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A Grand Romance / Jeffrey Biegel

Release Date: 05/28/2013
Label: Steinway & Sons Catalog #: 30017
Composer:  Moritz Moszkowski ,  Eduard Schütt ,  Adolf Henselt ,  Ignace Jan Paderewski  ...  Performer:  Jeffrey Biegel Number of Discs: 1
Recorded in: Stereo

A Grand Romance celebrates the intimacy of the relationship between pianist and public, with a sampling of finely honed pieces of the Romantic era. Penned by composers who were highly accomplished keyboardists themselves, it represents a genre of pianism unashamed of sentiment, frill and facility, and luxuriating in the expressive sophistication of the instrument and the wooing of the crowd.

The Steinway & Sons label was launched with Jeffrey Biegel's critically acclaimed release, Bach On A Steinway, in 2010; Biegel's recording of A Steinway Christmas Album was one of the top selling classical titles of 2011.

Read more Credits:

Recorded July 24-26, 2012 at Sono Luminus Studios, Boyce, Virginia.
Producer: Dan Merceruio
Engineer: Daniel Shores

Executive Producers: Eric Feidner, Jon Feidner
Art Direction: Jackie Fugere
Piano Technician: John Veitch
Piano: Steinway Model D #590904 (New York)


"An excellent program of 16 piano works that have become well-known encores... Each miniature work represents a genre of pianism that allows Biegel to express his unique tonal palette and sensitivity to pedaling, color and phrasing... Overall, his interpretations - which range from short and sweet piano etudes to character pieces and technical dazzlers - are impeccable and will surely have a positive impact on his listeners." – Paula Edelstein, LA Music Examiner
"Biegel's back with his third for the [Steinway] label, still showing just how tasty solo piano is under the right fingers, kicking it out salon style. With repertoire cover[ing] many years and styles, the professor leaves his pedagogy in the classroom to make this a fresh, full blooded, lively set that brings the commercial side of classical music to a gloriously realized front row. Very much a top shelf recording, it's fun, flavorful and a good reason for kids to want to play something as unportable as piano. Killer stuff you don't have to be a classical fan to love. Check it out." – Chris Spector, MidWest Record Entertainment

"The music is a smorgasbord of old-fashioned morceaux, composed by virtuosi of the Romantic era. The pieces are discoveries and rediscoveries, both. Our pianist is Jeffrey Biegel, winningly eager, and always competent...Biegel’s ambition, and defiance of fashion, is to be admired."-- Jay Nordlinger, New Criterion


In the days before piano recitals became Serious Business, Romantic virtuosos delighted audiences by serving up lighthearted encores where technical fireworks and effortless charm went hand in hand. At first the prospect of hearing 16 such pieces in a row struck me as akin to having nothing but candy for dinner, yet Jeffrey Biegel’s excellent programming instincts and canny sense of pacing manages to transform what the late Arthur Loesser called “cream of corn” into real sustenance. More importantly, he takes the texts seriously without losing sight of their entertainment value.

In the Moszkowski selections, for example, he eschews cuts in the Caprice espagnol, plays Étincelles’ understated ending as opposed to Horowitz’s rewrite (although Biegel sneaks in a few flourishes of his own!), and elegantly passes the tunes back and forth between hands in La jongleuse. He dispatches Henselt’s treacherous double notes in “Si oiseau j’étais” rapidly, effortlessly, smoothly, and with little pedal, much as Rachmaninov did in his classic recording. By contrast, Biegel treats Mischa Levitski’s Valse in A major with more languor and lyricism than in the composer’s terser reading.

The opposite is true with Paderewski’s B-flat major Nocturne, where the composer’s yielding, wistful lyricism differs from Biegel’s drier, more urgent shaping of the left-hand accompaniment. While it’s good to hear the full version of Anton Rubinstein’s Rêve angélique, I find Biegel’s interpretation a shade careful and studio-bound, lacking the floating animation of Harold Bauer’s ancient shellac recording. I also find Biegel’s minuscule rhythmic delays in the Schulz-Evler/Strauss Blue Danube’s main tune a bit studied and predictable, in contrast to his heartfelt and musically compelling rubatos in the slower sections. Among modern recordings of this celebrated transcription, I prefer Marc-André Hamelin’s more forceful, sweeping bravura.

Biegel concludes his program with a vivacious performance of Abram Chasins’ once-popular Rush Hour in Hong Kong. My little quibbles do not lessen the positive impact that keyboard lovers surely will glean from Biegel’s impressively finished, communicative, and joyful pianism, not to mention the excellent annotations and sonics.

-- Jed Distler,

A sentimentalist, according to Oscar Wilde, is a person who wishes to enjoy the luxury of a sentiment without paying the price for it. As evidenced by his superlative technique, Jeffry Biegel has paid a handsome price indeed, and seems to take well-earned enjoyment in celebrating the sentiments of these heart-on-sleeve compositions. He is an elegant player, much after the fashion of the late Earl Wild, and shapes his phrases with impeccable taste and generosity of sound. There seems to be no obstacle between his fingertips and his very rich imagination

The works themselves, an array of salon pieces and showpieces, are expertly crafted and full of sweet melodies. They sometimes allow Biegel to sport his dazzling virtuosity, as in the case of Schultz-Evler’s arrangement of The Blue Danube, but the pianist never gives himself over to the temptation of upstaging the music.

Although the titles To My Beloved, If I were a Bird, and Rêve angélique led me to expect an hour of tepid bourgeois pieties, I found myself taking great pleasure in every note. This is an exquisite recording.

Congratulations to the sound engineer, Daniel Shores, who creates a perfect salon ambience. Congratulations also to Steinway & Sons for proving once more that they make the best pianos in the world.

-- Raymond Beegle, Fanfare Magazine

American pianist Jeffrey Biegel adds to his portfolio of recordings for the Steinway & Sons label (which launched with his acclaimed Bach on a Steinway album in 2010) with a collection of romantic works for piano by some of the greatest pianist-composers of the era, including Moszkowski, Paderewski and Rubinstein. The pieces come from an age before the serious recital came into vogue, when performers would delight audiences with light-hearted encores and showpieces, and where musical fireworks, supreme virtuosity and unashamed charm went hand in hand.

But these pieces are not simply saccharine titbits: the selection and programming of the works on the album is thoughtful and well-paced. Obviously virtuosic pieces are followed by works of more depth and sentiment, such as the Lyrica Nova by Samuel Bortkiewicz and Kamennly-Ostrov (Rocky Island) by Rubinstein, both of which are played with sensitivity and warmth by Biegel. The grandiose Schulz-Evier paraphrase of Strauss’s much-loved An der schonen, blauen Donau (The Beautiful Blue Danube) avoids cliché in Biegel’s hands with his delicate attention to its frills and furbelows, and tasteful rubato.

For me, the most enjoyable pieces were those where Biegel’s clarity of tone, silky touch, technical assuredness, and his obvious delight in these works really shine through: Moszkowski’s exuberant Étincelles, Henselt’s Si oiseau j’étais, and Scholzer’s Etudes, Op. 1: no 1. This is an enjoyable album of favourite encores: Biegel’s stylish playing and consistently polished finish remind us of why these pieces continue to enjoy such popularity in piano recitals.

-- The CrossEyed Pianist

To some, they are Romantic trifles of the sort our grandparents loved: short, salon pieces by Paderewski, Moszkowski, Schütt, Anton Rubinstein and other great virtuosos of the past. But for one concert pianist, they will always be cutting edge.

Jeffrey Biegel, a New York pianist whose eclectic, contrarian sensibility we’ve highlighted before, has recorded 16 pieces that today are most often played as encores, when the “serious business” of the main recital is over. But this status alone does the music a disservice. Many of these pieces have the honest charms of a bygone era, a time when music had to fit easily onto one side of a 78 rpm disc.

Chief among the salonists was the 19th century virtuoso Moritz Moszkowski, who wrote a large amount of short piano pieces that have come in and out of favor over time. Biegel’s performances of the Caprice espagnol, La Jongleuse and Etincelles (“Sparks”), have a good deal to recommend. There is humor in the writing, the melodies are well crafted and the passagework is in a neo-Liszt-Schumann style.

Other featured composers include Anton Rubinstein, whose Rêve angélique is played with admirable restraint; Ignace Paderewski, whose Nocturne in B-flat has a singing tone and a gracious sentiment; and two languid selections by Eduard Schütt, the Canzonetta in D major and A la bien-aimée. Biegel brings some liberties to the latter waltz tune but never distorts the line.

The album concludes with once-popular Rush Hour in Hong Kong by former WQXR Music Director Abram Chasins. While none of this music pretends to much, it is still capable of exerting a curious sort of appeal, and is likely to be a new experience to many listeners.


According to my count, A Grand Romance would be the third album that composer, arranger, pianist, and Steinway recording artist Jeffrey Biegel has made for Steinway & Sons, following Bach on a Steinway (2010) and A Steinway Christmas Album (2011). On this current disc, we find a collection of short, Romantic piano pieces, described on the record jacket as celebrating “the intimacy of the relationship between pianist and public. Penned by composers who were highly accomplished keyboardists themselves, it represents a genre of pianism unashamed of sentiment, frill and facility, and luxuriating in the expressive sophistication of the instrument and the wooing of the crowd.” Well, woo it does, as Mr. Biegel’s piano practically makes one swoon in delight. It’s a charming bit of piano playing.

Also important, perhaps, is the fact that Mr Biegel has chosen sixteen pieces of music from the Romantic repertoire that pianists these days haven’t overplayed or over recorded. In general, I don’t usually care for albums made up of bits and pieces of stuff, but when so much of the material here is both so pleasurable and relatively unknown, and, of course, so well performed, it makes for a good listen, one I hope to repeat often.

Things begin with the Caprice espagnol by Moritz Moszkowski (185401925). It’s a work that begins the show as a zesty curtain-raiser and then settles down into a sweet dance tune. The music offers a good example of Biegel’s versatility in handling passages of virtuosic intensity and restrained lyricism.

Following the Caprice is a delicate waltz (you can hear a bit of it below) called A la bien-aimee (“To My Beloved”) by Eduard Schutt (1858–1934). It’s lovely. Shortly thereafter, we find the Nocturne in B-flat major by Ignacy Jan Paderewski ((1860–1941). This Nocturne is particularly affecting, with a gently nuanced performance by Mr. Biegel.

And so it goes, Biegel alternating slower and quicker numbers as the program proceeds. Further works by Henselt, Cui, Bortkiewicz, Schlozer, Levitzki, Sgambati, and Chasins continue in a similar vein. An especially enchanting one is the tone poem Reve angelique (“Angelic Dream”) by Anton Rubinstein (1829–1894). Another one is Arabesques on “The Blue Danube” by Adolf Andrei Schulz-Evler. It’s a melodious little piece (and it’s the longest work on the album at a little over ten minutes), and as always Mr. Biegel manages it with a deft hand (and with what appear to be about 800 deft fingers).

This is high Romanticism at its more winning and most engaging. To complement the music, Jeffrey Biegel’s pianism is both comfortable and dazzling.

Producer Dan Merceruio and engineer Daniel Shores recorded A Grand Romance in July, 2012, at Sono Luminus studios, Boyce, Virginia. The piano appears miked relatively closely and produces a big, rich, robust effect. It does not, however, spread clear across the room but stays a realistic size, well centered and occupying maybe half the space between one’s speakers. You’ll also note a pleasantly warm ambience that adds to the verisimilitude of the occasion.

-- Classical Candor

If one were to seek anything close to “coloratura on a keyboard”, look no further…Jeffrey Biegel’s quality is hard pressed. Collected on this CD, these esoteric composers’ creations (from the late Romantic Age to early 20th century) have their own sense of musical independence and nuances which wowed audiences of the time with elaborate decoration.

Now a faculty member at the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music at Brooklyn College in the greater New York City area, Jeffrey Biegel will endlessly dazzle and amaze. Thanks to Steinway & Sons, this collection will make one return to the recording countless times.

After restorative surgery at age three, having been restituted from audio and verbal absences, Jeffrey Biegel became a world class phenomenon. His accomplishes are unceasing with a capture of brilliancy that’s nothing short of phenomenal. For this gentleman to spend countless hours digesting these commanding notes is remarkable. Listening to these pieces, one will barely scratch the surface of popular classical music, ultimately, making the compilation a most extraordinary detail of musical finery.

Written outline of selections via Ray Bono elicits justifiable attention. The artists living within this reserve are heroes whom we rarely welcome with open arms and are, hopefully, embraced by individuals with an open-minded awareness inside the classical music kingdom. Without doubt, A Grand Romance is well worth obtaining predominately for its sheer beauty and flourishing integral values.


Pianist Jeffrey Biegel’s latest recording for Steinway and Sons, A Grand Romance, is a treasure of sixteen keyboard gems from the Romantic era. The selections are rare and virtuosic, the musical shocks and sentiments gliding between fervent longing and eye-popping wonderment to the frenetic congestion of a Friday night rush hour and a crazy-wicked E Ride down the Danube. A Grand Romance is a perfect recital, a musical confession that launches the imagination and heralds the artist.

“The recording was done in two days,” admitted Jeffrey Biegel during our recent interview. He came prepared to record every piece in one take. “I did not want to take a little from this or a bit from that. I didn’t want the recording to be a mixture of a million takes. We recorded each piece straight through. Some I played twice, three times at the most, or a complete section to make sure it was good. Then we’d pick the best.”

The sixteen compositions come together as would a great story ballet with sixteen separate scenes, each supporting a clear line of thought—with changes in atmosphere and mood along the way—leading to an ultimate crest and feverish afterglow. What does it involve, what does it take to arrive at a recording studio—this being a former house of worship in Winchester, Virginia now owned by Sono Luminus—where the celebrated talents of 2013 Grammy nominees producer Dan Merceruio and engineer Daniel Shores are waiting to capture the sparkle and dynamism of century-old keyboard chestnuts?

“That took thirty years,” said Jeffrey. “Back when I was a student of Adele Marcus at the Juilliard School, I was playing some Etudes by Scriabin and Moszkowski for her. She would stop you in three seconds with—‘Dear! No. That’s not what he says.’ But with these pieces, she didn’t stop me at all. Two thoughts went through my mind—either this is pretty good or it’s so bad she’s just going to say she shouldn’t have bothered giving them to me. It actually ended up being something more than either of those two options. She sat there and said nothing. I said, ‘What’s the matter?’ Well, nothing was the matter, but something had reminded her of pianist Josef Lhévinne. Watching me play, she said it sounded just like him—‘You look like him, and you play sitting slightly hunched over the keyboard like him. It’s just very unusual, dear.’ I didn’t know much about Josef Lhévinne. I was seventeen or eighteen—I knew less than nothing. But that propelled me into exploring a world I knew nothing about. I found two LPs, The Immortal Josef Lhévinne. They contained the Chopin double-thirds etude which I learned when I was fifteen, the Schumann Toccata which I learned at sixteen and the Schulz-Evler Blue Danube which made me think—‘Oh, I could never play this!’”

The hesitation was about the speed, the tempo. The Schulz-Evler Arabesques on “The Blue Danube” is the definition of tour de force, requiring godlike technique. You either have it or you don’t. From the fickleness of wind-up Victrolas to the curious workings of early piano rolls, speed variables were always hovering in the conversation. But with the arrival of electricity came the technology to transfer these sound products to something even more sensational—the 78 rpm disc, much later the 33 vinyl. But the skeptics continued the chatter about lightning—fast dexterity vs a mechanical surge. Were such tempos humanly possible? Could Josef Lhévinne actually play so fast?

“I’m certain Lhévinne played these pieces up to speed because they are playable, just like that. Lhévinne had a certain sound. Arthur Rubinstein said he had a sound that could move a listener to tears. Adele Marcus was all about sound. I tried to connect to this period somehow, because I felt a door had opened to me.”

These days, every musician on a search and rescue mission for sheet music knows that when a publishing company goes out of business and its inventory is relinquished to and isolated (or destroyed) by an unrelated corporation, that locating a once-popular work involves much more than hunting on the Internet. It means haunting dusty bookstores—especially those dealing in rarities—also charitable collectives, garage sales, and roadside flea markets. Some of the sheet music Jeffrey used for A Grand Romance was unearthed while waiting for his lesson at Adele Marcus’ apartment.

“She had these little cardboard bins stacked on a shelf. I’m thinking that she must have some of these pieces. I found a copy of the Schirmer score of the Etude du Concert in E-flat Major, Opus 1, no. 1 by Paul de Schlözer. It looked like a challenge. She said, ‘Oh, yes, dear. Mr. Lhévinne played that. You should learn it.’ And I did.”

As a collector of Hollywood memorabilia from the ’30s, I know the advantages of connecting with like-minded spirits. For Jeffrey, one of them was Ken Caswell who was the Executive Director of the Austin Symphony back in the ’90s. In addition to his large music collection, everyone recognized Mr. Caswell in his big black Cadillac El Dorado convertible.

“He had the Pico and Duo-Art player pianos in his home and so many rolls. Among them was the Moszkowski Juggleress [Track 6] and the de Schlözer Etude du Concert in E-flat Major. I played these pieces for him and he said, ‘Wow! I haven’t heard anyone actually play this in years.’ He sent me recordings of the rolls with Lhévinne playing them. It was a revelation. I only knew this music from my own playing. No one else had ever recorded it, you couldn’t find it anywhere. I have a hunch that my recording of the de Schlözer Etude [Track 10] is the world premiere.”

Jeffrey treasures his copy of the Schulz-Evler transcript of The Blue Danube obtained at the internationally famous (now defunct) Patelson’s Music Store once located behind Carnegie Hall.

“It was around 1984 that Adele told me to learn the Schulz-Evler Blue Danube. I ended up closing my 1986 New York recital debut in Lincoln Center with that. She said it was Lhévinne’s signature piece. It ended up becoming mine. There’s a photograph of him signed to her from 1928. That picture was hanging in her apartment for years. When she passed away her niece gave it to me. I have it hanging by my pianos. When my students see it they ask if he’s my father. I tell them he’s my musical grandfather. There are just so many weird connections.”

In every way, A Grand Romance is an up close and personal encounter with Jeffrey Biegel. As a young pianist he studies with a master teacher—a legend in her own time—whose personal experience and knowledge of repertoire inspires her one day to suggest he learn a handful of works and become acquainted with the artists who performed and recorded them. One of those pianists, Josef Lhévinne, proved to be a heaven-sent connection. However powerful the link, the message was clear: practice, practice, practice.

“Things cycle,” said Jeffrey, “they take dips and jump back up. There’s plenty of young people still taking piano lessons. There may be an isolated event where a piano store closes or a city that had an orchestra and now it doesn’t. It’s economy-driven. That’s what causes a lot of these states of flux for so many different facets—not just the arts—but other merchandise. You just have to hope that it will come back in those areas that lose it for a time. There’s just no way of knowing. All we can do is provide it and hope it reaches the people who want to hear it and embrace it. A recording like this is to be enjoyed. But it’s also a legacy recording. A hundred years from now they’ll say, ‘That was the guy who played what his teacher’s teacher played and he tried to carry through with the legacy and the tradition.’ It’s basically a little spot in time. A lot of work went into it! But in the big scheme of things, it’s just a morsel in keeping the tradition alive.”

-- The Huffington Post

The title A Grand Romance and the statement in the notes that “[t]his recording celebrates the intimacy of the relationship between pianist and public” during the Romantic era both make this recording sound more general than it actually is. What you have here is a collection of pieces generally played as encores. There are a few difficult technical details, but for the most part the mood is lyrical and the mode of expression concise. A program of 16 of these might seem excessive, but the program is chosen intelligently by American pianist Jeffrey Biegel, and the listener’s interest doesn’t flag. All the music, except for the Causerie of César Cui, was written by pianist/composers, a genre of musician that has almost disappeared, and indeed many of these composers—Sergei Eduardovich Bortkiewicz, Paul de Schlözer, Giovanni Sgambati, and others—have been pretty much forgotten. Some of the works are delightfully pictorial, such as Moritz Moszkowski’s The Girl Juggler (or, as the track list inelegantly has it, The Juggleress); others are dances or etudes or little droplets of sheer sentiment. The most virtuosic work is the set of Arabesques on “The Blue Danube” by Andolf Schulz-Evler, and Biegel is not seriously challenged by it, although you could wish for more schmaltz in places here. Recommended, especially for piano recitalists themselves.


Pianist Jeffrey Biegel, whose virtuoso career embraces both classical and popular repertory, turns (rec 24–26 July 2012) to the intimate or brilliant keyboard salon pieces with which pianist Frank Glazer made a touring phenomenon a generation ago. Biegel generally wishes to pay homage to composer-performers who left select miniatures as a lasting legacy to the keyboard. Given Biegel’s admiration for the legendary pianist Josef Lehevinne (1874–1944), noted for his ravishing technique and piano tone, it seems inevitable that Biegel should turn his attention to the arrangement by Adolf Andrei Schulz-Evler (1852–1905) of the Johann Strauss By the Beautiful Blue Danube Waltz, a Lhevinne spectacular. Biegel opens with the glittery Spanish Caprice by Moritz Moszkowski (1854–1925), a specialty of another towering piano talent, Josef Hofmann. Etincelles (“Sparklers”) would often be an encore for the likes of Romantic pianists like Bolet, Wild, and Hofmann. La Jongleuse rivals several of the Chopin etudes for bravura legerdemain. Moszkowski asks of Biegel plenty of double notes, quick shifts of touch and register, and slick glissandos to fly about, dazzlers that Biegel executes or “juggles” with the necessary flair. Eduard Schuett (1856–1933) provides a debonair Viennese character in his two contributions, each sentimental and dreamily glossy at once.

Cesar Cui (1835–1918), more Russian critic than fertile composer, has in his 1886 Causerie a lovely crossed-hands etude that must want to rival Liszt’s Un Sospiro in romantic affect. Adolf von Henselt (1814–1889) became noted in Germany and St Petersburg as a serious rival to both Chopin and Liszt, and his two characteristic pieces evoke, respectively fluttering lightness (Si oiseau j’etais) and suave metrically intricate elegance (Petite Valse No 1) from Biegel. The first piece I ever heard by Sergei Bortkowicz (1877–1952) was played Ruth Slenczynska. Biegel performs his exotic 1940 Andantino from Lyrica Nova, a water piece close in spirit to Ravel or Scriabin.The great Ignaz Jan Paderewski (1860–1941) receives one selection, a delicate Nocturne in B-flat, a piece that sighs against an ostinati bass most sentimentally. The other piano superstar, Anton Rubinstein (1829–1894), receives homage by way of the ubiquitous, flotation-device Reve Angelique (or Kamennoi-Ostrow) that played a part in Dietrich’s performance in Josef von Sternberg’s The Scarlet Empress. Biegel’s rendition proves as diaphanous as any I’ve heard.

Except for the Schulz-Evler contribution, the remainder of the recital is comprised of “occasional” pieces from the bravura-encore repertory. Mischa Levitzky (1898–1941), who died much too young, was a dazzling virtuoso, especially in Liszt. His lilting 1921 A Major Valse would find its way onto his own programs and those of the ultimate Romantic, Shura Cherakassky. Giovanni Sgambati (1841–1914), like Ferruccio Busoni, kept his musical heart more in Germany than in sunny Italy. His Gavotta (1880) casts an aura both antique and martial, played with Biegel’s firm but light hand. Paul de Schlozer (1841–1898) may or may not have composed the Etude de Concert whose large spans, bold octaves, and bubbling triplets impress us. Abram Chasins (1903–1987) has had several pianists—most recently on record for me, Constance Keene—play his busily frantic Rush Hour in Hong Kong from his Three Chinese Pieces, rife with modal scales and tritones. Finally, the selection of honor of Biegel’s “musical grandfather” Josef Lhevinne, the Arabesques on “The Blue Danube,” has ‘Danube waves’ in abundance, huge trills, and slick pearly-play in spades, to make Stanley Kubrick wish that this arrangement had graced his 2001 project. Engineer Daniel Shores has made Biegel’s Steinway sound fluent, natural, and luxuriantly smooth.

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