Classical Music Guide - Monday, July 21, 2014 - Written by Donald Isler

David Dubal Lecture: Great American Pianists

David Dubal maintains that pianistic standards in America are as high as anywhere. Giving his apologies to many other distinguished pianists who, but for time limits, might have been included here, he produced a list of 20 great American pianists, and played brief excerpts of their work. One could write at great length about each of these pianists, and their performances. But lacking the time to do so, I will simply present the list, make a few comments, below, and recommend that people who have not heard these performances make an effort to do so.

Julius Katchen – Dohnanyi: Conclusion of Variations On a Nursery Theme
Earl Wild – Gershwin/Wild: Embraceable You
Claudette Sorel – Raff: The Spinning Girl
Art Tatum – Tatum: Tea For Two
William Kapell – Albeniz: Evocacion
Constance Keene – Chasins: Rush Hour In Hong Kong, MacDowell: To A Wild Rose
Byron Janis – Brahms: Two Waltzes
Sidney Foster – Weber: Perpetual Motion
Cliburn – Tchaikovsky: March (from the Seasons)
Paul Jacobs – Bolcom: The Graceful Ghost
Leon Fleisher – Weber: Trio from the Second Movement of the Fourth Sonata
Arthur Loesser – Field: Nocturne in E Minor
Murray Perahia – Chopin: Winter Wind Etude
Rosalyn Tureck – Bach: Recapitulation of the Theme from the Goldberg Variations
Jerome Rose – Schumann: Davidsbündlertänze, Pieces No. 2, 4 and 8
Leonard Shure – Schubert: Trio from the Third Movement
Seymour Lipkin – Beethoven: Sonata, Op. 10, No. 2, last movement
Eugene Istomin – Mendelssohn: Song Without Words - May Breezes
Raymond Lewenthal – Alkan: Last Movement of the Symphony
Andre Watts – Gershwin: Swanee

Six pianists on this list are still very much alive, and active.

Jerome Rose, of course, is the founder of the IKIF, which should garner him at least a serious footnote in the cultural history of New York, in addition to the product of his artistic endeavors.

Seymour Lipkin continues to be very active as both teacher and performer at an advanced age. The same is true of Leon Fleischer, in my opinion, one of the most distinguished pianists of his generation.

Murray Perahia and Andre Watts are still very much in the prime of their careers.

And Byron Janis is still with us, though I’m not sure if he performs much these days.

As expected, Mr. Dubal paid tribute to his teacher Arthur Loesser, author of the book, Men, Women and Pianists. Mr. Loesser’s performance of the Field Nocturne, albeit on a 19th century piano, was so sensitive and interesting that it led me to rethink my lack of enthusiasm for Field’s music.

Raymond Lewenthal was a virtuoso who had a difficult life, but was absolutely fearless in his choice of tempi for some of the hardest works in the repertoire, such as this Alkan movement.

While I was not astonished that Mr. Dubal included Constance Keene, whom (like at least several other pianists on this list) he knew well, it was a very nice surprise that the performances he played were from a live recital CD on KASP Records, which I produced.

It was also good to see Leonard Shure, who is better remembered as an important teacher than a pianist, included here. There is a resurgence of interest in his performances, led by Dan Gorgoglione, who was present for the lecture.

While Sidney Foster, Claudette Sorel and Julius Katchen may not be well remembered today, others on the list are, such as Earl Wild, who played at the Festival, and was interviewed by David Dubal there. So is Rosalyn Tureck who, as Mr. Dubal pointed out, was a grand lady who was convinced that no one could play Bach like her.

Would any classically oriented person expect Art Tatum to appear on this list? Probably not, but no one would argue that his was not great playing. Including Horowitz, who was very impressed with him.

Indeed, this lecture did much to increase one’s appreciation of the richness of the American contribution to pianism. One could imagine a book on this subject starting with the people on this list. Mr. Dubal: Do you have time for a new project?

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