“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.”