Piano Improvisation Series

Writings About Music

Maria Improvisation

This is a piano improvisation from December 8, 2017, based upon the song, Maria, by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim, combined with related Indian ragas. There was some extra time left during a meruvina recording session, and even though I don't own a piano or keyboard, I have been playing about once a month at a friend's house the past year or so, and thought it would be fun to do this. It even occurred to me that some who may have difficulty relating to my music for meruvina might appreciate hearing me play a recognizable instrument with recognizable material. After preparing this recording for online listening on YouTube - there was no editing or overdubbing made to my spontaneous performance - I went shopping at Whole Foods, and was breezily stunned to notice the unusually friendly checkout clerk's name on her lapel as I went to pay: Maria.

Michael Robinson - piano (piano score available by request)

David Amram sent these thoughts about Maria Improvisation:

"Just sending you a quick note to thank you for this REALLY OUTSTANDING piece of music. It is truly original. I enjoyed it and all those ragas intertwined with Lenny’s use of the tritone are very moving and like the Prélude à l'Après-midi d'un faune, it has its own category."

Norman Lebrecht wrote: "Maria, as never heard before. Michael Robinson's cool raga-riff on Lenny's hit song."

Greg Sandow wrote: "I'm lost in pleasure and admiration after listening...You're such an impressive musician. The blend of the song and the raga is on one hand sly and playful, but also sounds completely right, completely true to both worlds." 

Here are three of my essays related to Leonard Bernstein, who I was fortunate to meet and have classes with at Tanglewood, in addition to attending his rehearsals and performances with the Boston Symphony Orchestra interpreting Mahler and Shostakovich.

Leonard Altman had invited me to study at Tanglewood immediately after playing for him my very first compositions, Promenade des Tortues and Spring Rains, on the Steinway piano in his Greenwich Village apartment.

East West Side Story


Lee and Leonard

Summer Streams, from the Trembling Flowers album, originally conceived for string quartet, was composed in memory of Leonard Bernstein when I learned of his passing in 1990.

Here is Summer Streams, added today, August 25, 2018, his 100th birthday.


- Michael Robinson, December 2017, Los Angeles

(addition made August 2018)


Maria was later included on the Stargirl album.


© 2017 Michael Robinson All rights reserved


Michael Robinson is a Los Angeles-based composer, programmer, pianist and musicologist. His 199 albums include 152 albums for meruvina and 47 albums of piano improvisations. Robinson has been a lecturer at UCLA, Bard College and California State University Long Beach and Dominguez Hills.