Russell Sherman, a pianist admired for his poetic and idiosyncratic interpretations of Schoenberg, Beethoven, Debussy, Liszt and others, died on Sept. 30 at his residence in Lexington, Mass. A longtime music educator as nicely, he was 93.
His demise was confirmed by his spouse, the pianist Wha Kyung Byun.
Mr. Sherman, who gave his final recital at 88, made his title performing virtuoso works akin to Franz Liszt’s daunting “Transcendental Études.” Referring to the composer’s status as a showman, Mr. Sherman instructed The New York Instances in 1989 that he was engaged in a “lifelong battle to reconstitute Liszt as a critical composer.”
He recorded the Études on cassette in 1974 and in 1990 for Albany Data. “The poetic thought is central,” he wrote within the liner notes for the second recording, “and the virtuoso components turn into so many layers to orchestrate the poetic content material.”
Mr. Sherman was in some ways an anti-virtuoso; he devoted a lot of his time to different pursuits, like poetry, philosophy and pictures. Within the late Nineteen Fifties, as an alternative of changing into a touring live performance pianist, he left New York to show piano at Pomona Faculty in California and the College of Arizona in Tucson.
In 1967, he started a protracted tenure on the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, employed by its president on the time, the composer Gunther Schuller. Mr. Schuller, who based GM Recordings in 1981, produced a Beethoven album by Mr. Sherman, who turned the primary American pianist to report the complete Beethoven sonatas and piano concertos.
On a GM Recording album, “Russell Sherman: Premieres and Commissions,” Mr. Sherman carried out works composed for him within the Nineteen Nineties by Mr. Schuller, Robert Helps, George Perle and Ralph Shapey. His recordings additionally embody works by Claude Debussy and Arnold Schoenberg, in addition to Chopin Mazurkas, the whole Mozart Piano Sonatas and Bach’s English Suites.
Mr. Sherman started giving public live shows once more within the Seventies. He carried out with the New York Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Boston Symphony Orchestra in addition to main European orchestras.
His live shows drew devoted followers who admired his dramatic interpretations. In 2016, the critic Jeremy Eichler of The Boston Globe wrote that in works by Schoenberg, Beethoven, Debussy and Liszt, Mr. Sherman’s enjoying, “whereas nonetheless demonstrating a formidable athletic prowess, additionally conveyed his abiding items of fantasy and perception.”
His idiosyncrasies had been typically famous. Reviewing a efficiency of Liszt’s Sonata in B minor and two Beethoven sonatas at Carnegie Corridor in 1984, the Instances critic Will Crutchfield wrote: “It’s attainable to really feel that he distorts, infuses an excessive amount of into little,” however added that it was “higher as an alternative to salute in Mr. Sherman’s live performance an antidote to the numerous which might be performed week after week by which listeners are fortunate if their curiosity is genuinely caught a few times in the entire night.”
Some twenty years later, Allan Kozinn wrote in The Instances that Mr. Sherman’s “interpretive model, it ought to be mentioned, is an acquired style,” however that his “performances are often illuminating alternate options to the usual view.”
Mr. Sherman resented these accusations of eccentricity. “I consider myself as a compassionate conservative” who responded “radically to the rating and nothing however the rating,” he instructed The Instances in 2000. He prompt that listeners who disliked his interpretations lacked creativeness.
Russell Sherman was born on March 25, 1930, in Manhattan and lived on the elegant Essex Home resort on Central Park South together with his mother and father and three older brothers. Their neighbors included Rudolf Bing, the overall supervisor of the Metropolitan Opera; the opera singers Lauritz Melchior and Lily Pons; and the pianist Clifford Curzon.
Mr. Sherman’s father, Moses Sherman, was a producer of girls’s raincoats, and his mom, Irene (Schwartz) Sherman, was a homemaker. Russell inherited his father’s love of vogue.
He began piano classes at age 6. At 11, he joined the studio of the Polish-born pianist and composer Eduard Steuermann, who had studied with Schoenberg and Ferruccio Busoni and who inspired his college students to take interpretive dangers. This impressed Mr. Sherman’s personal ethos that performers ought to attempt for what he referred to as “private wildness and conviction” of their interpretations.
He made his live performance debut at 15, at City Corridor in Manhattan, and commenced undergraduate research at Columbia College the identical 12 months. He graduated with a level within the humanities in 1949 and later studied composition with the German composer Erich Itor Kahn.
Mr. Sherman married Wha Kyung Byun, a Korean-born former scholar of his, in 1974; she started educating on the New England conservatory in 1979. They often celebrated their anniversaries by performing collectively.
In a cellphone interview, she recalled soirees at their home, the place college students would learn completely different roles in Shakespeare performs. Mr. Sherman, a passionate baseball fan, was additionally an avid photographer with an curiosity in gentle, shadows and timber. He typically learn science books, decided to grasp ideas he initially discovered difficult.
Whereas educating on the New England Conservatory, he was additionally a visiting professor at Harvard College and at Juilliard in New York. He and his spouse generally taught the identical college students, such because the pianist Minsoo Sohn, who joined the college in 2023. Different former college students embody the pianists HaeSun Paik, Christopher Taylor and Christopher O’Riley.
In 1996, Mr. Sherman revealed “Piano Items,” a compilation of essays about educating and performing. “Notes could also be missed however not casually flubbed,” he wrote. “Phrases could also be askew however not aimlessly drifting. Sonorities could also be brazen however not barren. The participant has to say one thing, with verve and magnificence.”
Along with his spouse, survivors embody his sons Edward and Mark, from his marriage to the pianist Natasha Koval, which led to divorce, and a number of other grandchildren.
“I believe that musical performances ought to be free,” Mr. Sherman as soon as mentioned, and “ought to invite hazard, ought to inform a narrative, ought to court docket the ‘insanity of artwork,’ ought to in each method reveal the traits and visions of the composers.”
Reviewing Mr. Sherman’s efficiency of Prokofiev and Beethoven at age 17, the reviewer famous that “how particular person a pianist he’s stays to be seen,” however that the “looking method” he interpreted music boded nicely.
Mr. Sherman by no means deserted that spirit of inquiry. In keeping with his spouse, when he was interviewed by the Nexus Institute in Amsterdam and requested what he needed written on his tombstone, he replied: “A quest.”