Michael Lewin's Blog: "Bench Notes"

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And the winner is... Rhapsody in Blue

Ever since I started playing with orchestras in my teens, I’ve written the date/orchestra/conductor/venue for each performance on the back page of my music. I love seeing my performance history for each concerto, and revisiting the memories of each prior performance.

It is very satisfying to see the performances add up for a particular concerto. But I was rather shocked a few years ago to count and realize that I had played Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue 50 times, more than any other piece.

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My relationship with the Rachmaninoff Second Piano Concerto

Growing up, I was something of a snob about Rachmaninoff. All those beautiful melodies- it didn’t seem sufficiently serious. I preferred to play music which I considered better than it could ever be performed, to paraphrase Schnabel. When I arrived at Juilliard, I immediately learned both Brahms Concertos, not Rachmaninoff, like many of my peers. When conductors asked me to play the Rachmaninoff 2nd, I was somehow always able to convince them to do something else, like the Tchaikovsky. I successfully managed to avoid learning what is perhaps the world’s most popular and beloved Piano Concerto.

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