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Young Love In Ithaca, With Schumann's Help
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Young Love In Ithaca, With Schumann's Help
Young Love In Ithaca, With Schumann's Help
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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And now a Winter Song story from a listener who responded to our request for memories of music that evokes winter. This memory goes back to the winter of 1958.

ALICE SWERSEY: I'm Alice Swersey and the winter piece of music is Schumann's "Piano Concerto in A."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, SCHUMANN'S "PIANO CONCERTO IN A")

A. SWERSEY: I was a freshman at Ithaca College Conservatory of Music in Ithaca, New York and I was dating a guy from up the hill from Cornell, and on my birthday, December 2nd, I received at my dorm a dozen sweetheart roses and an album of Rudolf Serkin and the Philadelphia Orchestra playing Schumann's Piano Concerto.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, SCHUMANN'S "PIANO CONCERTO IN A")

A. SWERSEY: Which I was totally in love with and I think I casually mentioned that to my date a few weeks before.

BLOCK: And your date was your now husband?

A. SWERSEY: My date was my now husband, Bert Swersey, and at the time that he sent it to me, he was sick and he was in the Cornell infirmary with mono.

BLOCK: Oh, my goodness. But he still managed to send you a birthday present?

A. SWERSEY: He certainly did.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, SCHUMANN'S "PIANO CONCERTO IN A")

BLOCK: Bert, you had remembered that Alice had mentioned in particular this piano concerto in A?

BERT SWERSEY: I sure did. I think I remembered everything about Alice at that time. I was just smitten with her, so whatever she told me I think I remembered very well.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, SCHUMANN'S "PIANO CONCERTO IN A")

BLOCK: Alice, what is it about this particular piano concerto that is so important to you?

A. SWERSEY: Well, you know, a piano concerto is a conversation between a soloist and the orchestra and this is just the most romantic piece. I mean, there's something about Schumann, the emotion that he conveys.

BLOCK: This is dramatic, romantic music here.

A. SWERSEY: Yeah. Very lush and with swelling passages and then the most delicate little piano responses to the orchestra and it's really very, very beautiful.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, SCHUMANN'S "PIANO CONCERTO IN A")

BLOCK: So you got the roses and the recording. There was a card, too, I think. Right?

A. SWERSEY: The card said: Golly, you're nice. Bert.

BLOCK: Golly, I love that.

A. SWERSEY: Well, I did, too.

BLOCK: Bert, do you remember writing that card?

B. SWERSEY: I do. Yeah. We actually had been going out just since the end of October and I just - the minute I saw Alice for the first time, I just was smitten and actually before that because my friend, Bernie Kriegsman(ph) at Cornell, told me that he has a girl for me, and if I meet her I'll probably marry her. And I said, OK.

BLOCK: What was it about her that made you so smitten?

B. SWERSEY: Oh, when she walked down the stairs the first time I saw her, my heart really skipped a beat. She bounded down the stairs with her ponytail swinging and with her little skirt and little sweater and so on and I just - wow - took a deep breath.

BLOCK: And the Schumann was sort of just the icing on the cake, I guess.

A. SWERSEY: It certainly was and it is. It still is. It's still such a beautiful work.

BLOCK: Bert, what do you think? Was that the magic?

B. SWERSEY: I think that was the magic. Absolutely. I had it all planned out. Well, I had to find some magic to capture this incredible young woman, so I guess it worked.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, SCHUMANN'S "PIANO CONCERTO IN A")

BLOCK: Alice and Bert Swersey of Stephentown, New York. They've been married for 52 years.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, SCHUMANN'S "PIANO CONCERTO IN A")

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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