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article imageMeet Jeffrey Biegel: Pianist, professor and 2019 Grammy nominee Special

By Markos Papadatos     Dec 9, 2018 in Music
Esteemed pianist, composer, and professor Jeffrey Biegel chatted with Digital Journal about his 2019 Grammy nomination for "Best Classical Compendium."
Regarding his 2019 Grammy nod, Biegel explained, "It is an unusual feeling because at first, you go into the website expecting not to be nominated. As I scrolled down the long list of categories, after seeing a few classical categories and not seeing Kenneth Fuchs's recording listed, I thought, 'Well, ok.' But upon scrolling to the best category of all, the 'Best Classical Compendium' and seeing the recording listed, I was taken aback. It was my first recording to receive the nomination. The compendium is for all the artists, as I am one of four soloists represented in the album with Ken's fabulous piano concerto.
On Fuchs: Piano Concerto 'Spiritualist', Biegel remarked, "Kenneth Fuchs has created many works which are very special. I consider this a significant addition to the repertoire for piano and orchestra. This particular work reflects three paintings by American abstract artist, Helen Frankenthaler."
Biegel continued, "I like to coin this style 'Neo-Impressionism', which basically reflects the style of Debussy, Ravel, Satie, and their contemporaries. It includes the use of church modes, and warm colors of sound, juxtaposing a fabulous passionate personality. It is a fusion of everything which came before, be it jazz, Classical, Romantic etc in a most unique melodic and harmonic language. Yet, it is unique to Ken's voice, his impeccable melodic style and use of harmonies to create his own sonic landscape which audiences are responding to most favorable."
He noted that the album of Kenneth Fuchs' music was nominated in the "Best Classical Compendium" category for a "good reason," especially since the nomination goes to all four artists, including D.J. Sparr, Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen, and Timothy McAllister. "The wonderful London Symphony Orchestra was led brilliantly by one of our finest conductors on the podium today, JoAnn Falletta, with whom I have performed since 1988 through the years. Special thanks to the Naxos record label and its founder, Klaus Heymann, with his fabulous team. As they say, it takes a mountain," he said.
On his future plans, he said, "At 57, looking back on over thirty years in music, I am grateful to have been a part of the remarkable evolution of many styles. So many styles inspire me, and I never allowed myself to be stereotyped in any one style. I hope to continue performing the traditional repertoire, and keep on commissioning new music with the extraordinary support of donors and orchestras, bringing new music by classical, jazz and pop composers to life. Recording these works is very important, but they require funding, so I hope these will be possible as well."
Biegel will continue to compose when possible as well and teach the next generations as he does at Brooklyn College, where he celebrates 20 years in January of 2019. "I have a new four-hour recording that will be released digitally in 2019, and the World Premiere of the new 'Peanuts Concerto' arranged by Dick Tunney, based on the music by Vince Guaraldi to be premiered with Orchestra Kentucky in March of 2019," he said.
He added that he will continue to play works by Bach and Rachmaninov. "Two new commissioning projects I am working on now include 'Water,' a new piano concerto to be composed by Jim Stephenson, and, 'Planets Odyseey' by Daniel Perttu, also a brilliant composer like Jim. These will require orchestras to commission them," he said.
When asked what inspires his own music, he said, "I am inspired by many composers and their music, but I am not a full-time composer by day. What inspires my interpretations is a broad topic. Pianists of the past, including my teacher at The Juilliard School, Adele Marcus, who played with a sound the likes I have never heard, continue to inspire me. Artists like Barbra Streisand, whose voice of many colors, has inspired me in creating vocal lines at the piano, and others whose style and musical personalities continue to inspire me to pull out the best of what I feel at the moment from the inside out."
For aspiring classical musicians, he encouraged them to "follow their heart." "Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Collaborate with other musicians, share your voice, be open to new ideas, and don't limit yourself," he said.
Biegel continued, "Take chances in anything you believe in because you can only grow from taking chances rather than staying in a comfort zone. Most important, something I learned from the great producer David Foster when he described a colleague: have a strong work ethic. Also, don't do anything just because it's a money maker if it doesn't fit your 'brand'. Know Thy Self. Something my teacher, Adele Marcus, told me: 'People don't change; they just reveal themselves.' For aspiring pianists, remember this: the keyboard is a mirror. It reflects everything about the person playing it. And, never give up."
Digital transformation of the music business
On the impact of technology on the music business, Biegel elaborated, "In 1997, I created and performed the first 'live' audio/video classical concerts on the internet from Steinway Hall in New York and in Amsterdam for a streaming company. It was my dream to see concerts online, bringing music of all styles closer to people using new technology. It gives me a wonderful feeling to see this growing still."
Biegel continued, "Technology brings music closer to people than ever before. Of course, they are still working on the royalties due to those making music now available through online networks, so for me, music and technology is still in its infancy but growing each day as we learn to adapt to this new means of bringing music to people."
Regarding his use of technology in his daily routine, Biegel responded, "From 1986 until 2000, I had to make copies of bios, reviews, and repertoire, put them in folders as press kits, buy envelopes and mail them out to orchestras, conductors, and recital presenters. Having a website has not only saved money in mailing press kits, but it also brings what I do to people more quickly and is more user-friendly. Social networks have enabled us to make many new friends worldwide in what we do, bringing us ever closer to create new and beautiful projects together."
To learn more about acclaimed pianist, artist and professor Jeffrey Biegel, check out his official website.
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