This past week, Keene State College hosted pianist Max Lifchitz in a performance that paid tribute to Latin music, simply titled “Tangos and More.”
Lifchitz is a veteran of the stage, having performed in concert halls throughout Europe, Latin America and the United States.
In 1976, he was awarded first prize in the Gaudemus Competition for Performers of Contemporary music.
His performances have been described as “clean, measured and sensitive,” according to The San Francisco Chronicle.
Today he is a professor at The University of Albany, as well as the founder and conductor of the New York City-based North/South Chamber Orchestra, which is presently celebrating its thirty-third season.
As a pianist, collaborative artist and composer, his numerous recordings are available worldwide. Lifchitz is also a good friend of KSC Professor Jose Lezcano, who occasionally accompanied Lifchitz on guitar during his performance in the Alumni Recital Hall. “We’re colleagues and friends,” Lezcano said.
“He’s a lot of fun, he’s delightful. Before this, I knew him professionally because he’s conducted a few of my pieces in New York, both of my guitar concertos. Then we just happened to meet again in a festival in Barcelona, which specializes in Spanish and Latin American song,” Lezcano said.
Naturally, there was a great deal of hype for Lifchitz’s performance, but when the lights went down and Lifchitz came on stage and began playing, it was clear that his reputation is well-earned and the audience experienced a full range of emotions.
The pieces Lifchitz played were, at times, so beautiful and soothing that the audience was nearly put into a trance.
Other times the music made the audience want to get up and dance.
Scott Demeo, a KSC student, said, “I enjoyed the Latin rhythms very much. I wanted to get up and dance to it.”
“[Lifchitz] is really one of the best conductors that I ever worked with; he just follows you so closely that you feel very comfortable to play the music how you feel it freely,” he said.
“A great all around musician, I was just pleased that we were able to get the grant to be able to bring him to Keene State so that our students would get the chance to hear him talk and also hear him perform,” Lezcano said.
Between each piece, Lifchitz addressed the audience to describe the significance of the piece and provide some levity to the evening, demonstrating that his wit is just as sharp as his musical talent.
Some of the music was familiar; one piece in particular greatly resembled the theme from “Jaws.”
After the intermission, Professor Lezcano joined Lifchitz on the guitar adding to the strength of the performance.
Each piece was unique, demonstrating music from over one-hundred years ago, all the way up to the modern day with Lifchitz’s original compositions.
After the performance, some members of the audience said they were in awe of the performer’s incredible talent.
Since Lifschitz was able to play different styles, one audience member said he enjoyed the show.
Joey Warren, a music technology student at KSC, said, “I thought it was really cool, the different styles he went across and how he could just jump across the piano as well. I saw him in a workshop; he was a good player so I wanted to see more of it tonight.”
Wes Serafine can be