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Larry Freund interviews with Esther Hoffman

Identifier: MP-0022-01


This collection consists of transcripts of seventeen interviews with Esther Hoffman Wexler (1918-2014), conducted by her cousin, Lawrence Freund, between 2012 and 2014. Hoffman, a Canadian-born concert pianist and a longtime piano teacher at the Mannes College of Music (which became a division of The New School in 1989), discusses her life experiences and her career as a musician and as a teacher in New York City and Toronto.


  • 2012-2014



.001 Gigabytes (17 files)

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Content Description

This collection consists of seventeen Word document transcripts of interviews with Esther Hoffman Wexler, conducted by her cousin, Lawrence S. Freund. Hoffman (1918-2014) was a Canadian-born concert pianist, and, from 1962, a longtime piano teacher at the Mannes College of Music (later a division of The New School). The seventeen interviews were conducted between August 29, 2012 and July 3, 2014, and each begins with a particular topic, although the conversation frequently digresses into other areas. The interviews encompass Hoffman’s experiences as part of the Jewish immigrant communities of Toronto and New York, her study and work as a classical pianist and as a scholar of Jewish music, her teaching career, and her opinions on specific works and composers of the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries.

Subjects discussed include Hoffman’s early music education and childhood experiences in Toronto, her later piano studies in New York, and her teachers, especially her first teacher, Boris Berlin, and her most influential later teachers, Josef Lhévinne and Karl Ulrich Schnabel. Hoffman also discusses her own career as a concert pianist and her studies in France with noted teacher Nadia Boulanger, as well as her studies of Jewish sacred music and her career as a music director at synagogues in the New York City area. Also mentioned are Hoffman’s teaching career on the faculty of Mannes College of Music, her family relations in Canada and Russia, and her repertoire and composers, particularly Ludwig van Beethoven and his piano sonatas.

Original sound recordings not included in the collection.

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research use. Researchers must use digital access copies.

Conditions Governing Use

To publish material from this collection, permission must be obtained in writing from the New School Archives. Please contact: Copyright in the interviews rests with the Estate of Esther Hoffman Wexler.


Pianist Esther Hoffman Wexler, born in 1918 in Toronto, Canada, was a member of the faculty of the Mannes School of Music from about 1962 until about 1985, teaching in the Preparatory Division. She was the daughter of Annie Wiseman Hoffman and Sidney Hoffman, a violinist and one of the founding musicians of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. She started her piano studies at an early age and began teaching when she was 12. She then studied with several leading teachers in New York and France, including Joseph Lhevinne and Karl Ulrich Schnabel, eventually moving permanently to New York where she studied at the School of Sacred Music and became music director of several synagogues. She married Gerald Wexler (1927-2011) in 1968 and was a long-time resident on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. She died in 2014 at the age of 96, months after completing these interviews.

The interviews were conducted by Lawrence S. Freund, a cousin of Esther Hoffman Wexler. Mr. Freund’s mother, Edith Blinick Freund, had also migrated from Toronto to New York and the two transplanted Canadian cousins became very close over the years. Mr. Freund had interviewed Esther Hoffman Wexler for a family history (Imagine My Joy) and, with some knowledge of her career, decided to resume their conversations, now with a focus on her life in music. Mr. Freund, a former news correspondent and editor, has published two family histories and numerous articles on American history.

Hoffman was invited to join the piano faculty of the Mannes College of Music Preparatory Department by its director, Miriam Katch, and she taught there from 1962 until the mid-1980s. Hoffman joined the Mannes Extension Division piano faculty in 1966, where she taught until at least 2000. She received a Continuous Service Award from The New School in 1997 for thirty-five years of teaching. Hoffman was also a member of the secondary piano faculty of the Mannes College of Music from the late 1970s to the early 1980s.

Adapted by Jason Adamo from a biographical statement provided by the donor.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated to The New School Archives & Special Collections by Larry Freund, via email attachments, in May 2022.

Processing Information

Because Larry Freund undertook this project independently from The New School Archives and used a different transcription service, the transcript does not follow The New School Archives's internal transcription conventions. The transcript has been left unedited and in the same form the donor emailed it to The New School Archives, although The New School Archives staff converted the files from Microsoft Word documents to PDF files for researcher access.

Guide to the Larry Freund interviews with Esther Hoffman
Jason Adamo
December 22, 2022
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