P1223. WILLIAM MASSELOS: Piano Fantasy (Two Performances) (Copland) [CREATOR Recording], Live Performances, 25 Oct., 1957, Juilliard; w.Julius Grossman Cond. Municipal Concerts Orch.: Ballade in f-sharp minor, Op. 19 (Fauré), Live Performance, 11 March, 1972, Alice Tully Hall, New York. (Canada) St Laurent Studio YSL T-348. [Never previously issued.] Transfers by Yves St Laurent.
"The PIANO FANTASY was commissioned by the Juilliard School of Music as part of its fiftieth anniversary celebration. Because the work was not ready in time for performance, as originally planned, at the special series of concerts held in February, 1956, to memorialize that event, the Juilliard administration has arranged a special concert for its presentation on Friday, 25 October."
- Aaron Copland, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 20 Oct., 1957
"Finished too late for the music festival, the FANTASY was premiered at Juilliard by pianist William Masselos on October 25, 1957. In an unusual strategy, the FANTASY was the only work on that evening's program; Masselos played it twice, both before and after intermission. Copland had himself played the first performances of most of his other major piano works, but decided not to in the case of the FANTASY because, as he put it in a letter to Benjamin Britten, 'the FANTASY is quite beyond me'.
The work is approximately half an hour in length, with no pauses, and contains considerable technical hurdles for any performer. As Leo Smit, who has recorded all of Copland's piano music, has written, 'Aaron's instructions to the performer in the FANTASY are so personalized that it's as though he [were] standing behind you looking over your shoulder. I know of no other work that is so filled with the physical presence of a composer'."
- Chris Morrison, allmusic.com
"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 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 debut in 1939.
He was a regular participant in the WNYC American Music Festivals from 1946 through the mid-50's. He made his debut 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