P1194. WILLIAM MASSELOS, w.Leonard Bernstein Cond. NYPO: Piano Concerto (Ben Weber; Played by the dedicatee), Live Performance, 25 March, 1961, Carnegie Hall; WILLIAM MASSELOS, w.Guarneri Quartet: Piano Quartet in f, Op.34 (Brahms), Live Performance, 10 Dec., 1971, Hunter College Playhouse, New York. (Canada) St Laurent Studio YSL T-296. [Never previously issued.] Transfers by Yves St Laurent.
“This disc is the fourth in a series devoted to pianist William Masselos (1920-1992) by Saint Laurent Studio, and as with most of these discs it demonstrates the equal comfort the pianist displayed in the most recent music and the German classics. He was comfortably trained in the German romantic tradition, but unlike so many of his contemporaries he embraced the new as well.
This performance of Ben Weber’s Piano Concerto was the second in a subscription series of the New York Philharmonic that represented the world premiere of the work. Masselos later recorded it with Gerhard Samuels conducting, but the drive and commitment of Leonard Bernstein, and in particular his natural feel for the jazzy elements of the work, make this something special.
Ben Weber’s Piano Concerto is a work of extreme range of expression. Composed for Masselos and the New York Philharmonic it was being written at the time of the death of Dimitri Mitropoulos in November, 1960, and the second movement is intended as a memorial tribute to that conductor. The following Allegro is jazzy and upbeat for the most part. Weber’s music is largely in the twelve-tone system, but without the darkness and tight restrictions often associated with it. Weber consciously spoke and wrote about the need to be flexible with the system, and to fight against grimness while using it as the basis for composition. It is this wide range of colors and moods that must have appealed to Masselos, because he was a performer comfortable with dichotomy, with the quick turn from the memorial tribute to the dancing jazz-like elements that live with each other in this Concerto. There is in this performance a real sense of pianist and conductor discovering joys in the music as they play it, and the well balanced monaural broadcast sound is more than adequate.
The Brahms Piano Quartet, from a concert given with the Juilliard String Quartet at the Hunter College Playhouse in 1972, is also a clean, well balanced monaural recording and like other chamber music performances with the Guarneri members and Masselos released in this series, it shows four musicians on the same wave length throughout. The piano dominates where it should, and plays a subsidiary role where that is appropriate. The third movement Andante is particularly lovely here, but all four movements benefit from the kind of attention to detail given by Masselos and the Guarneri members. What distinguishes their playing, in fact, is their obvious attention to details of phrasing, inflection, and dynamic shading while maintaining the feeling of spontaneous music-making, and even a sense of joy in the process.”
- Henry Fogel, FANFARE
“Masselos was born in 1920 and died in 1992. His main teacher was Carl Friedburg, a pupil of Clara Schumann, and he was thus steeped in the German tradition, but advocacy for new music was a huge part of his artistry and career. Norbeck, Peters, and Ford (www.norpete.com), which sells this label, indicates that the recording came from Masselos’ own collection.
Yves St. Laurent (no relationship with the designer) is a company dedicated to finding performances that really merit public exposure and preservation, and to doing it with the highest possible audio quality. They accomplish this successfully.”
- Henry Fogel, FANFARE
“In musical circles, Mr. Masselos was one of the most respected pianists of his time....‘He always was one of the better American pianists’, Harold C. Schonberg wrote in THE NEW YORK TIMES after Mr. Masselos' marathon concert [11 Dec., 1969, Carnegie Hall, (our catalogue #P1185)]. ‘Now he has developed into a great one. He plays in a rather unostentatious manner, and that may count against him on the circuit, where pianists put on a big show. But he has everything. To look over some of the virtues: tone, technique, musicianship, style, imagination, sensitivity. That will do for a start’.
William Masselos was born in Niagara Falls, N.Y., on 11 Aug., 1920. He studied at the Juilliard School, where his principal teacher was Carl Friedberg. He made his début in 1939.
He was a regular participant in the WNYC American Music Festivals from 1946 through the mid-50's. He made his début with the New York Philharmonic in 1952, playing the Brahms Concerto in d minor under the direction of Dimitri Mitropoulos. He worked with many conductors, among them Pierre Monteux and Leonard Bernstein. Although many thought of Mr. Masselos as a new-music specialist, he never eschewed the classics; ‘I approach modern music in exactly the same way I approach Brahms or Schumann or Chopin’, he said in 1971."
- THE NEW YORK TIMES, 24 Oct., 1992