The Slipped Disc daily comfort zone (23): Nina Simone, pianist

She was a Carl Friedberg student at Juilliard.

She could play way before she could sing.

Love Nina, 1933-2003

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  • Simone studied at Julliard with Friedberg for only one summer. More important were her studies with Vladimir Sokoloff, a Curtis Institute professor who, after her notorious rejection by Curtis, offered to teach her privately. Sokoloff’s wife, Eleanor, is a legend if ever there were one, now still on the faculty of Curtis at the age of 105 for a total of 84 years, though I think she now does her teaching at her home.

  • Édith Piaf, Ellis Regina, Nina Simone, and a few other….Artists eaten by an internal fire, so much intensity and obviousness…. They don’t want to be artists, they just are…

  • A powerful, volcanic artist that holds your attention until she’s done. Even in her light hearted work there is always the gravitas and seriousness lurking.

  • Hugely gifted musician and powerful woman. From a very unscientific sample the most popular artist on Desert Island Discs.

  • Dear Norman Lebrecht,

    In ’53, I was in NYC from Rockford, Ill., enrolling in a MA degree program at Columbia U.
    With three new friends, I went to swim in Atlantic City for a couple of days.

    One sunny afternoon, at 4, we were walking down the main street in A.C., when I heard a singer/ pianist warming up for the evening in a bar/restaurant.

    The harmonies were beautiful and each full chord quietly ‘rang’ with sonority. Well, that is no pop musician, I knew for sure!

    I left my 3 friends on the sidewalk to go inside for a look and to listen hopefully.

    I was warmly welcomed in, when I said: “Great improvisor, you’re in a deep Brahmsian groove today, may I listen?”*

    She smiled, nodded yes! and I was there listening and chatting for an hour before her (sad, to me) ‘shift’ began.

    I was so glad I went in because I had just MET THE AMAZING NINA SIMONE!

    (EXILED FROM A CAREER AS A CLASSICAL PIANIST, both as a woman and, particularly, as an African American, it was her first job as a pop/club musician. I felt her MELANCHOLY. I still feel it.)

    * my exact words, never to be forgotten

  • Many thanks, Steeven Holloway. Shortly before her untimely death, there were reports here that Nina Simone wanted to sing and record opera. Information here about her piano studies with Carl Friedberg andthe Sokoloffs puts this in a different light.

    CCarl Friedberg was a student of Clara Schumann’s. He recorded a little Brahms and Schumann himself, and bestows a certain cachet on anyone or anything he touched. What a strange connection! Lovely story, Mr. Kristian Stang.

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