William Masselos was born on August 11, 1920 in Niagara Falls to a Dutch mother and a Greek father. Weeks after his birth, the family moved to Colorado Springs, where they remained until Billy was nine, two years after his first public recital. In New York, Billy played for conductor and music educator Frank Damrosch who prescribed a musical education. An educational career of 14 years commenced at the Juilliard School of Music where he studied with Nelly Reuschel and Clara Schumann disciple, Carl Friedberg. Masselos made his Town Hall debut at the age of 18.
On April 5, 1952, Masselos played the Brahms Piano Concerto in D minor in his first appearance with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, led by Dimitri Mitropoulos. This impressive debut was the first in a long line of appearances with major orchestras which also included the New York Philharmonic under Monteux and Bernstein, the Montreal Symphony under Klemperer, the London Philharmonic under Haitink, the American Symphony under Stokowski, the Philadelphia Orchestra under Ormandy, and numerous others.
A momentous occasion in Masselos's career occurred on December 11, 1969, with the presentation of a "marathon recital" at Carnegie Hall. The concert started at 7:OOpm and ended at 11:00pm, beginning with contemporary music, and then regressing through time as the night wore on, ending with the Chopin F minor Concerto led by Max Wilcox. Reviewer Harris Goldsmith described the marathon as being "of heavenly length," and his review continued:
"Until his recent Carnegie Hall triumph, greeted by a chorus of kudos from both critics and audience, Masselos could have been described as dwelling in a self-imposed exile from a fame easily within his reach. As his performance of the Chopin Concerto at the concert's end clearly showed, he could have followed the path of the Cliburns, the Brownings, or the Ashkenazys through the potboilers of Liszt, Tchaikovsky, and Rachmaninoff in order to court public adulation. He has more than enough tone, technique, and flair to have gone that route, and to have come out, indeed at the summit. Only an artistic conscience that would not be denied has kept him to his lonely course as a crusader for the forgotten, the neglected, the strange, and the new." (Jan 11, 1970)
Known as a champion of contemporary music, Masselos has premiered many works including the Charles Ives Piano Sonata No.1, the Piano Fantasy by Aaron Copland, most of the piano literature by Ben Weber, including the Concerto for Piano and Orchestra and the Fantasy (Variations), Op.25. He can also be credited with first performances of concertos by Alan Hovhaness, Johan Franco, Marga Richter, Carlos Surinach, and William Mayer, in addition to solo pieces by John Cage, Dane Rudhyar, Robert Helps, Carlos Chavez, and many others.
Masselos died on October 23rd, 1992.
SERIES I - PERFORMANCE FILES
Here are found programs and reviews related to specific performances by William Masselos. The files are organized chronologically by performance date and span the period March 1, 1928 through October 26, 1983. This series is located in Boxes 1?5:
- Box 1: 1928-1966
- Box 2: 1967-1969
- Box 3: 1970-1971
- Box 4: 1972-1975
- Box 5: 1976-1983
SERIES II - CORRESPONDENCE FILES
This series, located in Box 6, comprises letters. The collection is organized as follows:
- Letters to WM
- Letters to Herbert Barrett
- Letters from Herbert Barrett
- Miscellaneous Letters
SERIES III - PHOTOGRAPHS
Also in Box 6 are found photographs. The reference number that appears on each photograph reflects an approximate date.
SERIES IV - SUBJECT FILES
Here are found various documents relating to William Masselos's personal and professional life. Located in Boxes 6 and 7, this series is divided into the following categories:
- Biographical Articles
- Publicity Materials
- Curriculum Vitae
- WM Recordings (reviews)
- Interviews with WM
- Articles by WM
- WM as Composition Winner
- Workshops and Master Classes
- "A Musical Tribute to WM" 10/18/89
- Soloists Named by NY Philharmonic
- WM in Japan 1977
- Ford Grant - Weber Variations
- WM as Juror
- Contract with RCA
- WM and Roger Sessions
- Mt. Holyoke 3/72
- WM as page-turner
- Music Festivals
- Collected Magazine Articles
- Collected Newspaper Articles
- Reviews of others
- Concert Programs by others
SERIES V - RECORDINGS
Eleven recordings of William Masselos's playing can be found in Box 7.
SERIES VI - SCORES
This series comprises personal music scores of William Masselos, but not composed by Mr. Masselos. A number of scores contain corrections and rehearsal markings of considerable interest. These scores are found in boxes 8-10.
SERIES VII - MISCELLANEOUS ITEMS
This series, located in box 12, contains several miscellaneous oversized items which belonged to William Masselos. They include five books, two photo albums, several pencil sketches of WM, two award plaques, and two medals.