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A portrait of Webster Aitken on Between the Keys August 20th

The Classical Network’s Artist-in-Residence Jed Distler devotes this week’s edition of the ASCAP Deems Taylor Virgil Thomson Award winning program Between the Keys to Webster Aitken (1908-1981), a pianist not well-known to the general public, yet one whose artistry significantly contributed to American piano culture.

A pupil of Artur Schnabel, Aitken gave the first cycle of Schubert sonatas to be performed in London, and made his New York debut with no less than Beethoven’s monumental DIabelli Variations. The noted critic B.H. Haggin fervently championed Aitken’s concerts in the 1930s and 40s. However, Aitken recorded relatively little, and he eventually retreated from the public eye with a concentration on teaching, settling in Santa Fe.

Distler has selected performances that he considers among Aitken’s most intense, thoughtful and communicative, including several Handel Fugues, Aaron Copland’s 1922 Passacaglia, and Schubert’s large-scale A Minor Sonata D. 845.