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Harriet Rothstein

1937 - 2015 Obituary Condolences Gallery
Harriet Rothstein Obituary
Harriet Rothstein

1937 - 2015Concert Pianist, Beloved Teacher SOUTH EGREMONT Harriet Rothstein, a concert pianist and teacher who spread music, enthusiasm and love wherever she went, died peacefully at home on Wednesday, July 1. Rothstein was born Harriet Elsom in Philadelphia on April 23, 1937 to Dr. Kendall A. Elsom, head diagnostician at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital, and Dr. Katharine O'Shea Elsom, a professor of Public Health at the University. Rothstein grew up on Old Gulph Farm in Gladwyne, Pennsylvania, a small village on Philadelphia's "Main Line." She attended the Agnes Irwin School and The Baldwin School in Bryn Mawr. Rothstein, who moved to South Egremont, Massachusetts in 2005, is remembered for her brilliant piano accompaniment, concerts, and her contagious enthusiasm for life. Her accomplishment winds back to her childhood, when it was clear, said Rothstein's daughter, Sarah Eustis, "that she had a monumental talent." She began playing the piano at age 5, and by 12 she was performing with the Philadelphia Orchestra and many other accomplished musicians. From there, Rothstein entered a path in which her breadth and talents grew and were recognized by some of world's most renowned musicians. Rothstein plunged herself headlong and deeply into her craft. From 1954 to 1958 she studied performance with Rudolf Serkinand Isabella Vengerova at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, and with Nadia Boulangier and Sue Ain at Fontainbleu, France. She attended Bryn Mawr College before transferring to the University of Pennsylvania, where she met architecture student David Rothstein. The couple married in 1960 at Old Gulph Farm, with music, naturally, central to the wedding; American blues musician and jazz singer Lonnie Johnson was there, enchanting the party with his pioneering music. The couple moved to Caracas, Venezuela in 1962 to take part in a Harvard/MIT urban development program that her husband had joined, and Rothstein lived there for six years, living an expatriate life filled with music and adventure. She performed as soloist with the Orchestra Central of Venezuela and in many recitals and chamber groups with Veronica Yocum von Moltke, Judy Haimas, Ruth Laredo and Harry Aben. A major earthquake in Caracas in 1967 sent Rothstein fleeing for safety in bare feet down eight flights of stairs. The episode brought her back to New York City, where the couple lived the following year while she was pregnant with her daughter, Sarah. It was an exciting time, as her husband, a professor of architecture at Columbia University, often hosted late night meetings with students in their apartment on 113th Street, plotting the famous student anti-war protest of spring 1968. Sarah was born in Philadelphia in July of that year, and it was not long after that the Berkshires chapter of Rothstein's life began and rekindled her great love for the area, where she had been a student at Tanglewood Music School in her teens. The Rothsteins began spending summers at the The Music Inn in Lenox, where from 1969 to 1972, when her son Michael was born, she developed chamber music programs and performed and produced concerts with Sue Ann Kahn, Judy Haimas and Elisabeth Eskin. The couple later divorced, and Rothstein and her children moved to Old Gulph Farm in Gladwyne. She continued to perform and to teach, earning a Masters in Musicology from Temple University while raising two children. For years she was a member of the faculty at The Bryn Mawr Conservatory of Music, working closely with Marcantonio Barone. She collaborated with and took great inspiration from many important classical musicians including Shmuel Ashkenasi, Malcolm Frager, Evan Rothstein, Sue Ann Kahn, Ruth Laredo, Hirofumi Kano and Jack Brown. She performed many times with Philadelphia Concerto Soloists. "Terry's playing was intensely insightful," said Evan Rothstein, Deputy Head of Strings at the Guildhall School of Music in London. "Her expressive personality spoke directly and unfailingly through the piano almost as if she and the instrument were one." In performance, he added, "I never heard her play a single note that was not filled with care, meaning and communicative power. She always had something urgent, beautiful and deeply personal to say through her music." Rothstein was deeply spiritual, a quality she radiated in a loving and curious manner. She was a member of the Merion Friends Meeting in Merion Station, Pennsylvania, the South Berkshire Friends Meeting in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, and the Sufi Order in New Lebanon, New York. After moving to South Egremont, she began teaching private students, working as an accompanist at the Great Barrington Rudolf Steiner School, and teaching at The Berkshire Music School in Pittsfield. "She was beloved by her students," said her son, Michael Rothstein, "and had a gentle, kind and inspiring way of teaching, especially with children." Rothstein taught 34 students over the course of eight years at The Berkshire Music School, said Executive Director Tracy Wilson. "I hired her, and when she came in it was love at first sight for both of us a perfect fit. I was proud to have her on the faculty." Wilson said that Rothstein was "adored" by her students. "She was kind and loving to everyone," and was "a favorite collaborative pianist. Singers always went to Harriet." Jack Brown, a classical singer who is on the faculty at The Hotchkiss School and Bard College at Simon's Rock, and who is also Artistic Director of Berkshire Lyric Chorus, testified to Rothstein's intuitive power, graciousness and skill as an accompanist. He met Rothstein after she moved to the Berkshires, and the two gave at least half a dozen public recitals over a two-year period, Brown said. Rothstein was a "kindred spirit," he added, in their joint love of Schubert, Schumann, Beethoven, and Rachmaninoff, in particular." He said she had a vast repertoire, and could "stretch me to do other things with some of her favorites." "She had a certain glow about her," Brown added. "It always appeared that the lights were on, and a real absolute delight in the ability to make music and be around music. It was unusual. It wasn't business-like; it was a real enjoyment." Rothstein also "had a great love of dogs, particularly Golden Retrievers," Michael Rothstein said. Indeed, Rothstein used to bring her Golden Retriever, Danny, to The Berkshire Music School when she taught, Tracy Wilson said. "She would walk him on her break; Danny was just like a family member to the school and students." Harriet struggled over the last year with Parkinson's Disease and Lewy Body Dementia. She died peacefully at home. Rothstein is survived by daughter, Sarah Eustis; her son, Michael Rothstein of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; and her brother, Kendall Elsom Jr. of Philadelphia. She leaves two grandchildren, Henry William Eustis and Frederick Livingston Eustis of Great Barrington. Rothstein was also a beloved member of a large extended family in the Berkshires that includes Timothy Eustis of Great Barrington; David Rothstein of Sheffield; Nancy Fitzpatrick and Lincoln Russell of Stockbridge; Casey Rothstein-Fitzpatrick of Sheffield and Stockbridge; and Morgan Russell of Vail, Colorado. And of this large extended family, Eustis said that Rothstein was evolved in that "even after her divorce, Harriet embraced her extended family, and envisioned family harmony as more important than self. "All benefited from this and remain grateful for her selflessness." A memorial service for Harriet Rothstein will be held on July 17 at 4 p.m. at First Congregational Church of Stockbridge, 4 Main Street, Stockbridge, MA.
Published in The Berkshire Eagle on July 9, 2015
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