Jeffrey Biegel has had his piano performance of Liszt praised by Leonard Bernstein. His interpretation of Gershwin has attracted international attention.
As much as he loves the classics, the Lynbrook native also has a soft spot for compositions from pop music. He arranged Billy Joel's "Symphonic Fantasies" for several American orchestras and performed works by super-producer David Foster and Keith Emerson of Emerson, Lake and Palmer.
And next week, he will bring Neil Sedaka's "Manhattan Intermezzo" to the New York area for the first time when he performs it at the Madison Theatre at Molloy College with the South Shore Symphony Orchestra, in front of Sedaka himself.
"The piece is great," Biegel says. "I like these new works from pop artists. I'd love a piece by Elton John."
He says the opening of "Manhattan Intermezzo" reminds him of Chopin. "It feels like you're looking at an old photograph of your grandparents or great- grandparents," he says. "The music is very nostalgic. It takes you into a new world, and it pays tribute to the cultures that make up Manhattan. There's a Chinatown scene, a tango, Middle Eastern and Indian elements, a Broadway section. Then, it has a big, big ending."
Biegel says the piece shows off the skills of Sedaka, best known for pop hits like "Laughter in the Rain" and "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do."
"Neil is great with harmony and rhythm," Biegel says. "He uses it to pay homage to the city. It's nostalgic, but there's nothing trite about it. It goes right to the heart."
Biegel plays Molloy College's Madison Theatre, 1000 Hempstead Ave., Rockville Centre, at 3 p.m. next Sunday. Tickets, $25, through madisontheatreny.org.
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