Mr. Kassebeer

Tell us about a person who has affected your life in a significant way.

I only have to close my eyes to see this picture before me: A tall, old man standing in the middle of a semicircle of tired faces, grandiosely waving his endless arms as though he were swimming through the music. At five o’clock Friday afternoon, when the rest of us are exhausted by a long week of arduous learning, Udo Kassebeer is at his lovable best. The sun opposite me shines on the violins and cellos and silhouettes his aristocratic nose, shaggy brows and frizzy hair against the window pane and the afternoon sky.”Sing through your instruments!” he says. Then he stomps and wiggles, bellows and whispers, puts his fingers to his chin as if in prayer and opens his blue eyes so wide they seem to leap out directly into mine, to discover that mine are closed. I am nodding asleep to the march of rhythms. But not for long. He goes through every conceivable contortion and exertion to energize our thirty sleepy faces. It is as if his wild gestures could conduct electricity as well as music through the drowsy air into the sounds of our instruments.Every once in a while he shouts to us: “Sit straight, shoulders to the back. You look twice as beautiful this way!” Then he reverts to Prussian discipline: “If not every person practices three times as hard, I will cancel all concerts.” He is exacting: we must get eight hours of sleep, be prompt, attentive, and even think about the pieces in our dreams. This is the law according to Kassebeer.It works. His incredible energy and ridiculous remarks do make us sit straighter and hold our instruments higher. Every time he commands, “Don’t be ‘cool’ when you play Beethoven!” there is a sudden crescendo in our music. Then he spreads his own feet wide and arches his back a little, sticking out his pot belly and hitching up his belt. He’s forever tucking in a stubborn shirt tail set free by quick tempi or forte passages. There is a lot child in him. He can glower as furiously as a four-year-old when he says: “Be silent! Listen to me!” or he can smile so warmly that all his “Prussianness” seems to be suddenly swept away.I feel very much loyalty to Mr. Kassebeer because he devotes his entire self to his work. He does more than just wheedle a Beethoven concert out of us at a sleepy hour; his endless arm is as ready to wrap itself around my shoulder with a reassuring squeeze as it is to gyrate in 4/4 time and he gives advice and drops of Kassebeer-wisdom as freely as musical instruction. Although he is now retired, I still feel his blue eyes are looking and smiling at me whenever I sit in the orchestra, and his words and laugh will always be inspiring to me.

Leave a Comment