Seymour: An Introduction

sbernstein

Seymour Bernstein might have ranked alongside such classical pianists as Alfred Brendel and Van Cliburn. His recitals were glowingly reviewed and he had a highly supportive patron. Yet, at the significant age of 50, he voluntarily withdrew from the world of public performance to concentrate on teaching.

When it comes to piano technique and music theory, he clearly has much to offer. But he also has insight into how one best pursues an artistic career in general, or at least that is what one future Oscar nominee thought when he happened to meet Bernstein at a dinner party. The music teacher gets a low-key but satisfying ovation in Ethan Hawke’s documentary profile, “Seymour: An Introduction.”

Evidently, Hawke found in Bernstein an empathetic counselor-guru who could well understand his bouts of stage fright and the general career uncertainty that was plaguing him. Perhaps he was also frustrated about that film he had spent over 10 years on, but had yet to come out. Regardless, Bernstein had a knack for saying reassuring things.

In a variety of master classes and private lessons, we observe Bernstein at work. He is indeed a calm and constructive instructor, but also firm and specific. If you have the talent, he will refine it. Should you doubt it, several of his former students, including pianists Joseph Smith and Kimball Gallagher, offer their reminiscences and insights into Bernstein’s lasting influence on their careers.

For his documentary directorial debut, Hawke was not out to rake any muck. While not exactly hagiography, his “Introduction” is unflaggingly nice and polite. Fortunately, Bernstein is a New Yorker (albeit a really pleasant one), whose experienced, down-to-earth personality keeps it all real and grounded.

Anyone who knows pianos will not be surprised to see the prime placement for American Steinway in “Seymour.” As always, their concert models look and sound lovely. It is also cool to see that they still consider Bernstein a Steinway artist 30-some years after his last public performance. Fittingly, Hawke coaxes Bernstein into a return performance in the Steinway Rotunda on 57th Street, which naturally serves as the closing sequence for the film. Obviously, he still has his touch.

“Seymour: An Introduction” has surely received considerably more attention because of Hawke’s involvement than it otherwise would have, but that is a fine way for him to spend some of his accrued “Boyhood” and “Before Midnight” capital in a way that will generate further good will. It is a very refined and civilized film that will probably have a number of viewers checking out YouTube for Bernstein’s original compositions. (He has a number of them posted, including “The Hawke.”)

Respectfully recommended for classical connoisseurs, Hawke fans, and Steinway admirers, the Salingerishly titled “Seymour: An Introduction” opened  Friday, March 13, 2015 in New York at the IFC Center.

From ‘Seymour’: Ethan Hawke Makes an Introduction.

February 25 in Music History

today

. 1727 ~ Armand-Louis Couperin, French composer, organist, and harpsichordist of the late Baroque and early Classical periods.

. 1735 ~ Ernst Wilhelm Wolf, German composer

. 1890 ~ Dame Myra Hess, British pianist

. 1929 ~ Tommy Newsom, Musician: tenor sax, arranger, composer, backup conductor for NBC’s Tonight Show Band

. 1943 ~ George Harrison, British rock singer, guitarist and songwriter and former member of The Beatles group

. 1952 ~ The complete choreographic score of Cole Porter’s “Kiss Me Kate” became the first musical choreography score given a copyright. The work was the effort of Hanya Holm.

. 1953 ~ The musical, “Wonderful Town”, opened at the Winter Garden Theatre in New York City. The show was based on the book, “My Sister Eileen”, and the ran for 559 performances.

. 1957 ~ Buddy Holly and The Crickets traveled to Clovis, NM, to record That’ll Be the Day (one of the classics of rock ‘n’ roll) and I’m Looking for Someone to Love. Both songs were released on Brunswick Records in May of that year.

. 1960 ~ John Cage’s “Music for Amplified Toy Pianos” premiered

. 1963 ~ Please Please Me was the second record released in the U.S. by The Beatles. Some labels carried a famous misprint, making it an instant, and valuable, collector’s item. The label listed the group as The Beattles.

. 1966 ~ Nancy Sinatra was high-stepping with a gold record award for the hit, These Boots are Made for Walkin’.

. 1986 ~ We are the World captured four Grammy Awards. The song, featuring more than 40 superstar artists gathered at one time, was awarded the Top Song, Record of the Year, Best Pop Performance and Best Short Video Awards.

. 2001 ~ Ann Colbert, a manager of classical musicians, died at the age of 95. Colbert founded Colbert Artists Management Inc. Her clientele included the Juilliard String Quartet; conductors Sir Georg Solti, Christoph von Dohnanyi and Richard Bonynge; singers Dame Joan Sutherland, Elizabeth Schwarzkopf, Christa Ludwig and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau; and musicians Alfred Brendel and the late Jean-Pierre Rampal. Colbert moved to the United States from Berlin in 1936 and started the management company with her husband, Henry Colbert, in 1948. She retired in 1991, leaving the company to her longtime associate, Agnes Eisenberger. The company has retained Colbert’s name.

. 2003 ~ Walter Scharf, 92, a composer who earned 10 Academy Award nominations and worked on more than 200 movies and television programs, including “Funny Girl,” “Mission: Impossible” and “White Christmas,” died in Los Angeles. He received Oscar nominations for the scores for such films as “Mercy Island” (1941), “Hans Christian Andersen” (1952), “Funny Girl” (1968), “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” (1971) and “Ben” (1972). He won an Emmy for his work on a National Geographic television special and a Golden Globe for “Ben,” whose theme song helped launch singer Michael Jackson’s solo career.

Happy Birthday, Alfred Brendel

brendel
Alfred Brendel was born in 1931 in Wiesenberg, Czech Republic.

After World War II, Brendel composed music, as well as continuing to play the piano, to write and to paint. However, he never had more formal piano lessons and, although he attended master classes with Edwin Fischer and Eduard Steuermann, he was largely self-taught after the age of six.

He made his debut in Graz (1948), and has since performed widely throughout Austria, where he lives.

He is known for his interpretations of Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Liszt, and Schoenberg. He tours internationally, and has written many essays on music.

A short insight from Alfred Brendel on his recording career:

January 5 in Music History

today

. 1875 ~ Opening of the Paris Opera building.

. 1880 ~ Nicolai Karlovich Medtner,  Russian composer and pianist

. 1919 ~ Erica Morini, Concert violinist

. 1923 ~ Sam Phillips, Record executive with Sun Records: The [Memphis] Million Dollar Quartet: Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Charlie Rich

. 1931 ~ Alfred Brendel, American Pianist
More information about Brendel

. 1931 ~ Alvin Ailey, was an African-American choreographer and activist who founded the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York City

. 1935 ~ Phil Spitalny’s All-Girl Orchestra was featured on CBS radio this day on the program “The Hour of Charm”.

. 1938 ~ Lindsay Crosby, Actor, son of crooner Bing Crosby

. 1941 ~ Decca record #23210 was recorded. The title was Chica Chica Boom Chic by the lovely Carmen Miranda. She sang the song in the film, “That Night in Rio”.

. 1942 ~ Maurizio Pollini, Italian pianist

. 1949 ~ George ‘Funky’ Brown, Drummer with Kool and The Gang

. 1950 ~ Chris Stein, Guitarist with Blondie

. 1955 ~ A tune used in a “Studio One” production became the #1 song on the pop music charts this day. Joan Weber’s song, Let Me Go, Lover, rode the hit parade as the most popular record in the U.S. for four weeks straight. Before being aired on television, the song had only been heard on a limited basis. In fact, the title was even different. It used to be known as Let Me Go, Devil.

. 1972 ~ John Denver received a gold record for the album, “Aerie”, this day.

. 1979 ~ Charles Mingus passed away.  He was an American jazz double bassist, composer and bandleader.

. 1979 ~ John Travolta probably remembers that the soundtrack LP of “Saturday Night Fever” reached $25 million in sales.

 

. 1980 ~The Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” becomes hip-hop’s first Top 40 hit

. 1984 ~ The group, The Police, planned a farewell concert for March 2 in Australia. After nine years together, band members decided to go their separate ways.

. 1997 ~ Burton Lane passed away.  He was an American composer and lyricist. His most popular and successful works include Finian’s Rainbow and On a Clear Day You Can See Forever.

. 2000 ~ Mejla Hlavsa, a Czech rock performer and friend of President Vaclav Havel, died of cancer at the age of 49. He was a bass player and singer with the band Plastic People of the Universe. Hlavsa, whose group was banned in the 1970s, was imprisoned in 1976 for unauthorized performances, deemed political protests under the former communist regime. At the time, the band had been performing at private gatherings, including parties at Havel’s summer house in Hradecek, northern Bohemia. Now the country’s president, Havel was Czechoslovakia’s best known anti-communist dissident at the time. After the collapse of the communist regime in 1989, the band resumed public performances. Hlavsa also performed at the White House in September 1998, at a dinner organized by President Clinton during an official visit by the Czech president. One of Hlavsa’s influences, Lou Reed, also performed during Havel’s visit. Reed was a founding member of the rock group Velvet Underground, which helped inspire Havel’s leadership of the “Velvet Revolution” that brought democracy to the Czech Republic. Havel had called the musicians “two legends from our two nations who both, in one way or another, are bound with the ideal of freedom.”

. 2016 ~ Pierre Boulez, classical music’s maverick, died aged 90.  As well as composing, Boulez was a prolific writer and pianist and an inspiration for generations of young musicians.

February 25 ~ This Day in Music History

today

. 1727 ~ Armand-Louis Couperin, French composer, organist, and harpsichordist of the late Baroque and early Classical periods.

. 1735 ~ Ernst Wilhelm Wolf, German composer

. 1890 ~ Dame Myra Hess, British pianist

. 1929 ~ Tommy Newsom, Musician: tenor sax, arranger, composer, back-up conductor for NBC’s Tonight Show Band

. 1943 ~ George Harrison, British rock singer, guitarist and songwriter and former member of The Beatles group

. 1952 ~ The complete choreographic score of Cole Porter’s “Kiss Me Kate” became the first musical choreography score given a copyright. The work was the effort of Hanya Holm.

. 1953 ~ The musical, “Wonderful Town”, opened at the Winter Garden Theatre in New York City. The show was based on the book, “My Sister Eileen”, and the ran for 559 performances.

. 1957 ~ Buddy Holly and The Crickets traveled to Clovis, NM, to record That’ll Be the Day (one of the classics of rock ‘n’ roll) and I’m Looking for Someone to Love. Both songs were released on Brunswick Records in May of that year.

. 1963 ~ Please Please Me was the second record released in the U.S. by The Beatles. Some labels carried a famous misprint, making it an instant, and valuable, collector’s item. The label listed the group as The Beattles.

. 1966 ~ Nancy Sinatra was high-stepping with a gold record award for the hit, These Boots are Made for Walkin’.

. 1986 ~ We are the World captured four Grammy Awards. The song, featuring more than 40 superstar artists gathered at one time, was awarded the Top Song, Record of the Year, Best Pop Performance and Best Short Video Awards.

. 2001 ~ Ann Colbert, a manager of classical musicians, died at the age of 95. Colbert founded Colbert Artists Management Inc. Her clientele included the Juilliard String Quartet; conductors Sir Georg Solti, Christoph von Dohnanyi and Richard Bonynge; singers Dame Joan Sutherland, Elizabeth Schwarzkopf, Christa Ludwig and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau; and musicians Alfred Brendel and the late Jean-Pierre Rampal. Colbert moved to the United States from Berlin in 1936 and started the management company with her husband, Henry Colbert, in 1948. She retired in 1991, leaving the company to her longtime associate, Agnes Eisenberger. The company has retained Colbert’s name.

. 2003 ~ Walter Scharf, 92, a composer who earned 10 Academy Award nominations and worked on more than 200 movies and television programs, including “Funny Girl,” “Mission: Impossible” and “White Christmas,” died in Los Angeles. He received Oscar nominations for the scores for such films as “Mercy Island” (1941), “Hans Christian Andersen” (1952), “Funny Girl” (1968), “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” (1971) and “Ben” (1972). He won an Emmy for his work on a National Geographic television special and a Golden Globe for “Ben,” whose theme song helped launch singer Michael Jackson’s solo career.

January 5 ~ This Day in Music History

today

. 1875 ~ Opening of the Paris Opera building.

. 1880 ~ Nicolai Karlovich Medtner,  Russian composer and pianist

. 1919 ~ Erica Morini, Concert violinist

. 1923 ~ Sam Phillips, Record executive with Sun Records: The [Memphis] Million Dollar Quartet: Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Charlie Rich

. 1931 ~ Alfred Brendel, American Pianist
More information about Brendel

. 1931 ~ Alvin Ailey, was an African-American choreographer and activist who founded the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York City

. 1935 ~ Phil Spitalny’s All-Girl Orchestra was featured on CBS radio this day on the program “The Hour of Charm”.

. 1938 ~ Lindsay Crosby, Actor, son of crooner Bing Crosby

. 1941 ~ Decca record #23210 was recorded. The title was Chica Chica Boom Chic by the lovely Carmen Miranda. She sang the song in the film, “That Night in Rio”.

. 1942 ~ Maurizio Pollini, Italian pianist

. 1949 ~ George ‘Funky’ Brown, Drummer with Kool and The Gang

. 1950 ~ Chris Stein, Guitarist with Blondie

. 1955 ~ A tune used in a “Studio One” production became the #1 song on the pop music charts this day. Joan Weber’s song, Let Me Go, Lover, rode the hit parade as the most popular record in the U.S. for four weeks straight. Before being aired on television, the song had only been heard on a limited basis. In fact, the title was even different. It used to be known as Let Me Go, Devil.

. 1972 ~ John Denver received a gold record for the album, “Aerie”, this day.

. 1979 ~ Charles Mingus passed away.  He was an American jazz double bassist, composer and bandleader.

. 1979 ~ John Travolta probably remembers that the soundtrack LP of “Saturday Night Fever” reached $25 million in sales.

. 1984 ~ The group, The Police, planned a farewell concert for March 2 in Australia. After nine years together, band members decided to go their separate ways.

. 1997 ~ Burton Lane passed away.  He was an American composer and lyricist. His most popular and successful works include Finian’s Rainbow and On a Clear Day You Can See Forever.

. 2000 ~ Mejla Hlavsa, a Czech rock performer and friend of President Vaclav Havel, died of cancer at the age of 49. He was a bass player and singer with the band Plastic People of the Universe. Hlavsa, whose group was banned in the 1970s, was imprisoned in 1976 for unauthorized performances, deemed political protests under the former communist regime. At the time, the band had been performing at private gatherings, including parties at Havel’s summer house in Hradecek, northern Bohemia. Now the country’s president, Havel was Czechoslovakia’s best known anti-communist dissident at the time. After the collapse of the communist regime in 1989, the band resumed public performances. Hlavsa also performed at the White House in September 1998, at a dinner organized by President Clinton during an official visit by the Czech president. One of Hlavsa’s influences, Lou Reed, also performed during Havel’s visit. Reed was a founding member of the rock group Velvet Underground, which helped inspire Havel’s leadership of the “Velvet Revolution” that brought democracy to the Czech Republic. Havel had called the musicians “two legends from our two nations who both, in one way or another, are bound with the ideal of freedom.”

. 2016 ~ Pierre Boulez, classical music’s maverick, died aged 90.  As well as composing, Boulez was a prolific writer and pianist and an inspiration for generations of young musicians.

February 25 ~ Today in Music History

today

. 1727 ~ Armand-Louis Couperin,  French composer, organist, and harpsichordist of the late Baroque and early Classical periods.

. 1890 ~ Dame Myra Hess, British pianist

. 1929 ~ Tommy Newsom, Musician: tenor sax, arranger, composer, back-up conductor for NBC’s Tonight Show Band

. 1943 ~  George Harrison, British rock singer, guitarist and songwriter and former member of  The Beatles group

. 1952 ~ The complete choreographic score of Cole Porter’s “Kiss Me Kate” became the first musical choreography score given a copyright. The work was the effort of Hanya Holm.

. 1953 ~ The musical, “Wonderful Town”, opened at the Winter Garden Theatre in New York City. The show was based on the book, “My Sister Eileen”, and the ran for 559 performances.

. 1957 ~ Buddy Holly and The Crickets traveled to Clovis, NM, to record That’ll Be the Day (one of the classics of rock ‘n’ roll) and I’m Looking for Someone to Love. Both songs were released on Brunswick Records in May of that year.

. 1963 ~ Please Please Me was the second record released in the U.S. by The Beatles. Some labels carried a famous misprint, making it an instant, and valuable, collector’s item. The label listed the group as The Beattles.

. 1966 ~ Nancy Sinatra was high-stepping with a gold record award for the hit, These Boots are Made for Walkin’.

. 1986 ~ We are the World captured four Grammy Awards. The song, featuring  more than 40 superstar artists gathered at one time, was awarded the Top Song, Record of the Year, Best Pop Performance and Best Short Video Awards.

. 2001 ~ Ann Colbert, a manager of classical musicians, died at the age of 95. Colbert founded Colbert Artists Management Inc. Her clientele included the Juilliard String Quartet; conductors Sir Georg Solti, Christoph von Dohnanyi and Richard Bonynge; singers Dame Joan Sutherland, Elizabeth Schwarzkopf, Christa Ludwig and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau; and musicians Alfred Brendel and the late Jean-Pierre Rampal. Colbert moved to the United States from Berlin in 1936 and started the management company with her husband, Henry Colbert, in 1948. She retired in 1991, leaving the company to her longtime associate, Agnes Eisenberger. The company has retained Colbert’s name.

. 2003 ~ Walter Scharf, 92, a composer who earned 10 Academy Award nominations and worked on more than 200 movies and television programs, including “Funny Girl,” “Mission: Impossible” and “White Christmas,” died in Los Angeles. He received Oscar nominations for the scores for such films as “Mercy Island” (1941), “Hans Christian Andersen” (1952), “Funny Girl” (1968), “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” (1971) and “Ben” (1972). He won an Emmy for his work on a National Geographic television special and a Golden Globe for “Ben,” whose theme song helped launch singer Michael Jackson’s solo career.