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This article by Elaine Strauss was prepared for the October 23, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Robert Taub, Speaking from a New Base

Pianist Robert Taub has developed a model format for

concert programs, and his new post as director of performing arts

in music at the Lawrenceville School gives him a green light for bringing

his scheme to the Princeton area. His three-concert Musica Viva series

debuts Friday, October 25, with Taub’s pre-concert talk at 7:15 p.m.,

preceding his 8 p.m. concert in the Allan P. Kirby Arts Center at

the Lawrenceville School. The program consists of Beethoven’s Sonata

Op. 53 ("Waldstein"), Bartok’s Piano Sonata, the Schumann-Liszt

Concert Paraphrase of Rigoletto, and Schumann’s "Davidsbundlertanze."

A post-concert discussion follows.

For the concert Taub plays a new Steinway D concert grand selected

by him and others at the Lawrenceville School. "We had seven or

eight gleaming keyboards to choose from," he says. "This is

one of the best pianos I’ve ever encountered."

Other events in the Musica Viva series are a performance for two pianos

and percussion on Friday, January 24, and a string quartet performance

on Friday, May 2. Taub participates in all the concerts. In addition,

a two-day Beethoven festival featuring orchestral and chamber music,

lectures, and informal discussions, takes place in June. The small

price tag for this bounty is $10 adult admission per concert or $25

for the series of three.

"I’ve found that there is a real yearning for communication between

the public and artists that goes beyond the performance," Taub

says in a telephone interview from his Lawrenceville office. He yields

to the accepted wisdom that intimate interchange between performers

and audience makes a memorable concert, and invites all Musica Viva

performers to participate both before and after their concerts. "It’s

unusual in that the performers do all the talking," he says, distinguishing

the commentary in his series from the usual pre-concert lectures given

by an expert musicologist, rather than the performing artists.

"I love to share interpretive insights beforehand — " Taub

says, "why I might have changed my mind, the things that I’ve

rejected, and why I do what I do. After a performance, sometimes there

are questions that are very involving, for instance, how to decide

on a tempo. Answering that question could take a long time. With the

varied repertoire at Lawrenceville, and the different instruments,

I anticipate complicated questions."

Taub used his model format when he was performing the Beethoven sonata

cycle in New York. "People came with scores," he says. "At

intermission the audience continued to discuss the issues I brought

up in the pre-concert discussion. They almost came to blows. I think

it’s important to discuss these issues with as much fervor as possible."

Taub credits a question about tempo with giving him the momentum to

spell out his thoughts in his recent book, "Playing the Beethoven

Piano Sonatas" (Amadeus Press, $24.95). "Being forced to articulate

an answer to a question from the public led me to put down on paper

what was sparked by the question," he says.

Analyzing his mental processes on the way to accounting

for his interpretation, he explains, "The initial decision has

a heavy intuitive component. Then I ask, `Why do I feel it that way?’

The next question is, `What was the composer’s musical vision?’ Then

I ask myself, `Why did the composer write it in the first place?’"

In "Playing the Sonatas," Taub writes, "my goal is to

share my thoughts from living with these works for many years, getting

them into my hands, committing them all to memory, performing them,

thinking about them some more, hearing them in my sleep, and bringing

them to life again and again — in front of audiences and microphones

— with interpretations that evolve through time and experience."

As artist in residence at Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study,

he exhaustively examined and performed the Beethoven sonata cycle

over a three-year period (U.S. 1, March 12, 1997).

"Each time I play the sonatas I try to invest them with fresh

musical drama," Taub says. Now in the second year of a five-year

appointment at England’s Kingston University that requires his presence

four times a year, he is committed to performing Beethoven sonatas

at concerts each December and May.

Meanwhile, Taub’s base is Lawrenceville, where he revels in

the abundant facilities of Clark Music Building, the Lawrenceville

School’s newest facility. At his disposal is a plethora of Steinways

assembled for Lawrenceville students interested in solo piano repertoire,

duo-piano literature, or chamber music works. He has introduced a

chamber music course into the Lawrenceville curriculum and plans to

teach a performance survey course called "Bach to Babbitt."

Born in Metuchen, Taub is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Princeton,

Class of ’77. He earned a doctoral degree at New York’s Juilliard

School. His principal teacher was Jacob Lateiner.

At Lawrenceville, with his Musica Viva series, Taub finally reveals

himself as a presenter of concerts. Nevertheless, concert management

may have tantalized him for some time. In response to the question

of how he came to be an impresario, he jokes, "I always have been

an impresario. Sol Hurok and I go way back."

— Elaine Strauss

Robert Taub, Lawrenceville School, Clark Music Center,

Lawrenceville, 609-895-2044. Pre-concert talk at 7:15 for program

that opens with Beethoven’s "Waldstein" Sonata. Www.MusicaViva.info.

$10; $25 series. Friday, October 25, 8 p.m.


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