2019-Feb4-News-Dr Hsu And Madame Rosina-A Brush with Imperial Russia
The Annual Piano Duet Reading Class is scheduled for Sunday afternoon February 10th.
Times for Groups A and B have been emailed out. Please check your time and RSVP thank you.
This class provides an opportunity for students to meet their duet team partner and try out the piece. Each group is allotted 5 to 7 minutes of coaching time with Mr. Seifert
We will meet again in April for the refined performances, after which some are selected to be scheduled into the June recital
Recent Testimonial from an adult student:
I wanted you to know how excited I am, beginning to play the piano again.
Linda, of Blue Bell PA
Accepting New Student Referrals:
Mr. Seifert is accepting students during the current year, and your referrals are appreciated. I offer two free lessons when a new client signs on as a result of your referral.
Thank you for helping the studio grow.
Tea with Madame Rosina Lhevinne
A brush with Imperial Russia
In 1975 I was a young 19 year-old piano student in my freshman year at Philadelphia College of Bible, (now Cairn University, in Langhorne PA). My piano teacher was Dr. Samuel Hsu, who was one of the last piano students of Madame Rosina Lhevinne.
Mrs. Lhevinne had taken young Sam in as a student some years earlier. Sam had grown up in Communist China and escaped to the USA. He told me that it had always been his dream to come to America and study with Madame Lhevinne the teacher of so many famous concert artists including the late Van Cliburn. Sam’s hard work and talent paid off, and he not only became her student, he also became a close personal friend. Lhevinne was something of a grandmother to him. I remember once Sam telling me that upon taking him on as a student that she told him he would have to join a gym and begin working out with weights to develop his upper body strength in order to play the piano well.
Lhevinne’s maiden name was (Rosina Bessie) herself a Gold Medalist at the Moscow conservatory, and according to Lhevinne author Robert Wallace a plaque is still located there and lists “Bessie” along with her famous Gold medal classmate winners as follows: 1892 Josef Lhevinne, Rachmaninoff, Scriabin, and Maximov and in 1898 “Bessie” what a remarkable group of classmates, it was truly a golden age.
When I met Mrs. Lhevinne that fall of 1975 she was ninety four years old, having been born in Kiev during the time of Imperial Czarist Russia. When she was born, Czar Alexander III (father of Czar Nicholas II) had just ascended to the throne 15 days earlier. I knew that I was indeed meeting a musical legend.
I know now that Mrs. Lhevinne suffered from bouts of depression, and it was during one of these dark emotional times that we had been invited to visit. Sam was special as she would allow only a few people to see her when she felt this way. The occasion was just for Sam to visit her for tea, not for a lesson and I was somehow invited along. Although I lived in the Philadelphia suburbs, this was my first trip to New York City and I enjoyed riding the train out of 30th street station in Philadelphia. When arriving in New York the first stop was the top of the Empire State Building, and somewhere I have a photo of my younger self standing on top of the observatory amazed at the sites below, on a beautiful fall day. Dashing for taxi cabs, stopping in at a local flower shop to purchase roses for Mrs. Lhevinne, which are seen in the vase in the photos below.
Mme Lhevinne lived in the upper Westside on Clermont Ave. Her apartment just had a view of the former Julliard school building which today is the Manhattan School of Music. It was here where she and her late husband, the famous pianist Josef Lhevinne worked and taught so many successful young pianists that have influenced generations of musicians. The apartment door was answered by an elderly maid, Mrs. Lhevinne greeted us warmly and had us place the roses on the piano resting them next to the bronze casts of Josef Lhevinne’s hands. I remember that Mme. Lhevinne gave me permission to touch those famous hands; hands that had known Tchaikovsky, Anton Rubinstein and had performed grand concerts around the world.
We were served tea in a rather formal old world setting and simply visited and talked about her love of music. I remember that I was very nervous to meet her. For a few moments Mrs. Lhevinne and I sat alone together, but she put me quickly at ease as she shared stories about her love of the music of Chopin. When the tea was brought out, I just let it sit for the longest time too nervous to drink, until she asked “Do you like your tea very strong?” at which point I replied “Oh yes”. She just smiled quietly and nodded a bit.
The apartment was an old building and the bathroom door was partially broken. Sam had stepped in and was gone a very long time, but after a while even Madame Lhevinne began to wonder what was taking so long. Then we began to hear banging and knocking on the door with cries of help. Sam had been locked in and unable to get out, he felt so embarrassed that he just stayed in there until it became ridiculous, so he had to call out for help. Madame Lhevinne said to me in her thick Russian/English accent “Go, Go quickly, go and help” I jumped up and helped get the door opened. Well, we all had a very great laugh afterwards about this incident, and it really picked up her spirits and put her in an extraordinary mood, so much so that she asked to pose for the color photos (below) which she never liked to do, and I was given rare permission to take pictures with my Kodak camera.
(These photos I have kept now for 43 years, I guess they are rather special as they have never before been seen or published until now.) Mme Lhevinne had small penetrating eyes and she apologized to me as she explained that I not be allowed to be captured in the pictures with her for fear that some day I might be able to claim that I had studied with her. In saying this she gave me a kiss on the cheek and commented to Sam that she thought I was a very musical young man. Very sweet of her to say so, but I never did play for her and would have been terrified had she asked me to. I wrote to her a few times afterwards to thank her, and Sam told me that she often asked about me when he was up for lessons. It was a special day and a great honor to have met her.
The Life Magazine article of 1976 (above top) was a special publication honoring famous women. The photo was taken during one of Sam's lessons and that is indeed Sam’s music that is sitting on her lap. The original photo in Black and White (which I have seen) was taken and mailed to Sam along with a second one of the two of them sitting together side by side. The photo was deemed too large for the article, so it was cropped for the Life Magazine publication just showing Madame Lhevinne “The Greatest Piano Teacher in all the World.” Madame Rosina Lhevinne passed away at age 96 on Nov 9, 1976.
Note: My friend and teacher Dr. Samuel Hsu was accidentally killed by an automobile while crossing a busy Philadelphia street December 2, 2011. I am happy that I had had a wonderful visit with him just a few months earlier after I had given a presentation at Macy's on the History of The Wanamaker Pipe Organ, Sam is greatly missed.