Saturday, January 19, 2013

Knowledge is the Beginning – A documentary of Daniel Barenboim’s West-Eastern Divan Orchestra

Knowledge is the Beginning, the stirring, Emmy-award winning documentary by Paul Smaczny released in 2005 for Euro Arts Music, takes an in-depth look at the visionary joint undertaking of two creative forces: Palestinian Edward Said and Israeli Daniel Barenboim, who succeeded in setting an extraordinary example illustrating the power of music over politics.( free viewing at Symphony Space on Sunday 27th 5.30 PM with following Q+A).
The film records the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra’s inauguration in 1999 in Weimar, whose aim was to bring together young musicians from Israel, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt, as well as international guest artists and educators, in the face of ongoing political adversity in the Middle East. After the German reunification, Weimar was looking to bring back its former glorious musical past, and Barenboim was attempting of making a true difference with his music outreach project. The orchestra seemed to be a way to meet both parties’ goals.
The transcendence of humanity in the dialogues between the young musicians as they learn and perform together overcomes the existing misgivings and prejudices they have to face and conquer as individuals. Gestures like sharing a music stand, respecting each other’s musical abilities, and simply getting to know each other on a personal level, are small, but important building blocks. Barenboim offers a logical explanation for this result: “Those hours spent with music are hours spent less with extremist ideas.” Getting to know about each other seems indeed a promising beginning to a real shift in perspective. Knowledge is the Beginning strikes a balance between delving into the inner political conflicts at play, and portraying the actual music making throughout the rehearsals and performances that Smaczny covers.
Music programs that also reach out to the Arab population in Israel have existed for many years, supported by special concert tours in areas that are predominantly Arabic, and sponsored by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. None of these efforts, however, have had quite the impact and resonance that the West-Eastern Divan has; the orchestra offers its musicians a unique new reality that is hard to resist in its straightforwardness. Without any particular political ambitions, yet with insistently daring political incorrectness, the leadership of both sides succeeded in creating a uniquely safe environment within the West-Eastern Divan, which promotes unity and mutual understanding within its group of musicians. As the film effectively conveys, Barenboim’s attention to detail and exceptional ability to bring out the best in his musicians is inspirational, and speaks to his commitment to taking this collaborative project to the next level.
The film picks up on Barenboim’s willingness to access any possible platform to make a statement about his case; even the podium given to him at the occasion of his acceptance speech of the Wolf Prize for the Arts, he received at Israel’s Knesset. Barenboim’s critical view of Israeli policy is no secret, and between the musicians and interviewees, the Palestinian point of view is well represented in the film. What the movie lacks perhaps – and perhaps is missed within Barenboim’s own perception as well, is an equal understanding of the Israeli state of mind. In the film, the Israeli point of view of the conflict is supported and explained only explicitly by one young musician, who expresses her frustration and helplessness in the face of the Palestinian terror attacks that she faces on an everyday basis.
As the movie describes, travel through Israel’s borders has become burdensome for Palestinians, yet until today, Palestinian leadership groups have not even accepted Israel’s existence. Because of these turbulent circumstances, the orchestra-members needed to obtain special diplomatic passports to travel for their performances, and the groups had to split their traveling routes: Non-Arabs traveled via Israel while Arabs traveled via Arab countries. In light of all these hindrances, the orchestra’s unique first performance, which took place in 2005 in Ramallah, a Palestinian town in the West Bank about 6 miles outside of Jerusalem, was a remarkable conquest, and a symbolic achievement of what is possible under the brilliant conductor’s rules of engagement.
Barenboim was named UN Messenger of peace for his work with the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, which continues to perform internationally.
In memoriam of Edward Said, who passed away in 2003, Barenboim recently announced plans to form the Barenboim-Said Academy in 2015, which will continue the spirit of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra within a year-round institution for young musicians from the Middle East. Barenboim plans to build his and Said’s namesake institution in Berlin, adjacent to the Staatsoper. The structure will feature a new concert hall, designed by Frank Gehry.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Piano Battle - Andreas Kern versus Paul Cibis

Strutting their stuff, before and during the duel Photos: Matthias Bothor

The 19th century virtuoso was familiar with the idea of proving one’s prowess at
the keyboard with gusto, by competing against another virtuoso.  Thalberg/ Liszt are perhaps the most famous example of having such a duel, facing each other down - keyboard to keyboard.

German pianists Andreas Kern and Paul Cibis pick up their own Piano Battle, delivering both an amazing entertainment-factor to their audiences, in accordance with some powerful competitive talent demonstrating hair-splitting virtuosity.

Now they are ready to not play it safe here; Kern and Czibis will bring their novel concert-concept for the first time to the United States. Following an invitation from the Goethe-Haus, they will perform Piano Battle in Washington, at the Embassy of Austria, on January 18th.

While neither of the two accomplished, classically trained pianists are huge fans of the traditional competition arena, Kern’s search for the pursuit of different ways to present piano music on stage started long before Piano Battle. He had always looked for an intensified congregational effect between the audience and what was happening on stage.  He enjoyed integrating verbal, explanatory sections into his early recitals, sensing that the audience felt more at ease when they learned something which connected them further with the performance and the performer, rather than through formal printed programs. “Even the way those programs are usually constructed requires some familiarity with the musical material – or at least with the names dropped within the biographies of the artists– which creates a rather condescending effect, “mentions Kern, when the three of us met in New York.

After branching out into the world of television, with practicum at the Berlin TV-Broadcast (Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg), he took his initial impulses to break the mold a step further, becoming the co-creator and co-host of Berlin’s exciting, genre-bending Arte-Lounge, which has since aired thirty times.

It has presented, by now, a quite illustrious selection of classical performers within a broad spectrum of differently-styled musical performances. The result is an eye-catching mix of music’s cross-sections, transported into a night club/bar scene, traditionally not associated with the classical genre. Filmed live, the young and most talented performers, like the Capuçon-brothers, Daniel Hope, Sarah Chang, Avi Avital… fit right in with the stylish blend of performers and performances that act as a promotional calling card for the cool, classic programming  of the Arte-Lounge , showing on the German and French speaking, ARTE –TV channel.

The Talk-show set up unites its musical guests to their performances, and the audience witnesses a live recording of renowned stars in tandem with a TV format of intimacy.

Arte Lounge was a huge learning curve for Kern which he brings to Piano Battle, being very aware of the special mix of entertainment and high art.

The first time Cibis and Kern actually performed together was at the Hong Kong City Music Festival in 2009. Their interaction grew spontaneously out of sharing the same time slot, which made their having to brainstorm about mutual programming and how to present it best necessary. Instead of performing a traditional four-hand recital, they improvised on stage- interchanging their classical repertoire with pop and jazz and their spontaneity proved successful with their audiences. The idea of Piano Battle was born instantly and already there have been several sold out tours for Piano Battle in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.  Its premiere in Germany at the 2010 Piano City Berlin Festival and Berlin Radialsystem followed suit with invitations to the Beethoven Festival in Bonn and Schloss Elmau this year and there are certainly more to follow in the near future.

The program – while more structured and advanced in its planning stages now, “We know what to do if one scenario takes place or another one…” their show keeps an important aspect of that initial freshness and element of surprise. The audience chooses after each round a winner and a loser by holding the black or white cards they are handed at the entrance –corresponding to the black or white suit of the performer.  Lately, they have added lighting a lighter, usually a welcomed opportunity for the sponsor to add a little bit of branding.



“The feeling when I lose – well,” says Kern with a provocative smile, “Paul has gotten used to it! But yes, there is always one better at one or the other thing, yet usually there is a balance, we each win now and again. I felt it the other night though, when Paul had a lot of fans rooting for him with some women calling out his time, loudly! At the end we personify the characters we really are. Paul is the dreamier, classy-romantic gentleman that he is; I am rather the rebellious piano punk, but we don’t do a parody per se, we are not purely comedians, even though we also bring our humor to piano playing. What’s fun is that we are opening the narrow frame of the usual on-stage- piano experience and we get to play a wide array of programs. We love classical music but don’t mind mixing it up with other genres and improvisations based on audience requests. We would like to transmit a message of open-mindedness, as long as the quality is there – and we include both programming and presentation. But we do ask questions and like to show how to look for alternatives,” a principle both Kern and Cibis adhere to, when teaching piano, as well. “At the end it’s not about who wins, him or me.”

The real winner of course is hopefully the audience:  Catch Piano Battle in Washington or watch it on YouTube

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Hanna Arie-Gaifman – collaborative workings at the 92 Street Y

Hanna Arie-Gaifman of the 92 Y, © Joshua Bright Photography
As the Director of the 92nd Street Y’s Tisch Center for the Arts, overseeing the 92Y’s concert series and Unterberg Poetry Center endowed by the Tisch Family, Hanna Arie-Gaifman indulges her deep love and knowledge of literature and music. “I came to the 92Y in 2000,“ shares Gaifman, sitting at her small desk, loaded with papers, messages, and catalogues, in her office on the 4th floor of the Y. The building she works in inhabits a Lexington Avenue city block between 92nd and 93rd street, and represents a staple of its surrounding community, as well as a buzzing cultural center. “It is an amazing combination of everything I love, in its presentation of excellence in literature and music. It has a long history and tradition of being true to itself, carrying on its own integrity with an honest search for changing responsibilities within its community and reaching out beyond its margins, to society at large.”
Having studied piano at the Rubin Academy in Jerusalem, Gaifman certainly could have considered a career in music performance herself, but did not, feeling that her skills could allow her to make a bigger difference in other areas of the music field. It is precisely her talent for bringing concepts and cultures together that has shone through the many different roles she held as music presenter, long before making her impact at the 92Y.
As dean of the Mozart Academy in Prague, director of artistic management and international relations of the Czech Philharmonic, and director of Prague’s annual Musica Judaica Festival from 1993 -2000, Gaifman showed her skill for international cooperation and management, as well as her keen talent for enriching cultural life in post-communist Czechoslovakia.
“I was able to change some of the Czech Republic’s liaisons with the Western world in general, and in particular change some of the perceptions, for example for what the needs of the performers were– still today, the Czech Philharmonic is one of the most underpaid orchestras in the world, ” she explains. As director, Gaifman was able to bring in some under-writing banks for additional funding to the Philharmonic, and she was able to procure the eminent conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy for the illustrious group.
“My friends started Musica Judaica,” says Gaifman, whose mother languages were Czech and German, then Hebrew, “and it just made sense for me to run the festival. I was greatly inspired by the new spirit that swept through the cultural institutions that had existed before and had started to flourish once again, reorganized.” She had always had a neck for the synthesis between general culture and music-culture – but also a great love for reviving Jewish cultural life, which Prague had been such a particular stronghold of.
“I have always presented music, since I am in my early twenties, starting in 1975 with the Jerusalem Festival” (which became the Israel Festival in 1978), says Gaifman. At the 92Y, Gaifman finds herself a part of something that its founders, the German Jewish entrepreneurs who started the “Young Men and Women’s Hebrew Association,” had set out to gain in a quest for excellence, and genuine concern for the state of the world: “We hope to present concerts with special content or present artists we believe in, who are not necessarily presented on New York’s stages, enough. We take a look at different Jewish cultural aspects and present a variety of themes within the rich tradition of content oriented programs, often represented through interdisciplinary art forms. But we also just have great performers, masters at their instrument, and …we do have one of the concert halls with the best acoustics in New York City, seating 917 attentive, often enthusiastic listeners.” Hanna Arie-Gaifman of the 92 Y © Joshua Bright Photography
Gaifman’s programs have gained a reputation for excellence in both performance and content. One of her specialties is crafting programs that transform genres into interdisciplinary exchanges, with a unique penchant for bending borders between literature and music--both of Gaifman’s great passions.
Combined performances under the same roof in a community-friendly environment like the Y helps restore meaning to the arts as the building blocks of culture and community. It takes experience, vision, and the kind of hands-on enthusiasm Gaifman provides when she collaborates closely with her artists, to create the extraordinary programming apparent in her classical concert series.
Gaifman’s expertise in both the fields of literature and music is impressive. She has earned undergraduate degrees in Russian studies and English literature at Hebrew University, a master’s degree in Slavic languages and literature from Stanford University, and a PhD in Comparative Literature from Hebrew University. She has taught at University of California, Berkeley and New York University.
Gaifman frequently makes use of her many language and people skills, dialoguing with her audience, but she notes that her ability to fluently converse in English, German, French, Hebrew, Czech and Russian has been an indispensable help in being able to meaningfully understand many of the international artists she brings in.
“I enjoy tremendously creating these programs with a wonderful team. I am always looking for artists I can work with together, interchanging ideas. The more interesting artists will have a strong vision of what they want to present perhaps, but there is always a lot of teamwork necessary if you want to present a program at the 92Y. We have our own input and agendas and have to be able to communicate well together.” She goes on to describe the intimacy of the planning and performance process she went through with the renowned Tokyo String Quartet, which will soon split ways, and plans to hold one of their final performances at the 92Y on January 26th with a program, which will include Lera Auerbach’s Farewell, which was commissioned by the 92Y. The quartet maintained a residency at the 92Y for ten years. “They called me their fifth member, since I always had so much input, discussing the programs,” she laughs.
Photo: Hanna Arie-Gaifman and the members of the Tokyo String quartet, courtesy of 92Y Lera Auerbach -F.Reinhold
Now in her 13th year, Gaifman’s programming for the classical music series has moved away from a potpourri of material towards more directed programs that fulfill individual needs, like the commissioning and premiering of new works like Lera Auerbach’s aforementioned piece. Her vision grows with expanding possibilities. At the moment, Gaifman feels that, with the artists’ permission, the recordings made of all the Y’s performances for documentation purposes could be put to good use if they were released into the public domain. The last recording the Y actually participated in co-producing and releasing was Claudio Arrau’s last live performance at the 92Y in 1976. “Some events are already being broadcasted by NPR and WWFM. But I would love to have a ‘live’ concert hall, with live-streaming of all events,” she says. Gaifman manages to sustain her broad and open-minded view while simultaneously focusing on minute programming details. She tirelessly searches for new ways to expand her audiences’ will to explore, and attract new audiences. Gaifman's desire to expand will most certainly include branching out into new locations, incorporating downtown performances into her programs' near future.
Gaifman plans well ahead, curating around forty classical and forty popular concerts a year, and mapping out the majority of events around a year and a half in advance. She negotiates times and coordinates her programming with a wide range of educational and outreach programs that share the space. Her personal participation is remarkable, as she attends almost all of the many events that she plans. She says of her avid patronage: “if I don’t enjoy it, why should the audience?”
Jeremy Denk - Photocredit Michael Wilson
On February 11th, the 92Y will present one of Gaifman’s favorite cross-illuminating literary and musical events that she has planned. Pianist Jeremy Denk, who is a passionate performer of the work of Charles Ives and an ardent published writer with an outstanding blog, ThinkDenk, will perform sections of Ives’ transcendental movement of his Concord Sonata, famously depicting historical literary figures like Emerson, Thoreau, the Alcotts, and Hawthorne; his performance will be accompanied by readings from these writers’ works.
“For me, it is about serving curious people, the quality that will win them over to enjoy culture and experience actively. Already when I taught literature, I was thinking to myself, if I just attract the interest of one curious student and stir a passion for the literature I love, I have made a difference. Here at the 92Y is the one place in the world, that focuses on the both worlds I love and understand--music and literature--and where I can make that difference, and contribute.”

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Concert Meister Series - Ronn Yedidia’s DanzaNova

Concert Meister Series (, a Baruch Performing Arts Center and Legato Production, presents the prolific
and award winning Resident Composer, Ronn Yedidia and his new world music ensemble, DanzaNova, performing at the Engelman Recital Hall
at the Baruch Performing Arts Center in New York, Friday February 1st
DanzaNova's last Merkin Hall recital was called “…pure ethnic music, which left the audience ecstatic with boundless pleasure!” (Epoch Times)
The virtuosic Klezmerband will be performing originally composed pieces inspired by Latin American, Middle Eastern, and European folk traditions.
Ronn Yedidia is DanzaNova founder and principal composer. His works have been featured in major concert halls and documented on film, radio and television.
Starting his career in Israel as a young prodigy as a student of Pnina Salzman (herself a student of Alfred Cortot) and continuing at
Juilliard, Yedidia has been recognized throughout the world as a leading contemporary composer receiving numerous prizes. He has recorded
with major labels EMI Classics, SonyBMG, and Naxos, and has been commissioned by the world’ leading ensembles.
Ronn Yedidia and the other four members of DanzaNova include Violinist Dmitry Fisch, Guitarist, Giacomo La Vita, Bassist, Eddy Khaimovich and Percussionist Yuval Edoot.
Ronn Yedidia has composed a series of his own works entitled KlezDances especially for DanzaNova. The quintet's emphasis is on
stylistic versatility and chamber unity, and the players display their many creative abilities in segments of original free improvisation ‐ blending
ethnic and contemporary elements, and executing them with idiosyncratic virtuosity. DanzaNova has been featured in such concert venues as
Merkin Hall, Bargemusic, ArtEcho Center, and Watchung Arts Center. A promotion documentary about DanzaNova is now featured on YouTube
Engelman Recital Hall is located in the Baruch Performing Arts Complex at 55 Lexington Avenue (Entrance on 25th Street between Lexington
and 3rd Avenues) in New York City. Tickets are $25 General Admission and $10 for Students. Tickets can be purchased online at
or by calling the box office by calling +16463125073

Friday, January 4, 2013

Young Concert Artists - launching and nurturing profound new talent for the future of music-making

It takes real enthusiasm and a vision to bring about the change politicians speak about. In real life, it is only the most invigorated doers, like YCA’s Susan Wadsworth, who are able to implement new strategies and changes that have an enduring significance for the future.
It all started on the ground floor loft space of a restaurant on Waverly Place in New York’s Greenwich Village. The owner, a young Armenian architect, liked the idea of Susan curating concerts at his venue. So, on his off-days he cleared away the tables and added a Young Concert Artists sign to his own sign board, and simply raised it up in front of Harout‘s, to promote the budding concert series.(Photo: Alfred Statler)

“Steinway charged me 100 dollars for cartage each way and gave me a great gift… a beautiful concert grand piano that could stay at the venue during the whole season,” says Susan Wadsworth, an energetic powerhouse of small stature and hefty goals.
A trained classical pianist herself, she had studied with pianists-pedagogues Mieczyslaw Munz, Jean Casadeus and Nadia Boulanger, and was always surrounded by musician friends, some of whom she had met during her years at the Mannes College of Music, studying with Frank Sheridan.
But while she admired some of her friends’ amazing talent and felt deeply connected to music and its world, she rejected the pursuit of a career as concert pianist for herself. The decisive moment came, she explained, “When I was asked to perform Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23, A-major with the Mannes orchestra. I quickly realized that I really did not want to perform,” she confesses, with relief in her voice.
At first, the Vassar English Major had no real sense of direction, trying on different hats at the UN and in the children’s book department of Rand McNally. During her search for her destiny, she kept in close contact with her musician friends, which eventually lead to the discovery of her unequivocal calling: “A friend observed my enthusiasm when I heard my friends perform and told me that I truly believed in these musicians. So I decided to do something about it.” Photo by Alfred Statler:
Wadsworth started the Young Concert Artists Series in 1961, “supported by a few adventurous individuals.” Existing arts funding was principally distributed among major institutions, largely provided by the private sector. Support for Young Concert Artists by the State and the National Endowments for the Arts came later.. Eventually Wadsworth served as a consultant to the New York State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts, and became a member of the National Advisory Committees of the Avery Fisher Prize Program, the Van Cliburn Competition and Young Audiences, Inc.

From the start she understood that even the most talented, yet young and still unknown, musicians faced an enormous lack of opportunities to perform and to further their careers. Struggling to compete with established artists, who had the powerful machinery of managers, promoters and public relations behind them, was an enormous challenge for a young, starting out artist. This was especially true while having to focus on the most serious challenge: continually crafting their skill and being devoted to the art of making music.
Realizing that she wanted to make a difference in the life of the artists she loved and admired, initially many of these her close friends, Wadsworthbecame as resourceful as she was ambitious and YCA grew from an initial season with a 13-concert series to an internationally renowned organization. Its growing dimensions and logistical operation afforded constant moves, as did its financial boundaries. And so, from Harout’s, the Young Concert Artists Series moved to the former Mannes School of Music’s brownstone on 74th Street, to Carnegie Recital Hall (now Weill Hall) to Hunter College, to the 92nd Street Y, to Zankel Hall and since 2011 is at Merkin Hall. Wadsworth kept on opening doors to a steadily increasing flow of artists and audiences.
Holding its Auditions in Leipzig and New York, YCA selects an array of performers (and recently also composers) for whom they provide concerts at different venues around New York, at Washington D.C.’s Kennedy Center, and throughout the United States and abroad. There are Young Concert Artists Festivals in Tokyo and Beijing. But what perhaps stands out just as much is YCA’s expert guidance, which includes personal management and promotional materials for each musician.
This all becomes part of the package of being an YCA artist. And the press pays attention. ”With Young Concert Artists, music lovers can know without a doubt that they are hearing la crème de la crème from around the world,” wrote the Huffington Post. The Washington Post stated, “YCA’s track record in singling out the stars of tomorrow is mind-boggling.”
Photo by Steve Sherman: courtesy of YCA –Artists of the 35th anniversary concert. Front row:Nokuthula Ngwenyama, Yesun Kim, Richard Goode, Susan Wadsworth, Alban Gerhardt, Beverly Hoch, Toby Appel, Benny Kim. Second row: Carter Brey, Chee-Yun, Anne-Marie McDermott, Scott St. John, Marya Martin, Jospeh Kalichstein, Ruggero Allifranchini, Hsin-Yun Huang, Geoff Nuttall, Ilana Vered, Nicolas Kitchen, Ida Kavafian, Makoto Nakura, Chris Pedro Trakas, Fred Sherry.

There is something unique about YCA that separates its core from other organizations. “Unlike competitions where performers compete against each other to win, YCA artists are chosen based on their individual artistic merit,” says Wadsworth. “Any number can win; it differs from year to year. We decide on individuals, rather than on instrumental categories. This year our five winners were soprano Julia Bullock, the Hermes Quartet, pianist Ji-Yong, cellist Cicely Parnas, and violinist Aleksey Semenenko. Young Concert Artists presents artists in recital debuts and as concerto soloists. We do not, ourselves, give them financial support, but as their management, we book concerts for them, so that they earn professional concert fees, from which we take a token commission of 8% which covers 2 % of our annual costs. But all the services and opportunities and materials that we provide to the artists are made possible by our music-loving donors and interested foundations through our fundraising efforts. Without that support, we could not survive!” she exclaims.

Photo: courtesy YCA. At the White House, 1993: Geoff Nuttall, Lesley Robertson, Chee-Yun, Barry Shiffman, Marina Hoover of the St.Lawrence String Quartet, Hillary and President Clinton, Camellia Johnson, Neal Goren, Akira Eguchi, Isaac Stern, Susan Wadsworth.

In 1993, at the request of the late, great violinist Isaac Stern, members of Young Concert Artists gave a concert at the White House for President and Mrs. Clinton after a dinner in honor of the recipients of the National Medal of Arts. Wadsworthhas been acknowledged for her tireless efforts and for her success. In 2005, Mrs. Wadsworth accepted the Angel Award presented to Young Concert Artists by the International Society of Performing Arts Administrators. She has also been awarded Honorary Doctorates by the Mannes College of Music and the Manhattan School of Music.
Sitting inWadsworth’s office, filled with old photos of her artists’ great successes, her youthful energy does not belie the fact that she does not pause for a moment, doing what she loves doing best: being involved on behalf of her artists.
While she started out alone, she realized that as YCA grew she had to have help. “Around the 5th year, I hired an assistant who turned out to be a dynamo. When it came to booking concerts, Ann Dunbar was unbeatable,” Wadsworth recalls. Her team grew to include some exceptional people like Edna Landau, Judith Kurz and Nancy Wellman, all great ladies who went on to hold important roles within the music industry. Associate Director Mark Hayman, Monica Felkel, Director of Management and Rong-Hong Ma, in charge of financials, are some of YCA’s staff whom she gratefully mentions have been working with her for over 25 years. She admires YCA’s artist managers, Monica Felkel and Vicki Margulies, for their keen personal interest and the knowledgeable guidance they provide to each artist on the roster.
There are a lot of minute details involved when advising young artists - such as how to forge a captivating program out of the repertoire an artist brings along. When I started out I was basically the same age as the musicians and naturally there was great friendship involved. I now already have a new generation of artists who have been the protégés of great YCA Alumni like Pinchas Zukerman, Emanuel Ax and Ida Kavafian. YCA alumni are also extremely generous in performing Benefit Concerts, which are so vital for us.”
Photo:Stanley Jesudovich: Courtesy of YCA – The first three Presidents of the YCA Alumni Association: Ruth Laredo, Emanuel Ax, Eugenia Zukerman.
Susan’s l966 marriage to Charles Wadsworth, the charismatic founder and director of the Chamber Music Series of the Spoleto Festival in Italy and Charleston, SC, who founded the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in 1969, certainly gave YCA a promising chance of exposure. “He listened to all my concerts, and of course if he liked someone very much, - such as Richard Goode or Paula Robison - would he consider presenting them. After all, he could choose artists from every management in the world.”
The great success rate of YCA artists certainly centers on being handpicked by an insightful jury of musicians in New York and, since 1994, every other year in Leipzig, under Professor Joel Shapiro’s supervision. Shapiro, a pianist, was one of Wadsworth’s first artists, performing in the first series of YCA.
Photo: Courtesy YCA. The first European YCA Auditions in Leipzig: L to R: Stefan Schönknecht, (Mendelssohn Hochschule coordinator), Mark Hayman; winners Diana Doherty (oboist) and Fazil Say (pianist); Jurors: Joel Shapiro, Susan Wadsworth, Kurt Masur, Lorraine Nubar, Marya Martin, and Christiane Edinger.

Artist's who win the auditions join the roster for a minimum of three years but often it becomes five or six years. The time frame is flexible. When we take someone to the YCA roster we are fully committed to them as long as we feel we can help them. Some are signed on by commercial managements quickly; others' careers develop more slowly. It's a meaningful and a fulfilling responsibility to provide them with support and performance opportunities, when they come to us at a very vulnerable and exciting turning point in their lives."
Wadsworth has been in demand for her expertise and has been on the jury of several competitions throughout the years, including the Vendôme Prize Piano Competition and concerto competitions at the Peabody Conservatory of Music, the Manhattan School of Music, the Bard College Conservatory of Music and the Yale School of Music.
And it must be a very gratifying experience, especially given the list of testimonials filled with the highest acknowledgements, like the one of violinist Pinchas Zukerman: "How amazing that 50 years have gone by! It feels like yesterday that I was traveling to play the concerts arranged through YCA. It was such a fantastic time, starting off on the most incredible journey.”
The young pianistLouis Schwizgebel, YCA Winner in 2007, recently gave me a personal account of how personably he was taken care of by YCA when coming to New York from Geneva, in order to pursue continuing studies at Juilliard.

Photo by Christian Steiner: PianistLouis Schwizgebel
He commented on YCA’s continual efforts, to provide performance opportunities and move along his career. He was excited that at the YCA Gala Benefit Evening on May 16th 2013 at Alice Tully Hall, he will have his New York concerto debut with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, playing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1, in C-major. Two other YCA soloists will also be on the program.
Wadsworthspells it out in a nutshell: “Having great talent is essential but that doesn’t always make things happen. We do everything we can think of to enable our YCA artists to achieve the recognition and the lifelong careers that they deserve, and to give audiences everywhere the joy of hearing their performances!”