Friday, March 7, 2014

Two Important Debut Concerts - Concerts I Was Witness to...

During my childhood school years; both elementary and high school  periods, I was witness to many great experiences as a  part of audiences  watching the reigning musicians, such as   Rubinstein, Heifetz, Horowitz, Milstein, Kreisler, Koussevitsky, Iturbi, Reiner etc.
However, there were two performances of defining import historically, as both  were geniuses just starting out. Most important, these two carved out  careers of illimitable luster and power, as History has since certified.
Both occurred during my high school days, while  beginning my studies at Eastman, before embarking upon my more advanced work in Germany.  The first of these two defining experiences was the Eastman debut of Leonard Bernstein. He was in his late twenties, as I recall, just having created his sensational entry into the world of conducting. I remember his not using a baton at that early point in his career. The use of both of his  hands to mold shapes of  expressive designs overwhelmed me - it was almost as if I were watching a ballet for the hands. It was as  if I were actually SEEING the music emanating from both hands as the sounds were being engendered a millisecond  thereafter. All this coming from this intense young man with jet black hair, barely a decade older than I was. The music I remember best that evening  was his conducting the Rochester Philharmonic in Beethoven's 8th symphony, which  simply overwhelmed my senses. His understanding of the celebratory aspects of this work was absolutely sublime. I shall never forget what Bernstein was able to summon at such a young age.
The other event was a recital by the American pianist William Kapell, who had also just embarked upon a journey that was to catapult him into fame throughout the world in just a matter of months. He played the Khatchaturian piano concerto with the Rochester Philharmonic on that day, and  his gargantuan technique and quicksilver-like tone seduced  the audience I was part of. The tragedy of his death in his early thirties in  a plane crash in California is one of the great blows suffered by the world of music during the twentieth century. Many even today consider Kapell, along with Murray Perahia, to be America's most important addenda to the history of piano performance.
To consider myself fortunate to have been there at these two events is to understate - I feel blessed to have been there...



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