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International Keyboard Festival

Best Deal in New York
James Harrington

The International Keyboard Institute and Festival, now in its 21st year, has been the high point of my summer musical events for three years now. IKIF offers people in the New York area two full weeks of outstanding concerts, masterclasses, and lectures at Hunter College. More than 100 piano students come from around the world to study and compete; their lessons and masterclasses are augmented by the opportunity to interact with and hear world class pianists perform every day. No event that I attended was less than superb; and, as in past years, there were several recitals that rank among the best I have ever attended.

I complemented Festival Director Julie Kedersha on her ability to gather so many great pianists and keep program duplications to a minimum. As the Festival is a learning experience for all of the students, the opportunity to hear two different performances of the Waldstein or Chopin Sonata 2 is not a bad idea at all. Rachmaninoff’s Sonata 2 was played in two different versions – also a good learning opportunity.

There is a general agreement that the Tchaikovsky and Van Cliburn piano competitions are the most important, IKIF continues to have a significant group of medalists from those two quadrennial events, sometimes booked to perform even before their wins. This shows a keen awareness on the part of the festival’s directors. Several years back, less than a month after winning Tchaikovsky, Daniil Trifonov made his New York debut at the IKIF. This year Nao Fujita did likewise, only a few weeks after taking the silver medal in Moscow.

He began with Mozart’s Sonata No. 10, delicate and balanced with wonderful legato phrasing. This was followed by etudes by Liszt and Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky’s ‘Dumka’. After intermission he played Chopin’s Four Scherzos with brilliance and almost no wrong notes, though there was no risk taking beyond what was called for in the music. I suspect Fujita will mature into a true world-class pianist.

With only half an hour to clear Lang Hall and tune the piano, 80-year-old Ann Schein played the most heroic program of the festival. At her orchestral debut in 1957 she played Tchaikovsky’s Concerto No. 1 and Rachmaninoff’s No. 3 on the same program (a year before Van Cliburn won the first Tchaikovsky competition with the same works). Coincidentally, Fujita played the same pair, back to back just three weeks earlier in the finals round. Schein was clearly the old master and took time to talk with the audience and share her thoughts on the pieces she played;  Beethoven’s Les Adieux, Copland’s Variations, Ravel’s Sonatine, Debussy’s ‘Isle Joyeuse’ a big group of Rachmaninoff’s etudes-tableaux and preludes, and, after a brief intermission, Chopin’s Sonata No. 3. Her encores were Chopin’s Nouvelle Etude No. 2 and the brilliant Prelude in B-flat minor. Despite her frequent finger slips, if I could have one piano lesson from any of the festival’s pianists, she would be the one.

There are summer music festivals all over the world. There are also summer workshops for students of all ages with the opportunities for lessons and performances. IKIF remains unique in that it is both, plus an opportunity for the best to compete for cash prizes and being invited back next year to perform on one of the concert series.

Now I have to go through a period of withdrawal.

The Classical Music Guide: Ann Schein - IKIF 21st International Keyboard Institute and Festival

Lang Recital Hall at Hunter College – July 19th, 2019
By Donald Isler

  • Beethoven: Sonata in E-Flat Major, Op. 81a "Les Adieux" 
  • Copland: Piano Variations
  • Ravel: Sonatine
  • Debussy: L'isle joyeuse
  • Rachmaninoff: Etudes-Tableaux in E-Flat Minor and E-Flat Major, Op. 33
  • Rachmaninoff: Prelude in D Major, Op. 23, No. 4
  • Rachmaninoff: Prelude in B-Flat Major, Op. 23, No. 2
  • Chopin; Sonata No. 3 in B Minor, Op. 58

According to the program notes, Ann Schein made her first recordings in 1958, and performed at the White House in 1963. If Wikipedia is accurate, she will celebrate her 80th birthday later this year. One might not expect such a person to play a big, demanding program which, having started a bit after the 8:30 official time, only reached intermission at 10 o'clock! But Ann Schein, whose very fine performance of Schumann's Davidsbündlertänze I remembered from perhaps ten years ago, still puts together programs that no one would consider easy, and plays them very well, indeed. She does not always use the fastest tempi, but neither does she play too slowly. She knows exactly what works for her AND for the music. 

The program began with Beethoven's Les Adieux Sonata, and I was reminded of her wonderful musicianship. After the challenging first movement, the slow movement was emotional and expressive, and the last movement was strong, with a variety of shadings. 

Her reading of the Ravel Sonatine featured a lovely first movement with shimmering sounds, charm and warmth in the second movement, and SPARKS wonderfully tossed off in the finale. 

With hardly a pause, she launched into Debussy's L'isle joyeuse, which was full of mystery, playfulness and ecstasy.

The first Rachmaninoff Etude Tableau had the contrasts of lightness and apprehension, and the second one was very energetic. 

The D Major Prelude by the same composer was not at all sentimental but emphasized the interaction of the different voices. The brilliant B-Flat Prelude was powerful and elegant. 

For this listener, the most impressive part of the first half of the program was Ms. Schein's performance of the Copland Variations, which, she said, she recorded long ago. It is not "lovable" or beautiful, and is an early work of Copland, dating from 1930. It is harsh, dissonant and craggy, and based on motives that sometimes turn around on each other and answer each other. The composer's use of rhythm is as important to how the variations work as the notes themselves. There is also some very tricky passage work. It is a piece of architecture in sound, and Ms. Schein was colossally successful in conveying this.  

Such is Ms. Schein's popularity with her fans that she arrived onstage to begin the second half of the program, which consisted of the B Minor Sonata of Chopin, and was greeted with cheers. 

The first movement was strong, not too fast but spacious, and showed her understanding of the composer's idiom. The second movement was played at a more daring tempo, with the middle section, appropriately, somewhat slower. In the third movement she played the main theme rather straight, and the middle section was strong and compelling. The finale was played at a good, though not very fast tempo. It was intense, featured impressive passage work, and had a powerful ending. 

Before playing the first encore Ms. Schein said "I don't know how you can listen to any more!" and then explained she would play the A-Flat Nouvelle Etude of Chopin because her teacher had given it to her to improve her ability with two against three rhythms, and because it's a favorite of her husband. 

After coming out onstage once or twice more, to acknowledge applause, she announced "I haven't attempted this in awhile but you'll know what it is!" and launched into the B-Flat Minor Prelude of Chopin, one of the fastest and hardest of them. This time she pulled out all the stops. It sizzled!

Key Pianists presents Ann Schein in Review

Key Pianists presents Ann Schein, piano Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, New York, NY October 5, 2016

by Frank Daykin for New York Concert Review; New York, NY

I attended the most marvelous poetry reading last night. I’m sure you are thinking “Is he out of his mind?” Perhaps, from time to time, but in this case no: the poet was legendary pianist Ann Schein, and she read from the poetry of Beethoven, Schumann, and Chopin.

The hall was full and enthusiastically expectant, and they were not disappointed. From the outset, even in taking the stage, Ms. Schein radiates good-will, warmth, humility, and a sort of maternal embrace—these qualities were returned to her tenfold by the audience.

She began with an account of Beethoven’s programmatic sonata, Opus 81a, in E-flat major, nicknamed Les Adieux (The Farewells), that has three movements motivated by the subjects of Farewell, Absence, and Return, all of them linked by a descending posthorn motto. Immediately, in the Adagio introduction to the first movement, Schein made us aware of an interior stillness leading to sadness (and ultimately to a joyous reunion). This quality is not often audible in routine performances. The piano tone was sumptuous at all times. Beethoven’s sometimes awkward writing for the hands never sounded thus. The bleak, almost neurotic, “absence” movement was perfectly rendered, leading to the puppy-like dancing about the wheels of the carriage bearing the returning Archduke. Never have I seen or heard the extravagant leaps in the right hand dispatched with such appropriate happiness.

This brings me to an attempt to summarize the many virtues of Ms. Schein’s pianism: 1) she is able to “project intimacy”; 2) she understands and feels phrase grouping, harmonic motion, and the sense of arrival, such moments are generously breathed and punctuated; 3) her beautiful motions become e-motions; 4) she possesses uncanny sincerity; 5) meaning and feeling are at all times joined; and 6) simplicity and generosity are also at all times united.

The second work was, for me, the absolute pinnacle of an outstanding program: Schumann’s great Davidsbündlertänze, Op. 6 (Dances of the League of David). This is a work with multiple sources and meanings—Schumann’s imaginary league of great creators vanquishing the Philistines of culture; the three sides of his own fervid personality: Florestan, the fiery impetuous one, Eusebius, the dreaming poet, and Master Raro, the mediator between the two; and Schumann’s often fraught relationship/courtship of the young girl who would eventually in fact become his wife, Clara Wieck. This piece gives pause to many seasoned professional pianists, who may not trust their ability to be poetic enough.

The work is a series of eighteen character pieces in the guise of dances, tightly linked with mottos (notably the descending “Clara” scale). In the first edition, each piece (save for three) is marked with initials “E” or “F” for its authorship by one of the aforementioned aspects of Schumann. Personally, I am drawn to the Eusebian sections, but I always have to realize that they wouldn’t emerge as beautifully without the contrasts around them. Full disclosure: many of Eusebius’ tears (mentioned in the program to the piece) stole silently down my own cheeks as this unforgettable rendition was happening. I had to hold my breath many times, so intense and revelatory was this performance. Each section was miraculous, with punctuations that I had never considered before. Particularly effective was Schein’s handling of the many coda or codetta sections, which put a metaphorical halo over what had come before. The final wistful waltz, with its mash-up of tonic and dominant at the beginning, was heartbreaking. One wanted this work (and possibly the entire recital) to be twice as long.

After intermission Ms. Schein gave us Chopin’s third and final piano sonata, Op. 58 in B minor. This is a massive work, with enlarged scope and heroism, and it led me to think what might have been if Chopin had not died at the untimely age of thirty-nine, but had lived to hear and see the Wagner operas. All of Ms. Schein’s tremendous virtues were present in this reading, including a feather-light Scherzo and the noble Bellini-like song of the third movement. As the finale arrived, Ms. Schein really seemed to let go and just tap into something primal, no caution, just abandon (but with all the fine shaping that we had come to expect.) Its triumphant ending inspired an instant standing ovation.

She favored us with two encores, of which the first was spellbinding, a new “definitive” performance in my opinion of a work that is often just “passed over”: Chopin’s second of the Trois Nouvelles Etudes, in A Flat. After that, Schein again just let loose and reveled in her ability with Rachmaninoff’s second Prelude from Op. 23, in B-flat major. I doubt this pianist has ever played an unmusical note in her life. Her mentor Mieczyslaw Munz predicted for her “a long life in music,” and he was so right. Thank you, Ann, for sharing this beauty with a world so in need of it.

INTIMATE PAGES: Pianist Ann Schein in Recital

October 19, 2014,  Dr. Gary Lemco

Keyboard veteran Ann Schein graced the stage of the Visual and Performing Arts Center, DeAnza College…under the aegis of the Steinway Society of the Bay Area…She displayed her affection and natural elegance in sympathetic readings of two major staples of the piano repertory, Schumann’s Davidsbundlertanze, Op. 6, and the complete set of Chopin Preludes, Op. 28.

Schein opened her program with a well-wrought performance of Chopin’s Polonaise-Fantaisie, Op. 61…Quite Appollinian in her approach, Schein has made the case, in her introductory remarks, that “great music renews itself at every performance”. The Polonaise-Fantaisie achieved a luminous, arched effect, a series of introspective periods that built upon each other in a unified whole…

More intricate, the 1837 Davidsbundlertanze mean to “initiate” the faithful by way of eighteen distinct tempo indications that contain as much by way of Jean-Paul Richter’s novel, “ they do aspects of Schumann’s musical personae. Schumann claimed the pieces “contained many of my thoughts pertaining to... aspirations to marry Clara…Schein performed the ritual of these pieces with rapt intimacy, the required “innigkeit” that Schumann’s acolytes must possess…

Ms. Schein remarked on the often tumultuous birth-many conceived on the island of Mallorca-of the set of 24 Preludes…that Chopin completed, forming one of the true Rosetta Stones for the Romantic keyboard…My personal favorite, the No. 17 in Aflat Major..retained its enigmatic beauty in the midst of ever-shifting hues…the longest Prelude at 90 measures, it conveys much of Schumann’s “nostalgia for the dream” that defines Romanticism…the potent d minor-with its five-note ostinato--drove deeply into the heart…With the long held fermata at the conclusion of this tempestuous piece, we felt we had been privy to a sacred temple, and its high priestess…

Stephen Brookes, The Washington Post, May 1 , 2014

Pianist Ann Schein shimmers at National Gallery of Art

Ann Schein is one of the most impressive — if relatively unsung — pianists in America, so her recital at the National Gallery of Art's West Garden Court on Wednesday was a distinct and all-too-rare pleasure. The concert was part of a Gallery series built around Cecelia Porter's new book, "Five Lives in Music: Women Performers, Composers, and Impresarios from the Baroque to the Present" — which devotes a chapter to Schein — and Porter, a music critic who writes for The Washington Post, was on hand to plug the book and introduce the pianist.

The introduction never really got to the heart of what makes Schein's playing so compelling and full of character. But perhaps only the music can do that, and, as quickly became clear in Maurice Ravel's elegant "Sonatine," there's little question that Schein is a pianist of the first rank. Probing, insightful, balancing delicacy with great power, Schein turned in a performance that shimmered with light, with a kind of effortless naturalness in every note. You could not wish for more.

Schein is in her 70s now, but her technique shows little sign of fading. And even the thickest musical tangles of Claude Debussy's "L'isle joyeuse" came off with impeccable clarity. Debussy wrote the piece at the start of a love affair, and Schein captured its intoxicating, even rapturous spirit in a reading that never lacked for excitement. Chopin's Piano Sonata #3 in B minor, which closed the program, was just as vivid but even more complex and nuanced, from the glittering Scherzo to the quiet pathos of the Largo to the surging Finale. Schein turned in a deeply integrated and thoughtful performance and rewarded the standing ovation with a quiet and understated encore, Chopin's posthumous Etude in A flat Major.

Thoughts on Hearing Ann Schein & the Harrisburg Symphony Playing Chopin - Sunday, March 23, 2014

By Dick Strawser

Sitting in the Forum last night, listening to the Harrisburg Symphony conducted by Stuart Malina with pianist Ann Schein playing Chopin's 2nd Concerto, it occurred to me "this is what music is all about".

And by that, I don't mean that the playing was beautiful (though it was) and the piece was pretty (which it is) which meant the audience could find it entertaining (which it did) but that somehow this mystical arc from what-the-composer-wrote- down to how-the-performers-played-it to how-the-listener-responded-to-it completed an equation of communication that transcended time (in this case 184 years) to make a moment in our lives leaving, at least for that moment, the rest of the world oblivious and unnecessary.

If that makes Art escapist, then so be it, but what I feel it succeeds in doing is not to make us forget what's going on outside this concert hall but rather how we can deal with it and not be swallowed up in the reality. As the great acting teacher Stella Adler once said (a quote you can find on the home page of my Market Square Concerts blog), "Life beats down and crushes the soul and art reminds you that you have one".

If this concert communicated anything to me last night (and hopefully others, whether they recognized it or not), it reminded me that I had a soul and it needs nourishment like this and that nourishment needs to be supported and sustained...

When did I first hear this piece? Probably when I was a child – we didn't have many classical recordings in the house when I was growing up at first, but most of the piano recordings were with Arthur Rubinstein, one of the great pianists of the 20th Century and with whom Ann studied (and since Rubinstein took on few students, this is quite an endorsement). I heard Rubinstein play live only once an all-Chopin program in the early '70s when he was already in his mid-80s. And I watched a broadcast of him playing the Chopin 2nd on television in the late '70s, recorded when he was around 88 and had been playing the piece for probably 80 years.

I'm not sure how many times I've heard it live – not often – but often enough to be disappointed whenever I did. Pianists who played to the scoreboard, trained to win competitions, make a hash out of the spirit behind Chopin's intimate, intricate music. I remember passing up an opportunity to experience Lang Lang (considered one of the most acclaimed pianists today) because why would I bother with someone who plays to the crowd play Chopin? Chopin is not a crowd's composer.

Perhaps that's one of the reasons Ann Schein survives – she recorded the Chopin 2nd when she was around the same age Chopin was when he wrote it: 20. But there was never any hype about her the way we see today (Lang Lang, fresh out of conservatory, already acclaimed as "The Horowitz of Today"). She made some brilliant, well-received recordings, performed all over the world... But she never stopped performing – she has, after all, played the Rachmaninoff 3rd Piano Concerto over 100 times – but she has somehow stayed under the general public's radar.

There have been other pianists who are better known and more frequently recorded: to name a few, Alicia de Larrocha, Martha Argerich, or from earlier generations Dame Myra Hess (with whom Ann also studied), all of whom are regarded as giants. But even at 5"2", Ann Schein should be regarded as just such a giant. And anyone hearing this performance at the Forum had an opportunity to realize that.

I thought I would never hear playing like this again. The music breathed like it was coming from one player – and it was saying what, I think, Chopin wanted to say. And then there were the tears welling up in the slow movement, which was beautiful beyond words. And the audience felt this, tears or not: it was only later I realized how quiet this audience was during that performance, the ineluctable modality of the audible. Over 60 musicians in the orchestra responded to a conductor in complete synch with a soloist who completely understood what Chopin was trying to say.

Something like this should happen to every concert-goer more often than it does, but it was a thrill to sit in the Forum and experience it. I can't say I've felt it so strongly before, myself, as many concerts as I've attended in my life, both here and in New York City and Philadelphia. But it happened last night and it was nothing short of enlightening.


Schein’s skillful concerto a treat - March 23, 2014

David N. Dunkle, For The Sentinel

Frederic Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor is hauntingly beautiful music that simply washes over you, evoking memories of warm summer nights when the possibilities of life seem truly limitless.

And when played by an artist with the impeccable skill of renowned pianist Ann Schein, this work is truly a treat to be savored.

Schein, one of the world's best known interpreters of Chopin, joined Maestro Stuart Malina and the Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra on Saturday night at The Forum to produce a truly scintillating rendition of the 19th century Polish composer's enduring work.

Schein's performance, which drew a resounding ovation, is the centerpiece of HSO's fifth Masterworks program of the 2013-14 season.

The program, which will be repeated at 3 p.m. today, also features a burbling symphonic dance by contemporary French composer Guillaume Connesson and Russian-born Sergei Rachmaninoff's lushly Romantic Third Symphony.

Connesson's "Aleph," a compact work from 2007 that is part of his "Cosmic Trilogy," is a lively modern jaunt that starts strong and drives to the finish line, with an especially gratifying contribution from the horn section and a twirling string line that has an almost vertiginous effect.

The piece got the audience energized, and that's when the Steinway was rolled out to the front of the stage and Schein took her place on the bench.

Chopin, a pianist of great skill who composed nearly all of his works with that instrument in a starring role, although he also wrote a spiffy cello concerto. His Second Piano Concerto premiered in Warsaw in 1830, when Chopin was just 20 years old.

Yet it is a work of great maturity, with a rapturous second movement that lingers in the mind and a stirring finale which requires virtuosic skill to perform. Fortunately the 74-year-old Schein, who has performed with most of the world's great orchestras, has all the necessary gifts.

The only criticism of the piece — and it's an unjust complaint — is that the orchestra is sometimes reduced to a mere accompanist for the mesmerizing piano work.

Malina made no such complaints, and truth is the orchestral contribution to the concerto is significant. The conductor and his HSO musicians seemed more than happy to provide a sturdy framework which allowed their highly regarded guest artist to, well, shine as she worked her way confidently through the three movements.

The concerto is undeniably a piano-centric work, one that Schein has performed many times, dating back to her days as a young prodigy when she counted the legendary Arthur Rubinstein among her teachers.

Today, a mature Schein has a more temperate technique when compared to the pyrotechnics of her early days, but that's a good thing. She makes none of those "see what I can do" flourishes that young artists sometimes offer, allowing the purity of Chopin's vision to provide the personality.

Not that her technical skill has lagged. Her dazzling work on both the delicately lovely second movement and the wickedly challenging final movement more than demonstrated that.

Rachmaninoff had a tough assignment after intermission, recapturing the attention of a Forum audience that may have been still starry-eyed from Schein's performance.

Fortunately, his Symphony No. 3 in A minor, produced on the eve of the Second World War, remains a pertinent and enjoyable work more than 75 years after its creation.

Rachmaninoff, like Chopin (and Schein) a pianist of great renown — and who once performed in Harrisburg — was also an unquestioned master of orchestral music. In the soaring Third, he meshed strings, woodwinds, horns and percussion into one voice, trading themes and melodies among them with fluent ease.

Here, the skill of HSO under the leadership of the talented Malina is in full view, casting a spell with the fluidity of their play. Malina is in his element with this work, and he proceeds with a light touch that brings the subtle beauty of Rachmaninoff's work to full fruition.

On a lovely spring evening, which raised hopes that a long, harsh winter is at last drawing to an end, HSO's dynamic Masterworks program is perfectly in tune with the optimism that a new and gentler season engenders.

Ann Schein performs at Elon University as part of the Adams Foundation Piano Recital Series

by Kelsey Higgins

Since her debut recital at Carnegie Hall in 1962, pianist Ann Schein has gained high praise and recognition around the world for her musical mastery.

Of Schein, The Washington Post wrote, "Thank heaven for Ann Schein. What a relief to hear a pianist who, with no muss or fuss, simply reaches right into the heart of whatever she is playing – and creates music so powerful you cannot tear yourself away."

On Thursday evening Schein performed at Elon University in Whitley Auditorium as part of the Adams Foundation Piano Recital Series.

"We have been so fortunate to have the Adams Foundation smile on us," said professor of music Victoria Fischer Faw. "The whole philosophy [of the foundation] is to celebrate the great tradition of the piano recital with the greatest artists in beautiful halls with beautiful pianos outside major cultural centers."

While at Elon, Schein also conducted a master class featuring three university piano performance seniors Sarah Gilliard, Wesley Rose and Nicole Payne, according to Director of Elon University News Bureau Eric Townsend.

"It was intimidating at first, but then I got up on stage and she was very gracious and caring," Gilliard said. "She's brilliant; it was a humbling experience."

The program included works by Ludwig van Beethoven, Maurice Ravel, Claude Debussy, Franz Liszt and Frederic Chopin.

As Schein stepped on stage in a flowing navy blue dress decorated by pink flowers, her elegant presence captured the full attention of every person in attendance.

She sat down, looked up, took a deep breath, looked down at the keys, paused for some time, took another breath and began to play.

Although she demanded authority, she treated the piano with the upmost care, touching the keys as though the instrument was the most precious thing in the world. She hunched over the piano, her body swayed with the rise and fall of each line and she shook her head madly with emotion.

She was lost in the music and the audience followed her willingly. Her calm demeanor practically forced one to release all tension, relax and simply listen and enjoy.

There was something indescribably captivating about her and her music. So much so that two small boys, one of which pressed his head between the bars of the balcony railing as if a force was pulling him down towards the stage while the other moved his fingers fiercely along the railing as he pretended to play along, did not lose attention for the entirety of the concert.

"Tonight shows, with the numbers in the audience and the enthusiasm here, how important this is, how much we need it, how much our communities need it and how much our souls need it. We are so grateful to the Adams Foundation for doing this," Faw said.

Schein lingered at the ends of phrases as if reluctant to move on, but drove direction through each line. Her fingers moved with grace and ease through fast paced passages in the same manner as slower counterparts.

Every time her hands rose from the keys she pulled the sound out of the piano with the tips of her fingers in the same manner that a seasoned percussionist would pull sound from a marimba with his mallet.

Perhaps the two greatest pieces of the night were Debussy's "L'Isle joyeuse" and Chopin's "Sonata No. 3 in B minor, Opus 58," which both resided in a dimension far beyond chill evoking.

"I have never been to a performance at Elon that moved and inspired me more than Ann Schein's performance in Whitley tonight," senior music major Brooke Winters said.

Schein's performance received three total standing ovations: one before intermission, another at the end and another after her encore performance.

"Since you are such a wonderful audience I would like to play one of my very beloved etudes," Schein said before playing the encore.

The etude was Chopin's "Etude in Ab Major, Op. Posthumous," and it was a well-deserved victory lap for Schein, who smiled through the whole piece with a joy that resonated all the way to the back row.

Chang Tou Liang, The Straits Times

Grand Dame's Quicksilver Fingers

ANN SCHEIN Piano Recital
Yong Siew Toh Conservatory Concert Hall
Tuesday (15 January 2013)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 17 January 2013 with the title "Grand dame's quicksilver fingers".

Some of the best concerts in Singapore can be had for free, if one undertook the small task of venturing westward to Kent Ridge where the national music conservatory is located. Despite the paucity of publicity, this morsel of wisdom was not lost on the hundreds who turned up for a piano recital by Ann Schein,

In her mid-seventies, Schein is surely America’s “Grand Dame of the piano”, and one who is still pursuing an active concert career worldwide. Her substantial recital unfurled pianism in the grand tradition, one unfazed by the flash and hyperbole that obsess younger keyboard practitioners of today. The unmannered way she played the first three chords of Beethoven’s Les Adieux Sonata (Op.81a) was a case in point.

Utter clarity and clean lines, topped with a generously sumptuous sonority, distinguished her view of this programmatic work, which capture the feelings of parting with a loved one, and longing absence. One could feel the sadness, and the sense of anticipation which turned to joyous exhilaration upon the return of the beloved.

Exemplary pedalling made Ravel and Debussy a pleasure to listen. When used sparingly, the former’s neoclassical Sonatine became a graceful jaunt, especially in the elegant central minuet movement. When applied more liberally, the misty haze that shrouded the latter’s L’Isle Joyeuse (The Happy Island) added to the mystique, which gradually evaporated as the work flew to its ecstatic conclusion.

As if to prove she was totally comfortable with prestidigitation, the repeated notes of Liszt’s vertiginous Tarantella (from Years of Pilgrimage) were dispatched with disarming ease. The big chords and octaves that followed truly astonished, coming from someone of a petite physical stature.  

The piano stool was already raised to its maximum height. Adding to that, Schein further elevated herself by sitting on a handbag. This diametrically polar opposite of Glenn Gould (who managed just 14 inches off the floor) then brought forth a Chopin Third Sonata of nobility. She chose a deliberately moderate tempo, and let the music unravel majestically with a Patrician sense of purpose.

Here was an object lesson of how to be seen and heard without being gimmicky or outwardly showy. Quicksilver responses in the Scherzo were exchanged with the slow movement’s gentle calm, and a rock-steady Finale then roared to life. There were missed notes in the fray, but who cares when passion could be expressed with the vehemence of thunder.

There were two encores, the third of Chopin’s Trois Nouvelles Etudes and Rachmaninov’s rapturous Prelude in B flat major (Op.23 No.2). In the last, Schein scrolled back the years and showed that her septuagenarian fingers could still make far younger virtuosos green with envy.

25th Concert Artists of Baltimore; Tim Smith, The Baltimore Sun – October 11, 2011

Although the perfect weather kept taunting and tempting me on Sunday, I headed indoors to catch two performances. The first, in the afternoon, was the 25th season-opener for Concert Artists of Baltimore, and a most satisfying season-opener it turned out to be.

I like this group. I have ever since I came to town. Thanks to founding artistic director Ed Polochick, the ensemble can be counted on for music-making generated by intense commitment and, for want of a more technical word, joy. That's what keeps me coming back.

Having relocated this season to the Peabody campus, Concert Artists no longer enjoys the acoustical advantage of the Gordon Center, where an orchestra of under 40 can sound more like 60 and where the string tone, in particular, gains a nice bloom.

Peabody's Friedberg Hall is not quite so forgiving, and there were times on Sunday when little discrepancies in the playing by the violins stuck out.

Such blemishes really did fade, though, in light of all the expressive force onstage. The way Polochick had the orchestra charging through Prokofiev's "Classical" Symphony, for example, proved thoroughly invigorating. The familiar music took on a bracing freshness.

The orchestra also did generally supple work in Mozart's Concerto for Two Pianos, which featured ...

the downright legendary Leon Fleisher and his wife, Katherine Jacobson Fleisher, as soloists. The duo sculpted phrases with their accustomed thoughtfulness and stylish nuance, and they enjoyed typically attentive support from Polochick.

The program was book-ended by music for voices. The choral component of Concert Artists had the stage to itself at the start in Britten's exquisite "Hymn to St. Cecilia." The group produced a warm, generally cohesive sound and, sensitively guided the conductor, sculpted eloquent phrases.

The vocal ensemble was back at the end for Beethoven's Choral Fantasy and did some effective singing in it. The orchestra, too, made a fine showing. Polochick ensured that the quirky, irresistible, piece, with its preview of things to come in the Ninth Symphony, held together. When he got the chance, he didn't hesitate to kick things into warp speed, and it paid off.

The real star, though, was Ann Schein, who tackled the assertive piano solo with a disarming combination of tonal fire power and electric phrasing. She caught the improvisatory feeling of the opening passage and continued to generate a wonderfully spontaneous mood.

So a couple of notes got away from her. So what? The pianist never lost hold of the score's exuberant spirit. That's what counted. In short, Schein shined.

Tim Smith
The Baltimore Sun
October 11, 2011 

See the whole story on The Baltimore Sun's website here.

Robert Jason Productions – July 2, 2011

I’ve just spent the last 35 minutes listening to your glorious interpretation of the Rachmaninoff 3rd. I cannot express how moved I was by your willingness to share your emotion (your inclusion of those typically expressive Rachmaninoff left hand counter-melodies) along with a controlled ferocity.

Your performance should be in the lesson plan of all those pianists who manipulate/accelerate the tempos with a stunning lack of humility…or humanity. The momentum of your performance was/is NEVER in question. So much excitement, but never at the expense of the composer.

Being a listener has its rewards, especially when it is spending a bit of time in your world.

Robert Jason

Tim Smith, The Baltimore Sun, October 18, 2010

“The weekend musical pleasures included an all-Schumann program from the Concert Artists of Baltimore on Saturday...The program offered a neat balance of familiar and rare repertoire. Representing the familiar was the Piano Concerto, which featured the exuberant Ann Schein...[She] demonstrated more than just the chops for the concerto; she had a way of enlivening well-worn phrases, of maintaining interest as well as momentum...Schein's playing was...filled with character throughout. The pianist was attentively partnered by conductor Edward Polochick.”

Concert Artists of Baltimore Website, October 20, 2010

"The Concert Artists of Baltimore season opener was a huge success! The CAB musicians, led by Maestro Polochick were absolutely spectacular. A special thanks to the incomparable Ann Schein for a truly memorable performance. "

Kevin Moore,, January 29, 2011

“Another CD of Schumann piano music! Released late in 2010, the Schumann bicentennial year, this recording just became available this month...The CD includes the Davidsbündlertänze, Opus 6 and the Fantasie in C Major, Opus 17, two of Schumann’s greatest works...The Davidsbündlertänze pieces are filled with imaginative touches, rich colors and vivid contrasts of texture and mood...she does get to the heart of the piece. If it doesn’t convince me as thoroughly as classic performances by Cortot, Gieseking, Masselos, Ann Schein or Anto Kuerti, it’s certainly worthy of comparison.”

CD Review: Uchida plays Schumann

Daily Camera, Boulder Colorado Web Blomster, “On Key”, November 14, 2010

There's a moment of magic when pianist Ann Schein appears on stage… She walks in briskly, as if going to her living room… Then she sees the audience and pauses with a look of astonishment, as if to say: "But what are all of you doing here?"

…University of Colorado pianist Andrew Cooperstock… hosts the pianist for a College of Music residency that begins with a recital…  It's Schein's affinity for the great Romantic composers that prompted the CU invitation.

"This is a big birthday year!" Cooperstock says. "Both Chopin and Schumann were born in 1810, and Ann is the perfect pianist to celebrate their anniversaries."

Schein's CU residency will be of value both to students in pedagogy and performance when she teaches a master class.

"She's a great teacher; she knows how to make music alive and how to communicate."

For the final session of her residency Schein will talk about her lessons with Arthur Rubinstein, with whom she studied early in her career.

Ann Schein's CU residency is sponsored by the James L.D. and Rebecca J. Roser Visiting Artist Program.?

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