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Samuel Lipman (Piano)

Born: 1934 - San Jose, California, USA
Died: December 17, 1994 - Manhattan, New York, USA

The American pianist and music critic, Samuel Lipman, made his first public appearance as a pianist when he was 8. He went on to attend the Pierre Monteux summer music school in Maine and to study harmony and counterpoint with the composer Darius Milhaud.

Samuel Lipman made himself a name first as a concertt pianist. He made his recital debut as a child prodigy in San Francisco in 1943, his New York debut at Town Hall in 1955. After this debut, he was hailed by a critic for The New York Times as "one of the most promising pianists of the season." Lipman wrote in The New Criterion in 1988: “I have spent most of my life playing the piano, performing music from Bach and Scarlatti to Olivier Messiaen and Elliott Carter.” In the late 1950's, he took time off from his musical life to earn a master’s degree in political science at the University of California at Berkeley, where he was a Woodrow Wilson Fellow. The musician who had studied with Darius Milhaud, Pierre Monteux, Hugo Weisgall, and Rosina Lhevinne was thus as well acquainted with the writings of Edmund Burke, John Stuart Mill, and Karl Marx as with the scores of J.S. Bach Arnold Schoenberg, and this unusual combination of professional artistic experience and intellectual mastery was the defining characteristic of his many-sided career. In 1983, he gave the first New York performance of Hugo Weisgall's Sonata for Piano at Carnegie Recital Hall.

In 1982, Samuel Lipman became the publisher of The New Criterion, a conservative journal of the arts. Previously, he had been known chiefly as a concert pianist and the music critic of Commentary, but he soon became a leader in the neo-conservative movement, writing and lecturing on political and cultural subjects.

He was prominent in the creation of the 1980 Heritage Foundation report that criticized the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, saying it supported "pseudo art" and "pseudo scholarship" for political purposes, thereby reducing art and scholarship to "mere entertainment." But he did not go along with many fellow conservatives who sought to abolish the two endowments. Serving from 1982 to 1988 on the National Council on the Arts, the body appointed by the President that advises the chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, Lipman became one of its more outspoken members. Jacob Neusner, another neo-conservative member of the council at that time, recently recalled a council meeting at which Lipman stood alone in opposing the establishment of grants for solo theater performance artists. Such grants later became a lightning rod for criticism of the Federal agency.

In 1988, Samuel Lipman played a major role in preparing "Toward Civilization," a 183-page report by the arts endowment that sought to shift the emphasis of arts education in the USA away from the so-called touchy-feely school to such conservative orthodoxy as "cultural literacy," "hard work and discipline" and, above all, "knowledge and understanding." In a series of cogent and contentious essays, he often took unfashionable positions, like arguing the distinction between high and low culture, opposing multiculturalism and upholding traditional values.

After he was appointed music critic of Commentary in 1975, Samuel Lipman concentrated on music criticism and Government arts policy, putting aside his career on the concert stage. He published four books of essays: Music After Modernism (Basic Books, 1979), The House of Music: Art in an Era of Institutions (David R. Godine, 1984), Arguing for Music, Arguing for Culture (Godine, 1990) and Music and More: Essays, 1975-1991 (Northwestern University Press, 1992). In 1994, he edited and contributed an essay to a new edition of Matthew Arnold's Culture and Anarchy (Yale University Press).

From 1985 to the onset of his illness in 1993, Samuel Lipman e was the artistic director of the Waterloo Music Festival and School in Stanhope, New Jersey. Lipman died on December 17, 1994 at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in. He was 60 and lived in Manhattan. The cause was leukemia. In addition to his wife, Jeaneane, he is survived by a son, Edward, a student at Oxford University in England.


Source: Obituary in New York Times (Author: William H. Honan, December 18, 1994); The New Criterion (Author: by Hilton Kramer, January 1995)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (April 2014)

Samuel Lipman: Short Biography | Recordings of Instrumental Works

Links to other Sites

Samuel Lipman Is Dead at 60; A Cultural Critic and Pianist (NY Times)

Samuel Lipman, 1934-1994 (The New Criterion)

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