March 18, 2016 at 08:32 PM · Dear friends,

I would like to invite you to an all Brahms recital that I will be participating in on Sunday, April 10th, 4PM 2016 at the Tenri Cultural Center, 43A West 13th Street, New York City. For more information, please call 212/645-2800

My Colleagues are cellist, Toshihiko Kono and pianist, Peiwen Chen. Toshi will perform the E minor sonata, I will perform the Sonatensatz- Scherzo, the Brahms-Heifetz "Contemplation" and the Hungarian Dance no. 5. Then we will all come together in the C minor trio, Opus 101.

I hope some of you can come. Kindly pass this on to anyone you think might be interested. Thanks!


PS Kindly visit my website at the link below, as I update my information from time to time.

Raphael Klayman

Replies (33)

March 20, 2016 at 10:08 AM · So nobody is even wishing me good luck?????

Makes me so sad.... :-(

March 20, 2016 at 01:36 PM · At that level, you probably don't need luck! :) If I lived in New York I'd go. Hope things go well!

March 20, 2016 at 02:23 PM · Raphael, I didnt see your post til now, but it sounds like a great program. Sometime I would like to play that scherzo. Let us know if a video of your performance becomes available.

March 20, 2016 at 04:36 PM · Not all Brahms and Liszt.


March 20, 2016 at 05:33 PM · Hey Raphael - good luck! Would also go cheer you on if I was in NYC, but I am performing elsewhere...


March 20, 2016 at 09:23 PM · Aw shucks, folks, now I feel better! :-) And even Heifetz liked to be wished good luck.

I once wished a soprano the classic show biz "break a leg". She sang beautifully and brilliantly but on her way off the stage she twisted her ankle. Later I said to her "I didn't mean for you to take me literally!" I sometimes tell people that they can tell me "Break a bow hair" - but my favorite bow is already "hairing-impaired" and I don't think I'll have a chance to re-hair it before this recital.

I have another one coming up in June that I'll post down the line...

March 22, 2016 at 04:24 PM · Raphael congratulations on such a great recital programme, hope for a large audience, greetings from Belgium (where the spirits in general are not that high for the moment :-(

March 22, 2016 at 04:50 PM · Some places in Europe are feeling stress that they haven't felt since the end of the second world war. Jean, I hope you and those dear to you will be well. As for spirits, hopefully you will accept this comment in proper humor, but Belgium is better known, at least here in the US, for ale and beer!

March 22, 2016 at 04:57 PM · Thanks, Jean - all the more so for taking the time with everything that's going on.

PS touches of humor are often helpful and welcome - and anyone who has gotten to know me and some of my wacky comments on some threads know about my sense of humor. But personally and professionally I have always associated Belgium with the great violinists, Ysaye and Grumiaux.

March 24, 2016 at 09:58 AM · Yes, I saw a funny cartoon somewhere showing a guy at a bar bending over backwards emptying a glass of beer, with the subtitle "Note to terrorists: Belgians bend but do not break".

March 25, 2016 at 01:49 AM · Good one, Jean!

So...I thought might hopefully be interesting for some folks if I kept a bit of a diary going here about preparations leading to the performance...

I first met Toshi, the cellist, back in the late '80's. (I feel that to be quite an accomplishment, considering that I wasn't born till the early '90's! ;-D ) We both played in an Opera orchestra, where I was concertmaster and he was principal cellist. We both eventually quit that orchestra. We lost touch, though occasionally met on one or another freelance gig or chamber music party.

A few years ago he contacted me, telling me about a wonderful pianist, Peiwen, with whom he wanted to play chamber music. This led to a mini tour of Maine where our program included the Brahms 1st sonata in G, and trios by Beethoven and Mendelssohn.

Though it wasn't long ago, I don't remember exactly when or how I put the bug in my own ear, to do an all-Brahms program - but here we are! Though I've now performed all of the sonatas at least once and recorded the 2nd sonata, I purposely wanted to play 3 of Brahms' shorter selections for my solo offering. I felt that the program would be too long and heavy otherwise.

So here we are, 3 very different people coming together to make music. Toshi is a native of Japan and longtime resident of Manhattan. The oldest among us, he was one of the early members of the American Symphony Orchestra under Stokowski. Peiwen is a native of Taiwan, a resident of the Bronx and a faculty member of Mannes, where she coaches and accompanies singers - though she is also known as a brilliant concerto soloist. And then there is me, a nice Jewish boy from Brooklyn, recently transplanted to the Jersey Shore. (Somehow, that didn't stop me, the one time they came to my apartment back in BK, from asking them to remove their shoes, adding "I don't know about you guys, but I'm kind of Asian"!)

We have different personalities, styles and strengths. Toshi is the old wise man, who worked with some very notable teachers, conductors and coaches. Peiwen is rock-solid, with a great sense of rhythm and a brilliant technique. Yours truly is perhaps more overtly the romantic virtuoso type. At rehearsals for our earlier Maine project we occasionally butted heads: "You keep rushing" "Oh yeah? How could you even hear that when you were playing so loud?" That's par for the course. The important thing is to leave that at the rehearsal and in fact we basically got along fine.

Yesterday was our first rehearsal. Continued, I hope, tomorrow.

March 25, 2016 at 02:47 AM · Keep it coming, Raphael, it's great for you to document how pros really operate and how you bring events together like this. I'll bet your audiences enjoyed your Beethoven and Mendelssohn just as much as the Brahms.

March 25, 2016 at 11:54 AM · Thanks, Paul! So yes, perhaps a brief diversion to that Maine project in the summer of 2013:

For professionals, logistics are often the main practical concern. Musically, we are expected to deliver the goods.

Toshi had a very small cabin in the area and made arrangements for homes for Peiwen and I to stay at. He and his wife took a bus. I drove up from Brooklyn's Coney Island to the Bronx to pick up Peiwen. Normally I would have considered that alone to be a pretty long drive - but it was nothing compared to the rest of our drive up to the middle of Maine, which as I recall, with stops, took about 10 hours! Before we even got there, Peiwen and I decided that we probably would not repeat this exact project.

We had a few rehearsals in New York and a few more in Maine. That summer there was a terrible heat wave in the Northeast which even reached up in Maine. There was no air conditioning in any home we stayed at or any venue we played at. Maine doesn't usually need AC but it sure did that summer! I'll never forget our last concert at a nice small church. Some well-meaning person decided to open the doors wide just before the concert for some air. A nearby swarm of mosquitoes took that as an invitation to attend the performance. And what's an event without some snacks? So the mosquitoes proceeded to dine upon all of the performers and audience members! Right in the middle of my Brahms sonata I was accompanied by some tiny "colleagues", buzzing in the wrong key! Ah, the glamorous life of the concert artist!

And yet, we turned out some pretty good performances, the audiences were most appreciative and we did derive satisfaction from the experience.

March 25, 2016 at 07:26 PM · Great stories Raphael, for an amateur violinist like me it is always fascinating to learn about the doings of professional violinists. I wish you a fruitful rehearsal tomorrow.

March 25, 2016 at 08:18 PM · Cut to the present…

So, we are of course, focused on our Brahms program for April 10th. For me, that means that I’ve been practicing my parts for the past several weeks or so. I mailed copies of the piano parts to Peiwen. As the music has gotten more into my fingers I’m requiring less practice time. About 2 hours covers it for me. In my approach though, whatever my repertoire projects, I begin my practice day with more than an hour of my own system of scales and exercises – so a total of about 3 hours of daily practice, interspersed with a break after each hour, is what I’ve been averaging for the past week or so.

But besides the ups and downs of life, I’ve had other musical challenges to deal with. For example, just this past Sunday I finished a run of the show, “The Music Man”. There were 3 rehearsals and 6 performances. I’d never done this show before and had to spend some time initially learning it. No, it’s not Brahms, but I take all my gigs seriously and enjoy stylistic variety and challenge – all the more so since, as usual in my show playing experience, I was the only violinist, outgunned by lots of winds and brass. And this was supposedly a reduced orchestration! Forget 76 trombones; we needed 76 fiddles! They got a mike for me and I was told that I was coming through loud and clear in the theater, but in the pit it was still hard to judge balance. For all intents and purposes I played a 2 hour violin concerto every night.

We had our first rehearsal on Wednesday at Toshi’s apartment in Manhattan. I thought it went well for a first time. We began with the trio. I’m crazy about it and pushed for it – but it’s a real bear. It’s dense, complex and has more than its share of tricky rhythms and entrances – to say nothing of some technically difficult and awkward passages. In other words, it’s Brahms! I won’t speak of any problems on any colleague’s part, but I soon came to realize that I had practiced some passages wrong, rhythmically. But that gave me particular focus for my next day’s practice.

I was already drained from the trio but my solo set was up next. I had performed all these pieces at least once before and recorded two of them on my first CD. But that was a long time ago and with a different pianist. I wasn’t exactly nervous but I did feel pressured. At a first rehearsal you quickly find out that certain things that worked by yourself in the comfort and privacy of your own living room – whether fingerings, bowings, certain nuances, etc - don’t always bear up in ensemble. The wheat and chaff quickly get separated. But I’m glad to report that it all went much more smoothly than the trio. We had to check and go over a few little spots but it mostly worked and in fact there tuned out to be very little in the way of wheat and chaff issues. At the end, Peiwen said “it’s all very clear” – which for her, face to face, is pretty decent praise! My set – as I play it - has a lot of tempo changes rubatos, etc. (I did hear her once say something quite nice about me semi behind my back!)

I left my colleagues to their cello sonata and made my way back to New Jersey. And that is part of where the real crux of our problems lie: logistics. There are travel issues and schedule issues. We will only have 2 more rehearsals. We have the 3rd one set in the hall but as of this writing, we still can’t find a mutually doable day and time for the 2nd one. Stay tuned…

Meanwhile, I’ve enjoyed my practicing the last couple of days, keeping in mind what worked and what didn’t work at the rehearsal and paying particular attention to problem spots.

March 26, 2016 at 02:56 AM · When I was a high schooler I made most of my spending money playing in pit orchestras for local community theater groups. It's fun but harder than one generally predicts. I can't imagine being the only violin in the pit. Still, nobody works harder than the pianist in a pit orchestra.

March 26, 2016 at 03:42 AM · Everybody works hard in the pit and it would be difficult to measure such a thing as who works hardest. My next door neighbor in the pit, one of the wind doublers, was always out of breath at the end a very long, jazzy solo in this show. (At the last performance I quietly doubled it with her just for fun.)

We had 2 keyboards in this show, one of which was taken by the conductor, which is not ideal. More playing means less conducting. But when you're the only violin that's a whole different ball game. At the end of the first rehearsal, where I was not miked, I "apologized" to the rest of the band, saying "I'm sorry if I drowned everybody out!" To survive and even thrive in that environment I paced myself as much as I could, taking it easy where I doubled with the winds but coming on like gang-busters in exposed solos - and doing so with a lot of style and expression, if I might add.

But this brings me to an important point getting back to Brahms or other practice. One of Aaron Rosand's great practice tips that I adhere to assiduously is that in much - not all - of your practice, back off from full fortes, intense vibrato, etc. to conserve strength and energy. I vary my practice in other ways as well. Sometimes I will start the program from the end and work my way backwards - not note by note, but section by section. We have different levels of endurance and concentration at different points in our practice. So it's good to sometimes start fresh where we would normally end our practice day. Also, going out of order helps to resist the temptation to run away and perform when we should be practicing - though we need to spend some time doing that too. Also some days I might pay particular attention to say, intonation, or rhythm, or sound, or bow distribution, etc. etc. This does not mean that I will ignore other aspects, but it's a question of extra concentration on this today as opposed to that yesterday. Another great tip is from Elmar Oliveira who advised to exaggerate details so that they don't wash out in performance. Also, and again to conserve energy, muscle tone etc. on days where I have a gig later that evening I won't practice as much and I will concentrate on the most difficult sections and do so "low impact".

When practicing is done well, the practice room can become a true creative laboratory. What I love most is getting sudden insights for a fingering, bowing, phrasing, nuance etc. It's like a little light bulb goes off in my head and I say "oh!" I live for those "oh" moments!

March 26, 2016 at 02:36 PM · thanks again Raphael. in a sense it is an advantage when you are the only violinist in the show: it makes you important! I suppose you can even ask more in such circumstances?? to ease out when doubled by the winds and go for it on the exposed parts, yes, that seems the pro thing to do! by the way, at least it seems you got your part in advance this time! I remember one of your other stories where you got your part only at the *only* rehearsal _and_ it contained a violin solo!!

March 26, 2016 at 03:42 PM · Yes, I think you may be recalling the times when I served as concertmaster for both Ray Charles and Regis Philbin! Those were pretty high-profile gigs, but coming to a job and sight-reading is par for the course in many other gigs. For example, I'm doing a church job this evening and have no idea what I'll be playing. It makes life interesting!

March 26, 2016 at 04:08 PM · For those of us (and here I am speaking for myself) who do not play nearly well enough to land real work as violinists, it's kind of fun to hear about the exploits of someone who can be playing a church job the same day and not have any idea what he's going to play.

Play the Cantabile -- with Guitar? Play some Handel -- with Organ?

March 28, 2016 at 02:30 AM · It was an Easter Vigil - a long and serious service. It included a Mass, hymns, etc. Our group consisted of organ, flute, 2 violins, cello - and a remarkably demur trumpet - along with a solo singer a chorus.

Technically, it was all very easy to sight-read - even though we were all playing from piano lead sheets, picking and choosing which lines we would play . But there were twists: We had a short, talk-through, rehearsal, where the director/organist pointed out that in this piece and that, he would always start by himself from here except where he would start from there, then we would come in with the refrain, except where we wouldn't, then do this many verses, then back to the refrain, etc. Then we were to all turn around and touch our toes. (OK, I made that last part up. I wanted to see if you were paying attention, which I was NOT - or not enough.) I'd lost him after "it's all very simple" My brain does not take well to that sort of thing. I whispered to my stand partner that I'd rather prepare and perform 3 Paganini caprices than deal with this sort of thing. She agreed. Even among professionals different people have different strengths and weaknesses. At the talk through my eyes glazed over and my brain went into hibernation mode. But I knew that I could rely on my talent to wing it - improvise within the tonality that I heard if need be. Fortunately, my stand partner was really good at sorting those things out and about a quarter of the way into the services I somehow found myself catching on as well, most of the time without really trying.

In a sense, the funniest - and most tragic - moment came near the end, where we were to play the famous "Hallelujah Chorus" from Handel's "Messiah". Now this is something my stand partner and I should have been able to nail in our sleep with one arm tied behind our backs. But this was a weird arrangement: it was transposed from D to C and simplified, with some expected passages excised or coming at unexpected places. It looked wrong, felt wrong and sounded wrong - and we both messed it up a bit. You just never know.

Today was back to my Brahms practice and tomorrow I will take a much needed day off from practicing.

April 5, 2016 at 07:39 PM · So we had our second rehearsal on Sunday. This time we began with my solo set. My 3 minute warm-up that I did at Toshi’s (the cellist) apartment upon arrival, did not compensate much for the 2 hour commute and battling subway stairs and some freakishly cold temperature and high winds with my heavily bundled case. But as I plunged into the Sonatenzats I thought to myself, “well, this shows me my minimum level.” Besides not feeling physically supple enough yet, I spaced out in one measure and got thrown off by the piano part in another. As I said to Peiwen (the pianist), at this point, when I practice at home I hear a lot of the piano part at the same time in my mind’s ear. A lot but not all. Now and again I’d hear something in real time with the actual sonority of the piano that would take me by surprise. Also, at this point, I know a lot of it by heart without trying – but that can be a liability. Generally, you should either use the music exclusively or play it completely by heart. If you dip in and out you can lose your place. After the Hungarian dance I said to Peiwen “that’s not so easy”. She said “nothing is”. I said “you’re right”. On we get so many queries on what to play next or which concerto is hardest. But just to play “Twinkle” with good sound, intonation and phrasing under pressure is not all that easy – let alone Brahms!

Next we did the c minor trio. One tricky section in the first movement, with which we seemed to have beginner’s luck with at the first rehearsal, gave us more trouble in the second. In some places there was easy give and take where we accepted one another’s suggestions. I: “Toshi, can’t we play these triplets more pesante? They [meaning you] sound too scherzando.” Toshi: “OK”. Toshi to me: “the rhythm is OK, but why do you accent everything?” I: “No problem” and I then played it much more sustneuto. In a couple of other spots we debated bowings without much resolution. We agreed to disagree in one spot and we split the difference in another spot. I asked my colleagues for just a moment here and there from the last note of one measure to the first note of the next measure to leap 2 octaves or where I did 2 up-bows in a row. Peiwen pointed out in a few spots how many notes she had to fit into the beats and that we needed to follow her. In our earlier Maine tour I felt that Peiwen always played beautifully and brilliantly – but sometimes too loud. Now I often wished I could hear her part more clearly and only pointed out one spot where I felt she needed to be softer. It was partly the placement of the piano in relation to the strings in that apartment.

The truth is that whether I agree or disagree with my colleagues at any particular juncture, with this or in any other ensemble, they are important de facto coaches for me, giving me valuable feedback and something to think about. I won't readily admit this to them but I'll just tell the whole world here! ;-)

Tomorrow we’ll have our 3rd and final rehearsal at the hall. But we certainly made some progress. At the end I quipped “So, weren’t my hemeolas in the last movement much better? At the first rehearsal they were more like hematomas!”

Yesterday I took a much-needed day off from practicing. Today I practiced thoroughly, going over everything with a fine-toothed comb. I put special emphasis today on trying to gain a little more security and reliability in certain problem spots, whether technical or rhythm-wise. Throughout the program I use a lot of risky fingerings and bowings for expressive purposes. Most of them work. Some of them, well…It gets to a point close to the event that you have to get practical and sometimes a little less idealistic in terms of just the bowing texture or nuance that you’d like to do but isn’t working consistently. Sometimes there is no magic bullet and you have to choose the lesser of two or more evils.

The process continues…

April 6, 2016 at 02:05 PM · Sounds like that recital is going to be thrilling both for the audience and the performers!!

April 6, 2016 at 03:53 PM · Thanks, I hope so!

April 8, 2016 at 04:43 AM · We had our third rehearsal yesterday. This was at the hall, at the Tenri Center – an institute in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village area for Japanese culture which also hosts a large number of concerts. Making my way from the Long Branch New Jersey, I arrived first and took my time getting acclimated. Toshi, a couple of subway stops away, arrived later, and we exchanged some ideas about the set-up in the hall. Peiwen came a little later where she had been teaching next door at the New School, which now houses Mannes.

Having had a chance to warm up earlier, I was starting to get used to the space. It’s not a formal hall or theater, but rather a multi-purpose space with high ceilings – kind of like a large loft. The space – at least when empty as it then was – had very live, if slightly harsh acoustics. Earlier in the day I did my personal practicing at home. I began as usual with my hour-plus system of scales and exercises, followed after a short break by some work on the program. I purposely spent just a brief time on the Brahms. I focused mostly on the most difficult spots and played sotto voce. I would be playing full-out at the rehearsal and needed to conserve my strength and energy for the rehearsal.

We began with my solo set. I was much more physically warmed-up this time than at the start of the previous rehearsal and was mentally more focused as well. But the piano was very boomy in this space and we had to work hard for balance – particularly in the Sontatenzats.

We then tackled the trio. We seemed to all have had an unspoken, tacet agreement to be as focused and frill-free as possible. This was our third and final rehearsal – not a whole lot for a program like this. And with an 8:30 PM to 10:30 PM rehearsal time, Peiwen and I respectively felt the constraints of getting home to distant areas – she up in the Bronx and I back down to the Jersey Shore.

A full-time ensemble has the luxury – and madness! – of rehearsing sometimes up to 6 hours a day, where they can argue till the cows come home about the most minute nuance. Here we knew that we had to get the job done. Of course we were constantly aiming to be musical and properly expressive. But there would be no more arguments about up-bows versus down-bows or speculations about how old Brahms was when he wrote this or that piece and how that ought to influence our interpretation. We strove as efficiently as we could for a well-knit ensemble. And it really did get more well-knit! One practical area of focus was who was to give cues and where. The nature of this or that passage dictated that it seemed to work best for the cue giver to be me here or Peiwen there.

The trio done, I packed up my violin. I had played the hell out of my 2010 Vittorio Villa violin, had broken one more hair off my favorite matching bow to it, my Louis Bazin, and was drenched in perspiration. I left to the strains of the e minor cello sonata.

On the train ride home I passed the time agreeably by reading a Strings magazine but the recital program was almost constantly on my mind. At the top of one article I took a pen and scribbled some remaining concerns about some passages that I hoped to quickly improve in the next practice session: “sustaining, projecting, rhythm, counting, (reminding myself about) who gives which cues and where”. For the first two aspects, just some re-thinking a few bowings here and there can make a big difference. Today I indeed focused on these issues and made some changes that I think will help. Like yesterday I didn’t practice a lot, but focused on problem spots – except that today I played full-out. Tomorrow and Saturday I plan to carefully go through every note and early Sunday, just some light review. And then we’ll unleash a performance!

April 11, 2016 at 02:07 AM · So, the recital was earlier today and I'm home in one piece - more or less. I continued my preparations as planned - but what I didn't plan on was a sore throat and upset stomach to accompany me the past 24 hours. I thought I might not be able to chat with the audience which I like to do - but somehow I managed. The Sonatenzats had a zets or two, but otherwise, while very far from perfect, I enjoyed a lot of my own sound and phrasing, got some very nice feedback from some people and I feel almost no desire to jump off any bridge.

Before going home I went out with a friend to a nice dinner before tackling the minefields of Manhattan traffic on the way back to my home on the Jersey Shore.

Life goes on - and rather quickly. Tomorrow I will already begin some practicing for my June recital and must travel later in the day very far to a gig, sight-reading Mozart's "Magic Flute" with only one to a part!

It will be my pleasure to announce the June recital in due course but I won't keep a diary of it like this. The details would, I'm sure, be very different, and hopefully of interest, yet they will probably be pretty analogous. So I'll stick with this example of preparation towards one recital of many. I hope that in the process I've uncovered and shared a few weeks in the life of a professional musician in a coherent way. I thank all those who have expressed interest!

April 11, 2016 at 03:22 AM · Raphael, thank you, it's been interesting!

April 11, 2016 at 03:26 AM · Thanks for letting us into your preparations.

April 11, 2016 at 12:26 PM · My pleasure!

April 11, 2016 at 01:00 PM · Hi Raphael,

Glad your recital went well! Congrats!


April 11, 2016 at 03:16 PM · Same here!

April 13, 2016 at 12:10 AM · Congratulations.

Film @ 11:00 on youtube?

April 13, 2016 at 12:27 PM · So far as I know, nobody recorded it or filmed it. :-(

On the other hand, without proof to the contrary I'm free to tell you how wonderful and perfect it all was! ;-)

But I was filmed and recorded as recently as November when I shot that commercial I blogged about.

I am Raphael Klayman and I approved of this ad! So go out and vote for me for President of the Long Branch NJ Violin Society. (OK, so right now I'm it's only member.)

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