Sad news: America’s foremost piano teacher has died

Sad news: America’s foremost piano teacher has died


norman lebrecht

November 17, 2015

We have been informed that Seymour Lipkin, the cherished professor of piano at Curtis and Juilliard, died Monday night at Blue Hill Hospital, in Maine.

He was 88 years old and had been in poor health for a while.

Born in Detroit, Seymour studied at Curtis with Rudolf Serkin, Mieczyslaw Horszowski, and David Saperton. In 1948 he won the Rachmaninoff Competition. Later he became known as a formidable Beethoven specialist.

He played with all the major US orchestras but was quickly recognised as one of the great educators. He joined the Curtis faculty in 1969 and Juilliard in 1986.

seymour lipkin

pictured with Vladimir Horowitz and Mrs Rachmaninoff.

News of the death was confirmed to Slipped Disc by Robert Clements, President of Trustees at Kneisel Hall, where Seymour was artistic director since 1986. Robert spoke to Seymour’s wife, Ellen Werner, this morning.

The funeral will be in Maine, today or tomorrow.

Our condolences to Ellen and the family.


  • Larry says:

    He was also active as a conductor, including many years as music director of the Long Island Symphony (not to be confused with the present-day Long Island Philharmonic.)

  • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

    In the late 1970s, I was sitting in an Amtrak train from Philadelphia to New York City and studying a miniature score. The person next to me was looking over my shoulder. Finally, he said “I don’t know that work, what is it?” I told him that is was the 2nd Horn Concerto by Richard Strauss and that I was on my way to meet the soloist, a friend and former high school colleague, who lived in NYC and worked as a free-lance hornist at that time (Joseph Anderer, currently a principal horn with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra) to discuss the interpretation for a future concert in Philadelphia.

    The gentleman introduced himself as Seymour Lipkin who was on his way back to NYC after a day of teaching piano at Curtis (he was hired by Rudolf Serkin in the late 1960s). When I joined the Curtis staff in 1980, we renewed our acquaintance and became good friends and colleagues until my retirement in 2009. Seymour was an artist, a gentleman, an intellectual, and a mensch in the best sense of that term. He was admired and respected by his students and appreciated by his Curtis faculty colleagues (Fleisher, Frank, Graffman, McDonald, Sokoloff; and more recently Jonathan Biss and Meng-Chieh Liu).

    The last time I saw him was in the Juilliard cafeteria in 2010 where he was eating his usual very healthy salad with an unusual dressing that one could smell long before arriving at the table. It was a running joke at Curtis that we always knew when Seymour had lunched because the faculty lounge was imbibed with the aroma of his pungent salad dressing long after he finished the mid-day ritual.

    Seymour was a brilliant pianist, a conductor, a sympathetic teacher, and a friend and supportive colleague to many of us. May he continue to perform at that great Blue Hill in the sky as we all send or condolences to his wife and family. A la prochaine, maître…

    • John Koen says:

      Thank you for a beautiful tribute, Robert Fitzpatrick, of a musician I only knew through his students’ musicality and stories and through the occasional Beethoven Cello Sonata evenings with my teacher David Soyer.

  • bratschegirl says:

    Oh, very sad news. A gentleman and a scholar.

  • Heinrich says:

    Just the other day I found a photo of him as an 18 yo accompanist for no other than a certain Mr Jascha Heifetz during The War. RIP Maestro…..l

  • Gisela Klein says:

    Bob Fitzpatrick, Your tribute to and memories of Seymour are much appreciated! During my years in the late 70s as Registrar at Curtis, I knew him to be an amazing musician and teacher, and above all, a lovely human being in every way. I think of him often with deep admiration, gratitude and respect. – See more at:

  • Oxana Yablonskaya says:

    Good by, dear friend… I and my husband were always great admirers of your art! You were and will always be one of the greatest pianists !
    With great memories and profound sorrow-
    Oxana Yablonskaya

  • Nancy Shear says:

    Seymour was an artist who talked about music with the same involvement and intensity as he performed it. I met him when I was on the Curtis staff, then handled the promotion of his complete Beethoven Piano Sonatas, and the Complete Violin and Piano works of Schubert, recorded with Arnold Steinhardt. To Seymour, it was always about the art; the business was secondary. We will all miss his presence on and off stage.

  • Robin Clements says:

    Seymour’s amazing life and marvelous musicianship will be remembered and celebrated at a memorial service this Friday, December 4, at 3 PM, at Riverside Memorial Chapel, Amsterdam and 76th St., NYC.

  • Lora Tchekoratova says:

    Thank you for this tribute! A year later we are still missing him every day. A memorial concert will take place on November 9, 2016 at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, featuring students and colleagues. The event will benefit the Kneisel Hall Chamber Music Festival in Blue Hill, ME. Join us!