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Ronald Anderson

After a recital I got a very, very good review in the New York Times. Then I got a call from CBS Television Camera Three. They gave me a program to do anything I wanted. I was so impressed with Wolpe, with his concern, with his music, and just as a human being, that I gave the whole program to him just because of his impact as a composer. We played the Saxophone Quartet again, and Bob Miller played Form, and then we had an interview conducted by the narrator of the program with Wolpe. And that I believe drew me into his circle inadvertently. I didn't plan it that way.

I'm attracted sometimes to a piece just because it's hard, it's a challenge. As a player I like to conquer a piece. I've done that many times and ended up half the time with a piece that I don't like. Wolpe's music I adore. I like the turn of a phrase. I think I understand it from the heart. I've got a copy of the Oboe Sonata right here. It's about fifty pages long. I have taught his Oboe Sonata to trumpet students just to play the phrases and get a handle on that kind of music. His music has a gutsy appeal. It's disciplined, highly disciplined, but doesn't lose it's masculinity in the process. It has a sense of beauty, not complexity for the sake of complexity. It has humanity, warmth, occasional ugliness, but that's just as a confluence of some things coming together in a kind of dissonance of a chaotic sort, and rather quickly opening out again. That could be ugliness, or at least a chaoticness for the moment, and then kind of releasing. A gripping kind of feeling. He was a passionate man, mercurial. That's what appeals to me a lot musically. I've played All Set of Babbitt--gutsy, great little piece, jazzy, jazz-oriented, as is a lot of Wolpe, of course.

I grew up in Kansas City, Missouri, whence a lot of jazz came and comes--Ellington, Bobby Brookmeyer. I saw the Sauter-Finegan Band back in Missouri. Both Eddie Sauter and Bill Finegan were wonderful. I think both had lessons with Wolpe. And I came to find out that all these wonderful ideas came from one guy, Wolpe. When I came to New York I played a little jazz. I gradually got more and more out of date with it. I'm talking to Gil Evans, to these giants of jazz. "Where did you get your ideas? Where did you get these crazy ideas?" "Wolpe. From a classical composer, Wolpe. Who was kind of a strainer. He would strain your brain. Not change it. You would go to him as a jazz arranger, and you would come back a jazz arranger, but he would strain you, help you change your ideas, not his, yours." And the man could do that in so many different fields--in choral music, piano music, chamber music, and jazz--drew me.

Ronald Anderson (b. 1934) is a member of the Composers Conference, the Group for Contemporary Music, and was principal trumpet with the New York City Ballet for many years. Professor Anderson is on the music faculty of New York University and taught at SUNY-Purchase, SUNY-Stony Brook, and Columbia University. Interview: AC, New York City, 12 December 1982.


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