"Gracing The Stage"

The arts touch a place inside all of us where we harbor our dreams, anxieties, hopes, and passion. If you take the time to indulge in the arts, you may find there is a part of yourself that opens up: that part which the world we live in so often tries to keep closed. And lucky for us, we do not have to go very far to find it. There is such an offering of art, talent, entertainment, etc. right here in Greenbrier Valley, that all you have to do to enjoy it is to reach out to it, and trust me, it is reaching out to you!  Recently I took the time to step out of my own little world and into a new part of our community. Amazed at what I found at Carnegie Hall, I have been inspired to find as much of it as I can. On Friday, Dec. 12, 1 was transported to the Romantic Age of the 19th century. My hosts were Clara and Robert Schuman, Brahms, and concert pianist Barbara Nissman, who, lucky for us, was our time traveling tour guide. It was a wonderful journey through time. In an informal setting, where the greenest of classical music novices would feel at ease, Nissman spoke of her “friends,” and how their music came from the harbors of emotions within them. It was an insight into the passion of the compositions, and the times in which these works of art were created.  Once there was an under standing of where the music came from, Nissman channeled her composer “friends” through the magnificent Steinway. Together they graced the stage and within moments the auditorium exploded with energy through a performance that took me totally by surprise. I was expecting to be entertained, but I had no idea as to the magnitude of her talent. The sheer power that went into the piano and the precise execution of the music was exhilarating.  For me to try to speak of Nissman’s accomplishments would surely fall short of their worthiness. She has performed with the world elite in more foreign lands that most of us only wish we would have the opportunity to see.  Some honorable mentions include: The London Philharmonic, The Royal Phil harmonic, the BBC Symphony, the Rotterdam Philharmonic, the Munich Philharmonic, the New York Philharmonic, the Pittsburgh, Chicago, St. Louis, and National Symphonies, as well as the Philadelphia and Cleveland Orchestras. In fact, she has also worked with some of the major conductors of our time including Eugene Ormandy. Richardo Muti, and Leonard Slatkin.  The evening was fulfilled by a reception in her honor. She spoke to everyone who came. There was a glow about her and energy that you could feel the closer you got to her. I was very comfortable in her presence, as were all. She spoke candidly with the crowd and knew most everyone by name due to being one of our more famous residents. There were two types of people there, those who were her friends, and those who were friends she had yet to meet. She is a true lady.  In retrospect the evening left me with a question. With a woman of such talent living right here in our own backyard, why did the auditorium, which can seat approximately 300 people, only have around 200 in it? I wish I could tell everyone who wasn’t there what they had missed. For those who are skeptical about events such as this I can only pass along a message from a dear friend who once told me, “Figure out the things that you don’t like and don't do them any more. Pay attention to the things that you do like, and do more of it. And try everything!”  It doesn’t matter what genre of music appeals to you; a journey inside yourself is one you should take whenever possible. In this case you have a guide, Barbara Nissman. Her “friends” and their music speak to the soul and ease the mind. You owe it to yourself to at least open the window and feel the breeze go through you. With that being said, I hope whomever may read this will keep their eyes open for her next performance. It will be a day that you will not soon forget, and one that will change the way you view art, music, and yourself.

 

The Mountain Messenger. Dec. 20, 2003

 

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Nissman Pulls Audience into Russian Music”

For the third time, pianist Barbara Nissman took time away from her busy touring schedule to zip up from her farm in Lewisburg, pop into the Cultural Center theater, launch into an audience-friendly concert and chat about her instrument. Her subject Saturday night was Russian piano music. Nissman is perhaps the world’'s leading interpreter of the music of Sergei Prokofiev. She noted that her parents are both Russian, so the combination of factors lets her speak, and play, with an intimate sense of authority.  She has been very sharp in these lecture-recitals at demonstrating to those in the audience that might not know much about Western art music that they do, in fact, have some knowledge of her subject. So she started with a bit of the 18th variation from the “Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini” by Sergei Rachmaninov, a piece at the core of Hollywood’s absorption of Russian music into film scores. She commented on Rachmaninov’s incredible fame as a pianist in the United States before playing his usual encore, the Prelude in C# minor. Her skill as a colorist is never in abeyance, but this piece allows for layers of tolling bell-like chords to which she lent special timbres. She dwelt longest on that composer, playing three other preludes: the G major, a little bubbling brook of a piece; the G# minor, all cantering energy and evaporating clouds of sound; and the G minor, martial, hammered rhythms that pile up relentlessly. When she turned to Aleksander Scriabin, she stressed his affinity for the music of Chopin. The Etude in C# minor, written when the composer was 14, let her spin out lyrical arcs. The wild “Etude in Thirds” showed how much clarity she can bring to complex textures. The “Nocturne for the Left Hand” sounded like she was using three hands rather than one with its surging contrasts and sweeping leaps.  The middle of the program featured several supremely difficult pieces, typical of Russian virtuoso pianism. She made a fiery case of Mikhail Pletnev’s arrangement of a movement from Tschaikovsky’s “Nutcracker.” Stravinsky’s own transcription of “The Russian Dance” from “Petrouchka” featured astonishing piles of notes, violent contrasts and utter clarity. Prokofiev’s “Diabolical Suggestions” was delivered at a frantic pace without Nissman ever sounding less than fully in control.  Nissman has the flair of a showman. She seemed to start Rachmaninov’s transcription of Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee” before she sat down. She spent fifteen minutes answering the audience’s questions before closing with a reflective Prokofiev prelude.

 

The Charleston Gazette. May 13, 2002