The Fall Landscape

10991114_quBACH d minor preludeFall is drawing near, and there is always new excitement attached to the season. New beginnings, new students, new challenges.

This Fall will be particularly exciting with the “birth” of my new book, The Composer’s Landscape: the Pianist as Explorer; Interpreting the Scores of Eight Masters. Already there are scattered scheduled events around the book–a book signing at Book Revue, the great bookstore in Huntington, on October 15 at 7, a book party at Steinway in Melville, on November 1, Saturday at 4, at which I will play-a-little- talk-a-little, and we will eat-a-little, and a visit to a friend and colleague’s class at Juilliard to talk about the book. I expect the calendar will fill in as the weeks go by, and I am at once happy and stressed about the whole thing. Happy stress, but stress.

Will my hard work for the past two years meet with approval and understanding by the people whose opinions I value? Will I be happy with the end-product?

Usually, once a piece of work is done, I am thinking about the next project. But I have tried to put into words, everything I know and feel about performing the piano repertoire of these eight master composers. It is a culminative work, and it is a collaborative work, as I have harvested key chunks of wisdom from many of the great pianists I have had the fortune to interview for Clavier magazine, during the fifteen years I served as Senior Editor there. I believe the result is a rich compilation of ideas and suggestions, and what is more, I love the format and design of the book , with which, for the first time in any of my seven books, I had nothing whatever to do with—It felt like a loss of control in that sense, but the end-product is much better than I could have done myself.

So, I am sitting back on the porch, watching the first of the leaves begin to turn golden, and hoping there is some sort of symbolism there for good things to come…

The Joy of Brahms chambermusic

In just ten days from now, I will be realizing an ardent yearning that has persisted for about 32 years–which, not coincidentally, is concurrent with the end of my first marriage. One of the more positive things from “my other life” was that chamber-music was a fact of life for all of us–as essential as air and food. My ex-husband played the violin, and my children are both exceptional musicians. Our home was the scene of frequent ensembles, which then came to a screeching halt with everything else.

Of course, in the years that followed, I have given concerts with colleagues that have included chamber works, and my children have, themselves, had rich lives in music. They, two, are the most exquisite partners, but geography and life has made our getting together to play a rarity. Whenever my son visits with his family, we have played Beethoven and Brahms cello and piano sonatas, and Schumann, and he has been very humoring of me to play the pieces he knows I love most, even though he is lately more deeply involved with contemporary works.

When I was a child, I was invited to play with adult amateurs–trios, quartets, etc, and so the genre of chamber music has been part of my life forever. Sometimes I have felt like crying, when at a concert, and upon hearing a pianist enjoy the exquisite experience of this type of music-making. I so much wanted it to be me! So I finally took action and arranged to invite some fine players to my home to play the Brahms c minor Piano Quartet, for me, one of the greatest chamber works for a pianist. Brahms wrote equally challenging parts for the pianist whether it was a concerto, klavierstucke, sonatas, or quartets, so I have been busy practicing for this joyous get together.

I feel lucky that these musicians agreed to come–the problem always is that if you want to find a group that is fine enough to have a superb musical experience, chances are, they are professionals, and working in music every day, so that getting together “for the fun of it” may not have the same magical delights…But working in music, and playing for sheer love, are altogether different experiences. There is a dynamic of adventure and pleasure, a purer artistic energy that hovers over the ensemble that gets together for love. And if the players do not know each other well, the surprises that occur, the new chemistries, the musical-ball-catching and throwing, can almost be a game.

I will have to move some furniture out of the way to make room alongside the piano for three seats and stands. And then, maybe if it all goes very well, we may indeed, take the show on the road!


So we got together last week, and although there were rough spots within the ensemble (such a demanding work would not, necessarily, fall into place the first time four musicians play together)– we decided to do the entire quartet again, and the second time around provided the pleasure I had anticipated. So I spontaneously asked the trio whether they would care to come and play two movements with me at my Steinway book party, and they immediately agreed. It will add a surprise element and texture to the event, and even without practicing together, it will be good enough.
“Good enough” is good enough for a casual party–not, of course, for a formal concert on stage in an important hall. It’s a celebration, and we will wing it and certainly have fun.