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Vienna, Seoul, Urbana, Illinois. Harpsichord, piano, French horn. Performer, composer, devoted listener. Bach in the concert hall, Bach in the hospital room. One piece, many stories.
Brooklyn-based pianist Simone Dinnerstein first came to attention in 2007 for her debut recording of Bach's Goldberg Variations. Since then, she has played with orchestras ranging from the New York Philharmonic and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra to the London Symphony Orchestra and the Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale Rai. She has performed in venues from Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center to the Berlin Philharmonie, the Vienna Konzerthaus, the Seoul Arts Center and the Sydney Opera House. She has made ten albums, all of which topped the Billboard classical charts. She collaborated with choreographer Pam Tanowitz to create New Work for Goldberg Variations, which was met with widespread critical acclaim. Photo credit: Lisa-Marie Mazzucco.
Kitchen is a solo violinist, chamber musician, teacher, video artist, technology innovator and arts administrator. He arranged the Goldberg Variations for string quartet, and performs the work frequently with the Borromeo String Quartet, of which he is a founding member. He has collaborated with celebrated classical artists such as Peter Serkin, Joshua Bell, Christopher Eschenbach, Leon Fleisher, Richard Stoltzsman and Josef Suk, as well as with artists in other genres, such as Turkish traditional musician Erkan Ogur. Kitchen teaches at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. Photo credit: Christopher Kitchen.
South Korean pianist Hie-Yon Choi first appeared on the international piano music scene when she won prizes at high-profile competitions such as Kapell, Epinal, Busoni and Viotti. Hie-Yon Choi has been since performing with prestigious orchestras of Europe, US and Korea such as das Rundfunkorchester Berlin, the National Symphony Orchestra (Washington DC), the Northern Sinfonia, the Korean Broadcast Symphony Orchestra and the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1999, Choi joined the piano faculty at Seoul National University. She regularly gives masterclasses and judges competitions around the world.
Canadian pianist Angela Hewitt is a renowned Bach interpreter. She has appeared in recital and as soloist with major orchestras throughout Europe, the Americas, Australia, and Asia. Hewitt's award-winning cycle for Hyperion Records of all the major keyboard works of Bach has been described as “one of the record glories of our age,” and Hewitt recently completed "Bach Odyssey," a project in which she played all of Bach's keyboard works in twelve major recitals over four years, starting in 2016. In 2015, Hewitt was inducted into Gramophone Magazine’s “Hall of Fame," and in 2020, she was awarded the City of Leipzig Bach Medal (being the first woman in its 17-year history to receive the award). Photo credit: Maiwolf.
From 2001 to 2017, Ken Kocienda was a software engineer and designer at Apple, where he worked closely with Steve Jobs on the iPhone. He is particularly well-known for his work on the iPhone keyboard, including its autocorrection feature. Kocienda published "Creative Selection," a book on his experiences at Apple, in 2019. Kocienda is also an avid listener to the music of Bach, who he looks to as a source of creative inspiration. He started trying to learn the Goldberg Variations at 50, having never taken music lessons before.
Eric L. Motley, Ph.D., is an executive vice president at the Aspen Institute, responsible for Institutional Advancement and Governance. Dr. Motley is a dedicated listener to the music of Bach, and struck up a friendship with the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg over their shared appreciation of the Goldberg Variations. Of Bach's music, he writes, "When I listen to Bach’s marvelous, deeply stirring music, I am reminded that in all of these variations — all this flux of life, especially in the inner ups and downs — there is an exquisite order I can actually experience, which is so beautiful that it must be real." Photo credit: Tony Powell.
Pianist Rachel Breen received her Bachelor’s degree with Academic Honors from the Juilliard School, where she was a student of Julian Martin. Previously, she studied with Dr. Sharon Mann at the San Francisco Conservatory; until age 10, she was self-taught. She is currently pursuing dual Master’s degrees at Hannover Hochschule fur Musik and Yale School of Music with—respectively—Lars Vogt and Boris Slutsky. Breen has won prizes in a number of national and international competitions. This year, she was selected as a quarterfinalist in the Beethoven Vienna International Piano Competition. Breen is particularly known for her interpretations of Bach and considers Glenn Gould a musical hero.
Pianist-composer Dan Tepfer is a musician of wide-ranging ambition, individuality and drive. He has performed around the world with some of the leading lights in jazz and classical music. Tepfer earned international acclaim for his 2011 album Goldberg Variations/Variations, on which he performs J.S. Bach's work as well as improvises on it. Tepfer has received numerous awards, including first prizes at the Montreux Jazz Festival Solo Piano Competition, East Coast Jazz Festival Competition, and American Pianists Association. Tepfer has also composed for various ensembles beyond jazz. His piano quintet Solar Spiral was premiered in 2016 at Chicago’s Ravinia Festival. Tepfer regularly appears in the popular media, including on NPR's Tiny Desk Concert series. Photo credit: Josh Goleman.
Pianist Ben Laude is a gifted musician, commentator, and educator. He graduated from the Shepherd School of Music in 2008, then completed a Master of Music degree in Piano and Doctor of Musical Arts in Piano from The Juilliard School. Laude has appeared across the country, including performances in Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall and Alice Tully Hall, as well as around the world, from Prague to Ramallah. Laude has taught at Bard College, at the Suzuki School for Strings in New York , and during the summer at Berkshire Summer Music and the Danbury Chamber Music Intensive. He was also assistant to classical music popularizer and radio host David Dubal, and is now the Head of Piano Operations at tonebase, inc., a musical education platform. Photo credit: Rebecca Blair.
Two time Latin Grammy nominee guitarist, educator, and composer João Luiz, began to play the popular music of his native Brazil professionally during his childhood and was later trained in classical guitar by his mentor Henrique Pinto. Luiz is a prolific composer and recording artist, both as a soloist and as a member of the Brazil Guitar Duo. Luiz has recorded more than fifteen CDs playing solo, duo, trio and in quartet, most of which have featured his arrangements of classical or Brazilian works. He is a dedicated and gleeful student of counterpoint, and draws ties between the counterpoint of Bach and Brazilian music. He is the director of chamber music and head of guitar studies at CUNY Hunter College and teaches guitar at Stony Brook University. Photo credit: Andrea Johnson.
Philip Kennicott is the Pulitzer Prize-winning art and architecture critic of The Washington Post. He has been on staff at The Post since 1999, first as classical music critic, then as culture critic. He is also a classically-trained pianist, and in 2020 released "Counterpoint: A Memoir of Bach and Mourning," a book reflecting on his experience learning the Goldberg Variations in the wake of his mother's passing.
Isenberg is a Los Angeles-based composer whose work has been performed throughout the U.S. and abroad by ensembles including JACK Quartet, NOTUS Contemporary Vocal Ensemble, NOW Ensemble, Angeles Chorale, Cecilia Chorus of New York, North Carolina Master Chorale, St. Olaf Cantorei, Choral Chameleon, and Cantori New York. He has collaborated with Tony-winning actor Stephen Spinella and Tony-nominated actors Kathleen Chalfant and Paul Hecht as featured narrators on his oratorio Messiahs: False and True. Isenberg listens to Bach on a daily basis.
New York-based Jeff Scott is an acclaimed composer and French hornist, as well as a founding member of the groundbreaking ensemble, Imani Winds. Scott's performance credits include Broadway appearances in The Lion King orchestra, On the Town and Showboat. He has been a member of the Alvin Ailey and Dance Theater of Harlem orchestras since 1995 and has performed under the direction of Wynton Marsalis with the Lincoln Center Jazz orchestra since 2005. Scott has scored numerous musicals, and composed and arranged works for classical and jazz ensembles. In "Passion for Bach and Coltrane," Scott fused the Goldberg Variations with music of jazz greats in a deep reflection on the Passion narrative. Photo credit: Tanya Rosen-Jones.
San Francisco-based pianist Jeffrey LaDeur made his solo recital debut at Carnegie Hall in March, 2018. LaDeur has established himself as a compelling exponent of the French masters from Couperin to Ravel in addition to a diverse repertoire of canonical and alternative masterpieces. Prior to his solo career, LaDeur toured internationally as a founding member of the Delphi Trio. A committed community-builder, In 2017, LaDeur founded the San Francisco International Piano Festival, for which he serves as artistic director. He also serves as a teacher, leading masterclasses at universities across the country. Photo credit: Jiyang Chen.
Melissa Toogood is a Bessie Award winning performer. She joined the Merce Cunningham Dance Company in 2007 and performed through the Legacy Tour. She has taught Cunningham Technique internationally since 2007, was a 2013 and 2015 Merce Cunningham Fellow, and has staged his work at institutions such as Stephen Petronio Company, the Washington Ballet, Vail Dance Festival, New World School of the Arts and Bard College. A member of Pam Tanowitz Dance since 2006, she also serves as Rehearsal Director, and Assistant to the Choreographer on many projects. She worked with Tanowitz and Simone Dinnerstein on their 2017 project, "New Work for Goldberg Variations." Photo credit: Chad Kemeshine.
Dr. Armand Paul Alivisatos is the University of California, Berkeley's Vice Chancellor for Research and Samsung Distinguished Professor of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology. He is also the Founding Director of the Kavli Energy Nanoscience Institute (ENSI), and a professor in both the department of chemistry and materials science at Berkeley. He was formerly the Director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Dr. Alivisatos has made large contributions to the science of nanocrystals, for which he has received numerous awards, including the National Medal of Science. He listens to the Goldberg Variations every morning before work. Photo credit: Armand Paul Alivisatos.
Pianist Kevin Lee Sun is a polymath of the highest order. Since winning second prize at the 2011 Waring International Piano Competition, Sun has performed in venues around the world, including the Arnold Schönberg Center in Austria, the Banff Centre in Canada, Pianofest in the Hamptons, and Old First Concerts in San Francisco. His diverse repertoire features works by Bach, Schubert, Schönberg, and living composer Hyo-shin Na. Sun has earned degrees from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and Stanford University, where he studied biology, classics, and medicine. Now at the Eastman School of Music, Sun teaches University of Rochester undergraduate pianists and studies with Alexander Kobrin.
An architect based in New York, Nicholas Chelko learned about the Goldberg Variations as a young architecture student. The piece has been with him ever since. He uses it as a tool in his workday to help him focus, and relies on it as the only piece capable of getting him into a particular productive mindset. He uses the piece nearly every day, and describes the piece as "distracting that part of ourselves that needs the answer now."
American-German harpsichord Kristian Nyquist was born in Los Angeles and raised in Mannheim, Germany. Though committed to historical performance, Nyquist also collaborates frequently with composers, including Violeta Dinescu, John Palmer, Peter Heeren, John Patrick Thomas, Claus-Steffen Mahnkopf, Roderik de Man, Michael Beil, Klaus Huber, Hans Werner Henze, Sidney Corbett, Wolfgang Rihm, and many others. Nyquist has released numerous recordings, including a recording of the Goldberg Variations with Le Chant de Linos. He lectures on historical keyboard instruments and chamber music at the University of Music Karlsruhe, and also has given masterclasses e.g. at Karlsruhe International Handel Academy, Rio de Janeiro Summer School, Liszt-Academy Budapest, University of Michigan. Photo credit: Felix Rückschloss.
Harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani is highly-acclaimed for his performances of music both old and new. He was the first harpsichordist to be a BBC New Generation Artist (2008-2010), a Borletti-Buitoni prize winner (2009), and a nominee for Gramophone’s Artist of the Year (2014, 2015, 2017). He has also appeared at the BBC Proms and an NPR Tiny Desk Concert. He has recorded with both Hyperion and Deutsch Grammophon – including an ongoing series of the complete works of Bach for the former. He can be frequently heard as a commentator on BBC Radio 3 and Radio 4 and as a host on numerous radio programs. Photo credit: Kaja Smith.
Lennart Felix is a German pianist and author. Felix studied at the Munich Conservatory with Friedmann Berger and Christoph Adt. He continued his studies in London with Peter Feuchtwanger and Niel Immelman. In 2010, Felix won second prize at the International Hindemith Competition, and was later a finalist in the International Beethoven Chamber Music Competition in Luslawice. In 2014, Felix made his London debut at St. John's Church in Wimbledon, and in 2016 he debuted in Munich's Herkulessaal before releasing his first CD on the MDG label. Felix recorded the Goldberg Variations in 2015.
William Heiles earned his B.Mus. degree from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in 1958. Following two years of study in Munich, Germany, on a Fulbright grant, he earned his M.M.A. and D.M.A. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has been a member of the piano faculty of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign since 1968, serving as chair of the Piano Division since 1980. Professor Heiles performs frequently as pianist and harpsichordist in recitals and festivals. He calls Bach's music "profoundly sane."
Tim Page is a journalist, writer and music critic. Page won the Pulitzer Prize for criticism in 1997 for his writings about music in The Washington Post, where he was the chief music critic from 1995 – 1999 and 2001 – 2007. Before that, he served as the chief music critic for Newsday and as a music and cultural writer for The New York Times. During his years in New York, he was the host of an afternoon program on WNYC-FM that broadcast interviews with hundreds of composers and musicians, including Aaron Copland, Elliott Carter, Dizzy Gillespie, Philip Glass, Meredith Monk and Steve Reich. He is also particularly known for his interview of Glenn Gould -- one of the few Gould gave -- comparing Gould's two recordings of the Goldberg Variations. Page wrote The Glenn Gould Reader, and many other books.
Winner of the MacArthur "Genius" Fellowship and the Avery Fisher Prize, pianist Jeremy Denk has performed with symphonies around the world, including the New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Cleveland Orchestra, Chicago Symphony, and the Academy of St Martins in the Fields. He has also toured Bach's Well-Tempered Klavier extensively. In addition to performing music, Denk also is a writer whose writing has been featured in the New Yorker, the New Republic, The Guardian, and on the front page of the New York Times Book Review. Denk has a deep affinity for Bach, and his recording of the Goldberg Variations, with Nonesuch Records, reached no. 1 on the Billboard classical charts. Denk is a graduate of Oberlin College, Indiana University, and the Juilliard School. Photo credit: Michael Wilson.
If you haven't already, hover over the photos to see interviewees' bios, and click on the photos to visit interviewees' webpages, where you can learn more about them. I owe them a huge debt of gratitude for sharing their time and their deep musical insights with me.
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