I’ve been doing lots of cleaning and renovations on the house and stumbled upon a number of photographs that I had forgotten about. A very special one needs to be shared.
Back in 1981, I was lucky to be asked to solo with the Vermont Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Efrain Guigui. The piece of choice was the Rachmaninoff Paganini Variations. I had played it six months previously after winning the Concerto Competition at SUNY Purchase but needed to get it under my fingers again.
It so happened that I was home in Bennington for a long weekend of intense practicing. That day, Mom had received a phone call from Henry Hinrichsen, the owner of the Peters Editions of music. He was in Arlington, Vermont, with Ruth Laredo, working on the complete set of Rachmaninoff Preludes that she was editing for an Urtext Edition Peters publication. They were in need of a piano for Ruth to practice on and they were given our name.
Within an hour, Ruth came over to our house to practice for several days in a row. Those of you who know the Sonatina house can enjoy the fact that she practiced in room 3, also known as the Monster Piano Room. At that time, we had a Steinway grand, a Steinway upright and two Baldwin uprights in the room. She was relentlessly practicing the harder sections of several Rachmaninoff Preludes. She’d go over and over the same devilish bars until she got it to her satisfaction. I think she had a concert coming up at Carnegie Hall as well.
I was up a floor, practicing the Rach-Pag. Imagine my surprise when I heard someone knock on my door. It was Ruth and she asked if I might like to play the piece with her doubling as my orchestra. Lucky me! It was nerve-wracking, playing with someone who had been nicknamed “America’s First Lady of the Piano” for being the first woman to record all the piano repertoire of Rachmaninoff (and later, Scriabin, too). It was a hoot to think that I got a pick up band, so to speak, so spontaneously!
Here we are, sitting side by side at one piano, after having played the Rach-Pag together on two pianos, laughing at how I found the 15th Variation so difficult as it starts as a solo and the orchestra creeps in, in the middle of nowhere, and you simply hope that the conductor (in this case, Ruth as my orchestra) knows where you are.