Friday, December 16, 2011

Family Ties -- The Beethoven Connection

My father, Jacob Freedman (1906-1976), had one younger sister and five older siblings. One of his older sisters was Rose Schwartz, who had one daughter, Gloria.  Gloria is married to Mel Schilling.  The couple resides in Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania.

Mel Schilling started in high fidelity in 1947, building amplifier and preamplifier kits while in high school. At the same time, he took piano lessons that fueled his keen interest in music. Later on, he studied piano at the Philadelphia Musical Academy under the world-renowned Helene Diedrichs, and attended Temple University to further his musical education. In 1952, Mr. Schilling started to give piano lessons to earn a living. This continued until 1968 when he purchased the retail store "Lectronics" of City Line Center, Philadelphia that was then owned by Irving M. Fried of IMF Loudspeakers and Fried Loudspeaker fame.  And the rest, as they say, is Hi-Fidelity!

Coincidentally, my old boss at The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, from 1970 to 1979, was Bernard E. Epstein, who lives in Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania, with his wife, Aida Epstein, a piano teacher.  Aida Epstein has concertized.  Mr. Epstein majored in music education at Temple University.

Several years ago, I sent Mr. Epstein a copy of my book, Significant Moments.


Gary Freedman said...

This post was originally published on January 4, 2011.

Gary Freedman said...

Grigory Lipmanovich Sokolov is a concert pianist, often considered one of the greatest pianists alive. He was born April 18, 1950 in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

Sokolov began studying the piano at the age of five, entering the Leningrad Conservatory at age seven to study with Leah Zelikhman, later studying there with Moisey Khalfin. At age twelve he gave his first major recital in Moscow, in a concert of works by Bach, Beethoven, Schumann, Chopin, Mendelssohn, Rachmaninoff, Scriabin, Liszt, Debussy, and Shostakovich at the Philharmonic Society. At age sixteen he came to international attention when the jury at the 1966 International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition, headed by Emil Gilels, unanimously awarded him the Gold Medal. It seems this may have also been a surprising result: "16-year old Grisha Sokolov who finally became the winner of that competition was not taken seriously by anyone at that time."

"He possesses brilliant finger and chord technique, he easily wields the piano, so easily that he performs the prestissimo of the last movement of the Saint-Saens Concerto No. 2 with truly refined lightness. It was a startling performance. Doubtless we are going to hear much more about this young talented pianist..."

In fact, despite the international prestige of his Tchaikovsky Competition success, Sokolov's international career began to take off only towards the end of the 1980s. Reasons for this have been contradictory. It has been said that his not defecting, and the limited travelling allowed under the Soviet Regime were to blame. This is contradicted by the fact that Sokolov gave US tours in 1969, 1971, 1975, and 1979, as well as numerous recitals elsewhere in the world such as Finland and Japan. "Sokolov's life as a touring soloist is quite overcrowded. He tours a great deal in both his motherland and abroad."

The 1980s seem to have proved something of a stumbling-block to Sokolov's career in the US. "In the beginning, I played a lot of single concerts in America, in 1969, '71 and, I think, 1975. After that there was a break in relationships between the U.S. and the Soviet Union--they were disconnected by the Afghanistan War. One tour in the U.S. was canceled in 1980. Then all cultural agreements between the two countries were cancelled." In addition, during the breakup of the former Soviet Union, Sokolov played no concerts outside Russia. He is now a well known figure in concert halls around Europe, but much less so in the U.S. Sokolov produces very few recordings; his last last CD was released in 1995.

In March 2009 it was reported that Sokolov canceled a planned concert in London because of British visa requirements demanding that all non-EU workers provide fingerprints and eye prints with every visa application (he also cancelled his 2008 concert on seemingly similar grounds). Sokolov protested that such requirements had echoes of Soviet oppression.

When asked, Sokolov cited the following pianists as having inspired him in his years of studies: "Of those whom I heard on the stage I'd like to name first of all Emil Gilels. Judging by the records, it was Rachmaninoff, Sofronitsky, Gould, Solomon [and] Lipatti. As to esthetics, I feel most close to Anton Rubinstein."