Saturday, November 7, 2009

Mysterious Mr. Masselos

It is funny, all these pianists I have never heard of! I was looking up Leonard Pennario's debut in this book called "American Chronicle: Seven Decades in American Life." For some reason they have his debut in 1939 which, neither he nor I could make sense of that.

Well, what the heck, we are lucky he is in there at all. Normally no books ever mention him!

But here is what I am getting at. Also listed as debuting in 1939 is this pianist William Masselos.

I have never heard of him!

That is a picture of William Masselos up above. Not a bad-looking gentleman except I wish I could find other pictures so we could get a couple of perspectives. Anyone can look good for one photo anyway.

Oh, look, here is another picture of him as part of the Alan Hohvaness Artistic Circle. Our man Masselos is in the back row, third from right. If you look carefully you can also see Merce Cunningham and John Cage.

Wikipedia says Masselos studied with two disciples of Clara Schumann at New York's Institute for Musical Art, now the Juilliard School. I had not known that Juilliard used to be called the Institute for Musical Art. Now I do.

Also I like the word "disciples" used in that context. Disciples of Clara Schumann!

Masselos was known as a champion of contemporary music and premiered Charles Ives' First Piano Sonata and Aaron Copland's Fantasy.

And how about this, he was born in Niagara Falls! His parents moved him to Colorado when he was a baby, but still. It's funny, any entry you see on this guy, in any listing, there it is: Born in Niagara Falls, N.Y. He died in 1992.

Here is Masselos on the organ playing Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor.

Now that we know who he is.


  1. I own the Masselos recording of the Ives 1st Sonata...on vinyl. I didn't know he played the organ. Another famous pianist who did was Wilhelm Kempff. OK, that's enough of this pedantic crap...

  2. Not so mysterious, Mary. I heard him play the World Premier of the Copland Piano Fantasy when I was a student at Juilliard. He died of Parkinson's disease I believe. Here is a quote from Harold Schonberg: "He always was one of the better American pianists," Harold C. Schonberg wrote in The New York Times after Mr. Masselos's marathon ... See Moreconcert. "Now he has developed into a great one. He plays in a rather unostentatious manner, and that may count against him on the circuit, where pianists put on a big show. But he has everything. To look over some of the virtues: tone, technique, musicianship, style, imagination, sensitivity. That will do for a start." I actually have an LP of him playing Copland.

  3. Stephen, thanks for your expertise! I will have to do a follow-up on Mr. Masselos now that he is not so mysterious! I meant to mention that he died of Parkinson's -- that struck me because of Leonard. Tough illness for a pianist to have. So sad that Masselos had it too.