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Cellist Evan Drachman and pianist Doris Stevenson perform free concerts in Las Cruces and Deming

Cellist Evan Drachman
Cellist Evan Drachman

Evan Drachman grew up with cello music in his DNA: his grandfather was Gregor Piatigorsky, one of the most renowned cellists of the 20th century. Drachman has dedicated his life not just to the cello, but to honoring his grandfather’s legacy by bringing music to unusual venues – retirement homes, schools, prisons, and remote places in the country. “He used to take what he called the Super Chief train from coast to coast,” Drachman says in this interview with Intermezzo host Leora Zeitlin, “and he would get off at every stop. And in every little town, he would play a concert in the high school auditorium, or gymnasium, or whatever they had in that little town.”

In 1990, Drachman founded the Piatigorsky Foundation to likewise “bring music anywhere where people gather where they don’t normally get live classical music.” Tonight, Drachman performs at the Good Samaritan Auditorium at 6:30 p.m., joined by Doris Stevenson, who not only performed with Piatigorsky but also was the first pianist Drachman ever played with. They will also perform on Saturday, Jan. 27, at the First United Methodist Church in Deming.

In this interview, Drachman talks about how and why he started the Piatigorsky Foundation, relates stories about his grandfather, as well as his teacher Steven Kates, and discusses the works that he and Stevenson will perform: “Prayer,” from Scenes from Jewish Life, by Ernest Bloch, the Cello Concerto by Robert Schumann, and the “Andante” movement from the Cello Sonata by Sergei Rachmaninoff.

The Schumann concerto was particularly associated with Piatigorsky. “Naturally, as his grandson, I avoided it for years, because he was so known for this piece,” Drachman said. But during the covid pandemic, he watched a video of Piatigorsky performing it in 1967, and decided to perform it himself. “Schumann was really well-known as a vocal composer, and even his instrumental works is really vocal in nature. He is almost always singing, and that’s what makes this concerto so special,” he said. “I find it an extraordinary work,” he said. “It is songful, it is soulful.”

Musical clips in this interview are:

1) “The Swan,” from Carnival of the Animals, by Camille Saint-Saens: performed by Gregor Piatigorsky, with Ralph Berkowitz (IRCA 63861);

2) “Prayer,” from Scenes from Jewish Life, by Ernest Bloch: Inbal Segev and Ron Regev (Vox Classics #7910);

3) Movements 1 & 2 from the Concerto for Cello and Orchestra, by Robert Schumann: Gregor Piatigorsky performing with the London Symphony Orchestra, Sir John Barbirolli conducting (private recording provided by Drachman);

4) “Andante,” from Cello Sonata in G Minor, Op. 19, by Sergei Rachmaninoff: Evan Drachman, with pianist Richard Dowling, (EDVC #2903).