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September 27, 1991 - Image 81

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-09-27

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Pianist Eleanor Lipkin Schwartz has returned to the
concert scene after years of debilitating back pain.


Special to The Jewish News


t Eleanor Lipkin
Schwartz's house in
Lathrup Village
there are three pi-
anos — no waiting.
The upright in the studio is
used for private music lessons
given by Mrs. Schwartz's hus-
band, 'Ibma. In the living
room are two well-polished
Steinway grands, back-to-back
testaments to a life in music
and a nearly arrested perfor-
ming career that is now on the
rise again.
Born in Detroit, Mrs.
Schwartz is part of a distin-
guished musical family, which
includes her brother, pianist-
conductor Seymour Lipkin.
Mrs. Schwartz began her for-
mal training at age 4 when
Valter Poole, then assistant
conductor of the Detroit Sym-
phony Orchestra, heard her
play. By age 10 she was per-
forming with symphonies
From there it was a full
scholarship to the exclusive
Curtis Institute of Music in
Philadelphia, where she
studied under, among other
luminaries, Polish pianist
Mieczyslaw Horszowski and
Rudolf Serkin. Upon gradua-
tion in 1951, the founder of
the institute — and Mrs.
Schwartz's greatest influence
— Mary Louise Curtis Zim-
balist, presented the young
performer with one of the
Steinways. (The other is a
legacy of Eleanor's father.)
By 1953, Mrs. Schwartz had
won the first of her two
Fulbright scholarships to
study in Italy.
The years in Italy were full
of touring, not all of it
glamorous. "The temperature
was in the 100s and the
pianos were sometimes poor,"
Mrs. Schwartz recalls. "One
had been carried over a moun-
tain on the backs of eight
men. I started to play and the
keys would come out in my
hands." Only after the tour
ended did Mrs. Schwartz learn
that it had been sponsored by
the State Department, "for

the purpose of counteracting
Communist influence in the
After performing in Europe
and America, Mrs. Schwartz
became a member of the
University of Toledo (Ohio)
faculty. She formed the suc-
cessful Trio di Perugia, which
toured widely in the U.S. and
Canada. She also taught and
performed both solo and
chamber music at Bowling
Green State University.
But life would soon change
drastically. Around 1971, she
began to notice that "if I prac-
ticed, I'd begin to have awful
back pain!'
The condition worsened un-
til Mrs. Schwartz found herself

virtually bedridden. The
source of the ailment was
never verified, but the pianist
suspects that it was a
manifestation of polio, which
she was exposed to at age 14.
Eventually, Mrs. Schwartz
was able to move around with
the aid of a back brace, but
"four specialists told me I'd
never walk again, much less
play the piano!" She wore the
brace and lived in pain for the
next 6% years. By now, living
in Detroit again, she met with
a localist physical therapist,
Bernie Falk, in 1977.
What happened after that
Mrs. Schwartz calls nothing
short of miraculous. Mr. Falk
set her on a rigorous schedule

of exercise with gym equip-
ment, and within four months,
the back brace was off for
good. Before this treatment,
Mrs. Schwartz says, "I
couldn't sit up for more than
five minutes. Now there's
nothing I can't do!'
Still, the convalescence was
a slow one — six years of
therapy. Even after the brace
was off, Mrs.Schwartz needed
to sit in a high-backed chair at
the piano, though she's now
back on the customary bench.
She says it's taken 10 years to
regain all the strength her
hands would need to play a
During her recovery, Mrs.
Schwartz continued to teach

Eleanor Lipkin Schwartz has
returned to her beloved



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