Friday, June 10, 2011

Sherman's Schoenberg

On Monday, Russell Sherman is performing all of Schoenberg's piano music in a recital at the Mannes School Concert Hall in Manhattan, the opening concert in the annual Festival for Contemporary Performance.

Sherman's personal link to Schoenberg is his teacher Edward Steuermann. More than just a student of Schoenberg, Steuerman was the composer's go-to pianist in Berlin and Vienna. Here in the US, Steuermann  premiered the Piano Concerto in 1944 with the NBC Orchestra and Leopold Stokowski. (Originally, Schnabel was the scheduled pianist, which may have offended Steuermann.)

Despite this close connection to Schoenberg, Steuermann taught very little Schoenberg to his students, according to Sherman. Here he is in an interview with Gunther Schuller:
"Well, he hardly taught me any modern music, and even Schoenberg he wasn't much interested in teaching. But he used to say--in that Polish way--'That's your music. You do what you want with it; I don't have to teach that to you.'"  
(You can listen to Steuermann's recording of Schoenberg's Opus 11 here, but not here.)

I had a chance to talk with Sherman a week or so ago about the recital; we talked more about hockey than music. Apparently, Sherman's quite the Rangers fan, and we bonded over memories of some great Canadiens teams from the 1970s.

To fill out the program, Sherman's performing Beethoven's Opus 109 sonata, and he'll tell you in his opening remarks why he chose this piece.