The flying hands of Reah Sadowsky, 95 years young, in 2011.
San Francisco, California
19 March 2014
This past week, I received the great personal distinction of being admitted as an Honorary Member of the Berkeley Piano Club (possibly the first), an historic musical organization founded in 1893. Consequently I was invited to the Bay Area to give a recital and lecture at the BPC, during one of the loveliest early spring weeks in the East Bay that I can recall. The Club is housed in a landmarked building near UC-Berkeley, and has been host to some historic events including a lecture by Nicolas Slonimsky in 1971. It is claimed that a Manhattan Project scientist designed the triggering mechanism to the Atomic Bomb in an upstairs room of the Club, hopefully not while a concert was taking place in the downstairs recital hall.
My presentations in Berkeley were dedicated to the memory of legendary American pianist Reah Sadowsky (1915 – 2012), a dear personal friend whose eternally youthful style seemed to defy all sense of mortality. She was a longtime member and former President of the BPC, and a fervent supporter of its goals to provide support and scholarships to young musicians. On my program I included some South American works of Francisco Mignone and Fructuoso Vianna, taken from Reah’s repertoire. Here is Vianna’s stupendous “Corta-Jaca,” recorded by Reah Sadowsky in 1947:
The Berkeley Piano Club is an all-female organization, and as such I count this as the third “female” honor I have received in my lifetime. In 2010, I gave the Eleanor Roosevelt Lecture at Brandeis University, and the following year played a solo recital in Washington D.C. for my induction into the National Museum of Women in the Arts. I take particular pride in these personal achievements, feeling strongly that women climb a far harder ladder than men in all fields, including and perhaps even especially the arts. And I am even more proud to have known Reah Sadowsky as a special friend, honored to be a musician continuing in her path which was one of wholesale dedication to her art.
After last Sunday’s recital, some members of the Berkeley Piano Club mentioned to me that they wished Reah — who adored Russian music above all and played many American premières of works by Prokofieff and Shostakovich — could have heard that day’s performance of several Arensky salon pieces and Stravinsky’s “Petrouchka.” Feeling clearly the designs of Reah’s amazing hands (pictured above) upon my own, I simply responded, oh yes indeed, I was certain that she heard all of that.