Esther Allan

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Esther Allan (April 28, 1914 – July 21, 1985) was an American composer, pianist and organist.[1]


Esther Allan was born Esther Bouarsky in the little village of Suvalke, Poland. She began playing the piano when she was only five, and took her first piano lessons with her mother. Then she entered at age 12 the Conservatory of the Musical Society in Kraków (nowadays known as Academy of Music in Kraków) where she studied piano with Severin Eisenberger and musical theory and harmony with Zdzisław Jachimecki.[2] She began her career as a concert pianist in Poland in the mid-30s, but she had to leave Poland in 1938 sensing the upcoming Nazi invasion.

She began working in New York City, both as a "classical" pianist (for example she performed Brahms's Piano Concerto No. 2 and Gershwin's Concerto in F during a recital at Carnegie Hall)[3] and as a "jazz" pianist, in the vein of the "classical jazz" initiated by George Gershwin and Dana Suesse. She gave in particular successful solo concerts of more or less jazzy improvisations, sometimes based on famous hits and sometimes on her own compositions, and quickly became famous especially for her style of dressing, often wearing short colorful dresses and stiletto high heels during her recitals, which was rather uncommon at a time where female pianits only wore plain, long, black or grey dresses.[4] In the beginning of the 1940s she married American pianist and music festival organizer Norman Allan (1908-1984), to whom she dedicated her Norman Concerto,[5] a 6-minute piece for piano and orchestra in the vein of the Warsaw Concerto, which gained some success at the time and launched her as a composer. Once married, she only used her "American" name Allan, abandoning her maiden name Bouarsky.

She also worked some time as the pianist of Phil Spitalny's all-girl orchestra "Hour of Charm Orchestra",[6] as well as an affiliate pianist of Aileen Shirley's all-girl orchestra "The Minoco Maids Of Melody".[7] As a composer, in addition to the Norman Concerto, she wrote, following her success, other short pieces for piano and orchestra: Ocean Rhapsody,[8] Prelude Appassionato,[9] Romantic Concerto[10]... described as being "an exact synthesis between Rachmaninov, Gershwin and the Warsaw Concerto",[11] and other works, such as Meditation for Piano, Harp and Strings,[12] which are nostalgic homages to her native Poland. These works, as well as the Norman Concerto, were regularly performed by Esther herself, accompanied by the Detroit Sinfonietta conducted by Felix Resnick, and a vinyl of their performances has eventually been published in the 60s.[13] She also arranged for piano and orchestra several works, including classical hits as Chopin's Nocturne in C minor, Op. 48, No. 1 and Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 17 "The Tempest", and variety songs as "Bethie's Theme", "Enchantment", "Freddie's Running".[14] And she also composed many short works for piano solo for her own recitals, around thirty songs, some chamber musics (including the famous in its time Autumn Nocturne for piano and harp[15]) as well as some larger-scaled orchestral concert works.

But the beginning of the 50s saw the decline of Esther Allan's career, as her romantic/jazzy/hollywoodish musical style has suddenly been out of fashion. At the end of the 50s, she moved to Detroit, Michigan, where she became a piano teacher and an accompanist for singers. Little information can be then located. She died on July 21, 1985, in Detroit, aged 71 and long forgotten.

Phil Spitalny's "Hour of Charm" All-Girl Orchestra. Esther Allan is at the extreme right of the photo, at the piano


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