A tribute to the late, Robert DeGaetano, classmate, NYC High School of Performing Arts

Bob DeGaetano screen shot

“Bobby” as I remember him at “P.A.” (nickname for the FAME school that hadn’t yet acquired Broadway, TV, or movie status) was a shining light among stage-struck students, some of whom swished down the hallway in first position, ballet style, while others in the drama department audibly cajoled each other, wise-cracking their way through academics. One of them would sneak drop a thumbtack on a sub teacher’s chair, inciting a chorus of laughter, while the elderly mentor was in obvious pain.

The music kids seemed more sedate, less involved with displays of attention-getting antics, and more likely to be found practicing in musty rooms with less than perfectly maintained pianos. A few stayed after school for extra coaching. Among them, “Bobby” was one of many gifted P.A. pianists who was constantly honing and refining his skills. He had a sunny personality and an engaging disposition. I remember Joanne Salamone and Carol Lian tagging along with him, part of an inseparable trio.

One afternoon as I was packing up after 6th period, prepping to take the IRT North bound subway home, I was distracted by the strains of Schubert’s Eb Impromptu emanating from one of the practice rooms. It was Bob DeGaetano playing in the presence of Murray Perahia, (PA ’63) who was coaching him to finite detail–a peak level music-mentoring experience worth a memory treasure.

That same year Bob had won an audition to play Beethoven’s Bb Piano Concerto at the School’s Winter Concert and soon after, he made a Town Hall appearance, broadcast on WQXR F.M., which was a feather in his cap. (PA sent its finest to this event, after grueling auditions with Nadia Reisenberg, Abram Chasins and other music notables) Leonard Bernstein was on PA’s Board of Directors and may have snuck in a back door visit here and there.

After graduation everyone dispersed, marrying, having kids, teaching, some performing, yet somehow we managed to keep up with each other through e-mailed newsletters and reunion announcements.

I blogged about P.A. recalling my personal journey with added alum updates.

Note Bob’s photo in the H.S. Grad Yearbook:

Robert DeGaetano PA grad yearbook pic


What I should have included, (a glaring omission) was Robert DeGaetano’s moving tribute to the Challenger astronauts that captured the hearts of a nation in mourning. In this memorable interview DeGaetano spoke about his composition and played an excerpt from the score. (a section devoted to Christa McAuliffe)

Bobby’s own creations and his many performances of masterworks will always be cherished.

“May his music continue to nourish the world and live on forever.”

R.I.P. Maestro DeGaetano….

Robert De Gaetano

“DeGaetano was born in New York City. He graduated from The Juilliard School, where he studied with Adele Marcus and Rosina Lhevinne. He received a Rotary International scholarship, which enabled him to live in Paris and continue his studies with Alexis Weissenberg. Recommended by David Oistrakh and Sviatoslav Richter, DeGaetano became a concert pianist under the auspices of Sol Hurok.

“In the mid 1970’s DeGaetano made his performing debut in Saint Paul, Minnesota. In 1975 DeGaetano met Samuel Barber as DeGaetano was preparing to perform Barber’s piano sonata at Carnegie Hall and they became close friends for the five years that he lived. He has credited Barber for inspiring him to compose, when he visited him in his Santa Cristina chateau in the Dolomites.

“DeGaetano made his New York recital debut at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts’ Alice Tully Hall. His orchestra debut was with the San Antonio Symphony. He toured all fifty states and the major music capitals of Europe. DeGaetano was a frequent guest soloist with US orchestras, including those of Dallas, Denver, Indianapolis, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, San Antonio, San Diego and the Boston Pops. In 1986, DeGaetano premiered his first Piano Sonata in New York City, followed by a domestic and international tour. He then was commissioned by Michigan’s Jackson Symphony Orchestra to compose his first Piano Concerto, which he premiered in March 1989.

“In November, 1987 The Challenger, a suite for solo piano which Alice Tully had commissioned DeGaetano to create in tribute to the astronauts killed in the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, premiered in the presence of the astronauts’ families at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. The performance was filmed live for television, featured on CBS Sunday Morning with Charles Kurault, broadcast over WQXR in New York City and radio stations nationwide. It played on concert tours across three continents.

“In 1999 DeGaetano made his Carnegie Hall recital debut. The same year on Memorial Day he played Louis Moreau Gottschalk’s ‘L’Union’ and ‘The Banjo’ at the Green-Wood Cemetery gravesite of the composer with the Goldman Memorial Band.

“DeGaetano created nine albums, playing Chopin, Beethoven, Gottschalk, Liszt, Rachmaninoff, 20th century composers and his own compositions on the Crystonyx label. His latest album was the premiere recording of his Piano Concerto No.1 and the Chopin Piano Concerto #1 in E Minor with the Moravian Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra on Navona distributed by Naxos Records.”

Posted in Challenger composition by Robert De Gaetano, Journal of a Piano Teacher from New York to California, piano, piano blog, piano blogging, Robert De Gaetano, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

A favorite Piano Prelude to play and teach

Randall and Nancy Faber came through with flying colors by including J.C. Bach’s Prelude in A minor in their Developing Artist Series Album, Early Intermediate Level. It’s definitely a winner with ear-catching appeal!


In a heart-melting opener to a more cognitive analysis of the composition, I play a series of sonorities that provide a lovely framing of “broken” chord sequences that characterize the Prelude’s melodic thread enriched by lush harmonies and modulations.

This particular composition, sounding Baroque but written in the Classical era, gives a student the opportunity to shape a musical line through a series of broken chords. As a preliminary, the player can block the sonorities to follow its harmonic scheme and rhythm. The Harmonic minor, for example, shimmers in the opening measures with a progression from E to F to G# to A. (the fifth degree of this scale meanders through to the tonic)

Beyond an analytic understanding of chord progressions, necessary phrase-shaping requires attentive listening, a supple wrist, relaxed arms, and consciousness about harmonic rhythm and resolutions.


In part B, the music blossoms into a series of secondary Dominants against sobbing, sighing pairs of descending seconds, before it returns to a familiar partial revisit of the opening A section. (Modulations are a more complex dimension of this piece that can be woven into a study of chords, progressions, and in this instance, Dominant/Tonic relationships.)

Sustaining a melodic line through recurring broken pattern chords is paramount to playing the Prelude poetically and musically. Varying dynamics and tapering phrases are an important interpretive dimension.


One of my adult students who’s preparing to learn J.C. Bach’s hauntingly beautiful Prelude is studying the A Harmonic Scale and building chords on each degree. In an early tutorial I explored this underlying “chordal” dimension.”

To Back up—

In a Piano Lesson by Skype, I introduced the rudiments of A minor (Harmonic), building chords on each scale degree. In this early baby step approach, the student has also been assigned A minor chord INVERSIONS, which will be extended to inversions of the Sub-dominant (D minor) and Dominant (E Major). She was also made aware of the VII chord (diminished) and its unique tonal character.

Inversions of chords are part and parcel of the first section (A) of J.C. Bach’s Prelude–they afford smooth voice leading, while in part B, the broken chord thread contains leaps that would be best understood in the context of MODULATIONS and their meaning.

An A minor arpeggio playing was added to the prep mix, so the student would understand how a chord could unravel into a “broken chord” sequence though J.C. Bach’s composition does not require thumb under fingers shifts in its progressions.

Posted in Bach, blogmetrics, Classical music blog, Intermediate level piano repertoire, J.C. Bach, Johann Christian Bach, piano blog, piano blogging, piano instruction, piano teaching | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Thoughts on learning Mozart Sonata No. 12 in F, K. 332 (first movement)

After my review of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Drawing Room” Sonata K. 545 in C, Allegro, I discovered by comparison that the opening movement of K. 332 in F Major, had a more complex mosaic. In the short space of its nearly three page exposition, K. 332’s multiple themes weave through markedly contrasting sections. *A Sturm und Drang, or “storm and stress” impassioned set of “minor mode” measures, for instance intersperses more lighthearted “Major” phrases. Perhaps Mozart’s shifts of mood/emotion and dynamics early on in the Exposition, foreshadowed what the composer later expressed with rich development and poignance in his last Symphonies 39, 40 and 41.

*Music History – Sturm und Drang Movement
from: http://www.digital-daydreams.com

“During this period, a new literary and artistic movement called “Sturm und Drang” (meaning storm and stress) had an impact on music. It soon became fashionable to write music that was slightly turbulent and hinted at emotional depths which reflected the political upheaval and cultural transformation which was occurring at this period in time. The name came from a 1777 play by Klinger and music which represented this style included Gluck’s opera “Orfeo ed Euridice” and some of Mozart’s operas.” (I would add Mozart Symphonies and Sonatas where applied)

More About Sonata in F, K. 332 (WIKI)

“The Piano Sonata No. 12 in F major by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, K. 332/300k, was written at the same time as the Piano Sonata, K. 330 and Piano Sonata, K. 331 (Alla turca), Mozart numbering them as a set from one to three. They were once believed to have been written in the late 1770s in Paris, but it is now thought more likely that they date from 1783, by which time Mozart had moved to Vienna.[1] Some believe, however that Mozart wrote this and the other sonatas during a summer 1783 visit to Salzburg made for the purpose of introducing his wife, Constanze to his father, Leopold. All three sonatas were published in Vienna in 1784.”


As a relative newbie to K. 332, I conjecture that my early, baby-step learning process might assist others in their respective musical journeys, so I’ve attached a short tutorial.

Mozart Sonata in F K. 332 revised

Mozart Sonata in F K. 332 p. 2

Mozart Sonata in F K. 332 p. 3

Posted in Classical music blog, Journal of a Piano Teacher from New York to California, Mozart, Mozart Sonata in F Major K. 332, Mozart Sonatas, pianist, piano, piano blog, piano blogging, piano pedagogy, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, word press, you tube | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Piano Rack Extender: Adapt-A-Stand

My latest studio accouterment is an import from Clear Lake, Iowa. (Pianoman Products is owned by a piano tuner.)

For me, it’s Good-bye to 4 page limit/slipping and sliding sheet music, or self-made cardboard creations with monster clips . Using Adapt-A-Stand I can now stretch to six pages and scan from left to right without a snag. (This is NOT a $$$ driven infomercial in progress as I have NO financial ties to the company)

My short video contains an objective product review.

Though the company guaranteed a six-page capacity, the rack could have used an inch more for that extra margin of security. You’ll notice that my 6th page has a 3″ hangover off the stand.

I wrote to Piano Man, tipping him off about a tad of un-utilized space. (The creator could have easily extended the rack without a hitch.)

Judge for yourself:



Posted in Adapt-A-Stand, piano, piano accouterment, piano blog, piano blogging, piano rack extender, pianoman products | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pianist, Irina Morozova in Concert at New York’s Mannes College

Irina Morozova concert release

Each year, when compiling my favorite You Tube beamed performances, I invariably dote upon the artistry of Irina Morozova. Her playing is simply heavenly, resonating with a heart-melting singing tone that weaves through undulating, well-sculpted phrases.

It took only a smattering of HD transported Chopin offerings to catapult me to Subscriber status and then virtual Facebook Friendship. Naturally, such boundless cyber ties were transcended in my cross-country journey to Morozova’s teaching sanctuary in the heart of Lincoln Center. (The Special School/Kaufman Center proved to be a rich repository of budding musical talent)


As a privileged bystander, riveted to my camcorder and iPhone capturing inspired pedagogical interplays that would reach the blogosphere, I especially treasured Irina’s generous offer to share her thoughts about Chopin’s heart-throbbing Nocturne in Eb in poetic framing.

Such inspired outpourings have an immediate hypnotic effect and provide a teasing opener to what will prove to be an amazing display of music-making on February 23rd, 8 p.m. at Mannes College the New School for Music, where Irina is a faculty member.

So please don’t miss this event!


BIO: Irina Morozova

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 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.”

My catalog of interviews, etc. with Irina Morozova that explores her wide range of musical activities: performing, teaching and recording









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A Big New York Debut Recital for Pianist, Marianna Prjevalskaya

Marianna photo

After many international victories and a stash of prizes, honors and recital appearances flowing out of them, Marianna Prjevalskaya, will make her debut in New York City’s cultural limelight.



“The event, presented by the Cincinnati World Piano Competition takes place Monday, February 23, 2015 @ 7:30pm.”

(“The Cincinnati World Piano Competition is one of the top piano competitions in the United States. Held annually, it aims to recognize and promote outstanding piano artistry and support the career development of young pianists.”)


By all accounts Prjevalskaya’s performance will surely follow those that have lit up the globe, making her name well-recognized in the cosmos of solo playing and chamber music.

(Enjoy an enlightening interview with the artist)


The pianist’s artistry first came to my attention when I serendipitously stumbled upon an Online beamed competition from Alaska. Despite the pitfalls of media transmission, Marianna Prjelvalskaya’s Haydn, Schumann, Debussy, and Scriabin, resonated over the air waves with impeccable beauty. Selections were rendered with period era sensitivity–having a permeated singing tone thread so emblematic of the Russian School of playing, yet infused with a wide panorama of colors and nuances that reflected Prjevalskaya’s Pan-European exposures. (Spain is her country of origin though her musical activity and educational background rise beyond specific borders.) In the midst of her international flurry of concerts, for example, the pianist manages to pursue advanced performance degrees on the East Coast, counting Yale and Peabody among her prestigious bastions of learning.

In keeping with a unique journey of individuality that characterizes the pianist’s blossoming career, I asked Maestra Prjevalskaya to add a personal touch to her upcoming recital, by providing a set of program notes:

First half:
Debussy Preludes Book II

Second half:
Chopin Fantasy Op. 49 in F minor
Rachmaninoff Variations on a Theme by Chopin Op. 22


“Debussy’s collection of preludes is a world of sensations and emotions– a uniquely inspiring experience that draws on the listener’s imagination and carries him/her into a transcendent state.

“The composer collects his own impressions from samples of poetry and illustrations to oriental, decorative objects, transforming them into fantastic images that create a tonal and architectural unity.

“As an entire set, these preludes are rarely performed, so it’s really an exciting experience for me to share the complete work with my audience. In the future, I plan to prepare the first book of Preludes as well.”


“Rachmaninoff’s Variations on a Theme by Chopin Op. 22 is one of my deeply beloved works. I personally think it is a hidden gem in the piano repertoire that unfortunately has been overshadowed by the composer’s other popular piano compositions. This particular set of variations exemplifies an infinite world of musical and technical possibilities that awaits exploration and savoring.

“Based on Chopin’s Prelude in C minor Op. 28, it’s a collage of contrasting emotions encompassing naiveté and anguish to exuberant joy. The theme becomes totally unrecognizable as the work unfolds, and it’s absolutely captivating to see, feel and experience with one’s own hands how Rachmaninoff creates a kaleidoscopic of textures with significant emotional depth.

“In addition to this work, I decided to include the very special Chopin Fantasy. Often viewed as fragile and vulnerable, the composer reveals his heroic face in a full-spirited creation. On a personal level, I felt it would be meaningful to give homage to Chopin before performing Rachmaninoff’s Variations.”


Without a doubt, Marianna’s concert is one not to miss, so gather the information below and purchase your tickets a.s.a.p.

Important Recital Details

Tickets are now on sale and may be purchased online at http://www.carnegiehall.org
To order tickets by phone, call Carnegie Charge at (212) 247-7800.

For more information about the event, please contact Laura Bock at laura@cincinnatiwpc.org or Marianna Prjevalskaya at info@prjevalskaya.com

Marianna’s Website


Posted in Carnegie Hall, Chopin, Cincinnati World Piano Competition, Debussy, Marianna Prjelvalskaya, Naxos, piano competition, Rachmaninoff, Weill Concert Hall, you tube.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tempo Rubato and Chopin Waltz in A minor No. 19, Op. Posthumous

Tempo Rubato as defined in Wikipedia:

“Tempo rubato (free in the presentation, Italian for: stolen time) is a musical term referring to expressive and rhythmic freedom by a slight speeding up and then slowing down of the tempo of a piece at the discretion of the soloist or the conductor.”

I think of it in ebb and flow terms with phrases breathed in and out of cadences in a musically extemporaneous way but not overly exaggerated. From my perspective, tempo rubato should be tastefully applied in the Romantic genre. (Though freely rendered phrases can characterize music from other historical eras as well.)

As it played out, one of my adult students, who had conscientiously layered her learning process over months, was now ready to polish and nuance the Waltz in tempo rubato framing.

Our mutual explorations were recorded:

Posted in adult piano instruction, Chopin, Chopin Waltz in A minor, Chopin Waltzes, Frederic Chopin, piano, piano blog, piano blogging, piano instruction, piano teaching, Romantic era, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten, tempo rubato, word press, wordpress, wordpress.com, you tube, youtube.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment