BLUE HILL, Maine — Renowned pianist and conductor Seymour Lipkin, who served as artistic director of Kneisel Hall for the past three decades, passed away Nov. 16 in Blue Hill. He was 88.
Lipkin served as artistic director of Kneisel Hall in Blue Hill from 1986 until his death.
According to an obituary published Thursday in The New York Times, Lipkin first made his mark in 1948 when, at the age of 20, he won the top prize in the national Rachmaninoff Fund Piano Contest in New York.
“He went on to play on the world’s foremost recital stages and with the world’s most eminent orchestras,” The Times noted.
In addition to his position at Kneisel Hall, Lipkin was a longtime faculty member of the Juilliard School in New York and the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. He also had served at times as assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic and as music director of the Joffrey Ballet, the Long Island Symphony, the New York City Opera and throughout Italy, according to his biography posted on the Kneisel Hall website.
Kneisel Hall is a seasonal chamber music school and festival located on Pleasant Street in Blue Hill. Every summer, from mid-June until early August, a small faculty works with approximately 50 pre-professional musicians, concentrating almost exclusively on chamber music for strings and piano, Kneisel Hall officials have said.
According to a 1996 profile of Lipkin published in the Bangor Daily News, Lipkin was small in stature and had a gnomish quality, “like an eccentric uncle wearing a signature fishing hat, sporting spunky tennis shoes and carrying a pencil in his breast pocket.” All diminutive aspects of his appearance, however, vanished when he sat down at a piano.
“But hear him play Beethoven and watch out,” Alicia Anstead wrote in the BDN profile. “He’s big. Grand, provocative, exquisite, distinguished, one of America’s best: These are some of the words critics have used through the years to describe Lipkin’s talent.”
According to the BDN profile, Lipkin’s grandfather was a violinist, something his father wanted to be. Instead, Lipkin’s father became a physician. But both his parents wanted him to be a musician. He started taking lessons at age 3 and left for Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia at the unusually young age of 10.
“By good luck, it fit,” Lipkin is quoted as saying in the article. “I never thought of doing anything else.”