Diary of a Concert Pianist

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Dear Readers:

I keep a Concert Tour diary during my travels, and have decided to share with you some of its highlights. After my recent Lincoln Center recital in New York, I wanted this season to be filled with the greatest possible variety of performance experiences. I can't include every concert, because this will be a season that takes me literally around the globe, to solo with symphonies as far away as Bombay, and play my South American debut in Brazil. I will perform "from sea to shining sea" here in the U.S. and travel to the extremities of North America for performances in Canada and Mexico. I will play for royalty in the most opulent palaces of Europe and for audiences in the poorest regions of India. I'll include pictures when I can, and share some of the experiences along the way that make a life of music-making such a great calling. Welcome to my Concert Tour Diary!

August - Lake Country, NJ:  This is time of physical and psychological preparation for the coming concert season. I spend this time at our Lakehouse and practice in a converted Boathouse at the water's edge. My audiences here are swans, herons, ducks, kingfishers, turtles, muskrats, and any other creature who chooses to sail by. The wildlife have grown accustomed to my presence and consider beautiful piano music to be a natural component of their environment.

September 14-21- Morristown, NJ:  After a summer devoted to recording, the season officially begins with a 3-concert Artist Residency at the College of St. Elizabeth. I am scheduled to play a formal concert here in the spring. These fall recitals are especially designed to be "up close and personal." What I love most about these recitals is the opportunity to share the music in a relaxed setting which encourages the audiences to ask questions. When a student leaves the recital saying, "I didn't know I liked classical music!" I consider my day's mission accomplished.

September 24- Wichita, KS:  Today I performed for a Midwestern college and community arts series. Just before I walked onstage, the introduction ended with the very nice phrase: "Please welcome a great artist from the Great Plains!" After the concert, I met with a gathering of music majors for a question and answer session. I hope I helped them understand that musical gifts can flourish in any geographical setting. This was a special concert because my parents attended and we were guests at a beautiful historic Bed and Breakfast.

October 1- Randolph, VT:  I am performing in New England during the most beautiful week of the fall. Jeff is with me to enjoy the spectacular foliage. This afternoon I performed for an arts series in historic Chandler Music Hall - quite possibly with the best combination of acoustics and Steinway Concert Grand in the state of Vermont. And I had my choice of over 25 dressing rooms!

October 6- St. Louis, MO:  I am in Illinois performing for a Concert Association's 60th Anniversary. Tomorrow I teach a Master Class for students from three area colleges. A wonderful gentleman came backstage with a copy of my recent review from the American Record Guide. He has been saving it for me to autograph.

October 11- Paramus, NJ:  Today I performed on one of the relatively few Bosendorfers in the metro-New York area. It was good preparation for my upcoming European Tour. In Hungary, I will perform on Steinways, but in Austria, I will play at least two Imperial Bosendorfers. Being a Steinway artist, I do not find the extra bass keys on the Bosendorfer to be a distraction. The Liszt sounds wonderful!

October 18 - Newark, NJ:  Jeff and I are at Newark airport en route to Europe for a concert tour that will take me to Amsterdam, Budapest, Vienna, Raiding, Eisenstadt, and Prague. The most challenging part of this Liszt Birthday Tour will be the three performances I am scheduled to give within a 24 hour time period. I am trying to stay as rested as possible. On the plane, I am practicing my Keynote Comments in German for the Austrian performances. In Hungary, I'll have translators.

October 21 - Budapest, HUNGARY and Raiding, AUSTRIA:  On my Life Journey, today is one of those days I'll never forget! We are now in Austria and I have played (very well!) two major all-Liszt recitals today. I played a Matinee recital at the Liszt Academy and Museum in Budapest earlier today to a capacity audience who know and love Liszt's music. I was moved to tears by their response to my playing. They began doing the European rhythmic clap applause after my second piece and kept it up with increasing intensity all through the concert. It was the most incredible experience for me. I wish I understood the Hungarian language because so many people came to the dressing room afterward to thank me. It is certainly true that music is the universal language. But I still wish I could speak Hungarian!

After that recital, we had no time to spare in getting across the border and to Austria for my concert tonight at Liszt's Birthplace here in Raiding. A limo met us at the Vienna airport to transport us to Raiding for my recital at the Parish Church a few steps from the house in which Liszt was born. When I agreed to play this second recital at the end of a long day, I envisioned a small church audience in a relaxed, intimate country setting. A few miles out of the Vienna airport, I was attempting to nap in the back seat of the limo, when Jeff suddenly remarked, "Honey, I think I just saw your picture on a billboard." I thought he must be joking. A mile or two later, he said a bit louder, "Yes, dear, it is definitely your picture on another billboard announcing the Liszt Birthday Recital." By this time, I was fully awake. Indeed, every mile or two, from a billboard or banner hanging from a bridge or overpass, we read the news of my imminent recital. When we arrived at the Parish Church, television crews were setting up cameras and lights and the public was competing for parking places and pews. Less than an hour before curtain time, piano movers from Vienna were still moving in a Concert Bosendorfer, leaving me no hope of trying the piano in advance. Less than a foot from the keyboard were several rows reserved, I was told, "for the dignitaries." Amid the utter chaos was the expectation that I hold a last-minute interview with a television reporter. Just before I walked onstage (having eaten nothing substantial since breakfast in Budapest), it was abundantly clear to me that I needed to relinquish the whole experience up to Higher Hands. From the first note I played until the final encore, there was present in the music an incredible power, presence and peace. The audience clearly rejoiced in the music, and after a long (standing) ovation, I was presented with some lovely gifts - flowers, and a limited edition Liszt watch from the President of the Liszt Society in Austria. The Mayor presented me with and a framed drawing of Liszt's Birthplace. After many photographs and yet another interview, I was given a private tour of the house where Liszt was born. We walked from the Parish Church (under starlit skies) to his first home, which is now a museum. The curator remarked that Liszt and I shared the experience of growing up in a farmhouse. I was requested to autograph a Guest Book and given special instructions to write a few lines appropriate to the occasion - the first anniversary of Liszt's Birthday in the new millennium.

Then, Jeff and I were guests of honor at a late night supper in a Burgenland wine cellar. When we walked in to more applause, I recognized many of the people who had been seated in the first rows at the recital. Their warmth and hospitality was unforgettable. The food was sumptuous, and included several courses of "young Burgenland wine" which I felt compelled to sample with great moderation because I perform again tomorrow.

October 22 - Eisenstadt, AUSTRIA:  Today I played at Esterhazy Palace. My recital was held in the beautiful Empire Saal of the Palace under the patronage of the present governing Prince Anton Esterhazy. I approach this venture with a great deal of humility, because the Esterhazy royal family has been one of the great patron families of music since the time of Joseph Haydn. They were expecting me at the front gate, and I was escorted to the performance hall, which features an Imperial Bosendorfer onstage. Again, the audience arrived very early, but the doors were kept closed so that I could warm up on the fine beast. Jeff noted that everyone in the audience presented an invitation to obtain admission. My dressing room adjoined the concert hall, and is undoubtedly used mostly by male performers. I say this because the gold-leaf walls are decorated with numerous hunting trophies in the form of stuffed animal heads from all parts of the world. When I arrived, servants were carrying in an opulent antique dressing table for my use. I was only minimally nervous, this being my third performance in 24 hours. It was a good feeling after the concert to realize that I would not change a note I had played, and again, the audience was very enthusiastic (another standing ovation). The last piece on the program, Canticle of the Sun of St. Francis of Assisi seemed to be coming from another world. After the concert, I received a private tour of the Palace that included the family chapel where Emperor Constantine is buried (under glass). I am very tired tonight, but with a "Mission Accomplished" feeling. Tomorrow Jeff has promised me an afternoon carriage ride through the fall foliage of Schonbrunn Palace Gardens. In the morning, we will make a pilgrimage to Vienna's Central Cemetery, final resting place of many of the world's great composers, so that I can pay my respects to their lasting legacy. Then, on to Prague!

November 3- Niagara Falls, CANADA:  Tonight I performed for a wonderful Canadian audience (packed hall) on a piano once played by Glen Gould. I played without shoes underneath my red velvet gown, because the piano was so low to the ground that I could not otherwise get my legs underneath it! When I first sat down to warm up, I thought it might be impossible for me to play it. First, I removed my high heels (obviously!). Then I ran back to the dressing room to get my cowboy boots, but still could not arrange my long legs under the piano! Next, the stage manager sent out an announcement to the audience asking anyone with flat shoes in my size to please come backstage. I ended up playing in a pair of socks! I had always heard that Glen Gould sat low at the keyboard, but the piano technician told me after the concert that this piano actually had the legs sawed off the bottom! Just when you think you have seen everything... The Niagara Falls are still as beautiful as I remember. My host was kind enough to show me the view from the Canadian side, and while we were viewing the spectacular sight, he arranged for a rainbow to appear!

November 13 - Billings, MT/ Minneapolis, MN:  This weekend I played a piano dedication recital for a college here with a completely rebuilt Steinway D just returned from the factory in New York. It is a magnificent instrument, and I met the family who are responsible (financially) for the rebuilding. Flutist James Galway is here also for a symphony concert and we are on the same flight to Minneapolis today for concerts there.

December - Bergen County, NJ Some of the performance highlights of this month are my Celeste Recitals. For a couple of weeks before Christmas, I exchange my 9 foot Concert Steinway for a beautiful antique celeste (the tinkling instrument invented for Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Ballet) and perform recitals called "Christmas Carols and Classics for Celeste". I rehearse in my studio under the supervision of Melozzo Fiori angel prints from Rome.

January 1 - Honolulu, HI:  The New Year begins! Jeff and I spent Christmas on the farm in Nebraska with my family, then we went on to our favorite places in Hawaii for renewal before the concert season resumes. I'll be busy in January with the new CD release and interviews about the recording as well as phone interviews with national and international spring presenters. This is also the time of year for final decisions about next season's schedule of performances. Walking through Hawaii's North Shore beaches and ironwood forests and watching the homecoming of the humpback whales always fills me with peace and inspiration!

January 15 - New York, NY:  Today we are in the city's incomparable Fabric District. Jeff is assisting me in selecting some gorgeous new fabrics to send home to my Mother in the Midwest who will make the new concert gowns. I just phoned her to ask her professional opinion about a pearl and diamond- studded brocade. Time to take Jeff to lunch to keep him in a good mood!

February 8 - Rutherford, NJ:  Today I gave an interview with Fanfare magazine for their May-June issue. We discussed my new CD and current concert activities. Peter Rabinowitz, the interviewer asked me what pianists I most admire. I suppose my answer is Myra Hess, because of her courage in performing the London concerts while bombs were dropping during World War II.

February 12 - Sussex County, NJ:  Today I gave an interview with a newspaper in Mississippi in preparation for my recital there next week. We spoke for almost an hour, covering the usual topics as well as my concert wardrobe and my view of music as a ministry and a universal and eternal language.

February 23 - Columbus, MS:  Tonight I performed for the first time in Mississippi. The audience was wonderfully responsive and there was a reception afterward at the College President's home. I feel a special responsibility when I perform in a location off the beaten path, because this may be the only opportunity the community will ever have to hear this music in live performance.

February 24-28 - Daytona Beach, FL:  I have the wonderful experience of doing a 4-day Artist Residency at an all-Black College. I am particularly impressed with the students I have met. The walls of the Concert Hall are lined with inspirational photo-biographies of African-American men and women who have left a lasting legacy for a better world. After the concert, I think most of the audience came backstage to shake hands.

March 5 - NJ:  This morning I gave a telephone interview with the music reviewer from El Norte, the major newspaper in Monterrey, Mexico. Lots of preparations are underway for my Mexico debut there next week. It will be held at Monterrey's major concert hall, the Teatro de la Ciudad (Town Hall).

March 8 - Morristown, NJ:  Tonight I performed in the Octagon at the College of Saint Elizabeth's Mahoney Library. The hall was full and the Editor of Classical New Jersey was in attendance, as well as the College's major donors and arts patrons. This is one of my most cherished places to perform, and I consider the students to be the most important part of my work here.

March 12-14 - Monterrey, MEXICO:  Jeff and I are in Mexico for my debut here. My hosts from the Instituto Laureans are incredibly gracious. We are guests at a luxurious 5-star hotel a few blocks from the concert hall. The hotel restaurant has a planetarium ceiling with twinkling stars, elegant fountains, and harp music at breakfast! The newspaper El Norte (on sale in the lobby) contains a great feature article about the concert based upon the phone interview conducted last week. The TV station in Monterrey is scheduled to come to the hall during my rehearsal to do a live interview. For the recital, I am doing my Keynote Comments with the help of an interpreter, but will attempt the opening remarks in Spanish.

March 13 - Monterrey, MEXICO:  I will never forget tonight's debut recital in Mexico! The hall was magnificent, with two huge, fragrant 6 foot high bouquets on either side of the Bosendorfer Imperial piano. There was another standing ovation and I was presented with gorgeous flowers and a commemorative placque in honor of the Institute's 115th Anniversary. There was a lovely reception afterwards to which the honored attendees were invited, including the Secretary of State, the American Ambassador, the Cultural Attache, and representatives from the Governor's Office. Tomorrow morning, my hosts from the Institute will meet us for breakfast at the hotel, then take us to the airport. Next stop is Houston,TX.

March 16 - New Orleans, LA:  I love New Orleans, because I can work hard then play hard. Here Jeff and I visit the zoo, ride the trolley, eat Cajun food, take long walks in Audobon Park to watch the nesting egrets and herons and listen to live jazz ouside the St. Louis Cathedral.

April 2 - Amsterdam, THE NETHERLANDS / New Delhi, INDIA / Katmandhu, NEPAL: The next international tour will be via Amsterdam to India, and conclude in May with performances in New Delhi. I will perform Beethoven's 5th Piano Concerto with the Bombay Orchestra in the new theatre of the National Center for the Performing Arts. Under the sponsorship of Trans World Radio, other performances include a benefit concert for the Good Samaritans Children's School in Delhi and a concert in Ahmedabad to benefit victims of the recent earthquake in Gujarat. Stay tuned for photos.

May-June - India and Nepal:  We have just returned from my first concert trip to India and Nepal, and the whole experience was so intense that I will never be quite the same.  I had some unforgettable personal and professional experiences, met some truly wonderful people, and performed in situations that were totally unique.  India is a vast country of great and colorful contrasts.  I was soon overwhelmed by sensory overload from the sheer numbers of people, traffic, animals and activities in the streets.  One of the concerts I will never forget is the benefit I played for the Good Samaritans Children's School in Delhi.  The beautiful children who attend the school represent the poorest of India's poor.  I am the only concert pianist they have ever heard, and I played the only piano they have ever seen.  The children have a natural love for music, and it was a great privilege for me to share the world's great music with them.

At my concert at Ficci Golden Jubilee Auditorium in New Delhi on May 20, I was told that people were turned away at the door, even though it is a large auditorium.  About an hour before the concert, a large Steinway was moved into the hall along with a dozen 6 foot high floral bouquets and a bank of microphones.  When I walked out and spoke my opening remarks in Hindi ("I really like India!"), the audience applauded thunderously.  Then I continued my Keynote Comments in English with the crowd applauding at the end of every sentence, even though many of them did not understand a word I was saying!  Finally, the Manager walked out and requested that they hold their applause until the end of the music.  However, throughout the concert, when the audience really liked a phrase or section of a piece I was playing, they applauded right in the middle of the music!  It was certainly an interesting experience!  On May 21, I finally realized a lifelong dream: my hosts took me to Agra to view the Taj Mahal!

While playing at a synagogue, I met one of India's leading musicologists and the founder of the New Delhi Symphony Society.  I have now been invited to perform with the New Delhi Symphony when I return to India in September to perform with the Bombay Orchestra at the National Center for the Performing Arts.  On that same tour, plans are in progress for my debut in Bucharest with the Romanian Philharmonic and for Embassy performances in Instanbul to benefit victims of recent earthquakes in Turkey.

I have always dreamed of seeing Mount Everest, and our trip to Nepal the following week was intended to be primarily for relaxation and bird-watching in the Himalayas.  Arriving in Kathmandu by plane, I could view thousands of cultivated, hand-made terraces extending up and down the mountains.  Nepal is even more overwhelmingly beautiful than we expected, and at first, we had a wonderful time.  We watched the sunrise over a dozen Himalayan mountain ranges while eagles soared past our balcony.  Bird watching is typically not a hazardous activity, however, at the time of our visit, some leftist factions called for week long military strikes ("bandhs") during which the country was shut down in an attempt to force the Prime Minister's resignation.  When events became dangerous, Jeff and I were moved into the Royal Family's Soaltee Crowne Plaza Hotel, courtesy of the Royal Nepalese Consulate General.  We were the only guests on the VIP floor, with officials guarding the elevator exit to our top floor.  We were strongly advised not to leave the hotel grounds.  In the middle of the strike, we were escorted to the airport with armed police vans in front of and behind our vehicle.  It was all very frightening, but as a result of all these events, I also performed in Nepal.  One of the few grand pianos in the country is located in the Lobby of the Crowne Plaza.  So I played an impromptu concert for a sundry group of international guests stranded there.  Soon after our return to the U.S., we learned the horrific news that eight members of Nepal's Royal Family had been assassinated.  Our hearts and our prayers go out to the people of Nepal.