REVIEW POTPOURRI – Poet: Samuel French Morse; Pianist: Moriz Rosenthal

Morse poems

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Samuel French Morse

Poet Samuel French Morse (1916-1985) taught English at Northeastern University and summered in Hancock.

His A Poem About the Red Paint People is a rumination on a long lost Native-American tribe and can be read in its entirety in the anthology Maine Speaks.

Several lines evoke the sense of sorrow and wonder at a burial site excavation:

“Perhaps he gave the place a name,
Or left a mark the weather wore
As smooth as water long before
The Abenaki settled here.
But who they were and where they went
No Indian or white man knows,
Whose own untoward and bitter wars
Are shellheaps now and broken adze,
Not someone’s half-remembered lies.”

According to his bio details, Morse kept a garden in which he grew plants not usually found and regaled visitors with inexhaustible details on each one.

Moriz Rosenthal

Moriz Rosenthal

Polish pianist Moriz Rosenthal (1862-1946) achieved such progress as a youth that, after a tour of Romania, he was appointed the Romanian court pianist at the age of 14.

In 1878, Rosenthal began studying with legendary composer/pianist Franz Liszt (1811-1886) at Weimar and remained there as an assistant until Liszt’s death.

The pianist made his U.S. debut in Boston in 1888, taught piano at Phila­delphia’s Curtis Institute of Music from 1926-28 and set up his own private studio in 1939 in New York City where he lived the last seven years of his life.

I have two of the four 12-inch 78 records that comprise a Victor Red Seal album of Chopin pieces he recorded in 1935 (Victor M/DM-338) which can be heard via Internet Archive. It is well worth hearing for its combination of astounding technical virtuosity, an astonishing range of loud and soft dynamics and a heartfelt poetry and knack for conveying the beauty of Chopin’s notes, especially the selected two Nocturnes.

Rosenthal also had a scathing sarcasm. When the pianist heard Vladimir Horowitz thunder brilliantly through the opening of the Tchaikovsky 1st Piano Concerto, he remarked, “He is an Octavian, but not Caesar.”

Upon attending a recital of another legendary pianist Paderewski, Rosenthal commented, “Yes, he plays well, I suppose, but he’s no Paderewski.”


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