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The pair played samples of their work, and of those they have worked with. (Photo credit Lauren Feldman)

Great Musicians Talking Great Music

Attendees of the Oyster Bay-East Norwich Public Library were recently treated to a meeting-of-the-minds of two powerhouse members of music. Leonard Lehrman, award-winning composer, shared space with award-winning pianist Dwight Peltzer on Monday, March 4th to discuss their vast experiences with composers and conductors of the recent past and present.

Lehrman (left) shared space with Peltzer (right) at the Oyster Bay Library on March 4.

Lehrman was born in Kansas and raised in Roslyn. Lehrman has worked as a Reference Librarian since March, 1995, shortly after earning his Master’s Degree in Library & Information Science at LIU-Post. His honors thesis there traced the history of concerts in libraries – specifically The Bryant Library, and those of The Long Island Composers Alliance, of which he served as its first President, 1991-98. Prior to that, Lehrman earned his Bachelor’s Degree at Harvard in 1971, Master’s and Doctorate degrees at Cornell in 1975 and 1977. The year after that, he served as Assistant Chorus Master at the Metropolitan Opera; and then seven years at theaters in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Berlin — where he became the first Jew to conduct Fiddler on the Roof in that city, and founded the Jewish Music Theater Association there.

Peltzer grew up in rural Minnesota. The piano was his life. His gift took him to stages all over the US, Canada, and Europe. He performed for royalty and in iconic concert halls. He was awarded two Fulbrights and earned a Fulbright-Hays Professorship in the UK. Peltzer became known as a leader in avant-garde music. In 1978, complications with his hands impacted his ability to play piano. However, the musician has loved decades of teaching and sharing his passion for music and composition with others.

The pair connected through not only their love of music, but veneration for it. “I heard that [Leonard] was a research person at the desk upstairs [in the library],” recalled Peltzer. “I heard that he was a composer, but I didn’t know what I’d be getting into, I couldn’t tell.” Peltzer’s hesitancy fell away when he heard Lehrman play. He recalled hearing a CD recording of Lehrman’s for the first time. “I listened to it, and I leaned forward and said ‘My gosh, this is the real thing!’” “I listened to it again, and I showed it to my wife, and then I played it again… It was beautiful piano playing, and I had not anticipated that,” he laughed.

It was Lerhman’s hope that the pair could work together in some way, which led to their partnership at the Oyster Bay library to share their passion with others. Lehrman opened the event with a live performance of a composition of his own, written in dedication to a piano gifted to the library by Billy Joel in 1997. The piece, titled, “For Oyster Bay East Norwich Public Library”, was based on the musical letters of those words F-O-B-E-N-P-L, as Lehrman explained how composers such as Bach would use the corresponding keys on the piano to tell stories with their names.

Throughout the evening, Lehrman and Peltzer shared snippets of their own recordings, as well as pieces they composed for other musicians. They also recounted fond memories from their time in the heat of the performance spotlight, working with composers and conductors such as Bernstein, Boulez, Cage, Carter, Fiedler, Kraft, Mellers, Mitropoulos, Ozawa, Pleskow, Solti, and von Karajan.

Lehrman is a staple in the Oyster Bay community, and works to preserve musical books, CDs, and tapes for guests of the Library to enjoy. He stressed the importance of celebrating classical compositions. “If you enjoy this work, take it out from your library… Show them that these treasures are worth keeping in the library.” Peltzer was thrilled to speak all things music with his eager audience. “I genuinely just love the music, and teaching that joy to other people,” he said. “It’s not an ego thing for me, I don’t care if people recognize my name or not. What’s most important is the music.”

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