New Release, "Sophisticated Lady"

Hello friends, students, and fans! After much preparation, practice, and contemplation I have recorded and released my first solo piano CD, "Sophisticated Lady"!

On January 8, 2018 I played on my own Yamaha C3 and recorded with the expertise of Lauren Passarelli, Professor, Guitar Department (Berklee). January 8th was the 4 year anniversary of my mother’s passing, and it felt like the right day to create this recording in her honor.

Liner notes:

1.“Improvisations on a Lullabye” begins as a gentle tribute to Magdalene with an extended improvisation on a Hungarian Lullabye. Magdalene used to sing this to Suzanna at bedtime. Suzanna recalled, “Even as a child I sometimes wept at the beautiful melody and moving words.” An audience favorite

2.“To Mother, With Love” is the first piece Suzanna wrote after her Mom’s passing.  The piece is primarily composed but features a deep introspective improvisation that ends with a beautiful arpeggio, flying away

3.“Sophisticated Lady,” the title track, is a re-harmonized exposition of the melody. Direct and dramatic; cultured and classy, this piece celebrates the character of Suzanna’s mother, Magdalene Liptay – a true Sophisticated Lady.

4.“I Thought About You,” on the lighter side, is one of Suzanna’s favorite jazz standards. Featuring a lilting left-hand stride combined with distinct melodic structures, this tune is a joyous celebration!

5.“Magdalene” was written by the great bassist, composer, and educator Bruce Gertz. Having known Suzanna over the past 28 years, Bruce used his generous spirit and talent as a prolific composer to write this piece for Magdalene. Rich in modern harmony and melody it is a beautiful tribute.

6.“The Very Thought of You” was Suzanna and Magdalene’s favorite jazz standard with its deeply moving lyrics and poignant melody. While performing this instrumental version “I really felt Mom’s presence

 and I reached an elevated sense of connection with her during this recording,” Suzanna revealed.

7.“Peace” begins with clusters that outline the chords and ultimately lead to the melody and a flowing improvisation. Sometimes rubato, sometimes a jazz waltz, it is always heart-felt and vividly expressive.

8.“Echo of a Lullabye” is a reprise of the opening track. True to form, this improvisation continues to reach people with a tender echo of motherly love and its eternal bond.

About my mother:

Magdalene Maria Liptay was born August 23, 1929 in Mezökövesd, Hungary. She told me of her solfege studies, sitting on the curb of the street, using the Kodály Method to sing melodies. Loving parents, József and Anna gave birth to her brother Tibor in 1940.  Her mother baked fresh pastries and delicious chicken paprikás, (the latter handed down to my brother and me). She told me about her father’s hunting dog Hexi and the 29-year-old cat that fell asleep twice while crossing the kitchen floor!

Sadly, the shrapnel which flew by her face so close she felt the air that propelled it put an end to the prosperous times before World War II. 

After the Hungarian Revolution in 1956, she escaped the Russian occupation through the potato fields with shots fired at her and my father. They were stopped close to the border of Vienna, robbed and released to the last remaining refugee camp that had space.

Following a short time in Vienna they moved to Belgium. Having earned a bachelor’s at the Technical University of Budapest in electronic engineering, she took postgraduate courses in engineering, mathematics and physics at the University of Liège. (in French!). As much as she was successful in these highly intellectual pursuits, her heart was drawn to her love of literature.  As a thesis, she really wanted to study the comparison of Greek mythology and Hungarian folklore.  “Back then, you studied where they would put you,” she said.  Her intelligence opened doors available to few women but substituted the designs of others for her own dreams.

In 1958 my parents came to the US on a Ford Foundation Scholarship, ready to work as electronic engineers. But motherhood came first when she gave birth to my brother Tom in 1959, Charles in 1961, and me in 1965.

Magdalene sang, played piano, and performed in plays as an actress in high school. These experiences gave her a wonderful background in music. She sang me Hungarian melodies, children’s songs and folk songs. Sometimes she would tap the rhythm of a melody and I would name the song. This was great early ear training! These experiences strengthened my love for the Hungarian language and the culture of my heritage.

When she saw my proclivity towards music in high school, she arranged for me to have private piano and ear training lessons at New England Conservatory. I always knew I would go to Berklee for college and, after a year on the road with a cover band, Mom encouraged me to come home and get educated. This resulted in a Bachelor’s of Music from Berklee and a Master’s of Music from New England Conservatory. She supported me through graduate school, GB gigs, jazz gigs, concerts and recitals. She was always there.  She wanted me to have what was taken from her – work that you love.

My mother was a highly intelligent and educated woman who was an example of the power of women’s independence and strength. Magdalene also had personality! She had a way with people and they just liked her. When she went for four job interviews, she received four offers. That’s just the way it was with her.

Mom was always gainfully employed; be it as a research engineer in the early 60’s, real estate sales, or teaching mathematics. As the times changed, she went back to school to study computer programming and continued to work in the computer field (doubling her salary many times) as a computer systems designer.

Ultimately, she retired at 62, ready to visit Budapest three years later in 1994. This was five years after the Iron Curtain fell, 38 years after she was forced to leave her homeland.  Over the next decade we travelled to Hungary seven times. We found three long-lost cousins, walked the streets of her hometown, and attended her 50th high school reunion.  Magdalene was one of only four women to attend high school and to graduate!

Later in life she spent her days reading and re-reading the classics: Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and especially Capote. We spent time looking at the ocean, lunches at Tony’s, and long face-to-face talks over coffee and biscotti. We became best friends in her retirement.  It was an honor and a privilege to take care of her in her infirmity and walk with her to the end of her physical life. I held her hand as she passed on.

 Goodnight my Sophisticated Lady, my mother, my best friend.