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March 29: Rosina Lhévinne at Juilliard

March 28, 2015

1304_obit_vancliburn_rosinaRosina Lhévinne, a piano teacher at Juilliard whose students include Van Cliburn, James Levine, John Williams, Misha Dichter, and numerous other internationally known musicians, was born in Kiev on this date in 1880. She came from a Dutch family that had emigrated to the Russian Empire, and she began studying piano at age 6. Within a few years she was studying with a conservatory student named Joseph, five years her elder, whom she would eventually marry. Rosina played two-piano concerts with her husband, but refrained from solo public performances until many years after his death in 1944. In her seventies and eighties, she finally became a concert soloist, in collaboration with the Juilliard String Quartet and in concertos at the Aspen Summer Music Festival. In January 1963, at 83, she played with the New York Philharmonic under Leonard Bernstein, performing Frédéric Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1, a piece she had played for her graduation from the Moscow Conservatory in 1898 (becoming the youngest woman ever to win the school’s gold medal). Lhévinne was teaching until her death at 96.

“She was quite simply one of the greatest teachers of this century. With her passing, a whole concept of teaching and performing goes with her.” —Peter Mennin