Pianist noted for her evocative music, versatility

Robin Spielberg to play Nov. 8 at Oakland Manor

October 31, 2002|By Philip Greenfield | Philip Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

An evocative setting will provide the backdrop for an evocative artist Nov. 8 when pianist Robin Spielberg performs at historic Oakland Manor in Columbia.

Preceded by a grandfather and a great-uncle who played in the old NBC Symphony under conductor Arturo Toscanini, Robin Spielberg had strong family ties to the idiom of classical music.

Though trained as a classical musician, the New Jersey-based pianist has gravitated to a relaxed, audience-friendly style that flirts with New Age elements while remaining faithful to the unaffected eloquence of the standards she champions and the instrumental songs she composes.

Her flair for composition revealed itself in a 1993 anthology she recorded for the North Star label called Heal of the Hand. The 11 original works on that program revealed her melodic gifts, and they placed her at the forefront of the contemporary music scene.

Since then, Spielberg's recordings have taken her listeners on a number of spiritual odysseys. Her four holiday recordings (Spirit of the Holidays, In the Heart of Winter, American Chanukah, and The Christmas Collection) make for hushed, lovely interludes of seasonal reflection.

Other notable Spielberg releases include anthologies of American standards and film songs (Unchained Melodies and With a Song in My Heart), Mother, a musical celebration of maternity in all its aspects, and a handsome program of lullabies titled Beautiful Dreamer.

The idea for Beautiful Dreamer came as a result of the pianist's firsthand observation of the healing effects music had on her baby daughter who was born prematurely and spent four months in a neonatal intensive care unit. The response was a deeply personal collection of gentle melodies such as the "Lullaby" of Johannes Brahms, "Lavender Blue," "Puff the Magic Dragon," "You Are So Beautiful," and the sublime Stephen Foster song that gave the program its title.

For her interest in music and healing, in fact, Spielberg has been named "celebrity spokesperson" for the American Music Therapy Association, an organization of professionals involved in the knowledgeable use of music in a number of therapeutic settings.

True to the drama training Spielberg received at New York University and the many hours she spent on the stage in and around The Big Apple, she has composed music for numerous off-Broadway productions and films. John Guare's Women & Water, David Mamet's adaptation of Anton Chekhov's Three Sisters, and two of Mamet's plays for children - The Frog Prince and The Poet and the Rent - have benefited from the inclusion of Spielberg's expert scoring.

She is no stranger to television, having been featured on Lifetime Live, ABC's World News This Morning and Good Morning America and PBS' The Soul of Christmas: A Celtic Music Celebration with Thomas Moore.

She is one of the most versatile performers to have entertained in Columbia in a long time.

Historic Oakland Manor, 5430 Vantage Point Road in Columbia, will present "An Evening of Solo Piano with Robin Spielberg" at 8 p.m. Nov. 8. Tickets are $15; $12 for students and senior citizens. Information: 410-730-4801.

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