A tale of two recitalsOn March 6, I had the privilege to attend the University of Wisconsin Superior Recital Series featuring the acclaimed pianist Alexander Sandor. The recital included works by Johannes Brahms (“Rhapsody in B minor, Op. 79, No. 1”), and Seigei Rachmaninoff (“Piano Concerto No. 2 in cm, Op. 18.”)
By: By Jo Stewart, Superior Telegram
On March 6, I had the privilege to attend the University of Wisconsin Superior Recital Series featuring the acclaimed pianist Alexander Sandor.
The recital included works by Johannes Brahms (“Rhapsody in B minor, Op. 79, No. 1”), and Seigei Rachmaninoff (“Piano Concerto No. 2 in cm, Op. 18.”)
These pieces were sandwiched between works by such ragtime personalities as Thomas “Fats” Waller and Willie “The Lion” Smith.
I had a front row seat, so I would certainly agree with the editor of RAG TIMES comments, “Sandor is a prodigious talent, and every piece is arranged so that he is all over the keyboard before the ending.”
Sandor earned his standing ovations, and there was a long line of admirers waiting to heap praise on his performance.
In contrast, I was deep in thought remembering my own experiences learning to play the piano and my first ill-fated recital.
My sister Jane and I started our lessons at the same time. The year was 1935. She was 12 and I was 7. Our piano teacher, Miss Shepherd, was refined soft-spoken woman in her 60s who was organist for St. Peter and Paul Cathedral in downtown Indianapolis.
From the beginning, Jane showed some aptitude. I, on the other hand, just didn’t get it.
I didn’t get note reading beyond the first octaves in either clef. I didn’t get the beat, more properly known as the value of each note. Both sharps and flats were a mystery to me and practicing didn’t seem to improve my performance.
The one and only piano recital in which I participated was an embarrassment for all concerned — my teacher, my parents, my sister and especially me.
After two years of lessons, I finally managed to memorize a very simple arrangement of the “Minuet in G.” That is I thought I had it memorized.
I completed two measures before my mind went blank. I sat frozen, not moving or breathing.
“Start again,” I heard Miss Shepherd whisper. So I did, a little faster this time thinking speed might open the door to my memory.
Without waiting for Miss Shepherd’s prompting, I started again, and again, increasing my speed until the minuet became a 100-yard dash.
I might be in that wind and rewind mode yet, if my sister had not mercifully taken me by the arm and pulled me, zombie-like, off the piano bench to the sympathetic applause and relief of my friends and relatives in the audience. My piano lessons were terminated shortly thereafter, with Miss Shepherd’s advice to my mother: “Jeanette, you are wasting your money.”
I’m sharing my experience with you, because I learned something about myself on March 6, and I have Mr. Sandor to thank.
Although I was not destined to be a renowned pianist, I know enough to be an appreciator of talent when I witness it.
Again, thank you Alexander Sandor.