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Michael Lewin is the phenomenal and talented pianist on the Dorian CD, If I Were a Bird, not to mention the brainchild behind the concept of the album. Concept albums such as these are so important when introducing a new audience to classical! Lewin's playing is simply delightful and a must have for your collection of piano music. He was kind enough to indulge my curiosity!

When did you start to play the piano?

I grew up in New York, and when I was five years old my father took me to Carnegie Hall to hear the great Italian pianist Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli. We got the last two tickets, in the very top balcony. From the moment that he walked onto the stage, sat down, flicked his tails, and began to play, I somehow knew that this is what I wanted to do. I still remember the entire program! I pestered my parents for the rest of the year, and for my sixth birthday they finally got me a piano and I began lessons. Michelangeli was famous for canceling concerts, and I’ve always wondered what would have happened to me if he hadn’t shown up that day!

What are the satisfactions of your career?

I cannot imagine doing anything else, and I have never reconsidered my life and career. There is nothing else that I know of that combines the chance to completely express myself emotionally and intellectually with the extra almost athletic sense of physical satisfaction. Music is, for me, the perfect language. It is unrestricted by tangible realities, gives voice to all my feelings, yet is governed by logic. I am privileged to spend every day with great music. I have loved the chance to travel around the world and to have an international life and network of friends. I don’t think that I could survive in a “normal” job, with its sameness and repetition. I love the danger and excitement of the stage, and the chance to communicate and share my love for music with people.

Do you have favorite pieces or composers?

Artur Rubinstein used to say that his favorite piece was whatever he was playing! This is a wonderful answer, but sadly, not always true…One of the greatest things about being a pianist is the inexhaustible wealth of great repertoire. There is more great music for the piano than for all other instruments combined and multiplied many times over, one lifetime does not begin to give enough time to learn it all. I love so much music, and try to explore as much as possible. In some ways, my favorite piano concerto is the Brahms D Minor Concerto. But there are so many! This is a very good year, being the 200th birthday year of Chopin, and next year will be the 200th of Liszt. So in 2010 and 2011 I will be performing many recitals featuring these composers, who are two of my favorites. There is so much music that I could not imagine living without- Debussy, Beethoven, Schubert- I wouldn’t know where to start. I am always learning new music and falling in love with wonderful new discoveries.

How did this recording come about?

Since I was little, I have always kept notebooks of possible program ideas for concerts and recordings, and made notes about repertoire that I might like to learn. When I started learning the fantastic Agosti transcription of Stravinsky’s “Firebird”, I started thinking about what I would pair it with. One obvious idea was other Russian music. But then I suddenly realized that I was simultaneously playing the “The White Peacock”, “The Lark” and “The Maiden and the Nightingale.” Bird pieces all! I started making lists of bird-inspired pieces, and playing various combinations on a few programs. People seemed quite fascinated by the idea, there was tremendous audience response. One day one of my long-time producers, Victor Ledin, called to discuss recording projects, and it turned out that he too was very excited about doing a Bird CD. It is unbelievable how much fabulous piano music was inspired by birds- this disc represents only a fraction of the tremendous possibilities. I believe that pianists today need to be creative about what they perform and record, and this recording hopefully has the chance to connect with a wide spectrum of listeners, offering pleasure to many. I must confess, however, that I am in no way an ornithologist or bird-watcher- I am completely devoted to my dog Argus!

Tell me about Argus- how did you name him?

Argus was the famous dog of Ulysses. When Ulysses came home from his adventures after the Trojan Wars, he returned to his kingdom Ithaca disguised as an old man with an eyepatch. Not a single person recognized him- not his wife Penelope nor his son Telemachus. Only his loyal old dog Argus! Argus had been waiting for his master to return, and then he died happy at his feet. He is the ultimate historic symbol of the faithful dog. My Argus is a 3 year-old 92 lb. Goldendoodle- a specially-bred mix of a standard poodle and a golden retriever. These dogs are becoming very popular because of their extreme intelligence, adorable appearance, wonderful friendly characters as well as for being healthy and hypoallergenic. Argus follows me everywhere, and loves piano music, particularly octaves! He clearly recognizes certain pieces, even specific passages, and often sings along while I play!

What are your non-musical interests?

My biggest non-musical passion is reading. I love to play chess, and I am an avid tennis player and rabid baseball fan. I am interested in politics, psychology and the human condition- however, their realities have a tendency to quickly send me back to the perfect world of music!
7 years ago | Read Full Story
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