Andy Kahn Meets Vladimir Horowitz
What do Philadelphia jazz pianist Andy Kahn and classical pianist Vladimir Horowitz have in common?
“Not much,” you say?
The fact is, Kahn loves classical music but doesn’t play classical music.
Horowitz loved jazz, specifically jazz piano genius Art Tatum, but didn’t play jazz.
Both have performed on a nine-foot, Steinway grand piano, model CD503, that was Horowitz’s personal and touring instrument for years. Indeed, the Maestro was so in love with it, he called it “my friend.”
Under the aegis of Jacobs MusicCompany– since 1900, one of the mid-Atlantic regions most respected sellers of pianos–CD503 is now “on tour,” and recently was “in residence” at Jacobs Music in center city Philadelphia.
To celebrate this event, Jacobs artist-in-residence Kahn as well as acclaimed Russian classical pianist Svetlana Smolina, performed on the instrument–and talked about the experience–for a taping of Jill Pasternak’s “Crossover” radio program for WRTI-FM radio in Philadelphia.
Pasternak is well-suited as host of this program, as she’s a Julliard-trained classical harpist, Fulbright Scholar, and spent 10 years with WFLN, Philadelphia’s famed classical music radio station for decades.
Both Kahn and Smolina told Pasternak they were honored, humbled and a bit nervous playing Horowitz’ s instrument. There was, however, no evidence of nervousness in their stellar performances. Kahn did note that the Steinway CD 503 wasn’t very forgiving in terms of its action.
“There’s no faking anything on this piano,” Kahn told Pasternak. “The piano ‘action’ is set in such a way that if you even touch a key, it plays,” adding that its power and dymanic range are extraordinary.
During Kahn’s performance, he tied in Horowitz’ s love for jazz by way of one of Art Tatums’–and Horowitz’s–favorite compositions, “Tea for Two,” a song that the Maestro himself actually played more than once. And given Horowitz’ Russian heritage, Kahn also performed a song with Russian origins, “Ochi Chyornye,” better known as “Dark Eyes.”
I’ve known Andy Kahn personally and professionally for more than 50 years. I’ve never heard him play better.
I took advantage of our long-time association by asking my pal if I might play a few notes on the fabled CD503. I played half of what was supposed to be “Come Back to Sorrento.” What did I sound like?
I sounded like Bruce Klauber playing Vladimir Horowitz’ s piano. Let’s put it this way: At the keyboard, I’m no Andy Kahn or Svetlana Smolina. Both were kind enough not to suggest that I keep my day job.
On June 3, Jacobs Music Company will sponsor another event in conjunction with The Man and His Instrument. A number of the Greater Delaware Valley’s finest young piano students will duplicate the exact program that Horowitz performed on June 3, 1932 at the Theatre des Champs-Elysees in Paris.
Although Vladimir Horowitz died on November 5, 1989, as long as his music is performed–and played on his instrument–his memory, his legend and his legacy will live on.