Every musician who ever experienced the outrageous gravitational power of Alexander Schneider has his or her own orbit-changing, life-affirming tales about their encounters with this wild keeper of the flame of music. If you can, try to talk to someone who knew him, find a musician who played with him, for him. Anyone whose life in music was forever changed and electrified by Sasha will have their own shocking and exhilarating story about him.
It was my blessed fortune to be his soloist for the Mostly Mozart Orchestra of Lincoln Center, the English Chamber Orchestra of London, and the Brandenburg Ensemble of New York. Since these blog postings are specifically my recollections from recording sessions, I’m going to fill you in on some unknown background to CD’s #7 and #10 in my boxed set.
Max Wilcox, my great producer for almost all of my classical records for RCA/BMG, Sasha and myself met at Sasha’s East Village loft prior to the recording session. I played through everything, scores were notated, metronome markings noted, and timings for all the music were carefully estimated.
We had been allotted only one day to record the Rossini, Weber, and Mozart. Doable but without much room for any unforeseen surprises. Well…CBS had been filming a little documentary on me which included a visit to the studio of my teacher Kalmen Opperman on West 67th, a jam session with Tom McKinley in a jazz club near Tanglewood, and (unknown to Sasha or Max) a quick sneaking into the Mostly Mozart recording session without bothering to get permission from Local 802 Musicians Union.
Suddenly in the middle of the Rondo movement from Weber’s Concerto No. 1, the CBS crew came bursting into the hall with one camera man lying on the floor for a shot up the bell of my clarinet while another captured a close-up of Sasha’s eyes exploding out of his head as he tried to keep the session take going while smoke fumed from his ears. Within two minutes Max, in the control booth and losing control, yelled “CUT!” and shared a few other choice words over the intercom with the CBS guys.
Listen to the beginning of the Weber. The dark energy Sasha demanded of the dotted rhythm in the strings, then the heavenly serenity he found for the legato string bowings of movement 2, and the delightful dance rhythm he conjured up for the jolly spirit of the rondo. Nothing was mere accompaniment. Sasha gave each movement of the recording a dramatic character. The result is a sense of spontaneity that makes the music come alive and breathe.
copyright Richard Stoltzman