two greatest pianists

Two Greatest Pianists Differed in Style

Two Greatest Pianists Differed in Style. How different can pianists be and still be on a par? This question is inspired inspired a quote from a quote:

  • Henry Pleasants. a music critic from Philadelphia once asked Rachmaninoff: Who are the greatest of the living pianists.
  • Harold Schonberg, music critic for the NY Times  quotes Pleasants quoting Rachmaninoff in his own book, The Virtuosi: Classical Music’s Great Performers from Paganini to Pavarotti

The story goes: Rachmaninoff thought a bit. “Well, he said, there’s Hofmann…”and he thought a little bit more, …”and there’s me.”  Rachmaninoff did not say another word, as the story goes. The fame of Rachmaninoff as eclipsed that of Hofmann, but it is still worth looking into Hofmann’s  background and accomplishments: 

two greatest pianists
Hofmann seated at the piano in 1916

The Second of the Two Greatest Pianists

Josef Hofmann - Wikiwand
Josef Hofmann at Carnegie Hall

Josef Hofmann was born in Podgórze (a district of Kraków), in Austro-Hungarian Galicia (present-day Poland) in 1876. His father was the composer, conductor and pianist Kazimierz Hofmann, His mother the singer Matylda Pindelska. As a composer, Hofmann published over one hundred works,  under the pseudonym Michel Dvorsky.  Included two piano concertos and ballet music. In 1946, he gave his last recital at Carnegie Hall,  He made 151 appearances at Carnegie.  Retirement to private life in took place in 1948.

How Did the Two Greatest Pianists Differ?

 

 

Physically (1) Hoffman was short. Rachmaninoff was tall.  Hofmann was loquacious talking fluently, readily, and incessantly. Rachmaninoff  severe, stern, or gloomy in manner.  His appearance was stern and he wasted no words. Hofmann color his music; while Rachmaninoff projected strength, structure and form. Advance planning marked the music of Rachmaninoff. Spontaneity marked Hofmann’s style.

Conclusion

What I find amazing is that Rachmaninoff, as the story goes, (1) Mentions Hoffman before he mentions himself. (2)  He idolizes a polar opposite.  (3) Then again, the mind of a genius is not easy to understand. My main teacher was primarily Mischa Kottler. Rachmaninoff, in the 1920’s gave Mischa a recommendation to study in Paris with Cortôt.  Mischa then went and studied with Emil von Sauer.  Enjoy this youtube recording of Mischa playing the Minute Waltz.

Dec 28, 2013 – Uploaded by Joseph Beels

Chopin’s Minute Waltz, with a twist …

Happiest Unplanned Moment of My Life and Mischa Kottler – DSOWORKS

music offers strength

Music Offers Strength in Rubinoff’s Older Age

Music offers Strength at Scott's
Darlene and Dave Rubinoff stayed on the 1st floor  on the right end “Green Gables”. Sharon and I spent many summers on the 2nd floor at the left end. After our concerts we put up a sign that read: “Rubinoff slept here!”. Hurrah for Scott’s at the Catskills!

Music Offers Strength in Rubinoff’s Older Age. Scott’s Oquaga Lake House was founded in 1869. This was about thirty years before Dave Rubinoff, the master violinist,  was born, in 1897. How did Rubinoff come to play here? I, David Ohrenstein, was the House piano player here for some 15 years. Doris and Ray Scott took wife Sharon and I in with our three children to enjoy the summers at this historical American resort. Of course professionally,  I was the “House” piano player. When we first started going there we only had Abe and Kathryn. Our youngest, Daniel was yet to be born. 

Doug & Eamonn Debut at Scott’s Oquaga Lake House. The Marvelous Ms. Maisel sits  in a canoe on Oquaga Lake in front of Scott’s Playhouse where Rubinoff and I performed one of his last concerts. Listen to this incredibly rare concert on the youtube connection below.

Music Offers Strength to Rubinoff at Scott’s

I quote from Darlene Rubinoff’s book, Dance of the Russian Peasant: “Oquaga Lake was beautiful and there was so much to do that summer. We had two of our four grand children…Aaron still remembers that summer vacation. On his return to his new school year he wrote an essay about it. It earned him an A+. Indeed, it was an A+ summer!”

We have my daughter to thank for this video. The video was taken and then lost. When it was finally found, daughter Kathryn took on the incredibly difficult job of posting it.  This 1984 video offers a complete course in American musical history.  Hear all about Victor Herbert John Philip Sousa, Caruso, Paderewski and many American Presidents. .

Internal link:                                Cotton Club Rendezvous in the 1930’s

continuous musical practice

Continuous Musical Practice by Rubinoff and His Violin

Continuous Musical Practice by Rubinoff and His Violin. Yes, Dave played and conducted at the Paramount Theater and for Paramount pictures. His fame covered the country from New York to Hollywood. Rubinoff was a guest conductor of the Chicago Philharmonic. Dave featured his artistry weekly on the Ed Cantor radio hour. Yet, he always made time for children in schools. 

I Witnessed Dave’s Continuous Musical Practice

I (David Ohrenstein) worked as his accompanist and arranger for many years. My work took place at the Leland House in downtown Detroit. After he married Darlene Azar, we worked together in Hilliard Ohio and later in Houston Texas. Dave seemed to like my musical ideas. Also, my temperament is easy going. So what characterized Dave’s practicing? 

Continual musical practice
Dave always held his Stradivarius violin in front of him like a valued trophy. This was his object of continuous musical practice. A younger me is standing next to this great master.

Except for eating, he almost never stopped playing his violin. When he watched TV, his violin was in his hand. Over and over, he worked tricky passages. When his wife or a chauffeur drove us to a concert, he’d run scales in the back seat on his violin. We worked a five day day making musical arrangements. Trial and error for arrangements and practice for proper technique were always there.  

Bringing the house down at Carnegie Hall; yet he’d always play for children in schools.

Here’s What Dave Had to Say About Being Diverted from Practice

I quote this story from Dave autobiography written with his last wife, Darlene. His book is entitled Dance of the Russian Peasant. “Back in Hollywood, Cary Grant, Victor Mature, Rudy Vallee…talked me into going deep sea fishing on someone’s yacht…To me it was a waste of time; I could have been practicing. Music was my life. I lived for music.” My own relevant story was the day a said to Dave, “Music has been good to you.” Dave immediately and sharply replied; “Why, that’s because I’ve been good to music!”

Enjoy these internal Rubinoff links for stories like you’ve never heard: 

 

 

Knickerbocker Hotel

Knickerbocker Hotel Houses Rubinoff and His Violin

Knickerbocker Hotel Houses Rubinoff and His Violin. Rubinoff was in the employ of the Paramount Theaters in New York. He also worked for the Paramount Pictures in Hollywood, Ca. What a life he lived!  My connection (David Ohrensein): I was Rubinoff’s arranger and accompanist for some 15 years. 

  • On the East Coast he chummed around the big names at Harlem’s Cotton Club after conducting at the Paramount Theater. 
  • On the West Coast he socialized with Hollywood stars after filming for Paramount Pictures at the Knickerbocker.

One way he was able to tell where he was (especially after a drink or two) was by the stars in the room: If he saw his friends  Cab Calloway, Lena Horne, Satchmo, Ethel Waters, Joe Lewis- the heavyweight champion of the world-Louis Armstrong,  or Jimmy Durante” – he knew he was on the East Coast.

Dave made many movies for Paramount Pictures. On the West Coast he chummed around with Hollywood stars. What a life!

Amazon.com: THANKS A MILLION (Arthur Johnston SHEET MUSIC) from ...
The Knickerbocker was a hangout for his cast after hours.

About the Los Angeles Knickerbocker Hotel

Date of completion was 1929 when it was rechristened the Knickerbocker in June 1929.[1][2] The hotel catered to the Hollywood’s film industry. Some of Hollywood’s most famous dramatic moments took place there. For example on Halloween  of 1936, Harry Houdini‘s widow held her tenth séance to contact her deceased husband/magician on the roof of the hotel.[3]

For this section I quote from Rubinoff’s` autobiography as he dictated to his wife, Darlene:

“I was making the movie Thanks a Million with Dick Powell, Ann Dvorak, and Patsy Kelly. We had many intimate get-togethers at the Knickerbocher Hotel Grill. This hotel had the reputation for being haunted.” (see picture below) If you look at the sheet music (to the right),  Paul Whiteman led the band for the movie. Lasting fame  attached itself  Whiteman for introducing the world to Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.  

Dead Hollywood The Lady Dicks
It seems like most fun a person can have is visiting a haunted place. This is especially true on Halloween.

Internal link to Rubinoff and the Cotton Club:    Cotton Club Rendezvous in the 1930’s

 

Cotton Club buddies

Cotton Club Rendezvous in the 1930’s

Cotton Club Rendezvous in the 1930’s. David Rubinoff and His Violin (seated at the piano) and Jimmy Durante met at the Cotton Club. Dave literally made a fortune playing his violin for the American public. Now he seems to be all but forgotten. I intend to change that. As his accompanist and arranger for some fifteen years, I have a lot to say about David. Last year I offered a concert with violinist Steven Greenman. It was under the baton of Joseph Rubin. Note my name at the bottom of the poster to the left.  I also gave a lecture about this great master. This happened in a little town called Circleville in Ohio. Dave knew, sensed and responded to the public need quality popular music

Cotton Club rendezvous
Rubinoff and His Violin documented musical life in America in the early part of the 20th century in his book, Dance of the Russian Peasant.
Look at this $2.00 and $2.50 price of dinner and entertainment. Rubinoff made as much as $500.000.00 a year during this same  period of time.

Cotton Club Rendezvous with Jimmy Durante

So, what is the story? First, I recommend reading my first internal link about the Cotton Club. Dave often shared a ride to the Club with the head of the Musicians Union, Jimmy Petrillo. Whom else would share a ride in Petrillo’s armored car?  None other than Al Capone. I quote his autobiography, The Dance of the Russian Peasant, that he dictated to his last wife, Darlene Azar.  

Cotton Club Carousing for Rubinoff and His violin

 

“In the 1930’s, in New York, I enjoyed the Cotton Club. There was always good food and entertainment. They (the band) always played Give Me a Moment Please, my radio theme song when they saw me arrive. (A personal anecdote: His beautiful, hand carved door would also play his theme song every time I rang it). 

I met many marvelous celebrities of the day like Cab Calloway, Lena Horne, Satchmo, Ethel Waters, Joe Lewis- the heavyweight champion of the world-Louis Armstrong, Jimmy Durante, and many politicians at the Cotton Club.”

More to come!
Five clucking hens

Five Clucking Hens Became my Friends

 

Five Clucking hens made my acquaintance by Schroon Lake in the Adirondack Mountains. We stayed in a Bed in Breakfast while staging our new musical/opera, Patra. Yes, it’s nice to make friends with people in a new place. Sometimes, it’s also nice to make friends with the animals. The Seagle Music Colony is famous for staging new works. We (my wife and myself) were chosen to do our new musical-opera entitled Patra. Others have written about Cleopatra and her relationship with Julius Caesar and Marc Anthony. My lyricist, wife Sharon, looked for a new angle about her life: Her meeting and possibility of a relationship with Octavian. Later he becomes Augustus Caesar. Sharon found the link of cause and effect in a memorable meeting Cleopatra had with Octavian. That becomes the highlight of our opera. 

As a poet, I had the time, after rehearsals, to write some poetry. While unwinding one evening after a trying day, I wrote the following verse. 

 

Five Clucking Hens Became my Friends

The blanket of night is coming,
Covering creation below.
Eyes are becoming droopy.
The seeds of sleep does it sow.

As I sit under covered gazebo,
Watching the daylight retreat;
I breathe fresh forest air
As fragrant as any treat.

Five hens are strutting nearby;
Behind their fenced-in cage.
As they forage for their favorite bugs,
I enjoy the show they stage.

The hens have their hangout,
Complete with pecking order.
Happy behind barbed fence,
Encasing  their rectangular border.

As I return to my Breakfast in Bed,
They follow me, loudly clucking.
As far as their fence will permit,
With full blast squawking and chuckling.

What a special moment in time;
Relishing my five fowl friends.
I’ll miss them when I leave:
But I’ll be back, to make amends.

Seagle Music Colony is the premier opera and musical theater producing organization in the Adirondack region of upstate New York, as well as the oldest summer vocal training program in the United States. In 2020, Seagle Music Colony will celebrate its 105th Anniversary Season. Also, check out our Patra website:

PATRA – Opera Comique by Sharon and David Ohrenstein

We work-shopped our Musical/Opera, Patra, at this picturesque location in the Adirondacks. Our singers and production crew were the finest. Earlier, many had taken auditions with the finest opera companies in the world!

 

 

 

 

 

 

poetic escape

Poetic Escape to Forget Your Concerns

Poetic Escape to Forget Your Concerns. Poetry must make a comeback! There is no better way to forget about your problems, than to recite meaningful poetry. William Wadsworth Longfellow summarized the importantce of poetry in this regard. This post serves as an introduction to the following post on DSOworks.com. A spirit dwells around Oquaga Lake. I believe it to be a female from the Lennie Lenape tribe. My next post will off such a poem. It is entitled; “A Walk Far Back in Time.” Like Longfellow, her poems offer poetic escape. I should have it up within a couple of days. Enjoy!

Poetic escape
Poetic escape happens on Oquaga Lake. It’s spirit loves poetry.

The Day is Done 

The day is done, and the darkness
      Falls from the wings of Night,
As a feather is wafted downward
      From an eagle in his flight.
 
I see the lights of the village
      Gleam through the rain and the mist,
And a feeling of sadness comes o’er me
      That my soul cannot resist:
 
A feeling of sadness and longing,
      That is not akin to pain,
And resembles sorrow only
      As the mist resembles the rain.
 
Come, read to me some poem,
      Some simple and heartfelt lay,
That shall soothe this restless feeling,
      And banish the thoughts of day.
 
Not from the grand old masters,
      Not from the bards sublime,
Whose distant footsteps echo
      Through the corridors of Time.
 
For, like strains of martial music,
      Their mighty thoughts suggest
Life’s endless toil and endeavor;
      And to-night I long for rest.
 
Read from some humbler poet,
      Whose songs gushed from his heart,
As showers from the clouds of summer,
      Or tears from the eyelids start;
 
Who, through long days of labor,
      And nights devoid of ease,
Still heard in his soul the music
      Of wonderful melodies.
 
Such songs have power to quiet
      The restless pulse of care,
And come like the benediction
      That follows after prayer.
 
Then read from the treasured volume
      The poem of thy choice,
And lend to the rhyme of the poet
      The beauty of thy voice.
 
And the night shall be filled with music,
      And the cares, that infest the day,
Shall fold their tents, like the Arabs,
      And as silently steal away.
Rubinoff Friendship

Love Note Written by Darlene Changed Rubinoff’s Life

Love Note Written by Darlene changed Rubinoff’s Life. I, David Ohrenstein, worked with Rubinoff and His Violin over a 15 year period. We started in the summer of 1970.  I was working on my Master of Music degree at Wane State University. As I walked by theLieral Arts Music Office, Dave called.  aHe was looking for an arranger/accompanist.  Conductor Dr. Morris Hochberg.  He gave it to me. Talk about being in the right place at the right time. My capacity with Dave was as his arranger and accompanist. He was seventy-two years of age when our association began. Dave passed away at age eighty-nine. He was an incomparable violinist. Audiences loved him to the tune of $500,000.00 a year. That was in the 1930’s during the Great Depression.  Just imagine, Hollywood and Paramount Pictures helped to make a violin player into a matinee idol! Watch the youtube videos below and you’ll see their instinct was right!

 

Dave’s Love Note Story is Pretty Sensational

As the story goes, Dave felt depressed. For his concert in Hilliard, Ohio the community was small. The weather was very cold and advance tickets sales were quite meager. Usually Dave felt a great zest for the stage: However, not on that snowy night  that winter in February of 1972.  However, once Dave picked up his Stradivarius that belonged to the czars of Russia. The mood changed. His  is future wife to be, Darlene,  was in the audience. At the time she was still a widow.  Darlene handed him a note and told him not to read it until he was alone. The note read: 

Dear Mr. Rubinoff:

Tonight, at age forty-four, I
know what love at first sight means. 
If  I were free to do as I please, I
would follow you everywhere.
Mother of eight.

I never forget: When he returned to Detroit at the Leland House where he lived, he said to me: “Dave, I think I’m in love. I met a wonderful woman after my concert in Hilliard. Do you think I should marry her?” Being agreeable and easy going I replied, “Why not”?  He said:”She has eight children.” I then gulped and said, “That makes no difference if you really love her.” He married her. It ended up being the best thing he ever did. She and her children prolonged his life many extra years. He constantly flew me to Hilliard Ohio to work with him at Darlene’s beautiful home on new arrangements. PS I am also a composer. If you care to, read the internal link below. 

 

 

musical taste

Musical Taste Referenced by 3 Composers

Musical Taste Referenced by 3 Composers. Obviously, the feature picture is a gag photo and from the 1930’s. Bing Crosby was not a violinist. Here, Rubinoff let him play his Stradivarius violin. Back then, like now, people needed laughter and fun; anything to raise the spirits. My connection with this photo: I both arranged for and accompanied Rubinoff and His Violin over a fifteen year period. Below is a picture of me with “Ruby” from the 1980’s.

Musical taste
Rubinoff was a master of what the public enjoyed. For his astute musical taste, he made as much as $500.000.00 annually during the Great Depression. A younger David Ohrenstein (me) is pictured with the master.

Musical Taste as per Edward Elgar, Ralph Vaughn Williams and Arnold Schoenberg

  • Edward Elgar: Believed that being common place is worse than being vulgar. Even a University education cannot replace a commonplace mind. All white for rooms in a house does not show exquisite taste. It merely shows want of taste.
  • Ralph Vaughn  Williams stated: “If  a composer is naturally vulgar, let him be frank and write vulgar music, instead of hedging himself about with an artificial barrier of good taste.” 
  • Arnold Schoenberg went even further: “In my vocabulary (taste) stands for arrogance and superiority-complex of mediocrity. And taste is sterile. It cannot produce. Taste  applies only to the lower zones of  human feeling.” 

The above notations and quotes are reference in Michael Steinberg’s The Symphony, A Listener’s Guide , p.156 Oxford University Press 1995.

To sample Rubinoff’s musical taste click on the link below:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five bar opening

Five Bar Opening for Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony

Five Bar Opening for Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Phrases have always come in four bar segments. Beethoven opens his 5th symphony with five bars. Look at the opening motif . We have two bars and a fermata (hold). Then we have three bars and a hold. The hold sign is called fermata. It looks like a bird’s eye. By arithmetic,  2 + 3 = 5. Was this an attempt by the Great Master to be cute? Did he think it was clever to start the Fifth with five bars of music? For the most likely answer, we must look into his Masonic roots. 

Five bar opening
For his time period, this was a highly unorthodox way to opening any musical selection, and still is. The 4 bar phrase was and still is the norm.

{\clef treble \key c \minor \tempo "Allegro con brio" 2=108 \time 2/4 {r8 g'\ff[ g' g'] | ees'2\fermata | r8 f'[ f' f'] | d'2~ | d'\fermata | } }

Related image

Five Bar Opening: BEETHOVEN’S DELIBERATE USE OF THE FIBONACCI NUMBERS

Look at the red numbers: To the right of Leonardo Bonacci’s back, the highest red number is 55. However, he covers numbers 21 and 34. Each new number is the sum of the preceding two. We have 13 (visible) + 34 = 55. Then 21 + 34 = 55. So, let’s continue the series: 34 + 55 = 89. Next, 55 + 89 = 144. Next 89 + 144 = 233.  The length of Beethoven’s opening section is exactly 233 bars. . Next 144 + 233 = 377. Beethoven’s development section is 377 bars. I think this was learned as a result of his Masonic association. 

Why This Opening?

Beethoven, being the brilliant genius that he was, knew exactly what he was doing. When we listen to the symphony it sounds so natural; but can you imagine how he must have struggled to make the bar length come out right and still sound like that’s how it should be? Leonard Bernstein says of Beethoven and the 1st movement in The Joy of Music: “he will give away his life just to make sure that one note follows another inevitably.” In conclusion, I think that in addition to an even greater appreciation of Beethoven, we have graphic proof the relationship between music and numbers.  This is why music lessons, theory and composition increase aptitude for mathematics. In no uncertain terms, music is a stimulus for success in every sense of the word!

External Link: I am also a composer, my wife a lyricist and book writer. Enjoy part of our brand new opera, now called Patra. We just showcased it in New York, before corona came. 

Internal  link: Our Opera Comique Based Egypt B.C.

External link Lesley and Ohrenstein’s “Octavian & Cleopatra” – YouTube

The youtube example below sets up our Operatic Broadway show.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bhGHHXuBr8Q
Dec 12, 2007 – Uploaded by Rudder3218

“Octavian & Cleopatra” Imagine an operatic work that pours out incredible melodies, mesmerizes …link: Please share this post with as many as possible. It has relevance for today.