<< -- 2 -- John Bell Young LEGENDARY GENEROSITY
I first heard Constance Keene on a radio broadcast, in celebration of her birthday, in the late 1970s. I was so enthralled by her opulent playing that I wasted no time in finding her phone number. I knew only one thing: Anyone who could play with such incomparable power and ravishing beauty was someone I wanted to know and work with. I called her that very day, introduced myself, and told her just that. She invited me to play for her, which I did a few days later at the tony Upper East Side apartment she shared with her husband at the time, Abram Chasins (died 1987). I studied with her for more than a decade, eventually becoming her occasional, though unofficial teaching assistant.
In 1992 she came to my rescue when the young pianist who had committed to record Nietzsche's four hand music on my début CD for Newport Classics backed out at the last minute. Constance learned this odd and rather difficult music in a few days, then quickly arranged several performances at her home and elsewhere, so that we could get used to playing it. We recorded it two weeks later. Her participation and implicit endorsement was in part responsible for the tremendous attention the disc received from the press, and for so many of the opportunities that I later enjoyed in my own career. It was a singular honor and an unforgettable collaboration.
As a teacher she was marvelous: pristinely but constructively critical, bold, demanding, to the point, and enormously effective in obtaining results. If Constance imparted one thing in common to all of her protégés, it was how to bring music to life: reject routine, never take a note for granted, and identify the character and myriad colors that inform every phrase.
Copyright © 8 January 2006
John Bell Young, Tampa, Florida, USA