Carnegie Hall Workshop: Part I

Jan 21, 2008

Well it was another very exciting and productive trip to New York! This part of the workshop was shorter, only three days instead of five, and that feeling of compression was palpable. Highlights of this part of the workshop: a session with Jeremy Geffen, the artistic director of programming at Carnegie Hall. We were all asked to compose and submit our “dream program” for examination by Geffen, who was helpful in his responses and provided much food for thought on topics such as taking into account time of year, thematic connection between works, how much music was feasible on a given “theme,” whether a program provided enough variety, etc. Geffen happened to rave about my offering, which was a combined solo/chamber program that I have actually performed a version of in the past. My program was titled “Opus One- Something to Prove” and included a solo piano first half and a chamber second half:

Ländliche Tänze (Rustic Dances), Op. 1 by Alexander Zemlinsky

Three Fantastic Dances, Op. 1 by Dmitry Shostakovich

Sonata Op. 1 in B Minor, by Alban Berg

Sonata, Op. 1 in F Minor, by Sergei Prokofiev


Piano Trio in Eb Major, Op. 1 No. 1, by Beethoven

After Geffen finished praising my program for having an engaging theme, being a full evening of music, and incorporating well-known works by well-known composers, lesser-known works by well-known composers, and lesser-known works by lesser-known composers (say that three times fast!), I asked him, “So what date are you prepared to offer me then?” Which brought lots of laughs.

Other highlights included a session with noted theorist Carl Schachter, who brilliantly de constructed the slow movement of Beethoven’s Op. 7 Sonata and was throughly successful in illuminating how much theoretical knowledge of form and structure informs interpretation. Next Leah Fleisher, daughter of Leon Fleisher, gave us in introduction to the Pilates method, an exercise routine which includes Western strengthening with Eastern stretching. I have had contact with Pilates in the past; it was in fact what saved me from tendinitis as an undergraduate student. But it had been awhile since I had practiced any, and it was a great refresher. Leah (who also plays the harp, as does one of Fleisher’s other daughters, Deborah) is incredibly competent and knowledgeable, as well as an encouraging and motivating teacher.

The concert on Saturday night was for a sold out crowd. Each pianist had selected a piece which really was perfect for his/her temperament.  Everyone played beautifully, we had a lovely party afterwards, and we all took home a copy of the poster that had hung on W. 57th St., signed by all four pianists and of course Mr. Fleisher. What an experience! See more photos on the Gallery page… and now it’s back to Earth. 

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Lura Johnson