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NADIA REISENBERG

Nadia Reisenberg was born in Vilnius, Lithuania, on 14th July, 1904. She began playing the piano at the age of six. At twelve she began studying with Leonid Nikolaev at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. Many years later she stated: “Almost everything I know about the physical side of piano-playing, I owe to Nikolaev’s extremely detailed schooling. He gave me that which has served me in all the years since”.

The Russian Revolution came, and the Reisenberg family left Russia, travelling to Warsaw (where Nadia made her orchestral début at the same concert where a young conductor Artur Rodzinski was also making his formal début), London, Berlin, and, in 1922, moving permanently to New York. She became a pupil of Alexander Lambert (himself a student of Franz Liszt), and later also studied with Josef Hofmann at the Curtis Institute of Music. “From Hofmann I got a PhD in beautiful, sensitive pedalling, something that far too many pianists neglect these days,” she remembered. She gave her first American recital at the Aeolian Hall in New York in 1924, before an audience that included Hofmann and Paderewski. Her programme included works by Bach, Glazunov, Scriabin, Liszt, Debussy, Medtner, Rameau-Godowsky and Albéniz. The New York Times proclaimed her to be “a pianist of evidently rare musical nature.”

This auspicious début began a major career that included solo tours, chamber concerts with the Budapest Quartet and many other ensembles, and appearances with most of the important orchestras. Upon her return to New York, she performed frequently on radio. From November 1938 to March 1939 she appeared on live studio broadcasts over WOR in an historic series of all of the Mozart piano concertos, conducted by Alfred Wallenstein.

During the next decade she continued to perform a wide variety of concertos (Mischa Portnoff, Liszt No. 2, Kabalevsky, No. 2, d’Indy, Prokofiev No. 3, Rimsky-Korsakov, and others), and began to devote herself more fully to the two greatest musical joys in her life, chamber music and teaching. She appeared frequently with the cellists Joseph Schuster and Leonard Rose, violinists William Kroll, Joseph Fuchs, Mishel Piastro and Georges Enesco, the Budapest String Quartet, and with Benny Goodman recorded the Brahms Sonata in E flat major. She taught at the Curtis Institute of Music, was Visiting Professor of Music at the University of Southern California, and and guest lecturer at New York University. She also conducted master-classes for pupils and teachers in Tulsa, Oklahoma, at the Rubin Academy of Music in Jerusalem, with the New Jersey Music Teachers Associations, and was on the faculties of the Mannes and Queens Colleges, as well as the Juilliard School, in New York City. She continued her very active career to the very end, always committed to music. Her health failing, she died on Friday, 10th June, 1983. Her solo repertoire included most of the important Russian composers, some of which she also recorded for Westminster. From her 1954 sessions, we hear a very sensitive performance of Rachmaninov’s Melodie in E minor, Op. 10, No. 4.

© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — Jonathan Summers (A–Z of Pianists, Naxos 8.558107–10).


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