Soviet Pianist Lazar Berman
The Genius with a Goatee
Soviet Pianist Lazar Berman, Fondly Remembered
Born 1930 - Died 2005
(Above, Pianist Lazar Berman's recording of Liszt's Years of Pilgrimage.)
Thanks to modern music streaming services: Spotify, YouTube, Apple Music etc… a universe of music is now accessible to multitudes around the globe. I am a great fan of recordings, and indeed I still keep hundreds of vinyl and CD recordings in my studio; many are favorites. Beyond this however, are the stacks of paper concert programs that I have collected over many years from the various live concert performances that I was fortunate to have attended. Not only did these artists walk out onto the stage in magnificent concert attire, they also breathed, sang, smiled, cried, gestured and bowed humbly before us. In many cases I had the opportunity to meet the artists afterward and shake their hands, perhaps hoping that some Divine spark might make its way into my hands or mind.
As a youth, I can recall meeting the legendary pianist Rudolf Serkin, the noble Artur Rubinstein, and a youthful Van Cliburn. When I look back at these concert programs in some cases from decades ago, I can still hear the music and recall almost exactly the shape of the phrases. So perhaps indeed a Divine spark did make the leap; not perhaps into my hands, but somewhere better, into my soul. Is it important that I heard these artists? I would say yes, for although it takes some focus, I find that it is indeed possible to relive and remember some of those musical moments; fragments, and passages jump out clearly in my mind and aural memory. The visual memories for me are quite vivid, and linked to these images are the sounds that have lasted well beyond the moment.
(Below, Philadelphia/Berman concert program 1976)
These live performances were never ordinary, they were always emotionally stirring and transformative. Through the Philadelphia Orchestra I encountered music I had never heard before: Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Liszt, Mozart, Haydn, Prokofiev, Tchaikovsky, and so many others.
Two incredible programs that I attended were in the fall of 1976 and October of 77. Both evening concert performances were presented by the Soviet/Russian pianist Lazar Berman, whom I remember fondly. A powerful presence on stage, physically and musically, in many ways he was truly a giant or simply a genius with a Goatee. The conductor that evening was the then 77 year old Eugene Ormandy. Born in 1899, Maestro Ormandy was at his musical peak, and in many ways so were “Those Fabulous Philadelphians”; for in the 1960’s and 70’s few American Orchestra’s could touch that group of musicians.
I remember hearing The Prokofiev Classical Symphony for the first time as it rang out, filling the old elegant red interior of the Academy of Music with a modern musical vibrancy; that piece is still a favorite of mine. A 46 year old Berman bounded upon the stage and glided to the Steinway; here he performed not one, but two full piano concertos, a mental, musical, and physical challenge of monumental proportions. (It should be noted here that The Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky concertos rank as perhaps two of the most difficult pieces ever composed for the piano.) The Philadelphia Inquirer music critique Mr. James Felton wrote “Berman is an absolute master of his instrument…Berman came down with enough force to break the piano in half…” the review continues on in glowing terms, and I was there, I heard every note, and what great memories.
(Below are the concert reviews from the Philadelphia Newspapers)
(Below, a photo of Berman during a recording session)
A year later, in October of 1977 Berman travelled to Boston, MA to perform a solo piano recital. I was then a college student living in Boston nearly across the street from Symphony Hall, where inexpensive last-minute tickets could be obtained. I attended this remarkable recital by Lazar Berman, (program below) and can remember the great performance that evening of a musical transcription, that of the Bach-Busoni Chaconne, in a word sublime.
(Below 1977 Boston / Berman concert program)
Nothing can compare to being in the acoustic room with the musician, who is breathing, thinking, sweating, and engaging in their spiritual art while right in front of you. Making both Music, and even Mistakes, yes; those artistic blemishes which mark the real uncensored, unedited, uncancelled art which are in many ways the human hallmark of a live event. Lazar Berman's many recordings are indeed impressive, and I hope his name will be added to your Play Lists soon.
2020-2021 Rick Seifert Piano Lessons Studio Recap:
(Above: In person learning continued with Masqued Performances and lessons)
The challenging 2020-2021 season was met head on. Lessons, Masterclasses, and monthly performances continued without interruption. Virtual media was of great assistance amid a mixture of virtual and live events.
The season wrapped up Sunday June 6, with a Live and Virtual recital at Saint John’s Church in Southampton, PA. I was very proud of each student as they processed into the room and then presented their solo works at the piano.
Mr. Seifert's performances: As a teacher I perform occasionally at my studio for the monthly performance events, and almost always at the annual Spring Recital. This year I performed Beethoven’s Andante Favorie WoO 57 and The Rachmaninov Elegie Opus 3. No 1. These two contrasting works that I presented during the program I first studied and performed during my college years 1975 and 1977 with my late professors Dr. Sam Hsu and Hungarian/American pianist Dr. Erno Daniel. It was a personal gift to relearn these pieces again, and bring them back for a live performance after all these years. I want to thank my colleague Marcia Yurko for taking time to listen and coach me during my months of performance study and preparation.
The summer was filled music research for my Sight Reading Book "Sing & Play" travels led me South to North Carolina, and North to Maine.
Student Events Fall 2021
We are looking forward to the late summer piano event, which is scheduled for September, details coming soon. The private students return Wednesday September 8th for an exciting year of study and performance events.
Now Accepting New students for the 2021-2022 Season
There is nothing as enjoyable as having new students beginning their musical journey, whether school age student or adult. As a teacher, assisting with the process of learning and musical discovery is a joy to be a part of. Piano practice, and music making are unique, as piano playing can continue throughout a person's life. Call today or refer a friend and receive a special lesson package.
Rick Seifert 425 220-8147