LEWISTON — Renowned concert pianist Frank Glazer will return to the Franco-American Heritage Center on Saturday, Oct. 17, for the opening program of the 2009-2010 Piano Series season. He will play compositions by Haydn, Brahms, Liszt and Chopin.

Admired by audiences on several continents over the many years since his triumphant debut at New York’s Town Hall in 1936, at age 21, Glazer has received numerous accolades as solo performer, chamber music collaborator, soloist with symphony orchestras and recording artist.

Praised for the warmth of his interpretations, as well as for his mastery of a broad repertoire and brilliant technique, he remains remarkably young in spirit and manner. A reviewer in Iceland, where Glazer gave a recital last May, 50 years after his first performances in that island nation, noted that he was “unforgettable … an artist who has incredibly much to share.”

Recognized as an unusually talented child in his hometown of Milwaukee — he performed Mendelssohn’s G minor piano concerto with orchestra upon his graduation from junior high school —  he was fortunate, at age 17, to study in Berlin with Artur Schnabel, the legendary Beethoven and Schubert interpreter.

While in Berlin, he met Arnold Schoenberg, with whom he subsequently had lessons in counterpoint. Three years following his 1936 Town Hall recital, he made his debut with the Boston Symphony Orchestra under another music legend, Serge Koussevitzky.

“If I hadn’t taken time out to stop playing and figure out how I could make the sounds I wanted to make in the most efficient way, I wouldn’t still be playing the way I am today,” Glazer said about his self-imposed study of piano-playing technique before his career was interrupted by World War II.

After the war — his American Army unit landed in Normandy just 11 days after D-Day and he served as an interpreter and investigator in the European theater — Glazer resumed performing and teaching, making his Carnegie Hall debut in 1949. During this time, he also composed several songs for piano and voice based on Robert Frost poems.

In 1980, after having spent 15 years on the artist faculty of the University of Rochester’s Eastman School of Music, Glazer and his late wife, Ruth, moved to Maine, where he has been artist-in-residence and lecturer-in-music at Bates College. The couple spent summers in Maine for many years and founded the Saco River Festival in 1976.

Glazer believes it is the performer’s task to decode a message left by the great composers, allowing it to reach the souls of the audience. According to him, the performer should “get out of the way” and let the audience be moved by the message.

Audiences at Glazer’s recitals marvel at how little effort he uses to achieve the sounds he wants to make, even during difficult and stormy passages. He is so efficient at playing the notes that often his fingers appear to move hardly at all.

Glazer “inaugurated” the Franco center’s Steinway concert grand piano in a March 2006 performance with the Midcoast Symphony Orchestra, playing both a Mozart and a Beethoven concerto. Since then, he presented a program by all-French composers for the 2006 FrancoFun Festival and has played every season of the Franco center’s Piano Series, including a  program of one-piano, four-hand compositions performed with his former student, Duncan Cumming.

Many a concert artist has retired from public performance long before Glazer’s four score and fourteen years. (He’ll be 95 in February.) His only concession to age is traveling less — although during the last two seasons, he has performed and given master classes in Vienna and Iceland, as well as in New York and the South, Midwest and West Coast.

Last month at Bates College, he embarked on his plan to perform all 32 of Beethoven’s piano sonatas over eight recitals, an ambitious project for any artist, let alone someone whose career spans 80-plus years.

Go and do
WHAT: recital by concert pianist Frank Glazer
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 17
WHERE: Franco-American Heritage Center, 46 Cedar St., Lewiston
TICKETS: $18 for adults, $13 for seniors; students 21 and under, free. Call 689-2000 or buy online at www.francoamericanheritage.org.

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