Robert Schrade, noted pianist and patriarch of Sevenars Festival, dead at 91

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WORTHINGTON — Pianist, educator, and patriarch of the Schrade Family Pianists and Sevenars Music Festival, Robert Schrade, died in New York on Dec. 14, 2015. He was 91.

In an international career that was launched with his Town Hall debut in New York in 1949 and included numerous recitals in New York and tours of Europe, Canada, and the U.S., Mr. Schrade was known for unusual themed programs that featured trahnscriptions and music by composers — among them Galuppi, Dussek, Liapounoff, Liadov — whose work was largely unexplored by many pianists.

Writing for the New York herald-tribune, Virgil Thomson called Mr. Schrade "first class by anybody's standards" while Harold Schonberg, writing for the New York Times, stated that "Robert Schrade is entitled to a vote of thanks for his enterprise in casting off the shackles of the conventional repertoire."

Mr. Schrade also championmed work by many contemoporaries, including Nicolas Flagello, Paul Creston, Peter Mennin, and Ernest Bloch, among others.

His interpretations of Bloch's compositions in the 1950s reportedly led Bloch to request a performance by Mr. Schrade of his Concerto Symphonique for piano and orchestra, which took place in 1965 in Carnegie Hall with the National Orchestral Association.

Among other notable programs in Mr. Schrade's concert career were "Evening of Fantasies" (including Schumann's Op. 17, Schubert's Wanderer Fantasy, and works by CPE Bach); his "Op. 53 Program," a reciotal of works of that opus number by Beethoven, Chopin, Scriabin, and Arensky, among others); and "Around the World on 88 Keys" a program of diverse international composers, rooteded in Mr. Schrade's belief in music as a unifying force in the world.

Along with Mr. Schrade's performing (from which several finger surgeries necessitated an eleven-year absence), he maintained a distinguished teaching career at his alma mater, Manhattan School of Music (where he had been a pupil of Harold Bauer), and also at the Chapin School — a private K-12 day school for girls on Manhattan;s upper east sude — and privately.

"Remembered for his gracious style, mild manner and dry sense of humor, Mr. Schrade was a beloved pianist and an integral part of Chapin's music department from 1948 to 1989 " commented Dr. Patricia Hayot, current head of the Chapin School. "Mr. Schrade had an enormous impact on his students who developed their appreciation for music under his tutelage."

Among those who studied with Mr. Schrade and his wife, composer-pianist Rolande Young Schrade, were his five children, several of whom distinguished themselves as musicians individually. Performing together, they started the Sevenars Music Festival in Worthington, now approaching its 49th season. Appearing in recitals at Lincoln Center and other venues in New York and elsewhere, the group became known as the Schrade Family Pianists.

Born Dec. 2, 1924 in Walden, N.Y., Mr. Schrade began performing masterworks of the piano repertoire as a child, under the tutelage of Louis Greenwald. After serving as corporal in the Army Air Corps from 1942-1945, he continued his musical studies with Harold Bauer at the Manhattan School of Music, where he received Bachelor and Master degrees simultaneously in 1948 before launching a career that included solo, chamber music, concerti, and accompanying.

It was at the Manhattan School of Music that he met Rolande Young, whom he married in 1949. They were husband-and-wife for 65 years until her death last January. Mr. Schrade also is pre-deceased by eldest daughter, pianist Robelyn Schrade-James. He is survived by three daughters, a son, and three grandchildren.

Information was provided by the Schrade family. Their material — portions of which appeared in the Westfield News' Arts Beat on Jan. 3, and in various Springfield area newspapers — was edited for publication in The Berkshire Eagle by arts and entertainment editor Jeffrey Borak.


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