Richard and John Contiguglia



Letter from Keith Fagan, The Liszt Society

Adams Piano Recital Letters



Letter from Keith Fagan, The Liszt Society

Letter from Keith Fagan, The Liszt Society
(Click image to view entire letter)

The Adams Foundation Piano Recital Series

How It Started
    When John and Richard Contiguglia attended their 40th class reunion at Yale in June of 1999, they presented their classmates and their wives with a piano recital in Sprague Hall, which took place before the formal class dinner.  During the dinner, a classmate, Stephen Adams, whom Richard and John had not known as undergraduates, introduced himself to them, remarking at the time that the only topic of conversation at his table was the twin’s earlier recital.  During the dinner Mr. Adams had been honored for his generous gift to the Yale School of Music as part of the class reunion gift to the university.

    After this encounter Mr. Adams invited Richard and John to give a concert at the Lobero Theater in Santa Barbara for the benefit of the Music Academy of the West.  During their visit to Santa Barbara, the Contiguglias were asked by Mr. Adams how someone like him could help pianists like them.  Richard and John responded that, what pianists like them needed was not subsidy, but work, as the market for live music, particularly for piano recitals, was fast disappearing in America. 

    They proposed to Mr. Adams the idea of organizing piano recitals in small communities that would be sponsored locally, but that the Adams Foundation would subsidize.  Subsequent conversations and proposals led to a pilot-project of 5 different venues, each presenting 2 piano recitals, under the title of the Adams Foundation Piano Recital Series.  The Contiguglias recruited outstanding American pianists to be part of the program and received a commitment from Steinways to make its concert-department pianos available to the artists.  Thus began a novel program that all parties hoped would regenerate piano recitals throughout America.

The Results

Adams Foundation Series Recitalists

For 13 years, from 2001-2014, the project made possible 261 piano recitals in 40 different communities, in 25 different states, by 18 different American pianists.

Responses from participating pianists and local sponsors were equally enthusiastic:
    "The absence of live performances at the community level has contributed to an estrangement on the part of audiences from classical music, and to audiences doubting their own responses to the music.  Sadly, these audiences have sought the reassurance that comes from the marketing of superstars and the pronouncements of critics as a substitute for personal reactions to the beauties of the piano's art.  I, as a performer, feel inspired by the possibilities that the Adams Series represents, and I sense that audiences will develop their own genuine responses by being exposed to an older and truer idea of what a recital really is.  Adams chooses small halls with excellent acoustics." -Jeanne Stark-Iochmanns

    "After an Adams recital by Jon Nakamatsu, an elderly lady wrote me: I left the church with chills on my body (the recital ended with Brahms Sonata in F Minor).  The music, the artists, the pianos create a visceral presence, impossible in most large modern halls."  -John Contiguglia

    "There was a time when great pianists of the day - Serkin, Arrau, Richter - came through our area, but nowadays presenters say they can't make money on them.  But along comes the Adams Foundation that is actively working to bring live music at affordable prices to smaller venues.  Without the support of this generous and visionary foundation, the Performing Arts Series would not have been able to present the extraordinary musicians we have.  Judging from the response of the cheering crowds at the concerts, piano recitals will once again become a dynamic thread in the cultural tapestry of 'The Rennaissance City'" -Michael Ducharme, Director of the Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts in Providence, RI.

After 13 years the Adams Piano Recital Series came to an end, but not without the following letters of appreciation from many of the participating pianists to the Contiguglias and to the Foundation:

Simone Dinnerstein: "Dear Richard and John, I am so sad to hear that the concerts will be coming to an end. You and Richard really created something very special, with the very generous support of Denise and Steven Adams. It has been an honor and a privilege for me to be part of this series."

Jon Nakamatsu: "Dear John and Richard, I cannot tell you how sorry I am to hear the news. I CAN tell you how eternally grateful I am to you both for the wonderful experience which you afforded me during these past years with the Adams Foundation. You have done amazing work and, through the Foundation, brought music to places that otherwise would never hear such repertoire and artists. I am so honored to have met and known you both and look forward to seeing you in the future. You’re tops on my list!!! Thank you for everything. Much affection, John N."

Joseph Kalichstein: "Hi Friends, I am sickened by this. Thank you both for your part in this fantastic venture, and I feel very lucky we got to know each other! Let’s stay in touch. With a big, big hug, Yours, Yossi"

Steven Mayer: "Dear John and Richard, Thank you for many years’ worth of opportunity, experience and happy times. You and the Adamses are both rare and wonderful people. May your spirits go on in endless reincarnations as this particular one comes to a close. With affection, Steven"

Ursula Oppens: "Dear John: These concerts were wonderful, and I am grateful to have participated in them. Thank you so much for having included me. With best wishes, Ursula"

Soyeon Kate Lee: "Thank you, John! I have been meaning to write you -- I was so sad to hear about the Adams Foundation discontinuing ... but you both have done so much for pianists and audiences, and have our gratitude!"

Frederic Chiu: "Dear John and Richard, Thank you for bringing this to life and for nurturing it, on behalf of myself and the audiences that I was able to reach through this. I appreciate so much the incredible effort and dedication you’ve put into this program. I feel fortunate to have been able to experience it in these final years, as what you say is very true: there is no other program like this. Again, many thanks, Frederic"

Ann Schein: "Dear John and Richard, It was with profound sadness that I received your message about the termination of the Adams Foundation Piano Recital Series.  This visionary project has brought pure joy to each of your chosen pianists and, hopefully, it has brought the great literature of the piano to countless audiences  and new young talents across the country...a great mission! It has been a unique privilege to be a part of this inspired mission, and the extraordinary generosity of Denise and Stephen Adams; your tremendous artistry, recognized instantly by these two beautiful souls, when you performed at Yale, will resound in our American cultural history. It has been an honor to have been included in these memorable twelve years. With affection and respect for you both and with the hope that our special friendship may continue unabated."

Jeanne Stark-Iochmans: "My most cherished friends: When we met, I was very excited about your appreciation, and after you opened the wonderful opportunity for me to actually share my music-making in these made-to-order venues (Adams Recitals), I know, and I told you both many times, “You have changed my life.” I am infinitely grateful to you for my having lived all these years of these experiences, truly the most exciting times of my life. I felt so worthwhile, and I know I sounded better at each concert. I am so sad that the program is now ending, but, also, I am forever grateful, since I know that the power of good never ends. Love, Jeanne"

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