Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The "Warsaw Concerto," a Pianist I Never Got to Know, and the End of an Era...

This week I  learned of the closing of Mt. Ida College, a well-known and highly regarded little liberal arts school  nestled in a pretty setting in Newton, Ma.
With a student population of about 1400,  insurmountable fiscal problems have forced Mt. Ida to close after this year's  graduation exercises are complete. At least this is what I was told the other day.
Then the recollections connected with this college came into focus, beginning with an event during my high school days in Rochester, N.Y. -I recall hearing, at around age 15 or so, a recording of a composition written by a British composer  whose  name was Richard Addinsell, with the  Boston Pops conducted by Arthur Fiedler, and a pianist whose name was Leo Litwin. The music was cloaked in the garb of Rachmaninoff, and redolent with  one pretty melody after another, and was written as a monument to the horror and devastation of the capital city of  Warsaw shortly after the Nazi invasion of Poland which began the Second World War.
As a high schooler taking piano at the Eastman School of Music, and learning the magic of the likes of a Chopin or Brahms etc., etc.,  I became enamored  of this new delicacy, which became the most popular composition written by this secondary composer, and took America by storm during this period.
And so, without my beloved piano teacher ever knowing of it, I purchased the "Warsaw Concerto" and learned it. I rather quickly became the music department's 'favorite,'  being called upon to play it whenever there was time to do so - I recall being asked to perform little sections of the piece by various teachers whenever the time allowed, and was called 'maestro' by the members of the varsity baseball team, as I happened to be one of the pitchers on that team for about three years.
Well, after those years passed, and I went on to  the usual learning process in both Europe and here, I would occasionally reminisce about the "Warsaw Concerto," but from a different view; namely, the pianist Leo Litwin. He  was a terrific performer, and I would wonder about him from time to time.
Many years later, I moved into the town I continue to reside in, and eventually got to know about Mt.
Ida College in Newton, just a few minutes from my town.
That's when I discovered that the head of the music department was none other than Leo Litwin!
I excitedly decided to meet with this guy, who had been one of those on my piano hero list. Sadly, before I was able to arrange a meeting with him, he passed away - that's when I found out that he  had been a resident in my town!  How sad it was for me...
And now his beloved little college will be no more.
I've had better weeks...

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