Dmitry Rachmanov & John Salmon Concert Interview

February 19, 2024

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Bach, Brubeck, Boogie and Beyond! Now, that’s a catchy classical music concert title! Drs. Dmitry Rachmanov and John Salmon do it justice, showcasing the genius of Bach, the jazz brilliance of Brubeck, the infectious energy of boogie-woogie and go beyond with eclectic new compositions, on two fabulous concert grands.

For those who don’t know, Dr. Dmitry Rachmanov and Dr. John Salmon are award-winning internationally acclaimed pianists who are also prominent professors at their respective schools of music, California State University, Northridge and The University of North Carolina at Greensboro School of Music.

I first heard Dr. Rachmanov perform at one of Ronna Binn’s Classical Encounters home concerts and was smitten with his powerful and informed performances. He was warm and engaging. I made a point to attend as many of his concerts as my schedule allowed.

I inadvertently met Dr. Salmon through a book review blog I had penned about Dave Brubeck’s collection of improvisations composed with piano teachers in mind. Dr. Salmon had written the forward and recorded several of the pieces featured in the book on YouTube. I included links to his website and YouTube performances in the review. Through those links, Dr. Salmon discovered my article and graciously reached out to me to share additional insightful information. We’ve been friends in music ever since.

Their connection in music is revealed in the interview below.

So, how did this program come to be? Here’s the story. Back in March of 2018, I was invited to attend a concert with several of my piano students, featuring Drs. Salmon and Rachmanov. They performed duos of Bach with jazz improvisations along with Dave Brubeck piano solos by Dr. Salmon, at California State University, Northridge Music Department, (CSUN). These two maestros floored the audience with their piano prowess and warm infectious humor. It was a truly one-of-a-kind concert. I only hoped it could be recreated one day.

Fast forwarding to the formation of The Athena Foundation for the Arts, I was reminded of that memorable 2018 concert and thought, now’s the chance! The community auditorium we rent has the capacity to host two grand pianos on stage. As soon as the auditorium executive gave me the green light to bring in a second grand piano, I reached out to Drs. Salmon and Rachmanov about the possibility of recreating their dynamic duo and was thrilled by their enthusiastic response. With travel plans confirmed, The Athena Foundation for the Arts is excited to present to you Bach, Brubeck, Boogie and Beyond! concert.

Per tradition, we take pride in providing our readers a pre-concert interview, introducing the musicians and the story behind their curated program. Enjoy!

LRW:  Dr. Dmitry Rachmanov and Dr. John Salmon, it’s thrilling and an honor to have you grace our 2024 concert series. I’m curious, how did you two meet?

DR: I have known John through our connections with the American Pianists Association, whose fellowship we both won in different years in the 1980s. We also have a Juilliard connection. We reconnected at a few MTNA national conferences, the first being in Chicago in the spring of 2014.

JS: I studied in Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany (which is where our mutual friend Jura Margulis grew up) but, as Dmitry says, we crossed paths only briefly in NYC, having both studied at Juilliard, and in Indianapolis, home of the American Pianists Association. It wasn’t until 2018, when I played at Dmitry’s school (California State University, Northridge), that we really began to hang out together. Dmitry also played with me in Spokane, WA in 2019 for the session “Adding Notes to Bach” for the Music Teachers National Association conference, doing some of the same duets we will play in North Hollywood on March 3rd.

John Salmon and Dmitry Rachmanov, Spokane, CA 2019

John Salmon and Dmitry Rachmanov, Spokane, CA 2019

LRW: Nice connections through music over the years and years to come. For our readers, may I ask what was the inspiration behind your curated program?  Why these pieces?  Why these composers?  Why now?

JS & DR: It is our great pleasure to perform for The Athena Foundation for the Arts concert series!

JS: Regarding the inspiration for the program, I have a semi-weird response.

LRW: Thank you! Hey, I resonate with all things zany and weird. lol. What’s the story?

JS: Well, last summer my wife and I were visiting our daughter in Chicago and we happened to pass by a Bed, Bath and Beyond store that was closing (and had merchandise up to 60% off!) and somehow the alliterative name of the store transferred in my head to Bach, Brubeck and Beyond. I love the alliteration of Bs, which we enhanced by adding Boogie (Bach, Brubeck, Boogie and Beyond!). Come to think of it, we could have added another B – “Barry”, since we’re doing some preludes by Barry Wehrli.  Would that have been too many Bs?

LRW: Gah, I love this story so much. Alliterate away! Inspo on the go! Hey, that rhymes. Actually, I’ll let you in on a little secret: my sweetheart nickname for Barry is “Boogie”, so in fact, you have the correct number Bs for your concert! Now you know why I added Boogie to your concert title, besides your concert including your Bachy Boogie. Hehe. But, please go on.

JS: Nice! As to why these pieces and these composers, an obvious answer is that Johann Sebastian Bach and Dave Brubeck are very important parts of my musical life. I’ve published three books of JS Bach pieces:  Add On Bach (addonbach.com), Jazz Up the Inventions (jazzuptheinventions.com), and Jazz Up the Sinfonias (jazzupthesinfonias.com).

John Salmon's books are discussed during his blog interview for The Athena Foundation for the Arts

LRW: I’m the proud owner of all three books, personally autographed. These pieces are amazing and quite challenging. Can you please describe them for our readers?

JS: Sure! In Add On Bach, I show ways to change, ornament, and add lines to existing pieces of JS Bach, as in my added continuo part to the Invention in F Major, BWV 779 which Dmitry and I will play on the March 3rd concert.

LRW: “Great Bach’s Afire”! Can’t wait to hear it and watch the audience’s reaction. What’s the Dave Brubeck connection?

JS: My involvement with Dave Brubeck goes back decades, some of which is explained in the articles on my website johnsalmon.com.

LRW: So cool! Such a great friendship in music you have had with the Brubeck family over the years. As for Barry Wehrli?

JS: What better place and time to program some of Barry Wehrli’s Preludes; the composer will (hopefully!) be in the audience.  My goal is not to embarrass him.

LRW: Barry will Be there with Bells on. (More B alliteration). He doesn’t embarrass easily, so no need to go easy on him. We’re excited to have you and Dmitry premiere a selection of Barry’s Preludes. Interesting note: Barry has decided not to look at the program – he wants to be surprised to see which Preludes you guys picked to play. Mum’s the word. 😀 Can you hint at the imagery you’ve curated for your pieces and the stories behind them?

JS: Uh, since I’m not picking any of the images, I’d best not respond!

LRW: Ah, that’s right. I’ll be curating copyright free imagery for you to choose from. Stay tuned. I meant to ask, have you recorded any of the pieces you will be performing?  If so, where may my readers purchase your albums?

JS: Well, here’s an interesting answer:  Yes, I did record Fughetta on ‘Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?’, Imitation Rock, and Salmon Is A Jumpin’ on the Albany CD, Salmon Is A Jumpin’ (Troy 1224) but here’s the thing: on that recording I overdubbed myself on every track essentially making it sound like two pianists playing simultaneously. Only years later did I decide to transcribe what I had done on the recording, a lot of it improvised, and create a score for two pianists to actually play as a duet.  It was a lot harder than you might think!  What Dmitry and I will do on March 3rd is a recreation of that original recording.

John Salmon discusses his CD during his blog interview with The Athena Foundation for the Arts.

LRW: Hey, I have that CD! I enjoy playing it for my piano students. Cool backstory on the overdubbing to sound like two pianists playing simultaneously. Hearing it live with Dmitry at the March 3 concert will be a real treat. In closing, we like to ask our guest musicians for a favorite quote by a composer or musician that you’d like to share with our readers?

DR: Since we are playing Bach, how about this:

It's easy to play any musical instrument: all you have to do is touch the right key at the right time and the instrument will play itself. ~ J.S. Bach Share on X

JS: Hmmm. There are so many!  How about these lines that Dave Brubeck wrote me in a letter from October 26, 1971, in response to a fan letter I had sent him?

LRW: Sure! Quote away!

JS: “Thank you for writing and I wish you every success. If you decide to become a professional musician, the road is rough and the rewards are slim, financially, as my boys are soon learning, but to be doing for a livelihood what you most want to do with your time means more than anything else.”, Dave Brubeck

Those words still resonate with me today and I think when I first read them, when I was 16 years old, I had no idea that this advice would actually help shape my career path. By the way, in case any one is interested, I published that letter in my first article about Brubeck, “What Brubeck Got from Milhaud,” which is on my website johnsalmon.com under the articles section.

LRW: Wonderful wisdom. Thank you for sharing this treasure. I hope my readers will peruse your article which contains this gem along with the other engaging stories on your webpage.

Thank you so much for your generous time sharing the stories behind your upcoming Athena program. We’re very excited for your and Dmitry’s concert.

To learn more about these piano maestros, please visit their website and social media platforms.

Dr. John Salmon
Website
Facebook

Dr. Dmitry Rachmanov
Website
Facebook
YouTube

Please join us at the concert! Details below.

CONCERT DETAILS:

Date
Sunday, March 3, 2024

Time
Doors Open: 3:15 PM
Concert: 4:00 PM – 5:30 PM PDT
Delicious Complimentary Refreshments

Place
Community Auditorium
Church of Scn of the Valley
11455 Burbank Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 91601
•The concert is hosted exclusively by The Athena Foundation for the Arts.
•It is not a church event.
•The Community Auditorium is made available for rent to nonprofits charitable organizations. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to email us. Thank you.

FREE Parking: Farmdale Avenue lot and street parking

Tickets
Purchase tickets on Eventbrite here or scan the QR code at the door. Cash or Credit card payments also available.
Questions? Please feel free to email us. Hope you can join us!
. . . . . . . . . .
The Athena Foundation for the Arts sets the stage, providing world class performing arts programs to enrich and educate the community. If you enjoyed this story, please feel free to share on your favorite social media to get the word out about our nonprofit! Thank you for your support.

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4 Comments

  1. Carol Worthey

    What a delightful interview, charming, fun, friendly and fabulous (you see, I can’t help explore the wonders of illiteration too)! I can’t wait to be there at the March 3rd concert to hear playful, challenging and inspiring piano pieces combining elements of classical music and boogie-down jazz. A few years ago Maestro Rachmanov did me the honor of performing one of my chamber works (“Rescue” for Clarinet, Cello, Piano and Narrator). He’s a superb artist and very nice person. Also, It so happens that when I studied composition at Aspen Music Festival with Darius Milhaud, Dave Brubeck’s son — Darius Brubeck, — was in our class., named in honor of the mentor Dave Brubeck adored. Athena Foundation concerts are not to be missed — they are thrilling, at the top level of musicianship and a great way to let the week’s tensions fly away to “musical paradise” in a welcoming hall with great acoustics and beautiful visuals. I’m also looking forward to hearing some of Barry Wehrli’s piano etudes! Can’t wait!

    Reply
    • Linda Wehrli

      Thank you for your enthusiasm for our concerts, especially the March 3! It’s a pleasure and a privilege to bring these marvelous musicians to our community. Good energy all around 😀

      Reply
  2. Barry Wehrli

    Obviously I’m pretty excited about this one!! 🎶 🎹

    Reply
    • Linda Wehrli

      Indeed! Can’t wait to hear your compositions brought to light by these maestros. 😀

      Reply

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