was living there from age 5 to 19. In fact, I heard him sample three different range recorders in his apartment one afternoon when he was about 18 years old. A Vivaldi presto played on a sopranino produced an unabashed display of virtuosity.

If that wasn’t enough of a common thread, I learned that Comparone took chamber music classes with Eugene Lehner, former principal violist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra when she was a Brandeis student. Lehner coached a string quartet at the Merrywood Music Camp where I played second violin.


Toss in Diana Halperin, violinist, and Gerard Schwarz, conductor whom I knew at the HS of Performing Arts. Both eventually performed with Comparone.

Taking a journey down memory lane, I’ll never forget the day I had bumped into two ladies at the Richmond California Amtrak station as I was heading home to Fresno from my El Cerrito piano studio.

Noticing their thick Bronx accents, I edged up to them like an in-your-face New Yorker would, and inquired about their origins. No sooner than I got my answer, we were seated tightly at a small table on southbound train 712 jabbering away.

In the course of the first twenty minutes, I discovered that both women lived right beside the music school I attended as a small child which was located off Kingsbridge Road and Jerome. To my astonishment, these ladies confided that they knew the eccentric Director, Mrs. Elston who came with beaded glasses and an officious demeanor. She sermonized about a “progressive” musical education that had a political and dialectical overlay. I just sat impatiently as a 6-year old, while my mother sucked it all up.

What an amazing coincidence to meet two people who knew Elston back then! As it played out, one of the travelers became a Facebook friend and lives in Florida. The other, who relocated to Arkansas, has been out of touch.

Bel Kaufman, author of the bestseller, Up the Down Staircase, and my English teacher at the Performing High Arts school celebrated as FAME knew my great aunt Sonia, among other relatives at Seagate, (on Long Island) Ardent lovers of Sholom Aleichem’s writings gathered in a lovely setting to read and share cultural kinship (in the 1940s) No doubt music was a vital part of these convergences.

This is a good place to insert a discovery that “Musakant” was my maternal grandmother’s maiden name acquired through painstaking Genealogy research conducted by my second cousin, Leon Ginenthal. I tried to go one step further, to find out if the family owned a piano factory in Eastern Europe as had been rumored. But I was resoundingly stopped in my tracks by a Music History Professor at the City University of New York. She insisted that all arrows pointed to St. Petersburg, not remotely a part of my family’s migration. Kaput! Finished! NO CONNECTION!


In a less “related” Facebook driven search, I had a Page reunion with Herbert Gardner, my Orchestra teacher at John Peter Tetard JHS 143 in the Bronx. His father, Samuel Gardner, became my violin teacher in New York City. Having played with the famous Kneisel Quartet based in New England, Sam probably knew, Eugene Lehner, a long-time member of the Kolisch Quartet that played in Boston. (The New England connection)

Since Gardner Sr. made chamber music appearances at Blue Hill, Maine, where his teacher, Franz Kneisel founded the summer festival, it was no surprise that Murray Perahia would turn up in the 60s as a Blue Hill chamber musician along with his appearances at Marlboro in Vermont. (the Rudolf and Peter Serkin hub)

The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center is the next spin-off. Murray Perahia, Richard Stoltzman, Richard Goode, Elaine Comparone, and Andre Michel Shub come to mind. These names pop up in different locales. Stoltzman graced Fresno with a psychedelic concert, using a big screen of abstracts as an extra-musical backdrop. Perahia presented on Community Concerts here before it folded. Comparone insists she passed through Fresno under CC auspices. In one form or another she turns up as the ultimate in harpsichord playing. Goode, a close companion of Perahia more than tags along, having culled a reputation as a serious Beethoven interpreter and master class presenter.

As it happened, I heard Goode play in Karl-Ulrich Schnabel’s Masterclass at the Mannes College of Music back in the early 70s. Richard was then in his twenties, and performed the Schumann Fantasie. Speaking of Mannes, my latest connection to that music school, is through Irina Morozova, accomplished pianist and faculty member. I spotted her incredible set of You Tubes that revealed great artistry and sensitivity. She provides an additional tie-in to the Y, where I took coaching in Chamber Music from Yuval Waldman in the early 1970s, except that Morozova teaches at the Special School, known as the “other Kaufman Center on 67th Street,” not 92nd.

Flashing back:

Herb Gardner from my JHS days, it turns out, fathered son James, whom I remember from his containment in the stroller. A well respected actor, he turned up as Facebook friends with P.A. Grad, Alexander Carney, one of our “shared” connections.

Lillian Freundlich was friends with Rudolf Serkin I discovered when I greeted him in the Green room of Carnegie Hall following his memorable performance of Beethoven’s “Waldstein” Sonata. He was so kind to embrace me and send is warm regards to her.

Peter Serkin, Rudolf’s son, was close friends with Harris Goldsmith, one of my musical companions in New York City when I was living on West 74th Street. Harris was writing for High Fidelity Magazine reviewing concerts and disks. He was pals with Murray Perahia and Richard Goode.

Murray Perahia, a year ahead of me at P.A. turned up in Fresno for a Master class, three weeks before my delivery date. In a mini-reunion of sorts, I performed Beethoven’s “Tempest” Sonata, on edge.

Jerry Grossman, cellist and youngest member of the New York Philharmonic was my floor neighbor on West 74th Street and Amsterdam. I attended “Young People’s Concerts of the Phil,” when Leonard Bernstein was music director.

Loaded with musicians, our building housed apartment dwellers with even less than six degrees of separation between them. You could apply the same to the historic Ansonia a few blocks west which was stacked with opera singers who serenaded passersby below.

Members of the Metropolitan Opera came through the Ansonia with its own wealth of connections.

Marjorie Janove, piano teacher in Portland Oregon, to whom I referred a student, received her Doctorate at Indiana University, where she studied with Menahem Pressler. I heard Menahem perform with the Beaux Art Trio in Tanglewood when I attended Merrywood Music camp.

Another favorite from the Indiana school was Gyorgy Sebok, also known to Janove, who presented Masterclasses at the Oberlin Conservatory when I was a student.

Gabriela Montero, concert pianist and improviser who performed in Fresno, was a pupil of Rosalina Sackstein, one of my family members through marriage. I played for Rosalina when she visited my uncle and aunt in Hartsdale, New York. Sackstein was Chair of the Piano Department, University of Miami.

On that note, I’ll pause until more “connections” rise to the surface from my deep-layered, fuzzy memory.

Oops, I forgot that I spotted an Oberlin alumna at Seymour Bernstein’s You Tube Channel site. He featured “Lydia Seifter,” who was a member of the Jack Radunsky “rat pack.” (A group of his students, including myself, formed a clique at the Oberlin Conservatory)


Enough said.

If you have “connections” to share, please send. There’s no telling where all this could lead! We might be related.


Most recent documented Oberlin CONNECTION: to David and Eleanor Bidwell through John Bidwell, Authors Den contributor

My family’s genealogy

My High School Years:

Music, Life, and Memories (Recollections of Lillian Freundlich)

Piano teachers and students/Reluctant Farewells