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Partners at home and on stage. (Misha & Cipa Dichter).

Nearly every article about pianists Misha and Cipa Dichter begins with the story of two young pianists who fall in love while attending the Juilliard School of Music. Well, why fight the trend? With no apologies at all to the popularity of a love story, we will begin there, too:

Cipa Dichter was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, into a Polish-Russian family and began playing piano at age 3. An outstanding high school pianist, she performed with the Symphony Orchestra of Brazil at age 16. However, she was unsure of her career choice, as she found many subjects interesting and originally entered college in Brazil to major in sociology. Shortly after, she decided to turn to music for a career and came to the Juilliard School in New York to study.

Only six weeks later, she met a young pianist named Misha, who was at that time preparing to enter the International Tchaikovsky Competition. Each day, after his twelve-hour practice routine, the two pianists met to talk, and often, to play four-hand piano together. As the two young pianists fell in love, they kept their affection secret, because they feared Misha's teacher, Madame Rosina Lhevinne, would not approve. When Madame Lhevinne finally learned of the couple's affections, however, she was supportive and arranged for Cipa to change to her studio so the two could study together.

Misha Dichter was born in Shanghai of Jewish-Polish parents who had fled to China early in World War II. His childhood was spent in California, where the family moved when he was 2. A student of Lhevinne at Juilliard, he met Cipa in choir and courted her while preparing for the International Tchaikovsky Competition. Both the courtship and the competition were successful- he won the Silver Medal, launched his international performance career and planned a marriage.

Misha traces his musical lineage to the two great pianistic traditions of the twentieth century: the Russian romantic school, as personified by Lhevinne, and the German classical style, which was passed on to him by Aube Tzerko, a pupil of Artur Schnabel. He has performed with virtually all the world's major orchestras, performing the grand virtuoso compositions of Liszt, Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky, as well as works by Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and Brahms. His performances and recordings of music ranging from Mozart through Stravinsky have made him a favorite of audiences around the world. He is recorded on the Philips, RCA and MusicMasters labels. In 1998, Dichter was honored with the "Grand Prix International du Disque Liszt." Fanfare called his recording of Stravinsky's Piano Concerto "one of the few really important Stravinsky discs to come out in recent years."

The Dichter Duo

Misha and Cipa were married in 1967, shortly before their June 1968 graduation from Juilliard. During the first years of their marriage, Cipa traveled with Misha on his worldwide concert tours. Her playing was limited, even though the couple still found time to play four-hand music for recreation. Four years later, while she was pregnant with her first child, Gabriel, Misha was busy planning a Hollywood Bowl concert for the following year. Returning home one day, he informed Cipa he had programmed Mozart's Concerto in E-flat for Two Pianos, and that she was to perform with him!

Thus began a long partnership. Misha continued his extensive activities as a soloist and chamber musician, and the couple began to add numerous duo concerts each year. Even the addition of another child did not slow them down. The children were always welcome to wander around during rehearsals, and they spent a month each summer in Aspen with their parents, surrounded by a wonderful musical tradition and lots of great family friends. During the year, Cipa planned concerts that were relatively close to home, thus keeping the traveling demands to a minimum.

Now they play fifteen to twenty concerts a year together, while Misha plays ninety to 100 other engagements as soloist, chamber musician or with symphonies. Their concerts have been hosted in all the major cities of the U.S. and Canada, and by the symphonies of Chicago, Los Angeles, Baltimore, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. Internationally, they have performed in music capitals in France, Germany, Holland and Switzerland. They also participate in many of the leading summer festivals, including Mostly Mozart, Ravinia, Caramoor, the Hollywood Bowl and the Aspen Festival.

The duo recently made their first recording together, a piano disc of works by Schubert and Dvorak, released by PianoDisc. Through their performances and recordings, the couple is credited with preserving and fostering a revival of interest in the repertory for music for two pianos and piano, four hands. Although many think of the four-hand repertoire as being lighter and less serious, the literature for that combination by Mozart, Brahms and Schubert is wonderful and eloquent. One work the couple has performed frequently is a four-hand arrangement of Brahms's Fourth Symphony, written by the composer himself.

Misha and Cipa have a home in New York City and one in the countryside in New Salem; between the two residences they share their life with five pianos. Three Steinway grand pianos live in New York, and two in North Salem, and included among the keyboard family are three vintage instruments (1871, 1890, 1930).

The Dichters' life is multifaceted, including two grown sons, a vintage Mercedes automobile and a Springer Spaniel named Mercedes (after the automobile). They both are avid joggers; Misha is a sketch artist and has seen his works exhibited in New York galleries. Cipa is active with the S.L.E. Foundation's Woman's Leadership Council, a woman's health initiative that advocates for increased research on treatment and prevention of lupus. About the challenge of both being married and performing together, Cipa called it "an exercise in patience and diplomacy," and added, "the challenge is to keep your professional life separate from the dinner table."

Sources

"At home with Cipa and Misha," Artsnews, June 1998.

"In Tune: Misha & Cipa Dichter," The Westchester WAG.

"Dichters continue to make beautiful music together," Home News Tribune, July 9, 2000.

"Cipa Dichter," Chicago Tribune.

Misha and Cipa Dichter will perform Monday, March 17, 8:00 P.M. in Abravanel Hall during the 2003 MTNA National Conference.

Kathleen Rountree, NCTM, is dean of the College of Performing and Visual Arts at the University of Northern Colorado. She has written numerous articles on piano literature and edited two anthologies for Warner Publications. She is chair of the American Music Teacher Editorial Committee.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:pianists
Author:Rountree, Kathleen
Publication:American Music Teacher
Article Type:Biography
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2003
Words:1076
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