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Max Lifchitz Celebrates His 31 Years At UAlbany

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Did you know that Max Lifchitz is a music professor at the University at Albany? He had originally taught in conservatories and universities such as in Georgia as a distinguished scholar in 2006 at the Columbus State University.

He was born and raised in Mexico City as the fifth child among his three brothers and sister. He moved to New York in 1966 to professionally pursue and study music. He graduated from Harvard University and The Juilliard School of Music as he studied professionally in piano and has mastered it for over 50 years.

“Playing the piano, there’s a muscular thing, a kinetic thing,” said Max Lifchitz. “Being a pianist is like being an athlete in many ways because you depend on your muscles, so you have to keep your fingers in shape. My whole life is music. I always knew I was gonna be a musician. I have had the opportunity to do what I want [and] I’ve been lucky to have a steady job for many years. I want to keep practicing my art.”

“Professor Lifchitz is my instructor as my piano performance major [and] had him for several classes including composition this semester,” said senior student Robert LaRocca. “I really enjoy the composition class and what I’m writing. He is a fantastic teacher and performer. He has such a wide range of performance and specializes in Latin American style music. I’m so personally impressed with everything that he does and [I] feel fortunate that he’s at this school and have the opportunity to work with him, it’s absolutely wonderful.”

To celebrate Max Lifchitz’s 31 years at UAlbany, a concert was held on Monday, Feb. 27, in the Recital Hall at the Performing Arts Center. It dedicated his compositions through performance pieces that varied from singing, violin, flute, and cello.

Leonard Bernstein and his former professor and famous Italian composer, Luciano Berio, are some of the people who have had an impact on his music journey. Depending on the project he works with, he challenges himself by composing music for particular instruments and play with the possibilities of the instrument.

Lifchitz’s compositions performed consisted of the sweet sentimental sounds of “Cinco Preludios” (1964) in which you can hear a variety of intense, dramatic, and playful sounds along repeated chords where notes are usually held, in unison, and into interludes of piano solo. “Yellow Ribbon No. 46” (2009) was a duo of the piano and cello, where the piano is held during continuous pounding chords to the cello’s diverse sounds, depicting suspense which then escalated to sustained and dramatic sounds. “Transformations No. 2” (1983) is a solo for the violin which is avant-garde inspired.

His works are also inspired by the world where “Yellow Ribbon No. 39” (2005) was inspired by the CNN reports of tsunamis, “Yellow Ribbon No. 46” (2009) by the CNN reports of Iran, and “Yellow Ribbon No. 51” (2016) by the Orlando massacre which gave the audience ghostly sounds from the tension between instruments such as the violin’s use of Col legno technique.

“I thought it was good, I thought it really expressed about the issues that he was talking about what the pieces are about.” said sophomore Brett Trainor.

With Max Lifchitz on the piano with his wife, Laura, beside him as the page-turner, the ensemble included UAlbany alums professional flutist Norman Thibodeau (’90) and cello player he taught in 2010, Ben Burnham (’11). The ensemble also included his friends of 12 years: both violinist Heidi Skok, and mezzo-soprano singer Claudia Schaer. UAlbany students from Lifchitz’s composition class came to support him, too.

“Very nice!” said sophomore Jay Xinhung.

“I really enjoyed the last one, especially ‘Forget Me Not: The Potato’ (2014), which was very funny,” said LaRocca. “And to find that the writer of the poem is from Albany makes it more special.”

Max Lifchitz has an ensemble he founded where he has conducted, composed, and played for in New York City that began in the 1980s called “North/South Consonant,” which has over 60 recordings. Some of his new compositions will be played on Apr. 18.

His advice to students: “You must have a lot of dedication. You have to work awfully hard. And you have to have resilience because success sometimes doesn’t come very easily or rapidly.  Today of course you have to have great knowledge and master your technology, because a lot now depends on it. You cannot fall back or stop learning. Don’t give up easily. Try to be as versatile as possible.”

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