Jeannette Haien, Murray Perahia

Murray Perahia’s earliest piano teacher and her influence on him

Jeannette Haien is rarely recognized for her role in Murray Perahia’s musical development, though it’s clear through her own words, (rekindled posthumously) that she must have had a profound effect on him. (She was Perahia’s mentor from age 4 to 18.)



I knew Murray as a classmate at the NYC High School of Performing Arts where his musical presence was poignant and pervasive. Many piano majors would follow him to after-school rehearsals in dilapidated rooms with old grand pianos where he would rehearse piano trios such as the one of Mendelssohn in D minor. His chamber partners were Diana Halperin, violin, and Marsha Heller, cello. A circle formed around these three in awe of their divinely inspired music-making. I was bowled over, feeling the expressive pulse of every note, phrase, nuance, and the overall context of what was being communicated.

At one of the Winter Concerto concerts held at the high school each year, Perahia played the piano part in Beethoven’s Triple Concerto with a keen awareness of structure, period style, and tonal variation/projection. His “sound” at the piano was unmistakable: a signature singing tone that’s fleshed out more generally in his teacher’s comments during the Moyer interview. (Her discussion omitted Murray and other pupils by name.) I readily conjectured that she had no interest in claiming credit for their individual or collective accomplishments. She appeared Ego-less and fully keyed to music-making in its purist dimension as she addressed form, structure, architecture, and tone. (In this particular conversation, she was exploring her writing with infused musical references and metaphors.)


Murray, her student for the better part of his childhood and adolescent years, was a remarkable chamber musician and soloist. In his role as collaborator he was acutely aware of form, architecture, structure, balance, dynamics, interpretation, and emotional meaning. (A conscious and committed fusion of intellect and affect.)

In all his musical quests he never attempted to outshine his musical partners or flesh out his technical prowess for its own sake. Furthermore, his ability to quickly sub-in for an absent Concerto concert soloist during a pre-program rehearsal was astounding. I was there sitting in the Orchestra (Principal Second Violin), listening to his “reading” of the Chopin E minor Piano Concerto No. 1, as if I heard it for the first time with only the expectation of resonating beauty. All of us present, were moved, some to tears.

Given the virtues of Murray Perahia’s uniquely individual artistry so manifest at a young age, I was motivated to perform an Online search to learn more about Ms. Haien and her relationship to the piano/music that would have trickled down to Murray. My efforts were rewarded when I stumbled upon a riveting interview conducted by Bill Moyers. It had a complete transcript attached that exceeded video bounds.

Jeannette Haien, who became an author later in life, was a student of Arthur Schnabel, and for most of her early to mid-life years was known as a “concert pianist,” and “piano teacher.” Based in New York City, she would have met up with Murray’s father after he sought a mentor once his toddler started singing arias, after sitting on papa’s lap in weekly jaunts to the Metropolitan Opera.

What a responsibility for a young teacher to assume, clearly registered in the body of the Haien’s commentary. (Without, again, her having tagged Murray or any particular student by name.)

BILL MOYERS: What do you look for in a potential pupil?

Stamina. And interior tension.


JEANNETTE HAIEN: Tension. Desire. Wanting it. That we talked about very early on. And it’s a form of tension. It’s like first love. That terrific tension between two people terribly, newly, innocently in love. Innocently is important, because the young talented mind in its first stages is innocent, and the responsible teacher never, never intrudes upon that innocence.

Selective transcript excerpts continue: Bill Moyers with Jeannette Haien

(What Haien communicated in this interview has conspicuously permeated Perahia’s musical intellect and further reflects his holistic approach to piano study/performance.)

JEANNETTE HAIEN: Structure, which as it sounds-it’s a marvelous word, but it is usually thought to be more architectural in the form. In its peculiar way, structure is a kind of architecture in sound, in a book or anything. The great thing about structure-no, I’ll say it a different way. The biblical phrase, …in whose service is perfect freedom, if you start with structure, then you can move walls. That is, you can move walls in relation to each other.

You have the freedom to work in the freest way imaginable. The best art, the best thinking, is highly structured. It has within it all the windows onto the outside, and light coming in. It’s a well-structured affair. Music is a language, an oral language. And I always begin learning a new score away from the instrument. I never take it to the instrument. I always-….

JEANNETTE HAIEN: A musical score, to a musician, is a narrative, and you take it to bed at night and you read it, and you can-you return to it as you would reread a Conrad novel and find some new marvelous thing in it that you’d never noticed before….

JEANNETTE HAIEN: -yes. That’s where I learned to write. I mean

BILL MOYERS: From music?

JEANNETTE HAIEN: -yes. Because, let’s say Mozart, let’s say a Mozart concerto. Here’s this extraordinary thing, with immediately a theme. It’s called-musicologists call it a theme. There’s a statement of an idea, which is oral, but it-you enter, you begin to enter a body of material through it. It has a key, it is a minor key, or it is a major key. It is a vivace, or it is an adagio. So that right away, some mood takes place, and right away, in the hands of a genius, musical ideation, as with the written word, right away is a landscape that is-well, think of Opus 13, the sonata, the so-called Pathetique sonata-

JEANNETTE HAIEN: -{hums] that opening adagio, first moment. I mean, what is going to follow? There is that stark, extraordinary opening, with two sort of interspersions of surprises. And then you come down in C minor, and you come down to a G, and there’s a fermata, [snaps fingers] and then, you light into the extraordinary exercise of thing.

So that a novel sometimes begins with a dire description of a landscape, or a village or a place, or a character sitting alone and thinking, and then the action takes place. It comes to a point, a denouement, the act is done and there is a consequence. If you fiddle with that consequence and that consequence is out of focus, with the oldest series of consequences since the beginning of time, it runs all through Homer, all through the Iliad and the Odyssey, if you try and give it a cute and clever ending, it may be very titillating to an audience for now, but it won’t last….

(Me: Can one imagine the expansive literary context and framing that Ms. Haien had imparted to Murray in the course of his 15 year-long relationship with her?)

Her words continue to resonate through Perahia’s music-making.

JEANNETTE HAIEN: Well, because Mozart wrote a story- just talk for a moment about the opening of a work, and let’s say that you know three things. You know the key, you know the tempo marking, whether it’s going to be a fast or a slow movement and you have a dynamic marking, let’s say forte or piano, loud or soft dynamic marking. But-and that’s what Mozart, let’s say, says right away, but it is nigh.

There is no such thing as piano or forte, except as I cause it to happen. It is my vision of that, forte or piano, so that when one walks out onto the stage of Carnegie Hall and sits at the instrument, and you are left with a piano marking, that is, a soft-this piece is going to open softly, this work, I have to enter the realm of the attitude of the softness, which must project to the person who bought the ticket in the last seat, way up there, at the same time as the spirit of that piano -because there can be a piano passage of the most terrific animation, there can be a piano, by piano I keep meaning soft

BILL MOYERS: Soft, pianissimo.

JEANNETTE HAIEN: -pianissimo, that’s better. A pianissimo passage in the animated, vivace movement or a pianissimo passage in an adagio, that is so passionate. So it isn’t a matter of dynamic. The dynamic is a kind of freedom for your perceptions about the score.

BILL MOYERS: Is form, is symmetry the truth to which you say the artist is ultimately accountable? Is it to the true nature of symmetry, the way the world is, or is truth something else?

JEANNETTE HAIEN: Well, it’s a-truth is that thing [chuckles} which is undefinable. I mean, form is a form of truth. Form frames consciousness, it gives a frame to our real consciousness of everything. And our consciousness of things influences our conscience, our respect for that which we are conscious of. And there is a truth larger than the capriciousness of individual conduct. Some people call it God, religion, but I think that it is apparent in the way the universe functions….

BILL MOYERS: What you’re doing is bringing out what is there, is it not?

JEANNETTE HAIEN: Well, it’s where you come together over a score and you ponder it and you say, Don’t you think that that-that in relation to that pianissimo you just come from that that fortissimo is going to be out of scale in relation to the larger architectural scope of the work? Which means that there’s really got to be a fortissimo above the one you’ve just created so the architecture, the form, is again realized. It’s a very different experience from exposing a gifted young musical mind to the first ideas such as what is your sound going to be? Why is your hand formed so that when that finger makes contact with a key it’s going to have a sound that every musician will recognize as being yours and no one else’s.


As the crowning glory summation of Haien’s words as they penetrate Perahia’s artistry, I’ve attached one of the pianist’s trailers that’s meant to promote his recording of J.S. Bach’s French Suites. Yet very quickly the viewer forgets that this is some kind of commercial advancement of a disk set. Perahia rises above the din of self-promotion, just like his teacher would have, and for this shared gift of unfettered musical worship, we should be grateful.


Following Murray’s 2015 Recital at Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall:


The Moyers Interview:

Jeannette Haien NY Times Obituary

BALLARD–Jeannette Haien , died on September 23, 2008 after a precipitous decline in health following a heart attack on July 29. Born in the early 1920s to a small Dutch American family, Jeannette was the youngest of four children. Demonstrating precocious talents in both writing and music, Jeannette was home-schooled with her brothers before attending the University of Michigan; in 1943, 1944 and 1945, she won four University of Michigan English Department Hopwood Prizes for ”minor’ and ”summer” poetry and for her extended narrative poem, ”Rip Van Winkles Dream.” In addition, Jeannette per formed extensively as a pianist throughout the mid-West before and immediately after her 1948 marriage to Ernest Ballard, then a law student at the University of Michigan.

In 1950, the Ballards moved to New York City, from then on their permanent home. Pursuing her professional career under her maiden name, Jeannette Haien taught piano privately and, subsequently, as a member of the piano faculty of Mannes College of Music (1969-1991); she toured biennially with the cultural outreach programs of the United States Information Agency in Europe, Asia and Central America throughout the 1960s and 1970s. During the early 1980’s, Haien turned her energies increasingly to writing and, in 1986, published ”The All of It,” for which she garnered strong critical praise and the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction awarded by the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1987.

Haien’s second novel, ”Matters of Chance” was published in 1997. Jeannette’s husband of 60 years died on September 14 of this year. Jeannette Haien Ballard is survived by a daughter, Jean Ballard Terepka, and a grandson, Henry Ballard Terepka, both of New York City, in addition to two nieces and one nephew. Plans for a memorial service will be announced at a later date. Donations in memory of Jeannette Haien Ballard may be made to the American Academy of Arts and Letters at 633 West 155 Street, New York City, NY, 10032-1799.

My Blog Roll re: Murray Perahia

Grigory Sokolov, Irina Morozova, Livia Rev, Murray Perahia, piano, piano methods, piano teaching

Does any one piano method or playing approach work?

Most piano teachers get inquiries from parents who are riveted to “methods.” The most frequently posed question is, “can you tell me how you teach?”

Under duress and painted into a corner, a prospective mentor’s perfect, all-encompassing answer seems unattainable. And upon closer consideration, a boundary limited approach for every student who crosses the threshold or logs in by Skype is virtually impossible.

In the larger sense, I respond with the “singing tone” as my point of departure…interspersing my music vocabulary with “relaxation, fluidity, fluency, the joy of learning, exploring, experimenting.” While I can’t attach myself to a specific method, I can say that I don’t teach Taubman, or represent a pure Russian School approach if it exists. Yet considering all the powerful musical influences in my life including Lillian Lefkofsky Freundlich, Ena Bronstein, Eugene Lehner (my chamber music coach); Murray Perahia, my classmate, cruising through the High School of Peforming Arts, and in the past few years, the artistry of Irina Morozova and Grigory Sokolov, their overall contributions synthesized in some way to make my teaching and learning process a never-ending repository of revelation, reflection, and refinement.

Therefore, when I hear about rigid do’s and don’ts encapsulated in a fixed teaching METHOD that’s disseminated for mass consumption, I have my doubts.

Surely in the pedagogical realm, students need guidance about what causes tension, strain, rigidity in their approach to the keyboard, and how the breath can affect phrasing, nuance, swells, resolutions. And the context of a composition, its historical period, structure, theoretical dimension are all part of the creative learning process. But when various choreographies are considered, the music itself is the best guide.

As a perfect example, Livia Rev, a Hungarian pianist, residing in France, performs here in 2010 at age 94. Notice how each Czerny etude with its particular musical landscape is well realized by the pianist through her diverse physical motions that include supple wrist dips (“breaks”) that are frowned upon by strict Taubman method followers. (According to Taubman tenets, these motions are supposed to cause injuries such as carpal tunnel) Yet far as I know, Rev has not been afflicted.

If Livia Rev inhibited her organic response to Czerny’s music, we would be denied the gift of her artistry.

In a touching flashback at age 43 (in 1959) Lev serenades a group of enraptured children with two of Schumann’s Album for the Young pieces. These are charmingly played with impeccable phrasing and nuance.


Various great pianists have different styles and physical approaches to the piano. Sokolov and Perahia are both poetic players with postural and playing contrasts.

Perahia’s motions are somewhat more economical than Sokolov’s.

In the teaching universe, Perahia’s masterclasses are structurally and theoretically charged in his musical cosmos with little in the way of technical guidance, whereas other artists fuse the technical dimension of playing with matters of phrasing and dynamics.

Snatch of a Perahia Masterclass

Finally, as piano methods abound, one must be circumspect about any approach that is now and forever a perfectly spelled out route to so-called piano mastery. Strike that last word since no one arrives at the golden juncture of perfection simply because there’s always room for growth and development.


Lívia Rév
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Lívia Rév (born July 5, 1916) is a classical concert pianist.

Rév was born in Budapest, Hungary. She started her studies with Margit Varro and Klara Mathe. Aged nine, she won the Grand Prix des Enfants Prodiges. Aged twelve she performed with an orchestra. She studied with Leo Weiner and Arnold Székely at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music, with Professor Robert Teichmüller at the Leipzig Conservatory, and with Paul Weingarten at the Vienna Conservatory, having left Hungary in 1946.

Rév lives in Paris, with her husband Benjamin Dunn.

She has won the Ferenc Liszt International Record Grand Prix.

Rév has performed across Europe, in Asia, Africa, and in the United States. She has been the soloist with conductors such as Sir Adrian Boult, André Cluytens, Jascha Horenstein, Eugen Jochum, Josef Krips, Rafael Kubelík, Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt, Constantin Silvestri, and Walter Susskind.

Her first US appearance was in 1963 at the invitation of the Rockefeller Institute.

She is well known for her light touch and clarity. Her recordings vary from complete Debussy Préludes, Chopin Nocturnes, and Mendelssohn Songs without Words.

birthdays, Happy Birthday, Irena Orlov, Murray Perahia, musician birthdays, Yevgeny Sudbin

Happy Birthday, Irena Orlov, Murray Perahia, and Yevgeny Sudbin!

Berkeley flowers

Today is a super-reblog day as April 19th rings in the Spring birthdays of three musical giants!

First to update a documentary that I originally critiqued about Irena Orlov.

And now the sequel:

Reaching Beyond: Seven Years Later

As for Murray and Yevgeny, their artistry has been spread far and wide through my many posts.

So just to say in the simplest way, that all of you immensely enrich our lives with each passing day!

In Gratitude, and with Love….



Domenico Scarlatti, Domenico Scarlatti birthday, Murray Perahia, piano blog, Richard Goode, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten, The Musical Offering Cafe, The Musical Offering Cafe in Berkeley, Zellerbach Hall

Celebrating Domenico Scarlatti’s birthday at the Musical Offering Cafe in Berkeley (Video)

musical offering parking lot mural

A great prelude to Richard Goode’s Berkeley piano recital was my brief stop-off at the colorful Musical Offering Cafe (2430 Bancroft Way) which sits directly across from Zellerbach Hall. Even the parking lot that hosts guests at both locations, has a gorgeous mural that lures concertgoers to the charming, arts-centered bistro. Packed with Classical CDs that spill into a space reserved for fine dining, the cafe is resonating with love for the great music Masters.

Since it was October 26th, Domenico Scarlatti’s birthday, my piano student, Jocel, and I fully intended to honor the composer by purchasing a few sonata-filled Cds.

That’s how a SONY Classical disk, Murray Perahia plays Handel and Scarlatti, landed in Jocel’s hands while I snatched the pianist’s Bach Concerti album.

Perahia album cropped

The Musical Offering is a great place to eat, schmooze with other Classical music mavens, and grab a few bargain priced CDs.

So on my next outing to Zellerbach, I’ll be sure to spend more time sifting through album files while sipping a cafe latte.


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A Documentary about Murray Perahia is an ear-grabber

PerahiaDoku-SpecialsPage  Perahia

I’m grateful to my UK-based student for sending me this link to a German-produced documentary about Murray Perahia. Having watched back-to-back Lang Lang and Kissin mega-tributes, this one stands out as a tone poem, with Murray descending from the heavens to bless humanity with his music. (Murray plays generously throughout the film, and provides a running commentary about each work sampled)

NOT of THIS WORLD, (chosen as a titular eye-grabber) assures viewers that the pianist is a divine, floating musical messenger, third in line from God and Bach.

And without a doubt, any viewer immersed in Perahia’s playing throughout this film, will agree. (Bach, Chopin and Schumann works are pleasingly on display)

The setting is international, minus Manhattan frames—

We see Perahia at his piano, in a Swiss vacation sanctuary serenading his wife, Ninette. In another frame, he’s traveling with her through Warsaw in a limo, peering out at a public display of Chopin’s molded hand. The two are engaged in charming repartee.

Ninette’s appearance is a first for me. She’s hardly if ever exposed in the media as Murray’s life partner. I’ve seen no People Magazine spreads or features-in-progress. That’s because Murray Perahia is NOT Lang Lang, seeking a hyped media spotlight for himself or his family. Any beam of light aimed at him is redirected to the music he plays. It’s so emblematic of his essence, where he regards the composer’s intent as the core of his life’s work.


Scenes in Berlin and the acoustical space Perahia treasures, are focal points of filming. These frames bring his art to life, with a running soundtrack of his Baroque, Classical and Romantic interpretations as accompaniment.


A classmate of mine during my years at the NYC High School of Performing Arts, Murray was a uniquely expressive pianist even then. I’d grab any opportunity to listen to him after school hours as he read through symphonic scores, or convened chamber music rehearsals with very gifted students. The Mendelssohn Trio in D minor stood out as one of his peak performances.

Murray was a teacher in those days, too. Classmates would play for him, while he provided a willing ear, and helpful comments.


Perahia mentors students in the documentary, while his stream of consciousness about teaching, performing, and cataclysmic life events, (his thumb injury) are snatched and framed for posterity. (The pianist is an anachronism, or at least, an OLD WORLD messenger of the Muse)

Recording session excerpts provide a fascinating glimpse of Murray at work.

He interacts with his German sound engineer, Andreas Neubronner, through a painstaking recording process, seeking obsessive levels of “perfection,” though he confesses to putting a project in the past tense once it’s completed. (“I don’t give it a second thought.”)

Chamber music colleagues and Neubronner deify him to an extent that Next to God might have been a better chosen title for this film tribute.

Nonetheless, it’s a must see (and hear) that attaches a $6 price tag for 48-hour access. (As a site bonus, I managed to squeeze in Murray’s performance of Mozart Piano Concerto #27 in Bb with the Berlin Philharmonic at his favored acoustical venue)

It was just as well. I could have been off at wasting time watching a boxing match.


Interview in Israel with Mr. Perahia (In English) Just wait for the opener to end.
Perahia the Artist

classissima,, Denis Foreman, Mozart, Mozart piano sonatas, Mozart Sonata in Bb K. 281, Murray Perahia, piano, piano instruction, piano lesson, piano sonatas, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Practicing a Mozart Andante movement, using a “singing pulse”

Murray Perahia clarified the “singing pulse” when he discussed a form of rubato, or flexible time that he believed could apply to Classical era repertoire. In an interview conducted by Sir Dennis Forman in the 1980s, the pianist, known as a formidable musical poet of his generation, discussed the Mozart Concerto No. 21 in C, interspersing playing samples. Some he imparted at the Bosendorfer, while others were streamed in from Perahia’s rehearsal with a European chamber orchestra.

(Unfortunately this treasured exchange has been taken out of circulation)


Perahia’s artistry has been a pervasive influence on me. In the realm of phrasing, his vocal model playing is my learning springboard through layered stages and I carry it over into my teaching. In particular, I had applied his mantra to the middle movement of Mozart Sonata K. 281, to gain insights about phrase shaping and contouring. Even by counting in ONE beat per measure (with a 3/8 time signature) I still managed to make space for responses to harmonic shifts, modulations, deceptive cadences and metrical variations involving triplet figures and two against three.

The videos below demonstrate the aforementioned singing pulse approach to practicing and what can be gained from it.

Add Murray Perahia playing Mozart’s Sonata in A minor, K. 310, Andante for a glimpse of his artistry. (This Sonata movement is more complex than the Andante Amoroso, and has its own distinctly impassioned character)

classissima,, coloratura Joyce Di Donato, Journal of a Piano Teacher from New York to California, Joyce Di Donato, Joyce DiDonato, Metropolitan Opera, Murray Perahia, opera, opera singers, piano, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten, word press, word, wordpress,, you tube, you tube video, you, yout tube,

What pianists can learn from opera singers

You Tube has its distractions and delights often to the benefit of pianists, especially when a colorful personality springs upon the screen who rises above and beyond her particular art form.

I can confidently say that I was happily blessed to have been side-tracked by a Masterclass appearance at Juilliard by Opera diva Joyce DiDonato. An earthy mezzo soprano born of the Midwest, she spoke in a universal language to an intimate and simultaneous U-streamed international audience.

So what did I know about the world of glittery coloraturas that could have any practical application to piano teaching and performing?

While pianists had to cultivate the singing tone, they faced the challenge of rising above their instrument’s hammer mechanism to find a spiritual core of musical expression. (Our vocal cords seemed subsidiary to our fleet fingers)

Murray Perahia, “tone poet” of the piano, enjoyed early exposure to opera performances at the Met (NYC) as a toddler, propped in his father’s lap.

The pianist recalled the deep impression these staged musical productions made upon him as he soaked up ingredients of drama and molto cantabile that seeped into his playing, ultimately creating a bigger than instrumental-centered expression. (Underline the divine, full-bloomed breath of his immaculate phrasing)

My early memories of the Bronx where I was born, included weekend-beamed Metropolitan Opera radio broadcasts of Traviata, Carmen, The Magic Flute, etc. introduced and critiqued by Milton Cross in his indomitable squeaky voice.

How could I forget the strains of Bizet’s “Habanera,” with its rhythmic intensity so appealing to a child engaged in imaginative play. (My mother would tell the story in her own words)

To see the production, “live” years later, added a dramatic component that heightened my pleasure and expanded musical consciousness…which brings me back to Joyce DiDonato as she rehearses Drama Queens (Royal Arias from the 17th and 18th Centuries) with interspersed commentary that underscores communication and emotional engagement. (these being so fundamental to performing) In addition, the two video links below are equally applicable to our collective journeys as pianists.

Here they are:

An excerpt from the Q and A following Joyce’s Juilliard Masterclass, titled, “On your Inner Critic,” and her Vlog, “Handling Nerves.” (Take note of her focus on BREATHING)

I can say with confidence, that absorbing the multifaceted dimensions of this opera diva’s artistry brought home the unity of our creative undertakings as “musicians” and bestowed an expanded horizon of learning that adds to our growth and development.

Joyce DiDonato’s Official Website

What we can learn from String Players

Singing in our culture and vocal inhibition

Performance Anxiety and the Pianist

Piano warm-ups, Chopin and the Art of Breathing

Murray Perahia is in a league of his own