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Pianos -  Albert Hirsh -  Walter Hautzig -  John Perry -  Leon Fleisher -  Elliott Carter -  Karl Engel -  Teaching -  Hobbies


 

Pianos:

These are brands of piano manufacturers which have consistently produced concert quality instruments and are frequently encountered on the stages of major concert venues.  They are listed more or less in order of my preference.  However, artistic satisfaction always depends on the condition of the individual piano at the time when it is played, and thus the ordering can vary:


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Albert Hirsh:

Albert Hirsh (1915–2003) was an extraordinary musician, pianist, teacher, and human being.  I was very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with him during my formative years as a budding pianist.

Originally from Chicago, he later moved to Houston where he lived a modest but comfortable life as professor of piano at the University of Houston.  He also had a fair number of private students who always came to his house on Saturdays for their lessons.  And I think we all must have worshipped him in some way or other.  Most of the time, I only took lessons every other week, but it was always a big event to me when I went in to Houston for my lesson.

He was certainly something of a child prodigy — perhaps not of the “Mozart” variety, but he did perform his New York solo debut recital in Town Hall at the age of 18, or perhaps even earlier.  His program included demanding works such as “Triana” by Isaac Albéniz (which by itself is quite a feat at any age.)  And in his teaching studio at U-of-H (I had one lesson there), one was constantly reminded of his Chicago debut, played around the same time period, which was announced prominently on a huge poster hanging on the wall — along with the likes of Artur Schnabel and Josef Lhevinne who were both performing in the same series that season.

Obviously, Albert Hirsh started out his career with solo ambitions.  He performed as a soloist with orchestra on occasion, too.  The “Variations on a Nursery Song, Op. 25” by Ernst von Dohnanyi and the Rachmaninoff 2nd concerto were big warhorses of his.  What most people don’t know about him (but the people who mattered DID know!) is that he was in great demand as a collaborative artist throughout his long career with the likes of Nathan Milstein, Yehudi Menuhin, Itzhak Perlman, Emanuel Feuermann, Wolfgang Schneiderhan and just about every other artist (well-known name or not) who toured the southern United States, or Mexico, and needed an accompanist — often on very short notice.  He had absolute pitch and could sight-read virtually anything.  Blessed with an incredibly flexible technique as well, he had a command of the entire chamber music repertoire for strings and piano in all conceivable combinations, and he had probably performed it all at some point during his life.

When I met Walter Hautzig for the first time, who was my teacher at the Peabody Conservatory, he told me about a recital that Albert Hirsh and Emanuel Feuermann played at the Curtis Institute during the time when Hautzig was still a student there.  They played Chopin’s big Introduction and Polonaise in C Major, Op. 3 which has a brilliant piano part.  Albert Hirsh apparently stole the show from Feuermann with that piece!

Nevertheless, if one of his students planned a recital somewhere, he and Mildred, his wife of many years, would take the time and drive for an hour or two in order to attend it, sit through the program, attend a reception afterwards, and then drive back home — regardless of where it might be taking place.  I’ll never forget one example of this generosity: their son lives in Denmark, and once a year (or fairly regularly) they fled from the 100-degree heat of southern Texas to fly to Europe and visit him in the summer months.  So when I played at Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen in August of 1983, he showed up together with Mildred quite unexpectedly at the concert — in spite of a bad cold and fever he was having — just to hear me play!  After my school days (and my lessons) ended, we corresponded frequently during the years I lived as an “expat” in Germany and Switzerland.

Listen to some of these extremely rare recordings of his playing which are now available on YouTube, and you will get an idea of the kind of artist he was.  The links will open in a new window:

Here are a couple of concert programs from his performances with Emanuel Feuermann in Michigan and with Yehudi Menuhin in Lubbock, Texas:

These are recordings of a complete recital played by Albert Hirsh together with Shirley Trepel, violoncellist at the Shepherd School of Music, Rice University on March 15, 1978.  The links lead to the school’s Digital Scholarship Archive page for each individual work which contains links to downloadable MP3 audio files of the performances:

Here is an extensive interview which appeared on Sept. 30, 1984 in the “Houston Chronicle”.

Finally, here is an obituary which appeared in the “Houston Chronicle”.

(Albert, we miss you dearly ... your memory is a blessing!)


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Walter Hautzig:


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John Perry:


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Leon Fleisher:


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Elliott Carter:


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Karl Engel:


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Teaching:


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Finally, here are a few hobbies of mine:
(yes, I know, I really should be practicing … smiley)

Coins:

Fishing:

Software development:


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