Crossing Generations, Brahms Bonds Father and Son

Andrew Bertino-Reibstein and his father, David Reibstein, connected through a shared love for the piano. Today that connection lives on at the Seattle Symphony.

By Andrew Stiefel

If you could wrap the memories of a parent into a piece of music, what would it be?

For Andrew Bertino-Reibstein, it’s Brahms’ Intermezzo in A major.

“The Brahms A-major Intermezzo has a special place in my heart, because my father and I both played it,” he says. Andrew and his father would take turns at the piano, performing their interpretations of the Intermezzo for each other and then comparing notes.

“My dad would really accentuate the ritardando at the end of every phrase,” Andrew recalls. “I preferred to keep the tempo a little more controlled.”

Now, the Intermezzo’s ruminative lines and nostalgic phrases carry a different, deeper memory. During his father’s final days in hospice, Andrew played for him at home.

“It was pretty special for both of us,” he says. “The Brahms was the last piece I played for my father before he died, so it has a very special place in my repertoire.”

Music Brought Them Together

Andrew, like his father, started piano lessons at an early age. “Growing up, my house was always full of music,” he says. “My dad and I both played the piano, both of us from a very early age, and we both kept it up over the years.”

Like piano, Andrew inherited his interest in science and engineering from his parents. “I spent a lot of time watching Nova, and I quickly became a space geek,” he laughs. “I’m the kid of two PhDs, so I guess it was kind of inevitable that I would study science too.”

When he went off to boarding school, he stopped playing the piano altogether. It wasn’t until he attended he University of Michigan that he rediscovered his love for the instrument.

While working on a degree in aerospace engineering, he would walk over to the music school and find an empty practice room during breaks in his schedule. Gradually, he began practicing more frequently and started exploring music by Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin and Debussy. He credits his renewed interest in piano with helping develop his relationship with his father.

“Since I spent high school away from home, I don’t think my father and I developed an adult relationship until later, really college or even after,” Andrew says. “Our personalities were very similar — we were both quiet and reserved — but our hobbies were very different.”

During breaks from college, he would visit his father in New Jersey. He remembers spending entire days with his father at home, taking turns reading at the table while the other practiced or played piano.

“When I started playing piano again, that became the catalyst that rekindled our relationship,” he says. “It connected us and brought us together in a way that might not have happened otherwise.”

Finding a Community — and a Home

Today Andrew continues to find solace and joy in the piano. When he gets home from a day of work, he takes time to play through a little Beethoven or Brahms. “After I moved to Seattle, I bought a digital piano even before I bought a bed,” he laughs.

As he was thinking about ways to honor his father, their shared love of music came to mind. “There’s nothing quite like hearing a piece of music that you love played live in front of you,” he says. “Growing up in New Jersey, we would make frequent trips to New York to hear the Philharmonic.”

Now that he lives in Seattle, however, Andrew says that he wanted to make a gift somewhere that he feels connected too. “Since making my gift to the Symphony, I feel more part of the community here,” he says. “I attend more events, I go to the Seattle Symphony more often and I’m meeting more people.”

Now, every time he walks into Benaroya Hall, Andrew says he feels a little closer to his father.

“Supporting the Symphony helps me preserve a connection to my father,” he says. “A love for music brought us together, and this helps keep that connection alive.”

George Li’s performances of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 on April 27 & 29 are generously underwritten by Andrew Bertino-Reibstein in memory of his father, David Reibstein, through the Seattle Symphony’s Guest Artists Circle. In addition, he made a gift to the Seattle Symphony to have seat plaques named in memory of his father.

Posted on April 27, 2017