Soon after the publication of my second book Appassionata, an anthology of seventeen short stories, I began fantasizing about how wonderful it would be to have a recital by a solo pianist entitled The Music of Appassionata. My first attempt at organizing such an event drew a surprising observation about pianists, real or imaginary.
My flagship story Appassionataunfolds amid music for solo piano performed by Modesto, an Italian character I invented, a skillful amateur pianist. These include all three movements of Beethoven’s Appassionata Sonata (# 23, Opus 57, in F minor), Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in G minor, the Chopin Nocturne in E minor, two selections from Schumann’s Carnaval and a Turkish Song, Üsküdara Gideriken. Together they would make for a decent concert, not too long, not too short. Adding readings from the story between the pieces would, I figured, bring the story to life.
I soon brought this idea to the attention of the Stockton Symphony. They have an Auxiliary, a fund raising arm that holds several recitals a year in private homes, usually featuring soloists that are appearing with the orchestra at the same time. It would not be difficult to arrange such a recital. I first spoke with Jane Jaffe, my wonderful music mentor and major contributor to the Appassionata story, then Pam Lee, current president of the Symphony Association.
As we pondered who we should approach to play the piano, a name that immediately popped up was Frank Wiens. He is a seasoned concert pianist, excellent and well regarded, who lives in Stockton, concertizes all over, and puts on piano recitals regularly here in town. He has also appeared as a soloist with the Symphony. We figured his schedule might be more flexible and conducive for such a project since he already lives here.
When Jane approached Mr. Wiens, she received a prompt response, a surprise.
Mr. Wiens told Jane that the proposed repertoire was quite challenging and that, while he had performed them in the past, getting them into performance quality at present would take up too much rehearsal time that he did not have. So he politely declined.
My first reaction to the news was a chuckle. Who knew, I thought to myself, Modesto turns out to be an even better pianist than I imagined.
I then realized my naiveté for assuming that any seasoned concert pianist can play any piece at the drop of a hat. This would be as if my patients assumed that just because I am a senior, board certified neurosurgeon, I can perform any operation in our armamentarium. I don’t. Those that I consider better done elsewhere, I refer out. I have my own standards of performance and professional excellence. Why shouldn’t a concert pianist have the same?
The recital idea is not dead. We are re-thinking it and I left it up to professionals within the Stockton Symphony organization to make the arrangements. My brief foray into production also made me realize that this is yet another field I know nothing about.
In the meanwhile I continue to imagine my story coming alive, with the music of Appassionataperformed rather than described in words. As I struggled through that complex story, I never thought it would successfully conclude into a publishable piece, let alone be performed live. These are the fruits of painstaking work that make writing such a joy.