[../../../_private/magazine_tmp.htm]Musical Storyteller Broadcasts to Millions
A raconteur, radio announcer, pianist, musicologist and conductor captivated a sold-out crowd in San Diego for the "Song & Dance: The Soul and Pulse of Music," a recital with his legendary commentary and anecdotes, in the Mandeville Auditorium at UCSD May 16. If you missed him, you'll have to wait until next year or head for one of the many U.S. cities he tours. But Haas can still be heard locally on KFSD FM 94.1. His radio show, "Adventures in Good Music," has proven even more enduring than his live work. The classical music program, which airs Monday through Friday from 9 a.m to 10 a.m., recently marked its 34th year.
The syndicated show attracts millions of listeners each day and is broadcast around the world in more than 150 countries.
What's the key to Haas' staying power in an age when even television must compete with new forms of entertainment for an impatient audience? According to KFSD program director Kingsley McLaren, the secret lies within Haas' ability to reach both new fans and connoisseurs of classical music with his vast knowledge and entertaining stories. "He's very educational and informative," McLaren said. "Haas does a lot of research."
No one seems willing to divulge Haas' age, but everyone says he was born in Germany. As a youth, he came to the United States where he began his career in music and studied with the famous Artur Schnabel. In addition to being an accomplished pianist, Haas served as conductor for the Detroit Symphony for many years. He is the recipient of numerous honors, including an Emmy, the George Foster Peabody award and the Frankel award. As well as being a talented musician, Haas is a raconteur. To a new listener, his performance, described as a recital with commentary, might seem like an odd mix. But it is a combination that works for audiences. Haas' commentary encompasses behind-the-scene anecdotes from his career, tales of famous musicians' follies, and historical nuggets about the music he plays.
The musicologist joked about his lasting engagement in San Diego.
"If you've heard my stories before, it's your fault for coming back," Haas quipped.
This year Einstein and Chopin were among the subjects of his tales. Haas recounted how one of Einstein's contemporaries chided the scientist for his violin-playing: "Albert, don't you know how to count?" As a passenger in a boat, an ailing Chopin became intrigued by a tune repeatedly sung by the captain. Haas instructed his audience to listen for the nautical melody incorporated into a nocturne by Chopin. Haas uses stories as accompaniments to his music selections. Just as the skilled hands of a pianist can bring alive the works of Beethoven and Schumann, Haas' resonant voice and perfect timing add life to his anecdotes.
His repertoire of musical tales also acted as the threads that created unity within the recital. Haas' show, whether live or on the radio, always has a theme, which he described as a "new concept" for each program.
But Haas' repertoire does not include a script for his radio program.
He chooses a theme and selects the music and prepares and stores the commentary in his head. At the closing of his last performance in San Diego, Haas decided to end with a different selection than the one printed on the program guide. Initially, the audience resisted the change in plan. But after a moving explanation and performance, the audience forgave him as evidenced by the standing ovation. In addition to Haas' commentary, his selection of music has made the show a longtime hit, according to McLaren.
Haas defined "good music" as any piece of music that can withstand the passing of time. Although he said that classical music falls into this category, he doesn't limit his musical program to the classics. For example, he performed a prelude by George Gershwin.
His theme for the evening, "Song & Dance: The Soul and Pulse of Music," refers to what Haas calls the two main ingredients of music. The pulse refers to the rhythm in music, and the soul is the melody. Haas chose music that possesses both a pulse and a soul, and he carries on this tradition over the airwaves.
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