Friends of Music Blog
What did I know about great classical music? I was a 20-year-old kid from the Bronx, studying physics at City College. My parents had ended up in New York City by way of Poland (or maybe Russia) and then the plains of Argentina. My dad was a house painter and my mom took a long subway ride to Brooklyn every day to work in a shop run by her sister-in-law. It was 1948, and America was still feeling enormous relief that World War II had ended. My older brother, who had been stationed on an LST in the Pacific Theater, had made it home safely and was studying to be an engineer.
Raymond Hanson, my beloved teacher passed away on Oct. 26, at the age of 98. He began studying piano at the age of 12. By the age of 15, he appeared as a featured soloist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The story is that the guest soloist who was scheduled to perform with the symphony got sick, and needed a replacement. Ray’s teacher recommended him to play the Saint-Saëns Second Piano Concerto. It was remarkable that he learned the piece, memorized it, performed it within four days.
No one should be surprised that scientists have found a genetic basis for musical genius. People have long suspected an alliance between base pairs and base players, chromosomes and clarinetists. How could there not be, given the explosive productions of families like the Bachs, the Haydns, the Mozarts, and the Mendelssohns—to say nothing of the Everly and Allman brothers, the Beach Boys, the Jackson Five, and, of course, the Pointer Sisters?
It was 8:30 a.m. in June—pretty early for a gig for any professional chamber ensemble. But the Zorá String Quartet, the graduate quartet in residence at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, was excited, wide-eyed, and ready to meet Brittney Trenczer’s string-instrument students from Sleepy Hollow High School and Middle School.