Paul Hoffmann | Pianist

Paul Hoffmann

Biography - Paul Hoffmann

Born in Buffalo, New York, in 1948, Paul Hoffmann, pianist, began his musical studies at the age of four studying accordion at the local accordion shop close to his home. The advantages of starting on this instrument were many. Since one needs to remember the sounds of chords and keys in order to play the left hand buttons of this instrument, his ear was trained to discern the difference between the various chords as well as teach him the fundamentals of theory at a very young age. Together with his sister Joyce, who was one year older, he began playing accordion duos as well as solos and won numerous trophies in various local and national competitions held by different organizations including the American Accordion Association held in New York City in the 1950's.

The Move to Piano

There was always a piano in the house and as he grew up, his interest became drawn to the sound of the piano to which he switched when he was about ten years old. It was at this time that his parents entered both children into piano and theory lessons at the Buffalo Community Music School. It was here that Hoffmann was given piano lessons with Warren Case, a Leschetitsky disciple, and had theory and composition lessons with the director of the school Robert Pace, a music history course with the critic of the Buffalo Evening News and trombone lessons with Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra players. He also played trombone in the Community Music School Orchestra conducted by Pamela Gearhart. This training in orchestral playing served him well when he was chosen as principal trombone in the America Youth Performs Orchestra which performed in Carnegie Hall at the end of his high school studies. This was an orchestra made up of the best players from various cities in the US chosen by the directors of music in each city.

Concerto and Recital Debut

Paul Hoffmann's orchestral debut as a pianist at age 15 was performing Saint-Saens' "Carnival of Animals" with pianist Barnara Weintraub, Ulrich Meyer conducting the Buffalo Philharminic Orchestra. Before entering college he also performed Beethoven's Concerto No. 3 with the Buffalo Civic Orchestra and a solo debut recital at Kleinhans Music Hall.

Eastman School of Music

During his collegiate studies, his main piano teachers were the great Swiss pedagogue, Cecile Genhart and the famous American accompanist, Brooks Smith, the accompanist of Yasha Heifitz among others. Having been awarded the Performer's Certificate, he played Brahms' Concerto No. 2, conducted by Richard Thompson, an assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic and Rachmaninov's "Rhapsodie on a Theme by Paganini" with the Eastman Philharmonia, conducted by Walter Hendel, the recording of which was broadcast throughout Europe on Voice of America. In his last year at Eastman, he was fortunate to be selected to perform for a masterclass with Rudolf Serkin, who said of his playing of the Davidsbundlertanze by Schumann, "you are truly a great artist."

Hoffmann with Serkin
Paul Hoffmann from 1969 after playing for the great Rudolf Serkin with whom Paul is shaking hands with faculty pianist Eugene List looking on and the seated students from Eastman School of Music at that time. After Paul played Rudolf Serkin said to him: "You are a great artist."

Fulbright Scholar/European Debut

Upon graduating from Eastman with his Master of Music degree, Hoffmann was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to Austria. In his first year there, he studied with Kurt Neumueller and was presented in a solo European debut recital in Brahmsaal of the Musikverein in Vienna to critical acclaim. During that year he also performed a number of duo piano concerts with George Kern, p who later became Professor of Piano at the Mozarteum. In his second year of the Fulbright, Hoffmann moved to Vienna and began his studies with Dieter Weber at the Vienna Hochschule.

First University Teaching Position

In Baltimore after his years of living in Austria, he began teaching at the University of Maryland Baltimore County while taking doctoral courses and studying piano with Leon Fleisher at Peabody Conservatory.

Carter's Double Concerto

While in Baltimore, among other concert appearances, he had the great honor to be chosen to perform Elliott Carter's Double Concerto for Piano, Harpsichord and orchestra with Mead Crane playing the harpsichord and Walter Prausnitz conducting the Peabody Contemporary Music Ensemble. Added honors came when Elliott Carter himself came to coach this piece and a second performance was arranged at the State Department in Washington, DC where Hoffmann performed on Harry Truman's grand piano.

Composer-Dedicated Programs

Also significant while in Baltimore were the concerts he helped organize and perform of the music by the living composers Morton Feldman, George Crumb, Christian Wolf, Dick Higgins, John Cage and others who attended the concerts and talked about their pieces.

Rutgers University

Hired in 1980, Hoffmann began his first and only full-time tenure track position at Mason Gross School of the Arts, teaching students at all levels of the program from doctorate and masters piano majors through and including undergraduate piano majors in performance and education, as well as occasional talented non-majors.

20th Century Performance Seminar

From the onset of his university teaching he initiated a new course, 20th Century Performance Seminar, which he still teaches presently. This is a required course for those in the professional undergraduate performance program and offers the instruction in the reading, interpretation and performance of various types of pieces in different notational systems written in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.