piano, Rosina Lhevinne

Favorites, On AND Off the You Tube screen

This week reaped a set of Internet-channeled treasures along with an off screen, chance meeting with a Rosina Lhevinne student at a Berkeley bus stop.

The first On Air stop-off was Seymour Bernstein’s riveting hour-and-44 minute long interview that covered his Korean war service: a rekindled journey of interspersed infantry training, piano recitals and chamber music.

Seymour’s recorded account is part of an Oral History project that’s been conceived to educate and enlighten Korean youth about a faint and distant war era. In this regard, Bernstein describes a particular outdoor concert that he and violinist, Kenneth Gordon had presented together in the heat of war where bullets were flying overhead while two musicians were thinly protected by a hill that barricaded them in.

Bernstein’s nostalgic, drama-filled memoir pours forth effortlessly in his conversation with a historian tied to the Korean War Legacy Foundation. The focus is Seymour’s four separate touchdowns that included three post-war visits, eliciting his recall of turbulent political changes in the small Asian country. Naturally, he peppers his reminiscences with colorful musical anecdotes.

Most of the pianist’s followers celebrate his time-honored book With Your Own Two Hands along with his Big Screen appearance in Ethan Hawke’s documentary, Seymour: An Introduction. In the 90 or so minute film, a piano teacher is lifted out of the ordinary cycle of giving lessons, to iconic status. Playing himself, Bernstein, a once promising concert performer, retreats to mentoring in the face of crippling performance anxiety and resurrects himself as a doting, thoughtful teacher in a singularly carved journey.

Throughout his Korean Legacy Foundation appearance, Bernstein is on location in his thoughts, revisiting a war-torn Korea, determined to include a tender scene from his early days in uniform. As he tells it, a fawn appears in the fog on the countryside, making Seymour believe that he has died and gone to heaven. The flashback, also a moving segment in Hawke’s documentary, is worth a revisit with additional memories colorfully packed into the recorded Legacy interview.

http://www.kwvdm.org/detail_oral.php?no=751

***

On the You Tube Playlist, I was fortunate to have spotted two hot releases by pianist, Irina Morozova:

The following performances are beyond words to describe and speak audibly for themselves. I must admit, in all honesty, that the more I’m exposed to Morozova’s artistry, the more my heart aches that this pianist’s name is not a household word. The sheer poetry of her expression coupled with an effortlessly fluid technique, should invite the adulation of local and international audiences, if only the commercial packaging of musicians, and the social/political demands of making a career did not intercede.

Finally, to cap off my week, OFFLINE, I found myself waiting for the 25A A.C. Transit bus on an overcast weekday afternoon, anticipating an easy, uneventful route to gym. Little did I foresee an encounter with a perfect stranger, a petite senior, who had a pervasive connection to the music world–one that had its alliance to my own life as it unfolded during my New York City teenage years.

The woman had arrived ten minutes after me, thinking she might have missed the bus, but was reassured by my careful scrutiny of the bus schedule that we were both “on time.” I had added that we were clear to board within minutes, if the bus had not experienced delays.

Meanwhile, I kept checking 511# on my cell phone for updates once I realized that we’d passed the posted arrival time. And it occurred to me that delay after delay was the rule of the day, without any certainty of our common means of transport.

As it happened, we were given ample room to start up a conversation that was sparked by the woman’s allusion to an upcoming “Symphony” outing. That was my immediate cue to introduce myself as a “pianist,” which was her CUE to respond, “I’m a pianist, too!”

At this point in our alternate exchanges, I had acquired my rightful turn to squeeze out a stream of details from her past which she was amenable to share.

“I studied with Madame Lhevinne at the Juilliard School,” she announced, proudly. “It was in the mid 1950’s, but I never really graduated. Well, because I didn’t like the whole environment, and then I decided to go to Europe and earn my Ph.D.”

She admitted that she had never completed her studies, coining herself, an “almost there” individual, exposing her whimsical side–the extemporaneous, coy, and self-deprecating dimension of an emerging, delightful persona.

At this juncture, I wasn’t sure if she was going to veer off from our music-centered talk or re-focus on her studies with Lhevinne. I gently nudged her back to her Juilliard days.

In the ensuing conversation, I learned that Rosina’s crop of students were part of a tight-knit musical family and one particular pupil was my would-be bus companion’s favorite: “John Browning.” She insisted he was far more gifted than Van Cliburn. In rebuttal, I maintained that Van’s Tchaikovsky’s Bb minor Concerto, No. 1, was lyrical, straightforward and without eccentricity. She insisted that Gilels had held the crucial key to Cliburn’s thawed out Cold War victory. (He’d supposedly threatened to resign from the panel of judges if Van was demoted to Silver or Bronze)

I interjected that Nikita Kruschev was the deal-maker, having to rubber stamp the Gold pick! (it was notwithstanding his shoe-banging escapades at the UN)

Obviously, I wanted to milk my newfound musical traveler for any juicy gossip that surrounded Lhevinne, in particular, although I’d viewed one or two lengthy documentaries (on You Tube) that were better than any tell all gossip column. And as it turned out, the only uniquely colorful anecdote that gushed out of my awaiting bus partner’s mouth, was one about Lhevinne interrupting a lesson to talk in Russian by phone with the famed, and often dreaded piano teacher, Isabelle Vengerova. This well-known mentor had been characterized as a tyrant in Seymour Bernstein’s tome, Monsters and Angels, Surviving a Career in Music.

bigger-monsters-and-angels

(Yet, I dared not bring up, Seymour’s inclusion of the Russian icon in his list of “monsters,” aka emotional abusers.)

***
While the bus lingered somewhere OFF ROUTE, I had more space to impart my own Lhevinne-related memoir that rapidly shrank degrees of separation between two common bus riders.

As I recounted:

I had been present at Madame Lhevinne’s 80th Birthday celebration at the very Juilliard School that my newfound companion, who finally identified herself as “Francesca,” had attended. This was at a time when the homespun-looking building was located in the heart of Harlem on 125th Street. As a teenager enrolled at the High School of Performing Arts, I was bestowed a complimentary ticket to the event by my beloved mentor, Lillian Freundlich. The birthday fete featured soloist and honoree, Rosina Lhevinne playing Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21 in C, K. 467, under the able baton of Jean Morel.

While I didn’t have the yellowed PROGRAM tucked into my backpack as hard core evidence of my attendance, I did assure Francesca that it existed, and that it had been embedded in my blog posting about my having “been there,” right smack in the center of an adoring audience.

R. Lhevinne program

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/12/07/an-ageless-pianist-and-her-historic-concert-i-was-there/

My story became expanded during our repartee when I described finding myself years later in the Oberlin Conservatory music library, listening with earphones to a turntable spun vinyl of Lhevinne’s very performance that day at Juilliard.

What memories were rekindled, stored safely in my repository of special musical moments, now shared with a common traveler.

Because the bus ended up being delayed by over an hour due to the driver’s apologetic admission of being lost in another city on HER FIRST DAY OF SERVICE, I had been serendipitously connected to a kindred “pianist” who tore off a snatch of her paper shopping bag with her scribbled name and phone number on it. She handed it to me as she disembarked.

“As fate would have it”… I uttered these words right after Francesca’s departure.

However faint they were, they carried over to the driver who glanced with a smile at the empty seat beside me. Without a shred of doubt, she had put two and two together.

documentary, Eberfest, Ethan Hawke, film, piano, Roger Ebert, Seymour Bernstein, Seymour: An Introduction

Happy Birthday, Seymour Bernstein!

I just sent the following message back East!

“Seymour, May this be the best year ever with continued celebration of your wondrous achievements as a pianist, teacher, composer, author, philosopher, and global musical ambassador.”

While gratitude is expressed far and wide for what Seymour Bernstein has advanced in the musical and interpersonal communication universe, he is the first to be humbled by the adulation he has received for his big screen presence in Seymour: An Introduction.

In this spirit, Seymour gave me permission to copy a set of e-mails that sprang from his recent appearance at the Eberfest that honors Roger Ebert and showcases selected films of unusual artistic merit.

ABOUT EBERTFEST
http://www.ebertfest.com/index.html

Founded in 1999 by the late Roger Ebert, University of Illinois Journalism graduate and Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic, Roger Ebert’s Film Festival (Ebertfest) celebrates films that haven’t received the recognition they deserved during their original runs. The festival gives these films and their filmmakers a well-deserved second look.

Ebertfest takes place in Urbana-Champaign each April. Chaz Ebert, Roger’s beloved wife, business partner and fellow film-lover, is the festival host.

While Roger passed away in April 2013, his influence on the Festival continues. True to Roger’s vision, the twelve films screened during the five day event represent a cross-section of important cinematic works overlooked by audiences, critics and/or distributors. Some films come from lists of possible films that Roger drew up over the first 15 years of the festival. Chaz Ebert and Festival Director Nate Kohn select additional films based on Roger’s established criteria for an Ebertfest film. Both Chaz and Nate worked closely with Roger for fifteen years on programming the festival.

The Festival brings together the films’ producers, writers, actors and directors to help showcase their work. A filmmaker or scholar introduces the films, and screenings are followed by an in depth on-stage Q&A discussion among filmmakers, critics and the audience.

Ebertfest is a special event of the College of Media at the University of Illinois, and the festival, in conjunction with the College, hosts a number of on-campus academic panel discussions each year that feature filmmaker guests, scholars and students.

All the festival films screen in the 1,500-seat Virginia Theatre, a restored 1920s movie palace with state-of-the-art 35/70mm and digital projection. A portion of the Festival’s income goes toward on-going renovations at the theatre.

***

From Seymour:

“See below a note from Chaz Ebert, widow of Roger Ebert the world-famous film critic. After the death of her husband, Chaz created what is now considered to be one of the world’s major film festivals. The projection technician, James Bond (what a name) has to be a genius. I was simply in awe of the visual and aural aspects of the film in that magnificent auditorium. I told Chaz that I could not get over the sound of the piano. She took me into her arms where I sobbed for minutes on end. She was crying, too.

“Andrew Harvey was there, and so was Bill who came with me. As we entered the stage for the Q and A session, the entire audience of 1,500 rose in one gesture and roared their approval for a full 2 minutes. Two of the world’s most distinguished film critics were the moderators. After the Q and A, they rolled out a Steinway and I gave a masterclass right there and then to two fabulous students from the University. All told, this was the most rewarding screening I have attended.

“Open the attachment and see the photo of Chaz and me. I believe it tells all.”
Seymour

Chaz Ebert and Seymour

From: Chaz Ebert
To: Seymour Bernstein
Subject: Re: Deep gratitude

My Dear Seymour:

Having you close Ebertfest with your film and Masterclass and the music from the students brought together the whole week for me with grace and beauty. You were absolutely divine and I knew you would be from the first moment we spoke on the phone. Also, Andrew told me to prepare for the absolute beauty you would bring and he was right.

You did my heart good when you said you had never heard it like that before. One of the things we pride ourselves on at the festival is showing movies in a way that the filmmakers don’t get to see them these days of the multiplex theaters. We have this restored movie palace and hired James Bond to help us because he is the best! We all have a deep respect for the films and for the guests who come to the Festival. Thank you.

I want to make sure we get the Golden Thumb to you. Please send me your address so that we can get it out to you right away.

And please thank Bill for me. He was so kind. I would love to hear his music! And I hope he had a first class ticket too! Please let me know.

Big Hugs,
Chaz

From: Seymour Bernstein
To: Chaz Ebert
Subject: Deep gratitude

My dear Chaz,
Words cannot possibly express my emotional response to everything that occurred yesterday. I was so deeply touched by what you made possible for me, plus James Bond’s genius engineering that resulted in my seeing/hearing the documentary in a way I had never before experienced, simply cracked me up. The rest was as you remember: I sobbed in your arms. The audience response, receiving the “thumb” award, the Q and A session, and the master class were all highlights in my life.
And you are at the center of it all. Darling Chaz, my deepest thanks for everything.
Much love and admiration.
Seymour

***

Finally, how Chaz described Seymour: An Introduction in her blog prologue to its Festival inclusion:

Seymour at the piano

“The other documentary is the very charming “Seymour: An Introduction,” directed by Ethan Hawke. It introduces us to Seymour Bernstein, a classically trained pianist who struggled with how to honor his art when it conflicted with the anxiety in his life. It raises questions about the role and responsibility of the artist to himself, to the audience, and to his fellow travelers. Ethan started the project because he questioned whether his life and art had the authenticity he desired. He did a wonderful job coaxing the philosophy out of Seymour as Seymour demonstrated his gift for coaxing the best performances out of his students. Seymour Bernstein will be with us in person conducting a masterclass. Even in the movie, his music transported me. Rumi Scholar Andrew Harvey put Hawke and Bernstein together, and I am hoping he will join Seymour on stage after this beautiful closing film.”

LINK:

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2015/03/30/love-the-second-time-around-seymour-an-introduction/

Bach Prelude in C from Well-Tempered Clavier, J.S. Bach, Journal of a Piano Teacher from New York to California, pianist, piano, piano blog, piano instruction, piano pedagogy, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten, Well-Tempered Clavier

J.S. Bach Prelude No. 1 in C, Voicing and Harmonic Rhythm (my ideas and Seymour Bernstein’s)

J.S. Bach

A musician’s understanding of a masterwork is a composite of ideas derived from many sources. In the course of piano study, perceptions change and grow, enlarged by a combined theoretical and musical examination of a composition that invites mentors into the mix.

In this tutorial, I realized how I synthesized the contributions of harpsichordist, Elaine Comparone and pianist, Seymour Bernstein (with whom I conversed about the Bach Prelude in C, BWV 846–WTC Book One) with my own, coming forward with a “voiced” harmonic/musical portrait.

***

Flashback: October, 2012

My visit with Seymour Bernstein at his Manhattan apartment and our interchange about Bach’s ethereal Prelude No. 1 (Well-Tempered Clavier)

LINK:
Love the Second Time Around
https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2015/03/30/love-the-second-time-around-seymour-an-introduction/

documentary, Ethan Hawke, movie, Seymour: An Introduction

A San Francisco Landmark and musical reunion!

Did I expect a dental visit to UCSF on Parnassus to blossom into a Landmark expedition through the Embarcadero Business Center?! Why not? I’d caught a glimpse of Seymour an Introduction playing in close proximity to my #6 AC TRANSIT point of departure once I stepped off BART on Market Street in downtown San Francisco. Perhaps I’d get out of the dental chair in time to loop around back to Embarcadero for the 12 p.m. showing. This would be my third movie viewing, and a golden opportunity to snag a few more interviews for my budding documentary. Wishful thinking. I didn’t need any more all night video-editing splurges. I was beginning to show signs of blog related fatigue.

Still, I was determined to find the Seymour blessed MOVIE house in a maze of towering commercial establishments with banks of every variety, local and international imposing their shadows on streets wreaking havoc over my my cell phone GPS. Fortunately, a blue collar laborer sipping a latte, rescued me from my dazed confusion and steered me to an escalator that would deposit me on the top floor of LANDMARK Embarcadero.

Embarcadero Landmark Theaters purple sign rectangle.

What a stark shift from the anachronistic Albany Twin, that could easily double as the interior of a high security prison.

Embarcadero Landmark was spiffy by comparison–an architectural triumph and sky-high pleasure dome.

And there I met Myung and Esther who were sitting on an office designed bench waiting for the midday showing of Seymour

Call it less than six degrees of separation…

Myung turned out to be a former student of Seymour’s at NYU, and Esther played for Seymour at an MTAC Convention event.

After making our introductions, we snuggled together on side-by-side POWER recliner chairs that seemed to eat up a lion’s share of space in a rather small theater. But the BIG SCREEN managed to dwarf our recliners..

As opening credits rolled, it was an instant uplift from start to finish, with cloud nine post-movie sharing spilling into an anesthetized space outside the theater.

As icing on the cake, Myung and Esther blessed me with two riveting interviews, and even permitted my eavesdropping on their private conversation about the film rounding out a perfectly satisfying day.

bridge closeup

Following the schmooze, Myung invited me to join her for a delightful Korean repast before I dashed off to the Steinway Piano Gallery to explore the newest grands.

A 9 foot ‘D’ proved to be an additional afternoon highlight—recorded for posterity.

LINKS:

Love the Second Time Around: Seymour, An Introduction
https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2015/03/30/love-the-second-time-around-seymour-an-introduction/

Judy, Seymour, and Ludwig
https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2015/04/01/judy-seymour-and-ludwig/

adult piano instruction, Beethoven, blogmetrics.org, documentary, Ethan Hawke, film, Journal of a Piano Teacher from New York to California, Ludwig Van Beethoven, piano blog, piano blogging, Seymour: An Introduction, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten

Judy, Seymour, and Ludwig

Judy

It was no surprise that Judy, one of my adult piano students came to her lesson yesterday gushing about Seymour: An Introduction. And naturally, in the nick of time, I grabbed my super-charged, helium packed iPhone and added the latest film rave to my growing collection.

Need I say more?… or is it SEE MORE?.. Seymour?

Seymour pic

The video speaks for itself and includes a nice chunk of Beethoven’s F Major Sonatina, as Judy honored the composer by playing superbly well considering her exposure to piano lessons has been fairly recent.

Beethoven

Yet, she did herself proud and proved that LIFE at the piano can begin at any age. Would you believe, 64?!

Enjoy! and Don’t forget to pack in 81 minutes of Seymour’s movie. (Directed by Ethan Hawke, and impeccably edited by Anna Gustavi)

LINKS:

Seymour Bernstein: From Maine with Love

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2014/06/27/seymour-bernstein-from-maine-with-love/

Love the Second Time Around

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2015/03/30/love-the-second-time-around-seymour-an-introduction/

http://www.seymouranintroduction.com
Click the “Theater” link to check movie schedules around the country

documentary, Ethan Hawke, film, Seymour: An Introduction

Love the Second Time Around: Seymour, An Introduction

Sonya in front of poster

I’ve seen Ethan Hawke’s sensitive film portrait of Seymour Bernstein now FOUR times as I amass a film archive of interviews and written tributes.

Need more be said?

Run to see a cinematic masterpiece so well framed by Ann Hornaday at the Washington Post: ‘Seymour: An Introduction’ is a soaring, sublime ode to art and life.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/goingoutguide/movies/seymour-an-introduction-is-a-soaring-sublime-ode-to-art-and-life/2015/03/26/11ec2c04-d246-11e4-a62f-ee745911a4ff_story.html

LINKS:
https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2015/03/22/run-to-see-seymour-an-introduction-ethan-hawkes-film-masterpiece/

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2015/04/02/a-san-francisco-landmark-and-musical-reunion/

Journal of a Piano Teacher from New York to California, piano addict

The latest about Seymour Bernstein, the Hawk(e), and two colorful Birds

Today began on a high note. Ethan Hawke’s documentary about Seymour received a rave review in the New York Times. It was the latest in a series superlatives that synchronized perfectly with the film’s debut in New York City at the Lincoln Center Festival amidst whispers about a probable Oscar nomination.

To many film mavens, it’s been a pleasant surprise that an artistically framed portrait has racked up reams of star-studded notices on its journey from Festival to Festival. (Telluride and Toronto, being the most recent)

Of particular importance in the annals of documentary-making, is the break piano teachers around the world have been longing for. The film’s front and center validation of their often abstract and intangible contributions to humanity may spawn a long-delayed cultural shift. Thanks to High Holy Seymour and his Ethan Apostle, both have inspired a Gospel-like fervor for the Muse that’s only paralleled by a sidebar contribution Seymour added to his creative composing treasury.

No less a coda to his well-published avian collection, BIRDS, Bernstein honored producer, Ethan with a Hawk(e)-dedicated piece of inexorable beauty.

Against a whole tone opener in the Impressionist genre, I would be remiss if I neglected to mention a relevant tie-in to my unpredictably colorful stop-off this afternoon at a well-known supermarket.

As I sauntered over to the deli counter in a bustling area, a woman in my shadow pushed a shopping cart with two mascots perched opposite each other in nature-perfect splendor.

IMG_2279

“Alex,” son of the matriarch eagerly spread his wings for the camera with a slight prodding from its owner. And momma bird beamed with pride as junior’s wings were eloquently spread.

IMG_2283

What a well-timed set of events, so harmonious with Seymour’s love for music, birds, and other wildlife.

What could have been more precious and pleasing as my day unfolded.

IMG_2281

LINKS to Blogs about Seymour

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2014/06/27/seymour-bernstein-from-maine-with-love/

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/12/06/my-nyc-visit-with-seymour-bernstein-pianist-teacher-author-and-composer/

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/01/01/birds-spring-to-life-in-these-collections-for-piano/

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/12/25/when-do-i-play-my-best-an-inspiring-message-from-seymour-bernstein/

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/12/23/seymour-bernstein-pianist-displays-wisdom-about-the-supple-wrist-and-its-influence-on-the-singing-tone-video/

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2013/06/02/seymour-bernsteins-riveting-statement-about-the-piano-competition-environment-and-what-changes-are-needed/