Leonard Stein was a pianist’s thinking-man, a musician’s musician. His dedication to music’s long historical adventure has influenced students, scholars and audiences with his knowledge of the past and illumination of the present. He championed new music for more than sixty years in Los Angeles and abroad. His main influences were his piano teacher, Richard Buhlig, who gave the first performance in Berlin of Schoenberg’s Op. 11 Piano Pieces, which he taught to Stein; and Arnold Schoenberg, with whom Stein studied from 1935 until 1939 at USC and UCLA. Subsequently, Stein became Schoenberg’s assistant at UCLA and edited Schoenberg’s texts on harmony, counterpoint and composition in works such as Style and Idea: Selected Writings of Arnold Schoenberg, published in 1975. Stein led the legendary “Encounters” series in the 1960s bringing composers from the world over to discuss and present their latest works. He taught at several universities including USC, CalArts, Pomona College, Cal State Dominguez Hills, and Los Angeles City College, among others. His pupils included composers, conductors, pianists, singers, theorist, historians and other musicians. In 1975 Stein was appointed founding director of the Arnold Schoenberg Institute at USC, a position he held until 1991. A much-sought-after speaker, lecturer and guest professor, he held his audiences spellbound, even when analyzing theoretically thorny works. Stein founded Piano Spheres with four other pianists in 1994 and remained its Artistic Director until his death, June 24, 2004.
For personal reminiscences about Leonard Stein, please see Tributes.