Ann Schein

1981-2010 Chopin Reviews

Roman Markowicz, Polish Daily News, May, 2010

“I have not heard this pianist for many decades. Her most recent performances in the Big Apple were of a rather private nature and poorly advertised. It is a great pity, because Ann Schein belongs to a rarified group of pianists, whose interpretations one would dare to call exceptional. If she got her colossal talent and abilities to play the piano from “her maker’, her schooling she owes to a pair of Polish pianists related to each other – if one may say – through a wife. They were once married to the same Polish beauty Aniela Mlynarski, and their names were Mieczyslaw Munz and Artur Rubinstein. The second among them often admitted having only one true student, and it was the enormously talented Ann Schein.

Now, I must turn to her immensely satisfying recital, which she devoted to the works of Schumann and Chopin, both celebrating this year, the 200th anniversary of their birth. If one was to describe her playing with just two words, it would be ‘beautiful’ and ‘simple’. Some pianists who she brought to mind were Kempff or Horszowski, not because she plays like them, but because her approach to the music, to the sound production, is somewhat relaxed, yet never dragging; the tempi seem to bear similarity. Like the aforementioned masters, she knows how to adjust the tempi: the fast ones are never rushed (Chopin’s first movement possessed a true feeling of ‘ maestoso’), and the slower ones never drag. She also belongs to that small group of pianists who are unable to produce an ugly percussive, or harsh sound, and who always present natural sounding phrases, a beautiful legato, and whose musical logic is unassailable.

In the first half of her recital, Schein offered unmannered yet authoritative versions of Schumann’s Arabeske, Op. 18 and Davidsbündlertänze, Op. 6. The second half was devoted fully to a magisterial, monumental version of the 3rd Chopin Sonata in B minor, Op. 58. Among dozens of versions I have heard recently. I would single out this one at the most noble, heartfelt, and convincing. About the most flattering comment of one pianist praising another is, that were I playing this sonata today, I’d surely use Schein’s version as my model. Her two encores only reinforced the already positive impression: Chopin Etude, Opus Posthumous (from the Methode de Moscheles) which received about the most melting and heartfelt interpretation imaginable, and then came a tour-de-force version of Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in B-flat Major, Op. 23, No 2. Here Schein not only demonstrated her true virtuosity, but showed what an intelligent musician she is: the famous chordal episode, just before the coda, may often sound like a torrent of unrelated chords, but this pianist infused some logic into it, some rarely observed breathing space, making it sound like a new piece.

Ann Schein’s recital gave this reviewer some food for thought, and not only because it was so well played. In the year of Chopin’s anniversary, the New York concert-organizers happily engaged many well-known pianists of modest abilities, forgetting that in their midst there is an artist, from whom many of those virtuosos could take a lesson or two. After all it was Schein, who in 1980 presented in Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall, a memorable series of six recitals devoted to Chopin works. The memory of today’s impresarios doesn’t stretch that far back and it is our loss, that Schein play for 28 rather than 28,000 listeners, like Pollini, who sold out his three-concert series and who, with the playing he represents these days, could shine Schein’s shoes.”

Nyack College

Heritage Villager, Southbury, Connecticut, November 20, 2009

“Schein Gives Inspiring Performance”
“From time to time, we are reminded, amid the realities of everyday life, that there are moments when something happens to renew the spirit. Such an event occurred for this reviewer on Sunday, October 18, when the Heritage Concert Society presented a recital by Ann Schein. Initially, the program was of some concern, because it featured only two composers, Chopin and Schumann – which some might have thought to be too narrow in scope. Nothing could have been further from the truth. The Chopin Polonaise-Fantaisie, Op. 61, is not one of the most often heard pieces by this composer, but it was somehow the perfect prelude to the Schumann that followed….The Polonaise does reflect the restlessness and the spirit of Polish patriotism the underlies much of Chopin’s music…The performance of Ann Schein extracted everything there was to be said from the piece. Schumann’s works for the piano are some of the most important representations of German romanticism, in their harmonic and rhythmic inventiveness and, above all, in their melodic lyricism. Hearing these pieces all together (Davidsbündlertänze, op.6) in sequence was a unique experience…and one was struck by the remarkable ability of Schein to capture the many changes of mood from one episode to the next. In some of the more introspective moments, Schein literally wrung from the music that distinctive, deep melancholy that had manifested itself throughout Schumann’ life. (In this work), the composer provides an intensely personal glimpse into the mind of a tortured soul – and all that can be seen there was exquisitely understood and conveyed by this pianist. The highlight of the afternoon was a stunning rendition of the beloved Sonata in b minor by Chopin…rarely has it been given such a tasteful, elegant and sincere reading. This performance was infused with all the elements of great music-making; absolute mastery of technique, a truly astounding control of dynamic contrast, and an unbroken continuity of musical thought. There were no affectations, no egoistic displays, and no deviation from the focus on the music itself. Schein goes directly to the heart of the utterance and to the hearts of the listeners…In the words of a revered colleague, ‘I am going home nourished’. And so, it appears, did the rest of the audience.”

Post and Courier on Charleston.net, Charleston, South Carolina, February, 2009

“Pianist Delivers Poetic Performance”
“The International Piano Series on Tuesday featured virtuoso pianist Ann Schein in a concert with poetic renderings of music by French composers, Ravel and Debussy, (as well as Elliott Carter’s Piano Sonata, 1945-46). In Debussy’s ‘L’isle joyeuse’, Schein’s intense interpretation boiled with both passion and the unified beauty of the work. Also, she managed to bring a powerful sense of unity to the rather murky Piano Sonata written in 1945 by Elliott Carter, who is still composing earbending music at age 101. Schein concluded her concert with a show-stopping performance of Chopin’s Sonata no. 3 in b minor, Opus 58. In four consecutive movements, Chopin creates music that epitomizes the larger-than-life emotion of the Romantics. The coda that concludes the piece consists of a series of wrenching climaxes, each more powerful than the last. When played by a great pianist, it can bring cheering, and after Schein played, the audience at the Sottile Theatre roared their approval.”

Seen and Heard International Festival Report, July 8, 2008

“Ann Schein, an Aspen Music Festival artist-faculty favorite, delivered a spellbinding
recital Wednesday in Harris Hall that included Schubert Wanderer Fantasie and Chopin’s Sonata in b minor. The pianist did nothing flashy but instead built shining edifices of sound based on musical intelligence. What was so compelling about her work was the inevitability of the music’s unfolding. It just grew like a living thing.”

Aspen Music Festival: Pianist Ann Schein plays Chopin, Schubert

Oakwood Register, April 8, 2008

“Schein Shines Light On Six Classic Composers”
“With music, you can dwell in the present, reach back in time as well as take flights into the future…The same can be said for performances and performers. We have recordings to prove that Myra Hess and Arthur Rubinstein were great pianists. And, the legacy of their music and their teaching is very much alive today. By inviting pianist Ann Schein for her long awaited debut at Soirées Musicales, great legacies continue. Schein has had a career spanning many decades with direct links, teacher to pupil, to Dame Myra Hess and Arthur Rubinstein. Her teachers, she was one of Rubinstein’s last pupils, imparted a strength which transcends some of today’s adulation of speed and brilliance at the expense of musicality. Schein is renowned as an interpreter of Chopin, Rachmaninoff and Liszt. Literally hundreds of her recitals and orchestral performances have received rave reviews. The concert opened with Beethoven’s “Les Adieux” Sonata and proceeded to Schubert’s Wanderer Fantasy. In both works, Schein demonstrated the power of the piano to delve deeply into the music with bombast-free clarity. The internal rhythms and themes stood out boldly during the abrupt transitions, particularly in the Schubert…Playing the works of Ravel, Debussy and Liszt, Schein brought powerful yet delicate mellifluence to the music. In the Ravel 1905 Sonatine, the music was painted with strong glowing colors. Debussy’s L’Isle joyeuse was given a beautiful reading full of technical éclat which seemed so easily accomplished. The cross hand passages flowed with unaccustomed delicacy…The final programmed piece, Liszt’s Venetian Tarantella was one of the most “un-Lisztian” readings I have heard. Without the customary theatrics, the wild tarantula-bite dance seemed to be caused by a very gentle and loving spider. As an encore, a Rachmaninoff Prelude capped the evening.”

The Classical Voice of North Carolina, April, 2008

“Ann Schein Shines in Eclectic Elon Piano Recital”
“In brief comments from the stage of Whitley auditorium, pianist Ann Schein…spoke about the selections and how some related to her career. Her most significant teachers were Mieczyslaw Munz, Arthur Rubinstein, and Dame Myra Hess. (Opening with) the Piano Sonata No. 25 in E-flat, Opus 81a by Ludwig van Beethoven,…Schein projected a wide dynamic range and phrased superbly, perfectly balancing classical style with the more Romantic emotion. She wove the melodic line in the slow movement seamlessly. The clarity of her articulation while following Beethoven’s direction, ‘as fast as possible’, was breathtaking. Schein said this sonata has always been special to her. She heard Myra Hess play it often, and Schein chose it to open her debut program in Carnegie Hall in 1962. The ‘Wanderer Fantasie’ in C Major, Op.15 by Franz Schubert consists of four movements unified by their musical relationship to the slow 2nd movement, containing variations on a theme taken from one of the composer’s most famous songs, ‘Der Wanderer’. Schein’s ability to refine the work’s forward momentum within the overall structure was astonishing. She used a wide range of tone with an electrifying compass from hushed notes to fortes that gripped the listener. It was a rare treat to hear her take on the Impressionist literature. Her playing of Ravel was elegant and refined, and she brought a broad palette of color and verve to the Debussy. In Liszt’s Tarentella from ‘Venezia e Napoli’ from ‘Annees de Pelerinage’, Schein pulled out all the stops and burned up the keyboard. Her forte thundered and shook the hall. Such power made the fact that she has played the Third Rachmaninoff more than 100 times particularly believable.”

Elon College, Elon, North Carolina

Peter Jacobi, H-T Reviewer, Bloomington, Indiana, June, 2007

“Pianist a Remarkable Talent”
“In perusing the background of an artist, it’s tempting to ascribe performance qualities to that person’s teachers. So, since Ann Schein studied with Arthur Rubinstein, the vitality in her method of playing can be credited to him. And since she studied with Dame Myra Hess, Schein’s patrician and elegant approach must come from her. And since she studied with the lesser known and yet distinguished Mieczyslaw Munz, the Romantic sweep originated with him. Most likely, the training is a factor in this veteran pianist’s artistry, but she has long assimilated lessons and made of them the contextual fabric of her amazing keyboard mastery. Schein is a wonder who brought Wednesday evening’s cheering audience in Auer Hall to its collective feet, following a recital of the most demanding sort. She made of every item on her program a highlight, starting with two Schubert Impromptus, No 2 and 3 from Opus 90. To these, she gave that important yet elusive sense of spontaneity while also emphasizing the song-like nature of the music. Next came the Davidsbündlertänze of Schumann…Schein called them ‘character pieces’ and in Schein’s hands, they were magic, a woven web of suggestive sentiments one could dream awake to. Next came a pair of fragrant samples from masters of Impressionism, (Debussy and Ravel). The sounds that rose from the piano here gained a luminous quality, and the crispness of touch that had marked the earlier Romantic fare switched to a more flowing nature, allowing for cascades of notes to escape from the pianist’s fingers in rolling waves. Schein’s mastery of music and instrument remained total.”

Christopher Durrenberger, October, 2006

“Musical Magician at Antioch”
“Historic Kelly Hall was bustling with life last Monday as veteran pianist Ann Schein initiated the premiere season of Antioch’s Professional Piano series. The event was a major success, and proved once again that great art can flourish with dedication and sheer perseverance. An audience of (almost 300) people turned out to witness her artistry, including pianists from far corners of the state. Ms. Schein, donning a dazzling burgundy jacket, took to the stage and displayed uncanny pianistic control over the Beethoven Sonata, Opus 81, “Les Adieux’. The combination of her keen classical style performed on an aging Steinway created a sound rather reminiscent of the composer’s own Broadwood fortepiano. This effect was achieved through lyrical nuances, and extremes of dynamics…A 20th century miniature take on sonata form followed with Ravel’s Sonatine. Being the musical magician that she is, Ms. Schein milked sensuous colors from the instrument sparkling them with an amazing display of virtuosity. Textures simply melted into one another showing off her ability to sensitively control French repertoire…The concert continued with the Chopin Sonata No.3 in b minor; Ms. Schein treated the poet of the piano with boundless soulful sensitivity and grace; long lyrical lines were passionately stretched to their near breaking point…The breadth of musicianship conviction displayed by Ann Schein was truly inspirational.”

Yellow Springs, Ohio

Washington Post, May 3, 2006

“Ann Schein’s Simply Grand Piano”
“Thank heaven for Ann Schein. With all the mane-tossing, keyboard-splintering wunderkinder cluttering up concert halls these days, what a relief it is to hear a pianist who, with no fuss or muss, simply reaches right into the heart of whatever she’s playing – and creates music so powerful you cannot tear your self away. More wonders: two of Franz Schubert’s “Impromptus”, from Opus 90. It’s easy to get lost in the improvisatory mists of these works, but in Schein’s hands they unfolded with powerful, clear-eyed – logic while smoldering dangerously underneath.”

Washington, D.C.

The Post-Standard, Auburn, New York, March, 2005

“Simply Chopin”
“Ann Schein offered more than a taste of Chopin Sunday afternoon. Her all-Chopin program…was a sumptuous feast of works that exhibited Schein’s masterly understanding of the wide-ranging Polish composer’s work…She opened with the Polonaise-Fantaisie, Op.61, which she described as the essence of Chopin with its final declaration of patriotic and artistic freedom. Her interpretation of Chopin’s 24 Preludes was…alternately dreamy and dark, light and passionate.”

Classical Voice of North Carolina, February 7, 2005

“Ann Schein Launches Meredith’s Sand-Chopin Fete
“A knockout program – blockbuster may be the operative word – was given by pianist Ann Schein on the evening of February 2nd. A crowd of pianists, teachers and students plus the usual collection of die-hard music lovers gathered for an important all-Chopin recital. Schein has appeared here previously and is widely known for her many recordings in many genres, both solo and in chamber music with distinguished colleagues. Her ticket was thoroughly punched in 1980 when she played six sold-out all-Chopin recitals in New York. She has not lost her touch. Schein is among the older artists playing today who have helped define this composer’s music as we know it.”

Wayne Hileman, Litchfield County Times, Thomaston, Connecticut, November, 2005

“Chopin’s Music Comes Alive in Thomaston”
“The Thomaston Opera House has long been an area destination for the theatre arts, particularly plays and musicals. Throughout its storied past, however, the 1884 hall has been host to many classical music events – famed opera stars, Enrico Caruso and Marian Anderson both sang in this beautiful space. In an effort to rekindle classical music performances in historic venues like the Thomasaton Opera House, the Adams Foundation…selected Thomaston and (over 50) others small cities to participate in a…series of classical piano recitals. The intent is to provide affordable live performances of the finest American pianists in small, acoustically superior halls. This past Saturday evening, a sizeable crowd was on hand to hear Ann Schein, one of America’s premiere pianists, to perform the music of Frederic Chopin…She is well-known for her interpretation of Chopin and she closed the first portion of her recital with the 24 Preludes, op.28…Her technique seemed effortless and the pacing of the Preludes was innovative with some transitions played seamlessly, and others abruptly. The effect was akin to a journey…Chopin’s Third Sonata concluded the concert, a masterful piece, and Ms. Schein played it as a refined master…Her playing was sensitive, insightful, dramatic – all the features you would want in a performance of Chopin. She drew a wonderful sound from the Steinway piano, without ever sounding strident or labored. Her demeanor was equally delightful; she spoke eloquently about Chopin.”

Tim Page, Washington Post, October, 2005

“…It was one of Chopin’s late masterpieces, the ‘Polonaise-Fantaisie’ Op. 61, that began Sunday’s program. The celebrated opening …chords followed by ethereal, harp-like ascending passages that reach the highest register of the piano…could not have been more luscious and poetic…the dance passages, with their strict rhythms, had all the worldly pomp one could have asked for. The program closed with Chopin’s Sonata in b minor, Op.58. I was especially taken with the tiny, gossamer Scherzo and the way Schein made its middle section almost Grieg-like in its songful sentiment. Time stood wonderfully still in the great Largo; one had the sense that Chopin and Schein were going to spin out this rapturous melody forever, which made the transition into the disconsolate finale all the more tragic and arresting.”

Cecelia Porter, Washington Post, November, 2003

“To hear pianist, Ann Schein, is a voyage of discovery…for decades Schein has probed the many faceted beauties of Chopin’s music – perhaps her supreme achievement - forging her own lustrous account of this repertoire. Schein centered on Chopin’s Polonaise-Fantaisie in all its revelatory elusiveness; and his soul- shattering 24 Preludes, underscoring their darkly clustered harmonies and asymmetrical folk-dance meters of Chopin’s Slavic heritage.”

Embassy of Poland

Morgunbladid, Reykavik, Iceland, April, 2002

“Lovers of romantic piano music had a feast during Ann Schein’s high standard recital when she played to a full house in Salurinn Hall last Saturday. The climax came in the Third Piano Sonata of Chopin…Ann Schein performed the first movement with dramatic power and the Scherzo with dazzling lightness. The Largo movement, a slow dreamy nocturne which occasionally reminds one of a romanticized Bach Prelude, was exceptionally beautiful in the singing, controlled performance of the pianist. In the Finale, ‘Presto non tanto’, the piano came ablaze in a fantastic display of fireworks. Such exceptional understanding and colossal technique, tempered by a sensitive feeling for the work’s construction is not heard every day, and both educated musicians and the general public capitulated unconditionally.”

Tim Page, Washington Post, January, 2002

“Ann Schein: An Artistry Rarely Heard”
“In 1980 she played all the major works of Chopin at Lincoln Center in a series of six concerts that affirmed her status as one of the composer’s most thoughtful and musical interpreters…Chopin’s set of Preludes, Op.28, closed the program…There were many beauties…a radiantly autumnal No. 17…a performance of No. 23 that was as delicate and as intricately woven as spun sugar.”

Malcolm Miller, Piano Magazine, January/February, 2000

“One of the highlights of the Great Romantics Festival was a superb all-Chopin program by Ann Schein, known for her youthful successes in the 1950s and 60s both in Britain and internationally. Her b minor Sonata, Mazurkas and 24 Preludes evinced consummate artistry and effortless agility.”

Great Romantics Festival, Hamilton, Ontario

Elyse Mach, Clavier Magazine, December, 1999

“The pinnacle of this festival was a Chopin recital by…Ann Schein. A vast palette of touch and color was evident in her opening work, the Polonaise-Fantaisie, Op. 61, and in the two Mazurkas, Op. 59, No. 2 and 3, that followed. Her beautifully controlled textures and incisively focused playing throughout the Sonata in b minor was music making at the highest level. After intermission, Schein treated the audience to a lyrical performance of Chopin’s 24 Preludes, op.28. It was, however, her playing of Chopin’s Posthumous Etude in A-flat major…that was the crowning jewel of the recital. The overflow audience at Convocation Hall of McMaster University…rejoiced at Schein’s playing and gave her a standing ovation.”

Great Romantics Festival, Hamilton, Ontario

Nora Beck, The Oregonian, December 6, 1999

“Pianist shows how to ‘Play with Heart’”
“A cross between the precision of Maurizio Pollini and the creativity of Rubinstein, Schein performed Chopin’s enigmatic Sonata No. 3 in b minor, Op. 58, better than I have ever heard anyone play it. Her tone, touch, and interpretation were exhilarating …The audience erupted in spirited applause…”

Clavier Magazine, December, 1999

“Great Romantics Festival is Music so good it hurts”
“At Hamilton’s Annual Great Romantics Festival,…all one can do is take in and marvel at a highlight here and there. One was Ann Schein’s incredible Chopin recital in McMaster’s Convocation Hall. Schein is one whose early recordings and Carnegie Hall debut caused a sensation and who presented the major Chopin repertoire to six triumphantly sold-out houses in Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall in 1980.
In Convocation Hall…hers was pianism at its most remarkable and perhaps at its most daring, a daring bordering on the heroic, considering her audience was perhaps made up 50 percent of incredibly accomplished pianists. What a technique, subtlety, utter clarity of detail, enormous power…and a glorious sound and musicality.”

WGMS, Jim Allison, Washington, D.C. March, 1992

“What modern pianist is usually associated with Chopin – Pollini, Perahia, Askenazy? Well, for several hundred people who attended the Dumbarton Concert Series, that pianist is Ann Schein. Her all-Chopin program…was simply outstanding. Ms. Schein’s playing brought to mind both the poetic quality which Chopin was reputed to have had, as well as the power and passion that was the trademark of Franz Liszt’s playing. At the same time, her beautiful tone and the rhythmic freedom of her playing reminded one of that great Chopin master, Arthur Rubinstein with whom Ms. Schein studied…there is no recent recording that offers the imagination and variety that abound in her performances.”

David Lasky, Sunday Telegram, Worcester, Massachusetts, November 20, 1988

“Ann Schein Delights at Memorial Concert”
“One of the world’s great pianists came to Worcester last night and offered a recital that was, to put it mildly, phenomenal. Before a captivated audience…Ann Schein rendered an extraordinarily vital and penetrating performance of works by Beethoven, Debussy, Rachmaninoff, and Chopin…Miss Schein has nearly perfect pianistic technique…her virtuosity is nearly in the same class with such a fiendishly brilliant pianist as Vladimir Horowitz…coming through above all else was Miss Schein’s incredible involvement with and in the music. What she was able to do, particularly in the four Etudes of Chopin as well as in his tragically heroic and profound Ballade in f minor, Op. 52, was nothing short of musical and pianistic wizardry of the highest order. She is an aristocrat among pianists, and has not, as so much of the musical world seems to have done, lost her sense of what is, and should always be grand and magisterially sweeping. She is a Romantic in the very best and most convincing manner.”

Theodore W. Libbey, Jr. Washington Star, March 21, 1981, Washington, D.C.

“Monuments to Chopin”
“Pianist Ann Schein can do little wrong when it comes to Chopin, as she proved more than two years ago in her Kennedy Center debut, playing an all-Chopin program in the Washington Performing Arts Society’s Piano Series…Schein made the evening hers, playing with the same brilliance and interpretive insight she showed two years ago, and leaving little doubt that for her, Chopin is a composer whose sentiments are lived, not worn. Her ability to play from within the music has a way of making her seem a transparent interpreter…it was clear from the start that Schein meant to raise no monument other than one to Chopin…Not once did she seem to go for effect…instead, her approach was motivated by the music, in which she inevitably found something to communicate or something beautiful to put forward without stretching Chopin’s sentiment dry…Schein’s perfect sense of rubato and her shaping of phrases, through tapering and expansion of dynamics worked to produce gradations in a continuous utterance – so that each piece remained an integral utterance…Schein conveyed an overwhelming sense of scene.”