Sunday, July 19, 2009

Part Nine - Conversations With Whom??

As I continue this 'game' regarding whom I would have a solid interest in conversing with, I now veer back to my primary pursuit; namely, music:
It took almost no time at this point in time to choose two musicians I would have delighted in conversing with; the two, Serge Prokofiev and John Hasson.
One; the composer , Prokofiev, is renown throughout the world, of course.
The other, Hasson, is not so well known, but constitutes a vital portion of my consciousness as it pertains to my world of music.
I have several reasons for wanting to listen to Prokofiev, and asking questions of him.
Quite simplistically, his mind is one of fascination for me:
As a student, his personal approach to the piano drove some of his teachers veritably wild - his physical picture of the instrument and such resulting issues as his fingering and postural attitudes in piano performance made him a threat, in some of his teachers' views, to "traditionalism". As an example, his Toccata, which was written during his student days, remains as one of the most powerful examples of singularity and uniqueness coming out of the last century. Just listen to it (or try to play it, if you dare!), and you will know what I mean. He was indeed a great pianist, but from a really quite unique position, as it were.
Also; to consider the same composer writing such a wonderfully delightful and beguiling work as "Peter and the Wolf", which has delighted thousands of children (and adults) for so many years, and on the other hand, to stun and overwhelm countless listeners to the three so - called "War" sonatas, written during the Second World War, with the grinding, especially the relentless, grinding third movement of the 7th sonata - there is nothing more powerful in statement, in my view, coming out of that period.
And so, this particular mind held, and continues to hold many aspects of interest for me.
Regarding John Hasson:
Hasson remains one of the most important musicians in my experience.
I was around nineteen or twenty when this man came into my life.
His mind was bottomless. He was one of the most brilliant musicians I have ever known. He was just completing his doctorate when he became a teacher of mine.
What is, perhaps, the most curious aspect of his relationship with me, was even though he was one of my piano teachers, he was primarily a trumpet player (!).
To explain: even though his primary instrument was trumpet, he never taught trumpet. He was an accomplished pianist and a musicologist and historian.
The primary reason I chose him at that particular time was that I had discovered that he knew more about the piano repertoire than any piano teacher I had ever had, and I needed to establish my knowledge base quickly in that aspect.
Hasson, in about two years, opened the world of knowledge to me in a manner I could not have conceived of. He appeared at the right time.
We spent countless hours together; for some reason, he perceived my hunger for learning and gave me much of himself in a wonderfully selfless way.
From the philosophical universe of the Strauss Tone Poems to the seldom-played Serious Variations of Mendelssohn; from the American Impressionism of Charles Griffes to a never-played Sonata by Paul Dukas; well, John Hasson opened many doors for my consciousness to walk through, and I will forever be grateful to him.
Funny; how in my particular case, I was a better pianist by far than my teacher. But that was not the issue - knowledge, in whatever incarnation it may have appeared, was at the top of my personal priority list, and John Hasson was the man who fulfilled his mission in a superb manner.
And so, I would love to have had him return just for a short period to engage in conversation with this man; to better understand what made him click.



Blogger Robert Stone said...

I found this blog post because I was searching for Roman Totenberg and information about his recent retirement.

Thurston Moore is promoting the sixtieth anniversary of Albert Schweitzer's Visit to America in 1949. We believe that Mr Totenberg may be the only musician who was at Aspen for the Goethe celebration who is still alive.

July 27, 2009 at 7:00 AM  

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