Neil Sedaka--1956--classical artist:
My performance of Neil's 'Manhattan Intermezzo' with the Brown University Orchestra in 2014; recording release in January 2016 stems from the recording sessions during the same week:
Neil studied with the legendary teacher at The Juilliard School, Adele Marcus, in the 1950s; I studied with her at age 16 in 1977. She told us the story of when Neil was missing weekly lessons and came to the school one day and told her that he and his friend, Howard Greenfield, sold a hit song which did very well. She asked him to play it, and although he was shy about it, he did so. She said, 'That's cute, dear. What do you call it?' He replied, 'Stupid Cupid!' Many years later, I was invited to David Foster's home in 2001 after we struck a friendship from David listening to my internet recital from 1997. During my visit, oddly enough, Neil called him. He talked me up a bit. A few years later, I went to a showcase in NYC for one of David's young proteges, and Neil was there. We talked a bit, but it was in 2008 during a party for David and Andrea Bocelli when I played Chopin's 'Polonaise in A-flat' and Neil played and sang a medley of his songs, that we proceeded further. Neil approached me and said, 'I'm writing a piano concerto. May I contact you when it is done?' I said of course! In 2012, Neil's assistant phoned and told me it was finished. Neil has recorded it with the London Philharmonic in 2010. He sent me the music, and I fell in love with the melodies, harmonies and everything about it--Manhattan Intermezzo. It is a collage of musical styles through the various cultures and peoples of New York City, with a touch of Russian pianism and Chopin style. The dances, Broadway, the Carousel, Spanish rhythms etc are all evident. I asked Neil if I could add notes to the piano part, and he said, 'Surely, just bring it to me'. I posted about the piece on Facebook in May 2012, and Maestro Jeff Reed of Orchestra Kentucky wrote that he wanted to perform the premiere with me. We did so in September, Neil approved my enhanced piano part, and the rest is history. Since then, Neil and Jeff Reed struck a friendship, and Jeff has conducted many Sedaka shows--as far as the Royal Albert Hall in London. Neil continued in this trend and composed more orchestral music for Orchestra Kentucky, and returns in January for another premiere. Simultaneously, my recording of 'Manhattan Intermezzo' will be released on the Naxos label in January, along with Gershwin's 'Rhapsody in Blue' (with the rarely heard 1924 piano parts which has some 88 missing measures from the score most people know), Duke Ellington's 'New World A-Comin' and Keith Emerson's 'Concerto no. 1' from 1977. Which brings me to Keith...
70th anniversary concert for Keith, 2014
Keith performs at his 70th birthday concert with the South Shore Symphony
Vintage video footage of Keith playing the third movement of his 'Concerto no. 1' in Toronto 1970s
I met Keith Emerson, the iconic 'Father of Progressive Rock' through fax, then email, and finally, in San Diego when he attended a performance of mine with the San Diego Symphony. Two months after, he attended a performance I gave of his 'Concerto no. 1' with the Champaign-Urbana Symphony, and then with the Rogue Valley Symphony, and finally, with the South Shore Symphony on Long Island (video above). Keith's work with 'The Nice' and finally, the legendary career of Emerson, Lake and Palmer, which turned pop audiences toward classical music with their famous version of 'Pictures at an Exhibition', has been mighty impressive. He had decided to retire two years ago, but the concert in 2014 for his 70th birthday changed things around. He enjoyed playing the acoustic piano - the Steinway concert grand at Molloy College where his 70th birthday concert took place.