June 6, 2005 Library of Congress Television Series Features World-Renowned Classical Musicians

“Great Conversations in Music,” Hosted by Pianist Eugene Istomin, to Air on WETA-TV 26 on June 19 and 26

Press Contact: Helen Dalrymple, Library of Congress (202) 707-1940
Contact: Katie Kemple, WETA (703) 998-2635

Created and hosted by the late Eugene Istomin (1925-2003), one of the world’s most admired classical musicians, the four-part series “Great Conversations in Music” was commissioned by the Library of Congress in 2001 and produced and directed by Peter Rosen of Peter Rosen Productions Inc.

“Eugene Istomin’s conversations with his world-renowned musician friends in intimate settings at the Library of Congress and the American Academy of Arts and Letters reveal the fabric of their art and give viewers unusual insights into some of the personal and backstage lore surrounding classical musicians,” said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington.

Filmed between December 2001 and March 2003, the television series spotlights distinguished pianists, string players, composers and conductors and offers engaging and informative discussions led by Istomin on the state of the art of music. The pianist’s candid, often funny and revealing conversations with a remarkable circle of 22 of his friends and colleagues feature Emanuel Ax, Milton Babbitt, Yefim Bronfman, James Conlon, Richard Danielpour, Leon Fleisher, Pamela Frank, Claude Frank, Gary Graffman, Lynn Harrell, Joseph Kalichstein, Jaime Laredo, Lowell Liebermann, Yo-Yo Ma, Zubin Mehta, George Perle, Sharon Robinson, Ned Rorem, Charles Rosen, Mstislav Rostropovich, Arnold Steinhardt and Ellen Taaffe Zwilich.

The Library of Congress is home to the world’s largest repository of music manuscripts and memorabilia. Its collections include treasures—such as manuscripts of Beethoven, Brahms,

Mozart, Rachmaninoff, Copland and Bloch—that spark lively dialogues among the participants in this series concerning performance practice and pedagogy.

“Great Conversations in Music,” is the Music Division’s first project for television. The four programs—“The Pianists,” “The Composers,” “The Virtuosos” and “The Conductors”—offer the viewer entree into a musical salon of substance and style, which was filmed on-site at the Library and at the American Academy of Arts and Letters in New York. The series provides an important perspective on the history of music making in America.

“No one but Eugene Istomin could have gathered around him such an extraordinary and sympathetic group of great musicians,” said Jon Newsom, chief of the Library’s Music Division. “When you hear these legendary artists exchange their ideas and enthusiasm, you will understand that the heritage of Western classical music is being preserved and developed in America as vigorously as in any other place in the world.”

During his more than six decades as a world-class pianist, Eugene Istomin developed close friendships with nearly all of the great names in classical music; he drew on some of these in the closing years of his life to make this series of programs for the Library of Congress. As a performer, Istomin was one of the few American pianists to achieve worldwide renown as a recitalist, a soloist with the world’s great orchestras and a virtuosic performer with his longtime partners Isaac Stern and Leonard Rose in the memorable Istomin-Stern-Rose Trio.

After his debuts at age 17 with both the New York Philharmonic and the Philadelphia Orchestra made him an American star, he performed frequently with Pablo Casals in the Prades festivals in France and Puerto Rico and went on to make more than 4,000 concert appearances, collaborating with such conductors as Bruno Walter, George Szell, Leopold Stokowski, Eugene Ormandy, Georg Solti and Leonard Bernstein. His role as a cultural ambassador led to performances at the United Nations and at the White House for Presidents John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan.

Peter Rosen has produced more than 100 full-length films and television programs that have been distributed worldwide. Winner of the George Foster Peabody Award and the prestigious Directors Guild of America Award, among others, Rosen has worked directly with such major artists as Leonard Bernstein, Yo-Yo Ma, Beverly Sills, Stephen Sondheim, Martha Graham and Placido Domingo, as well as the celebrated architect I.M. Pei. His notable programs include Carnegie Hall’s 100th Anniversary, biographies of Arturo Toscanini for “Great Performances” and Artur Rubinstein for “American Masters,” and a series with the great pianist Claudio Arrau.

WETA-TV 26 and FM 90.9 are public broadcasting stations serving Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia with educational, cultural and public affairs programming and related services. WETA is committed to producing programs that highlight the history and people of the greater Washington area. For more information on WETA and its services, visit www.weta.org.

WETA will air “Great Conversations in Music” as follows:

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Program 1: “The Pianists,”1:30 p.m.

Istomin and his fellow pianists Emanuel Ax, Yefim Bronfman, Leon Fleisher, Gary Graffman and Charles Rosen offer viewers insights into the world of the piano as they discuss performance technique and adventures in recording, make humorous observations about their colleagues and tell inside jokes about great musical icons. This program was filmed in the elegant surroundings of the Members’ Room in the Library of Congress’ Thomas Jefferson Building.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Program 2: “The Composers,” 2:30 p.m.

Composers Milton Babbitt, Richard Danielpour, Lowell Liebermann, George Perle, Ned Rorem and Ellen Taaffe Zwilich join Istomin at the American Academy of Arts and Letters in New York to discuss and argue about the strong feelings and controversies surrounding modern contemporary music and the challenges that programming their music presents. The composers talk about their lifelong struggles to achieve recognition, but express pride in their collective status as representatives of the avant-garde.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Program 3: “The Virtuosos,” 1:30 p.m.

The violinists Pamela Frank, Jaime Laredo and Arnold Steinhardt; the cellists Lynn Harrell, Yo-Yo Ma and Sharon Robinson; and the pianists Claude Frank and Joseph Kalichstein join Istomin in the Library of Congress’ Whittall Pavilion for a conversation among intimate friends about chamber music, performance practices, the influences of master teachers and the lessons to be learned from the great virtuosos of the past. They have a candid discussion about being chamber musicians both in performance and away from the stage, and about developing musical intimacies that, in some cases, even engender romantic relationships.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Program 4: “The Conductors,” 2:30 p.m.

In the final program of the series, the Russian-born Mstislav Rostropovich, Indian-born Zubin Mehta, and James Conlon, a native of New York City, discuss leadership and inspiration on the podium, their views about the influence of European classical music on American music and the influence of American popular music on other cultures. Their thoughts on the many ways in which the music world is changing are expressed in close, one-on-one chats with Istomin that ignore the presence of the camera.

The programs will be available on the Library’s Web site at www.loc.gov at some time in the future.


PR 05-131
ISSN 0731-3527