“I have trouble articulating the difference between Nissman and other pianists. She seems willing to go over the cliff, hand in hand with the composer.”
Barbara Nissman connects- not only with the music and its composer, but she connects the composer to the listener, touching souls in the process. She makes music relevant to all of us, spinning out wonderful tales that need to be heard. Hailed as “one of the last pianists in the grand Romantic tradition of Liszt, Rachmaninoff, and Rubinstein,” Barbara Nissman continues the grand bravura tradition of romantic pianism.
Her recordings of Prokofiev, Bartók and Ginastera are considered “definitive,” and she has garnered praise for her series of recordings of nineteenth-century composers, Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, Schumann, Brahms and also Rachmaninoff. She has also recorded ten volumes of her favorite recital programs. All of Nissman’s recordings are now available on her new record label, Three Oranges Recordings. (www.threeorangesrecordings.com)
Barbara Nissman's international career was personally launched by Eugene Ormandy who had previously engaged her as soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra. She has performed with the leading orchestras of Europe and America including the London Philharmonic, the Royal Philharmonic, the BBC Symphony, the Rotterdam Philharmonic and the Munich Philharmonic; in the US she has appeared with the New York Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony, the Pittsburgh Symphony, the St. Louis Symphony, the National Symphony and the Cleveland Orchestra among others. She has worked with some of the major conductors of our time including Eugene Ormandy, Riccardo Muti, Stanislaw Skrowaczewski and Leonard Slatkin.
Nissman made history in 1989 by becoming the first pianist to perform the complete piano sonatas of Sergei Prokofiev in a series of three recitals in both New York and London. Her recordings of this repertoire represented the first complete set of Prokofiev Sonatas made available on compact disc. A noted Prokofiev scholar and authority in her own right, Ms. Nissman was invited by the former Soviet Union to travel to Moscow and collaborate with leading Soviet musicians on a detailed study of the Prokofiev manuscripts housed in the Central State Archives. In commemoration of the composer's 100th birthday, she performed the complete cycle of his piano sonatas throughout Europe and the US. In April '98, Ms. Nissman was invited by the Moscow Conservatory for concerts and master classes on Prokofiev; she also presented master classes at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. For the 50th anniversary of Prokofiev's death in 2003, she performed all five Piano Concertos throughout Europe and the United States as well as presenting a series of lecture-recitals devoted to a better understanding of his music. BBC Music Magazine in their recent cover story on Prokofiev recommended Nissman's recordings as the best recordings of Prokofiev's piano music.
Ms. Nissman has long been associated with the music of Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera and is the dedicatee of the composer's final work, the Sonata No. 3. In 1976 she was invited by the composer to play his Piano Concerto No. 1 with l'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande in celebration of his sixtieth birthday. Both Gramophone and the American Record Guide chose her recording of Ginastera's complete solo piano and piano/chamber works as one of the best releases of 1989. Recently, Barbara was invited by the BBC to co-host a five-part radio series that featured Ginastera as Composer-of-the-Week on Radio 3. In 2011, she presented t the premiere of his Concierto Argentino and the premiere of the original version of the Second Concerto. Ms. Nissman is also the editor of the new critical edition of the Second Piano Concerto, published by Boosey & Hawkes. The first recording of Ginastera’s Three Piano Concertos has just been released.
In addition to performing and recording, she has contributed numerous articles to various books and music publications. Scarecrow Press has published Ms. Nissman’s book, Bartók and the Piano: A Performer’s View, which includes a CD insert of Bartók’s music performed by the author. Bartók’s unpublished 1898 Sonata that Barbara discovered in the Morgan Library's manuscript collection, receives its first performance on her recording, Folk Music & More! Music of Béla Bartók. A new work, Visage by Benjamin Lees, written for Barbara, is featured on one of her recital recordings, Fascinating Rhythms! She is the dedicatee of Phillip Ramey's Tenth Piano Sonata, premiered on her recent recording, Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev & Ramey.
She is frequently invited to present master classes at American and European universities (most recently at the Royal Academy of Music in London and Canterbury University, New Zealand) and has presented two-week master courses for pianists at the Federal University in Salvador, Brazil. Barbara also initiated a music lecture series, "Barbara & Friends," based on the series she had filmed for BBC Television. These informal programs, focusing on the music of one composer, combine music with casual dialogue, enhancing the listening experience of the listener, no matter their musical background. Her opening program of the series features the music of "Franz Liszt, The Elvis of the Keyboard." In collaboration with the Greenbrier Valley Theatre, she has adapted this program for children. The film has been used in public schools throughout the State, and is also available in all of West Virginia's libraries. A new educational master class series was initiated with the DVD Franz Liszt, Portrait of the Man & his Masterwork with Michael York as the voice of Liszt. A DVD about the Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera is currently in production. In 2017 the Three Oranges Foundation was established to support these innovation educational projects.
Barbara Nissman recently appeared on stage with Don Henley of the Eagles and Billy Joel, performing on the “Walden Steinway” in a gala fundraiser for the Walden Woods project, held at Jazz at Lincoln Center. She was also one of the participants with Leonard Slatkin at the Kennedy Center’s 25th Anniversary Gala Concert that was broadcast on PBS Television. Since 2002, she has been involved with the Robert James Frascino AIDS Foundation benefit concert series, “A Concerted Effort.” To date these concerts have raised well over two million dollars for AIDS service organizations worldwide.
Performer, writer, lecturer, and frequent guest artist/clinician, Barbara Nissman has toured and given master classes throughout the United States, Europe, Russia, the Far East, New Zealand, and South America. Barbara Nissman received her bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Michigan. She received the University's highest award, the Stanley Medal, upon graduating from the School of Music in 1966. She was subsequently honored by the University in 1983 with their prestigious Athena Award, given annually to an outstanding alumna, along with the School of Music's Citation of Merit Award in 1996. In 2008, she received the Governor's Distinguished Service to the Arts Award from the State of West Virginia and was honored in March, 2020 by the Governor with the Lifetime Achievement in the Arts Award. Born and raised in Philadelphia, she now calls West Virginia home and lives on a farm in the Allegheny Mountains. (December 2020)
Barbara with Gov. & Mrs. Joe Manchin
Nissman performs on the Walden Steinway