Gary Graffman
Gary Graffman is an American classical pianist
A pianist is a musician who plays the piano. A professional pianist can perform solo pieces, play with an ensemble or orchestra, or accompany one or more singers, solo instrumentalists, or other performers.-Choice of genres:...

, teacher of piano and music administrator.

Graffman was born in New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 to Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

n-Jewish parents. Having started piano at age 3, Graffman entered the Curtis Institute of Music
Curtis Institute of Music
The Curtis Institute of Music is a conservatory in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, that offers courses of study leading to a performance Diploma, Bachelor of Music, Master of Music in Opera, and Professional Studies Certificate in Opera. According to statistics compiled by U.S...

 at age 7 in 1936 as a piano student of Isabelle Vengerova
Isabelle Vengerova
Isabelle Vengerova was a Russian, later American, pianist and music teacherShe was born Izabella Afanasyevna Vengerova , in Minsk . Her elder brother Semyon Vengerov was a venerable literary historian...

. After graduating from Curtis in 1946, he made his professional solo debut with conductor Eugene Ormandy
Eugene Ormandy
Eugene Ormandy was a Hungarian-born conductor and violinist.-Early life:Born Jenő Blau in Budapest, Hungary, Ormandy began studying violin at the Royal National Hungarian Academy of Music at the age of five...

 and the Philadelphia Orchestra
Philadelphia Orchestra
The Philadelphia Orchestra is a symphony orchestra based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the United States. One of the "Big Five" American orchestras, it was founded in 1900...

. By age 20, Graffman had made a name for himself worldwide as a classical pianist. In 1949, he won the prestigious Leventritt Competition
Leventritt Competition
The Leventritt Competition was a highly prestigious international competition for classical pianists and violinists. It was founded in 1939 by the Edgar M. Leventritt Foundation Inc. of Cold Spring, New York, in memory of jurist Edgar M. Leventritt....

. He then furthered his piano studies with Rudolf Serkin
Rudolf Serkin
Rudolf Serkin , was a Bohemian-born pianist.-Life and early career:Serkin was born in Eger, Bohemia, Austro-Hungarian Empire to a Russian-Jewish family....

 at the Marlboro Music Festival
Marlboro Music School and Festival
The Marlboro Music School and Festival is a retreat for advanced classical training and musicianship held for seven weeks each summer in Marlboro, Vermont...

 and informally with Vladimir Horowitz
Vladimir Horowitz
Vladimir Samoylovich Horowitz    was a Russian-American classical virtuoso pianist and minor composer. His technique and use of tone color and the excitement of his playing were legendary. He is widely considered one of the greatest pianists of the 20th century.-Life and early...


From the outset, Graffman pursued a successful piano career. He played with numerous orchestras and performed concerts and recitals internationally. Over the next three decades, he toured and recorded extensively, performing solo and with orchestras around the globe. In 1964, he recorded Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini
The Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini in A minor, Op. 43 is a concertante work written by Sergei Rachmaninoff. It is written for solo piano and symphony orchestra, closely resembling a piano concerto. The work was written at Villa Senar, according to the score, from July 3 to August 18, 1934...

with Leonard Bernstein
Leonard Bernstein
Leonard Bernstein August 25, 1918 – October 14, 1990) was an American conductor, composer, author, music lecturer and pianist. He was among the first conductors born and educated in the United States of America to receive worldwide acclaim...

 conducting the New York Philharmonic
New York Philharmonic
The New York Philharmonic is a symphony orchestra based in New York City in the United States. It is one of the American orchestras commonly referred to as the "Big Five"...

. He also made a classic recording of Prokofiev's Third Piano Concerto
Piano Concerto No. 3 (Prokofiev)
Piano Concerto No. 3 in C major, Op. 26 is the best-known concerto by Sergei Prokofiev. It was completed in 1921 using sketches first started in 1913.-Composition and performances:...

with George Szell
George Szell
George Szell , originally György Széll, György Endre Szél, or Georg Szell, was a Hungarian-born American conductor and composer...

 and the Cleveland Orchestra
Cleveland Orchestra
The Cleveland Orchestra is an American orchestra based in Cleveland, Ohio. It is one of the five American orchestras informally referred to as the "Big Five". Founded in 1918, the orchestra plays most of its concerts at Severance Hall...

 in 1966; it was reissued on CD as part of Sony Classical's "Great Performances" series in 2006.

Probably Graffman's most famous recorded performance was for the soundtrack of the 1979 Woody Allen
Woody Allen
Woody Allen is an American screenwriter, director, actor, comedian, jazz musician, author, and playwright. Allen's films draw heavily on literature, sexuality, philosophy, psychology, Jewish identity, and the history of cinema...

 movie Manhattan in which he played George Gershwin
George Gershwin
George Gershwin was an American composer and pianist. Gershwin's compositions spanned both popular and classical genres, and his most popular melodies are widely known...

's Rhapsody In Blue
Rhapsody in Blue
Rhapsody in Blue is a musical composition by George Gershwin for solo piano and jazz band written in 1924, which combines elements of classical music with jazz-influenced effects....

, accompanied by the New York Philharmonic
New York Philharmonic
The New York Philharmonic is a symphony orchestra based in New York City in the United States. It is one of the American orchestras commonly referred to as the "Big Five"...

. Portions of the Philharmonic/Graffman version have been featured countless times in TV and movies over the last quarter century.

In 1977, he sprained the ring finger of his right hand. Because of this injury he began re-fingering some passages for that hand in such a way as to avoid using the affected finger. Unfortunately, this altered technique exacerbated the injury rather than ameliorating it, ultimately forcing him to stop using his right hand altogether by around 1979. This setback encouraged him to pursue other interests such as writing, photography, and Oriental art. In 1980, he joined the faculty at the Curtis Institute where his career had begun. He took over as the school's director in 1986, and added the title of President in 1995, serving in both capacities through May 2006. He continues on the faculty at Curtis teaching piano.

More recent evidence suggests that Graffman's finger sprain may have been a trigger for focal dystonia
Focal dystonia
Focal dystonia is a neurological condition that affects a muscle or group of muscles in a part of the body and causes an involuntary muscular contraction or twisting...

, a neurological disorder that causes loss of function and uncontrollable curling in the fingers. The pianist Leon Fleisher
Leon Fleisher
Leon Fleisher is an American pianist and conductor.-Early life and studies:Fleisher was born in San Francisco, where he started studying the piano at age four...

, a close friend of Graffman's, suffers from the disorder as well.

Shortly after joining the Curtis faculty, he published a memoir, I Really Should Be Practicing.

In 1985 he gave the UK premiere of Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Erich Wolfgang Korngold was an Austro-Hungarian film and romantic music composer. While his compositional style was considered well out of vogue at the time he died, his music has more recently undergone a reevaluation and a gradual reawakening of interest...

's Piano Concerto in C-sharp for the Left Hand
Piano Concerto for the Left Hand (Korngold)
Erich Wolfgang Korngold's Piano Concerto for the Left Hand in C-sharp, Op. 17, was written on commission from Paul Wittgenstein in 1923, and published in 1926...

. Paul Wittgenstein
Paul Wittgenstein
Paul Wittgenstein was an Austrian-born concert pianist, who became known for his ability to play with just his left hand, after he lost his right arm during the First World War. He devised novel techniques, including pedal and hand-movement combinations, that allowed him to play chords previously...

 had commissioned the work in the 1920s and played it many times, but it later slipped from the repertoire.

Seven left-hand works have been commissioned for Graffman. In 1993, for example, he performed the world premiere of Ned Rorem
Ned Rorem
Ned Rorem is a Pulitzer prize-winning American composer and diarist. He is best known and most praised for his song settings.-Life:...

's Piano Concerto No. 4, written specifically for the left hand, and in 2001 he premiered Daron Hagen
Daron Hagen
Daron Aric Hagen , is an American composer, conductor, pianist, educator, librettist, and stage director of contemporary classical music and opera.- Early life and education :...

's concerto Seven Last Words. The American composer William Bolcom
William Bolcom
William Elden Bolcom is an American composer and pianist. He has received the Pulitzer Prize, the National Medal of Arts, two Grammy Awards, the Detroit Music Award and was named 2007 Composer of the Year by Musical America. Bolcom taught composition at the University of Michigan from 1973–2008...

 composed Gaea, a concerto for two pianos, left hand for Graffman and Leon Fleisher
Leon Fleisher
Leon Fleisher is an American pianist and conductor.-Early life and studies:Fleisher was born in San Francisco, where he started studying the piano at age four...

. It received its first performance in Baltimore in April 1996. The concerto is constructed in such a way that it can be performed in one of three ways, with either piano part alone with reduced orchestra, or with both piano parts and the two reduced orchestras combined into a full orchestra.

Through his longstanding service and devotion to music, Graffman has received honorary doctoral degrees, was honored by the cities of Philadelphia and New York, and received the Governor's Arts Award by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a U.S. state that is located in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. The state borders Delaware and Maryland to the south, West Virginia to the southwest, Ohio to the west, New York and Ontario, Canada, to the north, and New Jersey to...

. In addition to his administrative responsibilities, Graffman remains active as a teacher and coach of piano and chamber music
Chamber music
Chamber music is a form of classical music, written for a small group of instruments which traditionally could be accommodated in a palace chamber. Most broadly, it includes any art music that is performed by a small number of performers with one performer to a part...

. His notable students include the piano virtuosos Lydia Artymiw
Lydia Artymiw
Lydia Artymiw is an American concert pianist.Artymiw was born in Philadelphia to Ukrainian parents and began piano studies at age four with George Oransky at the Ukrainian Music Institute...

, Lang Lang
Lang Lang (pianist)
Lang Lang , born June 14, 1982, in Shenyang, Liaoning, China, is a Chinese concert pianist, currently residing in New York, who has performed with leading orchestras in Europe, the United States and his native China. He is increasingly well known around the world for his concert performances,...

, Yuja Wang
Yuja Wang
Yuja Wang is a Chinese classical pianist. She was born in Beijing, began studying piano there at age six, and went on to study at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing.-Early life:...

, and Haochen Zhang
Haochen Zhang
Haochen Zhang is a Chinese pianist from Shanghai, China.He, along with Japanese pianist Nobuyuki Tsujii, was the Gold Medalist / First Prize winner of the Thirteenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in 2009. He has studied under Gary Graffman, also the teacher of Lang Lang and Yuja...


Further reading

  • Graffman, Gary (1982). I Really Should Be Practicing. New York: Avon. ISBN 0-380-59873-6

External links

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