Pianist Biegel on ‘classic’ Sedaka
“At a party afterward,” Biegel reminisced about that first meeting with Sedaka, “Neil sang a medley of his hits, and I played piano. He mentioned that he was writing his piano concerto, and asked if he could contact me when it was finished.”
Biegel himself has created a multi-faceted career as a pianist, recording artist, composer and arranger. Among other ventures, he has performed the world premiere of Ellen Taaffe Zwilich’s “Shadows” for piano and orchestra, with the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra that was commissioned by eight orchestras. His recent recordings include “Grand Romance” (2013), “A Steinway Christmas Album,” “Bach On A Steinway,” (2010) and Glen Roven’s musical adaptation of the classic children’s book, “Runaway Bunny,” with guest narrator, actress Catherine Zeta- Jones.
“In May of 2011, Neil called and wanted me to see his piano concerto. He sent me the score, and I fell in love with it.”
When he received the piano part, however, Biegel asked Sedaka if he could add some “aural effect” to it, while not taking away anything from what Sedaka had written. “I was trying to enhance it, and I started playing and [Sedaka] said, “I love it! Just do that!”
“I was very nervous about that, I didn’t know if I had the right to make any changes, but he was very accepting of my ideas,” Biegel recalled.
Through the advantages of social media, Biegel said the piece got the recognition it deserved. “I posted it on my timeline on Facebook, and Jeffrey Reed of Orchestra Kentucky wanted to perform it.”
So in September, 2011, Sedaka and his wife of 50 years, Leba, attended the inaugural performance of “Manhattan Intermezzo” for piano and orchestra, featuring Biegel, who also played the 1924 original piano version of “Rhapsody in Blue” that evening.
New York, New York
“Because of my friendship with the South Shore Symphony Orchestra, I thought, ‘there are so many people who know and love Neil Sedaka — why not bring them this side of him?’” said Biegel.
Working around Sedaka’s busy schedule, they settled on a date of October 27 for the performance at Molloy College’s beautiful Madison Theatre and Sedaka and his wife will be in the audience.
The South Shore Symphony Orchestra, celebrating its 29th season in 2013-2014, is an associate of the Rockville Centre Guild for the Arts. This is the first of four appearances by the orchestra at the Madison Theatre.
“It’s a wonderful organization,” Biegel said, referring to the South Shore Symphony Orchestra. “They are volunteers, for the most part, and they love bringing music to young people at their new home at Molloy.”
Keeping it in the family, Biegel’s 17-year-old son, Evan, who attends Lynbrook High School, is a full member of the orchestra and will be playing in the percussion section that afternoon.
Also included in the “American Music” repertoire will be music by George Gershwin and symphonic dances from West Side Story.
“Being able to bring Neil and his music to our local community is very important,” Biegel said. “People will see a side of him that they’ve never seen before — one that blends his pop and classical music, and also brings a sense of nostalgia and a love of New York.”
An American Program with the South Shore Symphony Orchestra