Leonid Hambro and Jascha Zayde – Duo Pianos – In session for Voice Of America – circa 1946 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
Notable Piano Duos playing unfamiliar music by American Composers – Leonid Hambro and Jascha Zayde in a session for the Voice Of America (circa 1946, but would like clarification – hint, hint), playing music by American Composers from the early-mid 20th Century – 2 cuts: Ralph Berkowitz – Dialogue On Gilbert & Sullivan Themes – and Henry Simmons – Tango at Midnight from Partita Americana.
Leonid Hambro was born in Chicago, the son of immigrant Lithuanian Jews; his father was a pianist accompanying silent films.
He studied at the Juilliard School, and won First Prize at the National Naumburg Competition in 1946. He was the musical sidekick of pianist and humorist Victor Borge for ten years, from 1961 to 1970, and occasionally performed with Borge throughout the remainder of Borge’s career. In 1970 he became the Head of the Piano Department of the California Institute of the Arts, in Santa Clarita, California, and Assistant Dean of the School of Music, holding these posts until 1992.
Hambro was Artist in Residence of the Aspen Institute and the official pianist of radio WQXR, New York. He played with the P. D. Q. Bach performances and the Hoffnung Musical Spoof Concerts. He published with Jascha Zayde The Complete Pianist (Ludlow Music Inc., New York). He also composed the piano piece Happy Birthday Dear Ludwig, a set of five variations on “Happy Birthday to You” in the style of many famous Beethoven pieces such as Minuet in G, Sonata Pathétique, Moonlight Sonata, Für Elise, and the Fifth Symphony.
Hambro released two albums on Cook Records, currently operated by Smithsonian Folkways. They were entitled A Perspective of Beethoven-Pianoforte and Cook’s Tour of High Fidelity, and released in 1953 and 1965, respectively. He also recorded “Switched-On Gershwin”, a duo album of Hambro’s classical piano, blended with the Moog synthesizer of Gershon Kingsley, for AVCO Records in 1970. With Victor Borge Hambro played persiflages on well-known pianopieces like Chopins Minute Waltz.
On December 22, 2003, he entertained the members of the New York Atheists Inc. at their first annual NYC Atheists Solstice Dinner and Party at the Hunan 5th Avenue Restaurant. He claimed to have been born an atheist and to have never belonged to any congregation throughout his life. He died in New York City, aged 86.
Jascha Zayde was born to Russian parents living in Mercedes, Argentina on October 25, 1911. His family moved to the U.S. when he was six months old and he began studying the piano by the age of three. He made his debut performance at the age of 7. Zayde won a fellowship to the Juilliard School, where Carl Friedberg was his principal teacher. Zayde became the first staff musician hired by WQXR, the classical radio station in New York City, in 1936. Initially, he was the host of a weekly radio program called “The Development of Piano Music.” Later, the station hired a second pianist, Clifford Herzer, and the duo formed a two-piano team that became one of the station’s most popular features. When Herzer joined the Navy, Zayde was then teamed with Leonid Hambro. Zayde and Hambro were also a popular team, both on the radio and in concert. Zayde was also the staff keyboard player of the New York City Ballet, starting in 1954. Zayde died in September of 1999.
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