My personal and professional relationship with Eric Larsen began in 1976 when, as a last-minute substitute, he videotaped four sonatas with me for broadcast over KSCI in Los Angeles. Eric worked incredibly hard with me to produce results that would equal the best of our playing:

Over the course of our association, we have done national and international tours, starting in 1980, both in recital and as members of the American Chamber Trio. Highlights include recitals at Alice Tully Hall, Carnegie Recital Hall, and tours with the American Chamber Trio to South America and China, with concerts under the auspices of the United States State Department and the Chinese Ministry of Culture.

During my career, I’ve had the opportunity to play with some of the finest pianists of my generation. I can say unequivocally that, for me, Eric Larsen’s phenomenal piano playing and exquisite musicianship exceeded all other experiences that I had and made it possible for me to have had the career that I had as a soloist and chamber musician. During the years of our association, I played with him exclusively, except when he was not available. Our cycle of the complete works of Beethoven in Carnegie Recital Hall received a rave review in the New York Times.

Beethoven Sonata Op. 5 No. 1, Second Movement, Allegro

Beethoven Sonata Op. 5 No. 2, Second Movement, Allegro molto più tosto presto

Likewise, our recording of the complete Brahms Trios received a similarly fine review in the American Record Guide:

Review on the CD, Brahms: The Complete Trios for Piano, Violin & Cello; Beethoven: ‘Archduke’ Trio–The American Chamber Trio:

Brahms Trio Op. 87, First Movement, Allegro

As a result of our success, International Music Company published our editions of the three Brahms Trios for worldwide distribution, an edition for which we received a great review from Strings Magazine:

Review on Brahms Trio No. 2 in C Major, Edited by The American Chamber Trio:

October 2008 “This recent edition improves on the widely used Peters edition in several ways, most notably by carrying bar numbers and cues in the string parts during rests. The print is clear; spacing is sometimes generous, sometimes crowded, probably for ease of page turning. There is no claim to authenticity, footnotes, or explanatory introduction. Brahms’ long phrase marks always pose problems for string players, who tend to confuse them with bowings, but the editors wisely avoid this misconception and freely break them up for maximum sound.”

In addition to his great talents as a pianist and teacher, he exhibited an extraordinary talent as an administrator when he was appointed director of the Meadowmount School of Music. Meadowmount is one of the premiere institutions of string education in the world. Over the course of its almost seventy-year history, it has produced the largest number of soloists, concertmasters, principal players, chamber musicians, and teachers of any educational institution. I invite you to check out their website.   

Up to the point that Eric took over the directorship, very little had been done in terms of workshops directed at many of the problems young musicians face. He brought in Elizabeth Sobol, senior vice president and director of IMG (arguably the largest management company for classical musicians worldwide) to speak about the development of a solo career. He started an orchestral audition seminar with myself and several faculty members who hold important orchestral jobs. Also, he invited Pedro de Alcantara, who is the leading exponent of the Alexander Technique, and has had three books published by Oxford University Press on the subject, to work with the students on their physical posture at the instruments. Also, to amplify the orchestral studies program, he invited Joseph Silverstein, long-time concertmaster of the Boston Symphony, to enrich the audition seminar.   

Eric and I were friends, best friends, for at least forty years. We shared our love of music and our desire to bring the great music that we played together to as ultimate fulfillment as we could manage to do. In our later years, we shared the satisfaction of having reached a high standard and that we did it while we could still do it.

On a personal note, Eric was immensely kind to both me and June. In our later years, when June was suffering from macular degeneration and having great difficulty seeing music, Eric worked with her endlessly to help her memorize the difficult spots.

When June wanted her various students to go to Meadowmount and experience what top level playing could be for people of their age, Eric made it happen, saying, “Why not your little kid rather than somebody else’s little kid?” One of them is presently in charge of music education at the University of Oregon in Eugene, and another runs music, drama, etc., in a large school district in Chicago.

I was not a happy performer since I was assailed with repetitive injuries and pre-concert nerves. Eric always managed to get me out on the stage so that I could find out the world would not come to an end if I played out of tune. I can think of a hundred incidents where he exhibited this great compassion for both of us, but he certainly did make it possible for us to exhibit ourselves at our best.

We love him, we will always love him, and I would like to include two poems by my mother who also loved Eric like a son.

He picked up
his shadow

And slipped
into another land

He left a light

Where he
used to stand

We are single threads
in the fabric
of each other’s lives

We are words
in each other’s stories

We are notes
in each other’s songs

When it’s time to move on

We step
over the edge
into a new space
where we are transformed

as color
in the thread

as meaning
in the word

as overtone
in the note

We continue
through life, death
and transformation

On our journey

An Interesting Meeting of Minds

Two nights ago, Bill McGlaughlin, on his program Exploring Music, was on the second night of his Schubert festival. On this particular program, he played the first movement of the Arpeggione Sonata with Lynn Harrell and no mention of the pianist. Lynn’s performance was so commanding and transcendental, I wondered whether he had quicksilver in his fingers to match his exquisitely beautiful tone.

Hearing this performance brought me back sixty-two  years to October 31st, 1960, at a Halloween party at Juilliard. Lynn’s reputation preceded him, having won the first prize at the Merriweather Post Competition playing the Rococo Variations. For whatever reason, I had a relatively high opinion of my own work since I could play several Paganini Caprices and the Barber Concerto. So, I walked right up to him and said, “You’re Lynn Harrell, Rose’s best student.” He said, “You’re Danny Morganstern, Luigi Silba’s best student.” So, I said, “Why don’t we go to my place and see how good we both are?” So, we walked down to 110th Street, where I was living, and I played my Paganini and at least the first movement of the Barber Concerto, and he was duly impressed. Then we walked over to Lynn Harrell’s place, and he played for me the Boccherini A Major Sonata, the Schubert Arpeggione Sonata, one or another of the Schumann fantasy pieces, and Popper No. 14, an etude in octaves which he played with a heft and command I could not even imagine. Most of all, it was the Boccherini and the Schubert that he played with such a beautiful sound; it was the closest thing to the famous Irish tenor John McCormick that I ever heard in the sixty years since that any instrumentalist could approach to that particular quality of beauty.

At that time, Lynn was sixteen and I was nineteen, and we spent the rest of the night and most of the next day just walking, talking, and communing about what was important to us and how we proposed to make our careers.

We remained friends and played for each other often for the next year until he finally moved away. Leonard Rose took Lynn into his home as a roommate to Leonard’s son, Arthur, and I saw much less of Lynn after that. For many years after he became world famous, if anybody mentioned my name, Lynn would always refer to that magic evening when we played for each other and bonded.                            

Fifty years later, we met at Meadowmount where we were both teaching and spent another five hours playing for each other. However, this time, our playing was fueled by a bottle of scotch, which we finished in record time. Afterwards, my wife June provided three pints of strawberry ice cream with fresh cut strawberries; Lynn ate two of them but, after all, he was a big man in every way.