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Anton: Chapter 2

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Anton was sitting by himself in the Conservatory courtyard, bent over a manuscript.
"Hello, my good man! I wish not to disturb you but I've wanted to meet you for a while," a voice said. Anton looked up to see an older man standing over him, his hand outstretched.
"Oh! Are you then... the famed Piotr Ilyich?" Anton's eyes went wide as he shook his hand.
"Yes I am. And you... you are Anton Stepanovich?"
"Yes, sir! Oh, I'm so glad to have met you! Are you staying in town for a while?"
"Hah! Don't you know I use to teach in your stead? They still want me around here, to 'rub off' on the pupils so to speak. But yes, I'm only here for a while. I have numerous engagements all around Russia, and abroad," Piotr Ilyich sighed.
"That is amazing. There is almost nothing I would want more than to be a great composer."
"Indeed. Doesn't everyone? But you're on the right track. Your life is young, and much will happen ahead."
Anton was greatly encouraged by this, and thought to go further.
"Would you like to see some of my music?"
"Of course! What do you have here?"
"Oh," Anton, suddenly nervous, and closing the manuscript book, "This one is hardly begun, only sketches. I should show you something better."
"How many works have you made so far?"
"Oh, just... student things. I'm up to real Opus 3 now."
"Ah, very early you are then. I remember that time too, albeit I started even later than you."
"Did you? Oh, please forgive me... I have been very interested in your music of late, and I've also become very interested in yourself. Do you mind me asking you questions like this? Like, how did you start your musical career?"
"I will certainly answer that for you," he laughed. Thus began a true friendship between Anton and Piotr Ilyich, as a mentor to a disciple.
It also came to be that Anton met with several other composers during his time as a professor. He befriended a number of them, and joined what was already established as a distinguished group of musical professionals. Piotr Ilyich was in many ways their leader, in that everyone strove to be like him.
The following soon became a tight-nit crowd: Piotr Ilyich (whenever he was in town), Sergei Ivanovich who was the top professor in composition, and 3 other teachers, 1 in theory and the 2 others in piano. However, Anton felt himself draw closer to Sergei Ivanovich quicker than anyone else. In some ways, both Anton and Sergei felt themselves as an "inner crowd" particularly when they had dealings with Piotr Ilyich.
As composers normally have, Anton and Sergei along with their own contemporaries would hold soirees to share their own music. Once a week, a group of about 6 or 7 came to Sergei Ivanovich's home, and there people would perform new works. A number of precocious composition students were invited to these occasions, on Anton's own initiative.
"It's only fair that they become one of our group. One day, they may become our equals," he had told Sergei. Although Anton himself was much younger, he had the weakness of already feeling equal to Sergei, who had composed a great deal more than himself. However, Sergei enjoyed letting Anton feel this way, for as friends, he was always able to assert his superiority in other circumstances.
However, once a month, particularly on Fridays, Anton, Sergei, and a few young composers (only about 1 or 2 years younger than Anton) would go to the special Club in the city as a way to socialize and have contact with higher society. One of the real reasons though was to get in contact with the rich patrons. Anton had particular charm with many of them.
Here is an account of a particular incident.

It had been 4 years since coming to Moscow for Anton, and had gained a very high reputation for his teaching skills. Rather than invite his students to his meetings with Sergei, they begged to be a part and gain further approval from him. It was always an exciting scene to see, those Friday nights.
A seven sharp one Friday, Anton and Sergei stepped in shoulder to shoulder with 6 younger composers at their backs, looking around excitedly.
"Ah, my good sirs!" the Club host met them with some servants, who all bowed. "Welcome back! Any favors you would like from us tonight? Whatever it is, we will do what we can to accommodate."
Anton approached him and shook hands. "We are always thankful for your accommodations these evenings. Please give us the Blue Room, the one with the piano. Drinks are also on me," he pressed 5 coins worth 10 roubles into the host's hands.
"It's all ready for you," the host grinned, and gesturing them to come forward.
The group all took their coats off and went to the Blue Room, which was reserved for them nearly every Friday. It was spacious but private, and there wonderful soirees were held. Women were not usually invited, but special occasions did bring some of the wives of the composers, particularly if there were guests, and patrons, to watch.
It was an unusually busy night at the club. Dozens of men were in the main hall, chatting, smoking, drinking, and gambling. Occasionally Anton tried his luck with cards, but he often lost, and so wished to uplift his spirits with acclamations from his students, which never failed. There seemed to be some exceptional buzz though, one which Sergei was curious for.
"You, Nikolai," he told one student, "Look around in the other rooms, and get a gist of what all the commotion seems to be. I sense some excitement, don't you? It can only mean one thing: major people to be entertained tonight."
"I agree, sir! I will go," and a young student went on his way for his mission.
Anton, Sergei, and the others all got settled, and began their little program, which was already set up. Leaving the door slightly open, as was their custom, they began playing out new compositions just recently made by all of them, even Sergei and Anton themselves. Crowds always came around the doors, just to hear, but few dared to knock and let themselves in. Sergei and Anton answered only to possible Patrons.
For an hour, the circle enjoyed themselves with music and talk. Almost like a lecture in itself, these meeting allowed the students to be even more bold with their questions than at the conservatory, and have chances to be even experimental. The mood was always casual, and always warm, although exclusive.
This evening though, there was going to be a change of routine.
Unexpected visitors.