P0035. WILLIAM MASSELOS: works by Satie, Brahms, Schumann & Ives (the latter’s Sonata #1 [Creator]). MHS 522732F [originally RCA LSC-2941 (LP)], recorded 1966-71.
“In 1949, William Masselos premiered Ives' First Piano Sonata, and he later made the first recording of it for Columbia. By 1967, Masselos had performed the work many times, and he re-recorded the work in stereo for RCA [above]. In the liner notes to the LP, Masselos talks about the improvisatory nature of this composition, how each performance of the work was always different from the previous. That's true of his two recordings. This RCA recording is much more rhapsodic and extrovert than his Columbia disc. For the most part, I prefer the RCA reading - even though Masselos sounds convincing and authoritative in both. (The Musical Heritage Society has reissued all of Masselos' RCA recordings, including Ives' First Sonata, on a two-disc set titled ‘Tribute to Ives, Satie, Brahms & Schumann’ [MHS 522732F]."
- Scott Mortensen
"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