Oberlin College sounds impressive
I don’t mean to start off by bragging, but I got a B minus in professor Mark Siebert’s Introduction to Music Appreciation class at Oberlin College. Not too bad for a young lad who couldn’t read a note of music, if I do say so myself.
My enjoyment of music reached beyond the classroom, however. For example, on Dec. 1, 1966, I had the privilege to attend an artist recital by Soviet pianist Emil Gilels. His Finney Chapel program featured music by Beethoven, Schumann, and Prokofiev. What I remember most, though, is the encore he played — the Rachmaninoff Prelude in g minor, Opus 23 No. 5.
In his “Guide to the Pianists Repertoire,” Maurice Hinson describes the “military character” and the “big, repeated chords” of that prelude. In contrast, the middle section is quite dreamy and melodic. Back in the eighties, I gave several programs on musical encores and used a recording of the prelude as one of my examples. Recently, I keyed in Emil Gilels and Rachmaninoff Prelude in g minor on YouTube and was rewarded with a video of Gilels’s rendition of the piece. Watching the video, I was reminded of how Gilels’s mop of hair flopped as he played the military sounding chords. Gilels, incidentally, was a good friend of the late Carol Nott, a private piano teacher in Oberlin.
Another musical program I fondly remember occurred on May 11, 1967, the centennial year for the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. Longtime New York Times music critic Harold Schonberg gave a noon assembly talk at Finney entitled “Some Postwar Trends in Music.”
That same afternoon, America’s foremost composer Aaron Copland and Schonberg led a forum on the topic. I might add that my good friend Tom Cramer’s father, the late Thomas E. Cramer, who taught trombone and music theory at the Oberlin Conservatory, was instrumental in bringing Schonberg and Copland to the campus. I have my Oberlin Junior High School vocal music teacher Doris Schieber to thank for introducing me to Copland as she taught us his song that begins with the lines, “That’s the ideal of freedom/It’s feeling equality.”
A third program I remember is a senior assembly talk given by the late Garth Peacock, an organ professor at the Conservatory, in April, 1968. Garth, a family friend, entitled his lecture/demonstration on the Finney Chapel organ, “The Sound and the Fury: 1915-1968.” At one point in his program, Garth climbed up to the organ loft to tell us about the various pipes. He ended his lecture by blasting out Widor’s Toccata in f minor. If you want to get invigorated, check out YouTube where I found a video that showed off one artist’s keyboard and pedal techniques.
At the end of my 1964 admission application essay for Oberlin College, I wrote that “one of the main things that impresses me about the college is the high quality of musical programs that are offered. What was true in the 1960s still holds true today. Avail yourself!