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Edward Aldwell (Piano)

Born: January 30, 1938 - Portland, Oregon, USA
Died: May 28, 2006 - Valhalla, New York, USA

Edward Aldwell was an American pianist, music theorist and pedagogue. He was born into an Army family in Portland, Oregon, but grew up in Sonora, Texas. His first exposure to J.S. Bach came when an issue of Consumer Reports Magazine recommended the new recording of the Well-Tempered Clavier by harpsichordist Wanda Landowska. Acquiring those LP's launched him on a voyage of discovery that continued the rest of his life. He received his early musical training in Texas, and the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music before finally reaching his permanent musical home, New York City. There, he received both the Bachelors and Masters of Science degrees from The Juilliard School, studying principally under the noted piano guru Adele Marcus. Later, as a recipient of the Marie Dring Prize, Aldwell was afforded the opportunity to extensively study the keyboard works of J.S. Bach. He also began studying theory with his future co-author, Carl Schachter. Subsequently, the pianist received an Ingram Merrill Foundation grant for analysis and performance of J.S. Bach's keyboard music.

In 1963 Edward Aldwell was presented in his New York debut performing the complete Book I of The Well Tempered Clavier. This debut was remarked during a newspaper strike in 1963. Nearly 20 years later at the age of 44 he tried again, playing an all-J.S. Bach recital in 1982 in New York's Merkin Hall that attracted considerable attention because of his way of making the actions and interactions of the music so audible. Later, his regular J.S. Bach recitals in New York and Philadelphia became ritual events that attracted a devoted and discerning public. He has given numerous recitals throughout the USA, many of them devoted to J.S. Bach, including performance of both books of The Well Tempered Clavier during J.S. Bach's tri-centennial season of 1984-1985, and has made numerous appearances in prestigious music capitals throughout North America, exhibiting prowess in his lifelong area of expertise, championing the music of that composer, appearing in multi-recital series often spanning entire concert seasons. His New York recital appearances are passionately attended by numerous local pianists eager to hear and to see a truly gifted pianist, a uniquely stylistic performer who brings great intellectual and musical insight to each performance, and one who presents his musical offerings in a captivating visual manner.

Edward Aldwell received wide critical acclaim for his recordings of J.S. Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier (Nonesuch), French Suites (Haenssler Classics), the Goldberg Variations (BWV 988), the French Ouverture, and The Art of Fugue (BWV 1080) (Biddulph), as well as a disc of Paul Hindemith's Ludus T onalis along with works of Gabriel Fauré (Pro Piano). On the concert platform, he was awkward, bashful, and boyish yet also immensely authoritative. His playing of J.S. Bach was notable for emotional intensity, clarity of detail, vigor and flexibility of rhythm, imagination, variety of articulation, and an unrivalled ability to give each voice in a fugue or contrapuntal passage its own weight and character. He didn't want to be typecast as a J.S. Bach specialist, however, and his explorations of music by later composers were equally distinctive. He was particularly fond of the Chopin Mazurkas.

Edward Aldwell was a distinguished teacher of piano and music theory and analysis at the Mannes College of Music in New York and the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. As a theorist, he was an expert in Schenkerian analysis, and he was the co-author (with Carl Schachter) of one of the standard theory textbooks used throughout the world, Harmony and Voice Leading (first published in 1979). This book has been translated into Chinese and many European languages. Deeply committed to teaching analysis which enhances performance, he has appeared throughout the world in master-classes and lecture-recitals which have generally focused on the keyboard works of J.S. Bach.

Edward Aldwell died in the Westchester Medical Center in New York as the result of injuries suffered in an accident May 7, 2006. He was 68. While staying at his week end retreat in Kerhonkson , New York, he had borrowed a neighbor's all-terrain vehicle to look for his dog, and the ATV overturned. He left his wife, Jean Ann of New York City, a daughter, Elisabeth, and two grandchildren.

Harvard pianist and musicologist Robert Levin, who coordinated Hänssler's Bach keyboard project a few years ago, generously said at the time that he had chosen Aldwell to record the French Suites because ``he plays Bach better than anyone else before the public."

Carl Schachter said: "He had deep insight into musical structure and a wonderful ear; he had a very rare way of piercing through a tangle of problematic issues and finding the central point that illuminates everything else."

Source: Various obituaries (see links below)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (September 2006)

Edward Aldwell: Short Biography | Recordings of Instrumental Works
Reviews of Instrumental Recordings:
Aldwell’s Bach

Links to other Sites

The World of Pro Piano: Edward Aldwell
DO THE MATH: Edward Aldwell
Edward Aldwell (Wikipedia)
Mannes College of Music: Edward Aldwell

Review/Music; Edward Aldwell Offers His Perspective on Bach's 'Art of Fugue' (NYTimes)
Philadelphia Inquirer: Leading Bach pianist dies of injuries
Edward Aldwell, 68; fused piano theory, performance (Boston Globe)

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