Earlier in life Mr. Hirshbein had taken up auto racing, as a consequence of his friendship with James Dean, a racing enthusiast. The two had met when Dean was an unknown young actor.Who knew?
Dean was sitting on Mr. Hirshbein’s doorstep one day listening to him practice while waiting for a neighbor to return. When Jessica Hirshbein invited him in, Dean asked Mr. Hirshbein whether he could play Beethoven’s Opus 111 Sonata.
“That piece really swings,” Ms. Hirshbein recalled Dean saying. “ I love those syncopations."
After Dean was killed in an automobile crash in 1955, Mr. Hirshbein gave up auto racing at his wife’s insistence.
I imagine the syncopations Dean liked are the ones that begin at 3:33 and really start to swing at 5:13 in this recording by Wilhelm Kempff, one of the rare recordings on YouTube that has the whole movement!
What a treat it has been to graze through the Opus 111 offerings there.