Wasserman – Upsetting the Classical Tradition

The Music Club met again in the Oak Street Presbyterian Church Sanctuary on a brilliant Spring day in March. Alan Wasserman played piano, and he used several very familiar selections to demonstrate some natural evolutions of compositional technique since the time of Beethoven.

Wasserman is a piano teacher, and more than that, he is an insightful Educator. Moving easily from a microphone to the keyboard, he described some rhythmic or harmonic device as used by Beethoven, then demonstrated it at the piano. He later addressed the same topic as developed by Chopin and later again by Debussy, and demonstrated each of those at the piano. The points were easily made clear, to the audience’s delight.

Wasserman has an engaging personality, from the stage or close up. His pianistic skills were put to the test in the Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Gottschalk, Debussy, and Joplin selections he chose. The several memory slips that occurred were skillfully covered, but they brought to light the biggest problem in performing music that is familiar: it is familiar. Which means that any slip, any wrong note or missed chord change is immediately apparent to a sophisticated audience like the Sarasota Music Club. And that creates a little conundrum: we in the audience do like to hear things that we already know, and performers do like to please their audiences, but doing so may actually lead to our disparaging the skills of the performer… (“Heavens! Did you hear all those mistakes?!”)

Doesn’t always work that way… I think it was a mature Horowitz who said, upon leaving the stage after a typical concert before a house packed with his adoring fans, “Ah, I missed so many notes, I could play another whole concert with the ones I missed!”  And his audiences loved him, regardless.

We have so many really fine performers in this area that we rarely are confronted with mistakes. Wasserman made his share, but covered them well. But that is really beside the point. He was not trying to dazzle us with his skill, he was trying to show us a little of how music has changed, grown, expanded through the years. In doing that, he demonstrated his skills as a teacher, an Educator. We need more like him.

dale jensen 2022