Nissman, Barbara 1944-

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NISSMAN, Barbara 1944-


Born December 31, 1944, in Philadelphia, PA; daughter of Albert (an accountant) and Sophia Nissman; married Daniel Haberman (a poet), 1987 (died August 8, 1991). Education: University of Michigan, B.Mus., M.Mus., both 1966, D.M.A., 1969.


Home—Route 2, Box 260, Herns Mill Rd., Lewisburg, WV 24901. E-mail—[email protected].


Concert pianist, 1969—. Performed with orchestras in the United States and abroad, including London Philharmonic, Royal Philharmonic, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Munich Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic, Pittsburgh Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, Chicago Symphony, and Cleveland Orchestra; toured Far East, Latin America, USSR (now Russia), and New Zealand. Sound recordings include The Complete Solo Piano and Piano/Chamber Works of Alberto Ginastera, three volumes, Globe, 1988; and The Complete Piano Sonatas of Sergei Prokofiev, Bartók by Nissman, Liszt by Nissman, Chopin by Nissman, and Beethoven by Nissman, all released by Pierian Records. Teacher of master classes in piano at institutions in the United States, Europe, Brazil, and New Zealand; presenter of music lecture series "Barbara and Friends," which was also broadcast by British Broadcasting Corp.


Citation of Merit, School of Music, University of Michigan, 1996; record of the year nomination, Gramophone and American Record Guide, both for The Complete Solo Piano and Piano/Chamber Works of Alberto Ginastera.


Bartók and the Piano: A Performer's View (with compact disc), Scarecrow Press (Lanham, MD), 2002.

Prokofiev and the Piano: A Performer's View (with compact disc), Scarecrow Press (Lanham, MD), 2004.

Contributor to journals, including Keynote, Scriabin Society Journal, Piano Today, Musical Times, and Musical Opinion.


Barbara Nissman told CA: "I am a pianist and a performer. I did not set out to write a book; it would be more accurate for me to say that the book found me. While preparing Bartók's piano music for recording, I started exploring a wide range of literature written about this difficult repertoire in hope of clarifying my task at the keyboard. I wanted to know how Bartók, the pianist, approached his own music. I was surprised to discover that no one had discussed this challenging repertoire from the perspective in which the music had been conceived—at the piano and from the point of view of the performer. I wrote the book that I myself was looking to read but could not find. I decided to go to the most reliable source—the composer himself—and concentrated only on his music, his recordings, and his own writings. Essentially, I started with a blank page, a set of open ears, and no preconceptions.

"The discipline of writing has helped redefine my primary work as a pianist. It has forced me to analyze exactly what I do at the instrument—so much of it governed by instinct and led by the artist's intuition. The challenge has been to translate from one medium to another. Frequently I found myself going back and forth from the pianist to the writer with the same question: what exactly do you mean to say? The process has sharpened my focus and concentration and honed my musical reasoning. Having to put words on paper necessitated digging deep within to extract a personal point of view, as well as the strength and conviction of soul to defend it. The performer is the middleman who must constantly search to create clarity from complexity and demonstrate a clear logic that can be communicated directly to the heart of the listener. Only then can magic begin to happen. Hopefully, what I have discovered on my musical journeys will enhance understanding and deepen the joy of the musical experience. It has done that for me."



American Music Teacher, June-July, 2003, Virginia Houser, review of Bartók and the Piano: A Performer's View, p. 96.

Notes, December, 2003, David Witten, review of Bartók and the Piano, p. 452.


Barbara Nissman Home Page, (August 30, 2004).