Nathan Schwartz, Pianist


Nathan Schwartz, Pianist

Schwartz Residence: 1050 Spruce Street

Upon receiving his music degree from Columbia (Phi Beta Kappa), Nathan Schwartz moved to Berkeley from New York. After earning his master’s degree from UC Berkeley, he remained here, dedicating himself to chamber music, teaching, and performing. He taught at UC Berkeley, Stanford, and the San Francisco Conservatory. His colleague, pianist Mack McCray, remarked that when Schwartz had something to say, “I would shut up and listen. He astounded [and] humbled me with such a musical approach to things.”

With violinist David Abel and cellist Bonnie Hampton, who later became his wife, he formed the Francesco Trio. The ensemble won the prestigious Naumberg Chamber Music Award in 1974.

When Schwartz passed away in 2002, music critic Robert Commanday wrote a moving obituary in Classical Voice. His remembrance was unusual in that it expressed something about the man beyond the fact that he considered Schwartz “a musician extraordinaire.” Commanday praised the “interiority” of Schwartz’s playing: “He got inside pieces, realizing them with impeccable integrity, deep understanding, and sympathy.”

During the last two days of his life, which was shortened by leukemia after a miraculous remission, Schwartz listened to a recording of Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto performed by one of his favorite students and studied the score of Brahm’s g minor Piano Quartet, which he, himself, had been rehearsing to play. As Commanday said of him, Nathan Schwartz was a man “who lived to teach and to play.”

Contributed by Diana Kehlmann, 2013

  • Nathan Schwartz, photo Kyogo Watanabe, courtesy Bonnie Hampton

  • Schwartz Residence, 1050 Spruce Street, photo (2013) R.Kehlmann

  • Nathan-Schwartz-Memorial-Concert-program,-p.1,-courtesy-Bonnie-Hampton

  • Nathan-Schwartz-Memorial-Concert-program,-p.2,-courtesy-Bonnie-Hampton

Photo credit abbreviations:
BAHA: Berkeley Architectural Heritage Assn.
BHS: Berkeley Historical Society