chamber music for piano, Journal of a Piano Teacher from New York to California, Menachem Pressler, Tanglewood, The Beaux Arts Trio of New York, The Tanglewood Music Festival, word press, word press.com, wordpress, wordpress.com, you tube, you tube video

Menahem Pressler, Mozart, and Masterclasses (Videos)

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

BIO: Menahem Pressler

From the Official Website, http://menahempressler.org

Menahem Pressler, founding member and pianist of the Beaux Arts Trio, has established himself among the world’s most distinguished and honored musicians, with a career that spans over five decades. Now in his 87th year, he continues to captivate audiences throughout the world as performer and pedagogue, performing solo and chamber music recitals to great critical acclaim while maintaining a dedicated and robust teaching career.

Born in Magdeburg, Germany in 1923, Pressler fled Nazi Germany in 1939 and emigrated to Israel. Pressler’s world renowned career was launched after he was awarded first prize at the Debussy International Piano Competition in San Francisco in 1946. This was followed by his successful American debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra under the baton of Maestro Eugene Ormandy. Since then, Pressler’s extensive tours of North America and Europe have included performances with the orchestras of New York, Chicago, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Dallas, San Francisco, London, Paris, Brussels, Oslo, Helsinki and many others.

After nearly a decade of an illustrious and praised solo career, the 1955 Berkshire Music Festival saw Menahem Pressler’s debut as a chamber musician, where he appeared as pianist with the Beaux Arts Trio. This collaboration quickly established Pressler’s reputation as one of the world’s most revered chamber musicians. With Pressler at the Trio’s helm as the only pianist for nearly 55 years, The New York Times described the Beaux Arts Trio as “in a class by itself” and the Washington Post exclaimed that “since its founding more than 50 years ago, the Beaux Arts Trio has become the gold standard for trios throughout the world.” The 2007-2008 season was nothing short of bitter-sweet, as violinist Daniel Hope, cellist Antonio Meneses and Menahem Pressler took their final bows as The Beaux Arts Trio, which marked the end of one of the most celebrated and revered chamber music careers of all time. What saw the end of a one artistic legacy also witnessed the beginning of another, as Pressler continues to dazzle audiences throughout the world, both as piano soloist and collaborating chamber musician, including performances with the Juilliard, Emerson, American, and Cleveland Quartets, among many others.

For nearly 60 years, Menahem Pressler has taught on the piano faculty at the world renowned Indiana University Jacobs School of Music where he currently holds the rank of Distinguished Professor of Music as the Charles Webb Chair. Equally as illustrious as his performing career, Professor Pressler has been hailed as “Master Pedagogue” and has had prize-winning students in all of the major international piano competitions, including the Queen Elizabeth, Busoni, Rubenstein, Leeds and VanCliburn competitions among many others. His former students grace the faculties of prestigious schools of music across the world, and have become some of the most prominent and influential artists and teachers today. In addition to teaching his private students at Indiana University, he continuously presents master classes throughout the world, and continues to serve on the jury of many major international piano competitions.

Among his numerous honors and awards, Pressler has received honorary doctorates from the University of Nebraska, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and the North Carolina School of the Arts, six Grammy nominations (including one in 2006), a lifetime achievement award from Gramophone magazine, Chamber Music America’s Distinguished Service Award, the Gold Medal of Merit from the National Society of Arts and Letters. He has also been awarded the German Critics “Ehrenurkunde” award, and election into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2007 Pressler was appointed as an Honorary Fellow of the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance in recognition of a lifetime of performance and leadership in music. In 2005 Pressler received two additional awards of international merit: the German President’s Deutsche Bundesverdienstkreuz (German Cross of Merit) First Class, Germany’s highest honor, and France’s highest cultural honor, the Commandeur in the Order of Arts and Letters award.

In addition to recording nearly the entire piano chamber repertoire with the Beaux Arts Trio on the Philips label, Menahem Pressler has compiled over thirty solo recordings, ranging from the works of Bach to Ben Haim.

Menahem Pressler, founding member and pianist of the Beaux Arts Trio, has established himself among the world’s most distinguished and honored musicians, with a career that spans over five decades. Now in his 86th year, he continues to captivate audiences throughout the world as performer and pedagogue, performing solo and chamber music recitals to great critical acclaim while maintaining a dedicated and robust teaching career.Born in Magdeburg, Germany in 1923, Pressler fled Nazi Germany in 1938 and emigrated to Israel. Pressler’s world renowned career was launched after he was awarded first prize at the Debussy International Piano Competition in San Francisco in 1946. This was followed by his successful American debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra under the baton of Maestro Eugene Ormandy. Since then, Pressler’s extensive tours of North America and Europe have included performances with the orchestras of New York, Chicago, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Dallas, San Francisco, London, Paris, Brussels, Oslo, Helsinki and many others.

After nearly a decade of an illustrious and praised solo career, the 1955 Berkshire Music Festival saw Menahem Pressler’s debut as a chamber musician, where he appeared as pianist with the Beaux Arts Trio. This collaboration quickly established Pressler’s reputation as one of the world’s most revered chamber musicians. With Pressler at the Trio’s helm as the only pianist for nearly 55 years, The New York Times described the Beaux Arts Trio as “in a class by itself” and the Washington Post exclaimed that “since its founding more than 50 years ago, the Beaux Arts Trio has become the gold standard for trios throughout the world.” The 2007-2008 season was nothing short of bitter-sweet, as violinist Daniel Hope, cellist Antonio Meneses and Menahem Pressler took their final bows as The Beaux Arts Trio, which marked the end of one of the most celebrated and revered chamber music careers of all time. What saw the end of a one artistic legacy also witnessed the beginning of another, as Pressler continues to dazzle audiences throughout the world, both as piano soloist and collaborating chamber musician, including performances with the Juilliard, Emerson, American, and Cleveland Quartets, among many others.

For nearly 60 years, Menahem Pressler has taught on the piano faculty at the world renowned Indiana University Jacobs School of Music where he currently holds the rank of Distinguished Professor of Music as the Charles Webb Chair. Equally as illustrious as his performing career, Professor Pressler has been hailed as “Master Pedagogue” and has had prize-winning students in all of the major international piano competitions, including the Queen Elizabeth, Busoni, Rubenstein, Leeds and VanCliburn competitions among many others. His former students grace the faculties of prestigious schools of music across the world, and have become some of the most prominent and influential artists and teachers today. In addition to teaching his private students at Indiana University, he continuously presents master classes throughout the world, and continues to serve on the jury of many major international piano competitions.

Among his numerous honors and awards, Pressler has received honorary doctorates from the University of Nebraska, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and the North Carolina School of the Arts, six Grammy nominations (including one in 2006), a lifetime achievement award from Gramophone magazine, Chamber Music America’s Distinguished Service Award, the Gold Medal of Merit from the National Society of Arts and Letters. He has also been awarded the German Critics “Ehrenurkunde” award, and election into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2007 Pressler was appointed as an Honorary Fellow of the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance in recognition of a lifetime of performance and leadership in music. In 2005 Pressler received two additional awards of international merit: the German President’s Deutsche Bundesverdienstkreuz (German Cross of Merit) First Class, Germany’s highest honor, and France’s highest cultural honor, the Commandeur in the Order of Arts and Letters award.

In addition to recording nearly the entire piano chamber repertoire with the Beaux Arts Trio on the Philips label, Menahem Pressler has compiled over thirty solo recordings, ranging from the works of Bach to Ben Haim.

RELATED BLOG POST LINK:

Memories of Merrywood

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/03/09/a-breathtaking-music-camp-finale/

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A Long Lost Concert Program turns up on a dusty grand piano

One of the fringe benefits of tidying up a piano room filled with unsorted piles of music and the rest, is finding a gold mine of goodies that have been missing for months, if not years.

Have you ever experienced lost this, found that–found that, lost this?

It’s embarrassing, but as we age, more of the latter occurs. (found/lost, found/lost, ad nauseum)

At least one happy hunting ground experience, however, produced a recovered memento of a Tanglewood concert. The embracing story surrounded the late Isaac Stern who stole my heart playing the Beethoven Violin Concerto with the Boston Symphony. It was during a music camp summer spent in Lenox, Massachusetts.

***

Tracking my 6 or so years as a violinist, I found myself in the throes of two music camp experiences. The one at Merrywood acquired a memory bank of richly woven anecdotes.

Its unique proximity to the Tanglewood Festival afforded weekly trips to Sunday morning BSO rehearsals, and interspersed jaunts to chamber music and orchestra concerts. These were the bread and butter of our musical lives.

The singular concert carved into my memory, besides one where Lukas Foss played the Bach d minor concerto, was Isaac Stern’s appearance under Charles Munch. (During the summer, 1961 there were a host of guest conductors ascending the podium.) A uniquely compact maestro, Pierre Monteux, climbed up a solid oak stool, looking like an elf, though he conducted like a giant.

After Stern’s riveting performance under the stars with a shell embracing soloist and orchestra, I should have had consideration for my fellow campers who were squeezed into carbon-emission fuming buses awaiting a missing teen. Who could that have been? (Was I a runaway- in-progress or just a love-sick adolescent hounding an autograph?)

I was off and running from the brood of Merrywooders who were bound for Ruth Hurwitz’s quaint camp-site bordering the property of French Hornist, James Stagliano. A well-known imbiber, it was a well-circulated legend that BSO Jim took a swig from his horn right smack in his orchestra seat. Was it NOT saliva he was shaking from his mouthpiece?

Stagliano’s early-morning horn calls started our day following a blaring Bach “Brandenburg” 5, piped into the second floor where we campers slept in tightly-squeezed cots.

Our daily schedule included practice periods, ensemble rehearsals, private and group music lessons, choir singing by the fireplace, and campfires. But these activities were no match for our tour de force trips to the Berkshire Festival concerts.

***

The night of one sweltering July, Isaac Stern outplayed himself igniting my immediate impulse to race after him for a morsel of human contact plus a time-honored autograph.

I found him standing regally in the Green room wearing his signature silk scarf. An adoring mom was beside him. He looked worn by fatigue, but signed my program in a gesture of kindness. I will always remember his generosity.

Tears had flowed down his cheeks during his performance making it even more emotionally poignant. Or might those droplets have been beads of sweat contoured by sizzling hot lights? It’s fascinating how the memory creates its own staging. A tender pouring would have added a nice effect.

The aftermath:

Following my autograph-seeking coup with Stern, I was hunted down by camp authorities and grounded for a week. Punishment was meted out: no s’mores at the Saturday campfire. (chocolate-covered marshmallows) and a suspension of attendance at chamber music concerts in the shed. (not a venue for paddling)

That’s not all that happened at Merrywood.

An August camp concert provided a breath-taking finale!

Read more!

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/03/09/a-breathtaking-music-camp-finale/

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/02/06/performance-anxiety-and-the-pianist/

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The value of studying the piano and a second musical instrument

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

***

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

Violin:

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s a snatch that caught my eye.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dual roles

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

A sight to behold, in the nervous shuffle.

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

RELATED LINKS:

What Pianists Can Learn from String Players


https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/09/14/what-pianists-can-learn-from-string-players/

Merrywood Music Camp Adventures

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/03/09/a-breathtaking-music-camp-finale/

Appel Farm Music Camp and the Chicken Coops

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/03/13/appel-farm-music-camp-and-the-chicken-coops/