Saturday, January 07, 2012

James Dean and Opus 111

From an obituary in the New York Times:
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.

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.
Who knew?

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.


The Wistful Pelleastrian said...

That piece really swings,” Ms. Hirshbein recalled Dean saying. “ "I love those syncopations."


Ugh! Can't stand those syncopations... Those passages make me cringe!

Susan Scheid said...

Wasn't that the most fascinating obit? He was quite a fellow, enriching so many lives.

Anonymous said...

The triple trilling at measure 112 and after is spectacular. Given a two-movement work, 111 packs a lot of technical challenges into 9/16 and then 6/16 and 12/32 meters. What fun to revisit this thanks to the link.