Returning to the Princeton campus for a third visit, the Golandsky

Institute peppers its mission of promoting master musicality at the

piano with a full program of lectures, master classes, and

discussions, as well as a set of six evening concerts that display the

dividends of moving well at the piano. Taking place from Saturday,

July 15, to Sunday, July 23, the institute carries on the work of

Dorothy Taubman, who lives in Brooklyn and is approaching 90.

Taubman developed her approach to the keyboard in the 1940s. It is

based on coordinated movements at the piano that reduce the danger of

injury and free the pianist to produce an unusual depth of sound with

minimal effort.

Edna Golandsky, who founded the institute that bears her name in 2003,

studied with Taubman in the 1970s, when she was a Juilliard student.

She was part of a triumvirate that in 1977 established a summer school

to disseminate Taubman’s teachings. The school met successively at

Rensselaerville, New York; Amherst, Massachusetts; and Williamstown,

Massachusetts. Taubman chose Golandsky to deliver the daily summer

lectures, which systematically presented her thinking.

A similar history was endemic among the young artists who typically

turned to Taubman or Golandsky for help. They tended to be talented,

disciplined, and zealous. Recent graduates of leading conservatories,

they worked hard in pursuit of major careers, practicing for long

periods to prepare solo recitals and appearances with orchestras.

Within sight of their professional goals, they began to notice a

weakness in a particular finger, or an unexplained stiffness, or a

nagging neck ache. In some cases, their physical problems became so

severe that they could not even place their hands on the keyboard

without excruciating pain.

Using the Taubman method, they relearned how to play the piano and

weaned themselves from physically damaging habits. They ended up able

to play with more virtuosity and musicality than ever before. Their

re-education saved their careers.

Yet, it is not necessary to be young or injured in order to benefit

from Taubman’s insights, as evidenced by Yehudi Wyner, winner of this

year’s Pulitzer Prize in music for his 2005 piano concerto. Wyner

appears at Princeton’s Golandsky Institute in two separate events. On

Thursday, July 20, the Brandeis emeritus professor joins Harvard’s

Christopher Hasty, Juilliard’s Edward Bilous, and Princeton’s Barbara

White in McCormick Hall at 4:30 p.m. for a discussion of contemporary

music. On Friday, July 21, he accompanies soprano Dominique Labelle in

Taplin Auditorium in Fine Hall for a program that includes selections

from his composition "The Second Madrigal." He also gives the

pre-concert lecture at 7p.m.

Wyner was a well-established composer and an uninjured performing

pianist in his 50s when he began piano lessons with Golandsky.

Interviewed by telephone from Arezzo, Italy, Wyner says, "I knew

nothing about Taubman until I met Sylvia Kahan in the mid 1980s. She

was an accomplished pianist and a student at Tanglewood, where I was

on the chamber music faculty from 1975 to 1997. She made me aware of

her work with Dorothy Taubman. There seemed to be something

interesting in it. I could do whatever I wanted on the piano, but I

was struck by its very natural, very unstrenuous approach."

After attending Taubman master classes at New York’s 92nd Street Y

Wyner was captivated. "Above all, I was intrigued by her idea that the

hand had a natural position. In a lot of training, the hand is

subjected to a lot of unnecessary strain. Why and how a child of eight

or nine with a talent for music can play technical war horses by Liszt

and Chopin was a paradox that Dorothy Taubman addressed. A child that

age is not strong. So the idea of developing strength and agility is

erroneous. I thought that was a good observation."

An added impetus for Wyner came because he was letting his piano

practice slip, and Taubman’s ideas promised a panacea. "As a composer

and teacher, I didn’t have the discipline to maintain a constant level

of piano playing," he says. "Every time I gave a concert, I had to go

through the same drill of taxing calisthenics. I was in my 50s, and I

thought, `As I get older this is going to get harder to do. With the

Taubman approach I can sit down at the piano and play effortlessly.’

"When I approached Edna (Golandsky), she told me I would have to wait.

Perhaps she was reluctant to take on a person with my reputation.

There was the question of how much can you learn, and how much can you

unlearn. I gave up performance dates in order to work with her. I was

determined to absorb what was there."

Wyner says his progress was slow because he didn’t practice much.

"When I composed, I was constantly reinforcing bad habits. Still,

almost from the beginning, my wife, who has the ears of an eagle,

sensed a transformation of my sound. There was a new roundness, an

unforcedness, a poise, eloquence, and warmth. There was an effortless

evenness." Wyner’s wife is soprano Susan Davenny Wyner, for whom Wyner

has written many compositions. Their three children are now in their

40s.

"One of the things that I loved was this: Here I was, a really

significant teacher, having to go back and accept the authority and

genuineness of another teacher. I just kept my mouth shut and did what

I was told. It was helpful to me as a teacher because it put me in

touch with all those negative reflexes that students have when their

teacher tells them what to do."

Savoring the economy of movement that he learned, Wyner says,

"Increasing the physical efficiency leads to increased flexibility and

variety in your sound. Solving technical problems liberates the sonic

imagination. So there’s an interpretive payoff."

Born in Canada in 1929, Wyner grew up in New York City. His father,

Lazar Wiener, was a composer of Yiddish art song and liturgical music.

Before graduating from both the Juilliard Institute and New York’s

Professional Children’s School in 1946 Wyner had performed a Beethoven

piano concerto with the Juilliard orchestra.

Attracted to Yale by the presence of composer Paul Hindemith, Wyner

discovered that Hindemith did not take undergraduates. After earning a

Yale bachelor of arts degree in 1950 Wyner worked with Hindemith as a

graduate student for a year and earned a bachelor of music degree.

When Hindemith began alternately spending a year in Switzerland and a

year at Yale, Wyner took himself to Harvard for a year and collected a

master of arts degree. He returned to Yale when Hindemith did, earning

a master of music degree in 1953 after working with Hindemith.

The Rome Prize in Composition in 1953 enabled Wyner to spend three

years at the American Academy in Rome, composing, playing, and

traveling. "Those were years of profound change," he says. "One of the

things that made a deep impression on me was the jumble of Rome. At

first I thought Rome was unacceptable as an urban center because it

had no stylistic unity. It took a while before I could reconcile

myself to the fact that Rome had a different idea of how to put things

together. I realized that there was a richness in putting a baroque

facade on a Romanesque church. I learned to accept mixtures and

chaos." While at the Academy, Wyner wrote his Concert Duo for Violin

and Piano, the piece that established his reputation.

Upon returning to America Wyner embarked on a professional trajectory

that included performance, composition, teaching, directing two opera

companies, and serving as an academic dean. Asked how he prioritized

the various aspects of his career, Wyner says, "I didn’t prioritize.

Some people said, `You’ll have no reputation unless you concentrate on

one thing.’ But I wanted to see all aspects and never could

concentrate on just one. My most difficult years were when I was dean

of music at Purchase [part of the State University of New York

system.] I was temperamentally unsuited to the job. I wasn’t born to

be the boss of others. I undertook it in good faith but I never

mastered it." In his resistance to setting priorities Wyner was

applying his love for Italy.

"The three years in Rome established a passion about Italy that has

never waned," Wyner says. "I go every year and stay from two weeks to

a couple of months. In Italy there is a generosity, a living spirit,

and an acceptance of life in its many guises. It’s different from the

American attitude that declares `You shall do this; you shall not do

that.’ There are similar strictures in music.

"Those years brought a personal change about what is acceptable about

life and art in every way. It was as if I was changing from a northern

Puritan mentality to a Mediterranean mentality. In Italy there is a

strong, unapologetic connection to the past. The past is seen as

something to be treasured and built on, not obliterated and negated."

Wyner’s Pulitzer prize piano concerto, "Chiavi in Mano" was largely

written in Italy, while he spent two months in a residency at the

American Academy of Rome. The 20-minute work was commissioned by the

Boston Symphony for performance by Robert Levin. "What emerged was

something odd," Wyner says. "I was writing in Italy but I never wrote

a piece so characteristically American. It was full of things

suggested by rock and roll, or boogie woogie. These musics are part of

my background. I used them for their exuberance. In essence, the piece

is very joyous, positive, and physically playful. Sometimes it’s

frivolous. There’s a lot of variety – from being very pensive to being

agitated and passionate and dreamy and thoughtful and aggressive and

eloquent.

"Something that occurred to me after I wrote the piece was that the

reason I included rock and roll and boogie was because I felt the

necessity for affirmative musical expression. There is an intrinsic

affirmative aesthetic statement to jazz, and by extension, to other

pop music. That’s one of the reasons they are so universally

appealing."

Wyner continues: "Much American affirmative music is primarily

triumphal, aggressive, and characteristic of Hollywood. I find that

repellent. Most of that desire to be affirmative rings hollow to me.

It was possible for Beethoven and Brahms to be affirmative, to be bold

without being vulgar, or suggesting a bloated power structure. I

intended to make an esthetic statement with `Chiavi in Mano.’ I didn’t

intend to make a political statement. But, on reflection, I see that a

political implication can be inferred."

In "Chiavi in Mano" Wyner also makes a statement about piano technique

and the application of Taubman’s principles. "It would lie easily

under anybody’s hand," he says. "It’s manageable, and, playable for

any really accomplished pianist. If you can play late Beethoven

sonatas you can play this piece. And if you play piano using the

physically effective techniques that the Golandsky Institute explores,

you have an added interpretive edge and an increased level of

comfort."

Summer Piano Festival, Sunday to Saturday, July 16 to 22, Golandsky

Institute, on the Princeton University campus. 877-343-3434,

www.golandskyinstitute.org. $20; $100 for festival pass (six concerts

for the price of five).

All concerts take place at Taplin Auditorium in Fine Hall.

Kuok-Wai Lio. Register. Sunday, July 16, 8 p.m.

Ilya Itin. Register. Monday, July 17, 8 p.m.

Chamber music concert. Meagan Miller, soprano; Alex Richardson,

tenor; and Thomas Bagwell, piano, comprise the group "Art Song Now."

Register. Tuesday, July 18, 8 p.m.

Janice Weber. Register. Thursday, July 20, 8 p.m.

Dominique Labelle, soprano; and Yehudi Wyner, piano. Pre-concert talk

at 7:00 p.m. Register. Friday, July 21, 8 p.m.

Festival finale. Presented by the Herskowitz Rozenblatt Project, a

collaboration between jazz pianist Matt Herskovitz and drummer David

Rozenblatt. Register. Saturday, July 22, 8 p.m.

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