P1218. WILLIAM MASSELOS, w.Leopold Stokowski Cond. American S.O.: Emperor Piano Concerto #5 in E-flat, Live Performance, 28 March, 1972, Carnegie Hall [followed by rehearsal segment with Stokowski speaking]; WILLIAM MASSELOS, w.Julius Grossman Cond.Municipal Concerts Orch.: Piano Quartet #2 in B-flat, Live Performance, 1 March, 1972, Alice Tully Hall, New York (both Beethoven). (Canada) St Laurent Studio YSL T-347. [Never previously issued.] Transfers by Yves St Laurent.
“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 played the premiere performances of Charles Ives' Piano Sonata #1 (in 1949, 40 years after it was written) and of Aaron Copland's most ambitious work for keyboard, ‘Piano Fantasy’ (1957). He commissioned and played the premiere performance of Ben Weber's Piano Concerto (1961). He was a pianist admired for his incisive, individual performances of contemporary and American music.
Mr. Masselos also played, penetratingly, music by composers as divergent as Brahms, Schumann, Griffes and Satie. Because he felt that concertgoing had become ritualized, he experimented with programs of unusual length and scope. In 1969, for example, he offered a three-and-a-half-hour concert at Carnegie Hall [above] that included works by Dane Rudhyar, Ives, Webern, Copland, Ben Weber, Schumann, Satie and Chopin, punctuated with four intermissions. The audience was invited to come and go as it pleased, to enjoy or avoid the musical schools of their choice.
‘He always was one of the better American pianists’, Harold C. Schonberg wrote in THE NEW YORK TIMES after Mr. Masselos' marathon concert. ‘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. ‘Of course, new music is always a discovery, a new journey. When I prepare a new score by, say, Copland or Ben Weber or William Mayer, I begin by sight-reading it. It's like taking your first walk in a forest path, and you're very aware and alert, because it's a first, and it's a fresh experience. Then, little by little, things fall into place, and suddenly you know where you are; things become familiar’."
- THE NEW YORK TIMES, 24 Oct., 1992