Winning Over the Master


When the young American composer Daniel Gregory Mason came to Boston to interview the great pianist and composer Ignacy Jan Paderewski — there was trouble from the start. Because of a misunderstanding Mason was two and a half hours late for his meeting with the great pianist.

Mason was waiting in the lobby while Paderewski was upstairs, getting more and more aggravated by Mason’s tardiness. Finally Mason went up to see Paderewski and found him cordial enough, but Paderewski’s wife was cold and standoffish. Mason felt awkward and self-conscious. He complimented Paderewski oh his “Variations and Fuge on an Original Theme.” Then he added, “Just so you don’t think that’s empty flattery, I’ll tell you frankly that I do not care so much for some of your early pieces.

Paderewski’s wife gave Mason a stony look. “What pieces? What do you not care for?” Mason got in deeper.

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“Well, for example, I do not care so much for the A minor Concerto.” Her gaze was unwavering.

“The concerto is one of my favorties among my husband’s compositions. I love it more and more.” Valiantly, Mason complimented Paderewski’s use of French impressionism. Now Paderewski himself spoke.

“I utterly repudiate any debt to French impressionism. I do not believe in the modern French school because it is not founded in tradition. It is erratic, bizarre, wayward.”

At last Mason ventured to show Paderewski a movement of his new violin sonata. Paderewski shook hands with him about eight times as he read through the sonata, singing the melody and exclaiming “beautiful!” Finally, with his music, Daniel Gregory Mason had won over the master.

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