It’s not just a charming story. There’s an interesting detail that stands out.
In 1935, Zygmunt Dygat and four other young pianists went to spend time at the estate of the Polish pianist and composer Ignace Jan Paderewski near Lausanne, Switzerland. They took lessons with him and participated in master classes, at which he critiqued their playing.
As a part of their preparation, they had to rent and transport pianos from Lausanne for the outing. Yes, it was BYOP – bring your own piano. And that was in the mid-1930s!
But Dygat had only good things to say about Paderewski’s hospitality, his attentiveness to all the players, his musical wisdom, and his energy. He talked about the meals too. Bottles (of wine) were provided, along with travel stories by the composer, and the good company of his family.
Dygat told that story in a 1935 article titled A Lesson With Paderewski, which is archived on the Polish Music Center website of the University of Southern California. I related it at the outset of Classic Mornings about a month ago, as an introduction to Paderewski’s famous minuet. And it has stayed with me all these weeks. It reminded me of inviting listeners to join me each weekday from 9 am-noon.
Classic Mornings is a friendly gathering of listeners of various musical backgrounds, who are interested in enjoying and learning a bit about classical music. You don’t have to travel any distance to be able to join those who are tuned in. But you may find yourself stepping out of your routine and entering a common imaginative space with others in the community of listeners.
There’s no need to transport a piano or any other instrument. OK, you might have to take a radio, laptop, or other device along with you to be able to join us. Otherwise, it’s all here for you, though certainly no food or bottles.
There are a few things I hope listeners do bring along. One of those is presence. Many of you enjoy having the music in the background. But when you have the time and the opportunity, listen attentively. No matter how many times you’ve heard a piece, you always hear something new on repeated listenings. That may come with different performances of the same work.
While you’re listening, I hope you’ll bring your own pictures to the music. I might relate stories about a piece or about the composer or the performers. But perhaps that piece brings back a memory. It might spark images or associations which the composer never intended. That happens with paintings, sculptures, and literature as well.
Some pieces of music have become famous from their use in films. If that helps you enjoy them, fine! But try letting the music speak to you in your own way. And trust your own imaginings when you listen.
Bring playfulness to the music too! Though classical music is sometimes called “serious music,” the musicians are playing – in more ways than one. Not only can they enjoy making the sounds of their instruments with their own personal touch. They share that with the other players. And together, like a team on top of their game, they attempt to make the most of what a composer intended, while they keep their eye on the “score.”
You can be just as playful while enjoying the music, whether or not you even “play” an instrument. Listen to how a composer will pass along a tune from one player or section of the orchestra to another. Listen for imitations of animals or familiar tunes. Composers often include variations on the tunes they’ve written or borrowed. They probably had fun improvising those variations before they wrote them down.
In one of my promos for Classic Mornings, I mention those who listen to music with “air” pianos, violins, cellos, flutes, clarinets, guitars, horns, and batons. If you’re one of those (and I’ll admit: I am, from time to time), it means you really can get excited about the music! Perhaps you ought to play an instrument, if you don’t already.
I’m ready to begin the 14th year of the program. We’ve already enjoyed a baker’s dozen! In history, an extra loaf was delivered with a dozen loaves, just in case one of the loaves wasn’t up to standard. I hope the first 12 years were top quality, and the 13th simply a bonus. As new recordings and stories continue to trickle in, I’m anxious to add them to the mix, without changing the recipe for what makes the program what it has been.
I remind you each day that you’re a part of our Classic Mornings. And be assured that it’s your enthusiasm and expectations that make me want to bring my own presence, pictures, and playfulness when we get together!