The performance by the Vienna Chamber Orchestra on Tuesday, January 12, is wrapped in a cocoon of unusual circumstances growing from the interests of Princeton’s resident bibliophile/ philanthropist and Bach scholar William Scheide. A concert honoring Scheide’s 96th birthday, the event will also benefit the Arts Council of Princeton’s “Five in Five” campaign, which aims to raise $5 million in five years; the Arts Council is prominent among Scheide’s interests. Conductor Mark Laycock, a Scheide favorite, who led the Princeton Symphony Orchestra for two decades, returns from Berlin to conduct the concert.
The concert takes place in Richardson Auditorium on the Princeton campus. The program, chosen by birthday-boy Scheide, includes Mozart’s overture to “The Magic Flute” and Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 9 (“The Great”). Pianist George-Emmanuel Lazardis solos in Mozart’s Concerto No. 24 (K. 491), a Scheide favorite, using the 1902 cadenza by Gabriel Faure cadenza; the manuscript for the piece was recently acquired by Bill Scheide and his wife, Judy, for the Scheide library, a special collection in Princeton University’s Firestone Library.
Judy Scheide describes the genesis of the program in a telephone interview. “The Mozart concerto was the cornerstone of the concert,” she says. “Bill worked out the rest of program by discussing it with [conductor] Mark [Laycock].
“We were looking at an auction sheet in May. An item that Bill really wanted was a manuscript of a Schubert four-hand piano duet. I especially wanted a 1612 collection of songs by William Byrd, John Ball, and Orlando Gibbons — I’ve sung a lot of medieval music. Then, I noticed that the Faure cadenza was there. K. 491 is one of Bill’s favorite Mozart concertos. We were planning the birthday concert at the time and we thought how much fun it would be to perform the concerto with this cadenza.
“I say ‘we’ because sometimes he buys, and sometimes I do. We both cared about the Faure. In 1900, when Faure was 55, he fell in love with the pianist Marguerite Hasselmans, who was 24 at the time. He wrote the cadenza for her and dedicated it to her. It was his special present to the love of his life. They lived together for more than 20 years, till the end of Faure’s life. It was a romantic story.”
The Scheides acquired all three items that interested them. The Faure manuscript, the Schubert manuscript, and the volume of songs now rest in the Scheide Library, which consists of books and manuscripts that belonged to William Scheide’s father and grandfather, along with the original furniture, windows, and rugs. Bill and Judy came out on a recent blustery day to display their new acquisitions. They arrived with two helpers. One was an aide who helped maneuver Bill, tucked warmly into his wheelchair; rather than using a foot rest, Scheide lifts his feet as he travels. The other was pianist Mariam Nazarian, an assistant who is all but a member of the Scheide family and helps with both musical and non-musical matters.
Judy Scheide gently unwraps the precious manuscripts. The Faure manuscript shows its life history at a glance. On the neatly-inked original, penciled fingerings and interpretive markings, presumably added by pianist Hasselmans more than a century ago, are legible, as are markings showing which hand to use. Some of the fingerings showed changes of mind; next to the crossed-out finger 2, for example, a replacement with finger 1 might be marked. In one place, a penciled phrase marking has been re-done to incorporate a note originally excluded. The bottom corner of the page is worn and discolored from having been turned repeatedly.
Bill Scheide’s eyes twinkle as he hosts visitors in the Scheide library at Firestone. His sense of humor remains intact as he approaches 96.
I detect a dramatic ploy in Faure’s choice of key signatures. The body of Faure’s cadenza is in the key of C minor and uses three flats. A middle section plunges to a remote major key, which could have been notated either with six flats or six sharps since identical piano keys are used for playing in either F sharp or G flat major. Faure chose to notate the middle section with six defiant sharps, creating a visual jolt in the manuscript.
Soloist George-Emmanuel Lazaridis is working from a photocopy of the Faure manuscript, rather than its published version. Via E-mail he says, “The manuscript is certainly beautiful, if somewhat hard to decode with confidence at times. This is probably due to Faure’s thorough tonal explorations, which are often beyond expectation and closer to his own personal compositional style than the actual Mozartian idiom. However, I feel honored to have been trusted with it and studying it has been a joy.”
Lazaridis has actually written cadenzas for all the Mozart concertos he has performed to date. This is not unusual practice for a lot of performers. The January 12 concert will be the first time he will be playing this particular concerto with a cadenza other than his own. Of the Faure cadenza, Lazaridis says, “I have been more occupied with matching Mozart’s style, where Faure’s writing is clearly a lot more personal, demonstrating his own compositional ways rather than following purely Mozartian patterns. The Faure cadenza constitutes an unquestionably valuable inheritance, a rare musical commentary on the work of a genius, by another genius.”
In Princeton he will practice on the Scheide’s own grand piano, a responsive Boesendorfer. Now 30, Lazaridis first met the Scheides when he was 13. “His sister married my nephew,” Judy Scheide explains. “She graduated from Princeton in 1992. George and his mother came to the graduation. He was already a wonderful pianist 17 years ago. I consider him a member of the family.” Born in Greece, Lazaridis studied at the Royal College of Music in London. He currently divides his time between Greece and the United Kingdom.
The Vienna Chamber Orchestra, founded in 1946, has played in Princeton previously. The Scheides invited the ensemble to give an all-Beethoven concert in July, 2008, with Mark Laycock conducting. “It was such fun, we thought we’d invite them again,” Judy Scheide says. When Judy Scheide speaks, the word “fun” constantly re-appears.
Scheide grew up in a household passionate about music, culture, rare books, and the well-being of humanity. He began piano lessons at age six. A graduate of Princeton’s class of 1936, he majored in history because Princeton lacked a music department at the time. After earning a master’s degree in music from Columbia, he established himself as a Bach scholar. He founded and led the Bach Aria Group for 40 years.
Scheide played a Schubert Impromptu at his 2003 wedding to Judy McCartin, who has joined him in finding fun in the stratosphere of music, rare-book collecting, and philanthropy. In fact, Schubert, not Bach, as one might naturally think, is really his favorite composer, Judy reveals to me in a later conversation, adding that the couple listens to Schubert each morning for a half hour to an hour. No talking is allowed. “Listening to Schubert centers Bill,” says his wife, noting that if a morning goes by when he doesn’t listen to Schubert he is really not centered. Later in each day, the couple listens to Bach.
The Arts Council of Princeton, beneficiary of the January 12 concert, holds a secure spot in the Scheides’ cornucopia of charities. Bill was one of the first board members of the Arts Council, which was founded in 1967. Judy, a member of the Arts Council’s board for many years, stepped down in June because of regulations about term limits.
When the possibility of moving the Arts Council building arose, the Scheides championed keeping it in the center of Princeton. The result was architect Michael Graves’ Paul Robeson Center for the Arts. “We’re major donors to the building because we believe in bringing arts to all the members of the community,” Judy Scheide says. “I love Michael Graves as an architect and am delighted to see his building in town. Michael got many suggestions about the building from members of community and was able to include many of them in his final design.”
In a telephone interview, Jeff Nathanson, executive director of the Arts Council, currently immersed in the Arts Council’s current “Five in Five” campaign, talks about the role of the Scheide birthday concert in the major fund-raising effort now underway. “We started in spring, 2009,” he says. “It was a quiet campaign initially, until mid December, when we screened the movie ‘Illusion.’ The movie showing seated a maximum of 120 people. The concert is an event of a significantly different magnitude.”
The “Five in Five” campaign is designed to pay off the Paul Robeson Center for Arts and, for the first time, to create an endowment for the Arts Council.
“We’re trying to reach out to different segments in the community,” Nathanson continues. “We have different events at different ticket prices. They mirror the diverse and multicultural nature of the Princeton community.”
Wintermezzo, Tuesday, January 12, 8 p.m., Richardson Auditorium, Princeton University. Concert of Mozart and Schubert conducted by Mark Laycock features the Vienna Chamber Orchestra and George-Emmanuel Lazaridis on piano. William H. Scheide’s 96th birthday concert to benefit the Arts Council of Princeton. 609-924-8777. www.artscouncilofprinceton.org.