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Anton: Chapter 22

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Two years passed and Sergei Ivanovich visited St. Petersburg finally. He and Anton had a joyful reunion.
"I hope you've been faring well here," Sergei asked.
"I have! All is quite well. I love my position."
"That's very good!"
Anton invited him to his house for a meal, and also invited Sergei Vasilievich and Alexander Konstantinovich. Sergei Vasilievich had been living in St. Petersburg for a while, private teaching and composing, and Sasha was still immersed in full-time composition. Anton had met with them before, but it was nice to see them all again together. However Anton hadn't expected this reunion to bring as much a stir as he thought.
Anton, Sasha and Sergei Ivanovich were all talking together in their salon, when Sergei Vasilievich finally came.
"You!" suddenly Sasha exclaimed, "How did you find out about tonight?"
"Oh, I was invited to come, Alexander."
Sergei Ivanovich exchanged glances with Sasha, who colored.
"What is this about?" Anton was confused.
"Then Sergei Ivanovich hadn't told you yet," Sasha muttered.
"Indeed, I waited until Sergei Vasilievich was here," Sergei Ivanovich remarked with glee. "It seems, Anton, that I got long overdue justice with Sasha the other day, and all because of our dear Sergei Vasilievich."
"Justice you say?"
"Not justice but revenge," muttered Sasha.
"You let me tell it, Sasha. As I have kept secret for a while in Moscow, almost everyone in St. Petersburg has been spreading the story about what Sasha did to me almost 15 years ago."
"What on earth did he do?"
"He played my whole 1st symphony for an audience when I came here to premiere it for a gathering! It wasn't even published yet, and he memorized my playing it after one hearing! He literally stole my thunder in a flash. I don't think I could ever forgive him perfectly for that treacherous act of aggression."
Sasha was enormously distressed by him saying all this, and Sergei Vasilievich stared on amused. But Anton had never heard this story before.
"Go on! What happened now?" Anton asked excitedly.
"Well, I was meeting with Sergei Vasilievich just earlier this week, talking over his compositions, and Sasha came himself, eager to show his own symphony to me, your 6th is that correct?"
"Yes," Sasha said darkly.
"Well, you say what you did, Seryozha!"
"I can't!" the young composer laughed. "You say it!"
"Well, Seryozha hid himself and listened while Sasha played the first movement. I was impressed, and then I called Seryozha to come out. I introduced each other, since they had never met before in person. But Seryozha comes out saying, 'I liked your Symphony Alexander Konstantinovich, but I have written a symphony too. Would you like to hear it?' Sasha accepted, and so Seryozha played the whole 1st movement of his symphony from memory too!"
Anton laughed quite hard at this, and so did Sergei Vasilievich and Sergei Ivanovich. But Sasha wasn't amused.
"That was very clever of you, I must admit," he addressed Sergei Vasilievich. "You are quite talented. Perhaps I'll ask you to arrange the symphony for 4 hands when I complete it, how does that sound? Your little reward perhaps."
"Oh thank you, Alexander. Much appreciated. But, I hope you have no hard feelings."
"Oh, no, not really. It's just Sergei Ivanovich is gloating over it in front of me now, oh bother!" he put his face in his hand, and Sergei Ivanovich laughed.
"I think from now on, Sasha," he tapped Sasha on the back, "you can be assured that we are on equal terms now. As I said, justice done."
"Yes, I hope you had enough."
"Anyways," Anton interrupted, "Let's have our meal now, and discuss other things, shall we?"
The topic was dropped for the most part during dinner, and instead focused on Sergei Ivanovich's impression of St. Petersburg since the last time he was there, as well as how Anton was doing in his position. Anton, for the sake of his guests, kept himself from drinking too much this time. He also couldn't help noticing Sasha and Seryozha giving each other glances, perhaps in jest, or maybe even confrontational. Sasha in particular looked like he wanted to one-up Seryozha, but he spoke nothing of it.
"As you've been looking the most gloomy this evening, Sasha," Anton began with a grin, "I propose you to be the one to suggest us some diversion for the evening."
"Yes, Alexander! You deserve it after all," Seryozha chimed in.
Sasha finally smiled darkly.
"Well, there has been one idea in the back of my mind for a while. After all, in memory of Sergei Ivanovich's triumphant visit of Petersburg, he needs a souvenir."
"A souvenir?" Sergei Ivanovich wondered.
"Yes," Sasha smiled again, "After all, all 3 of you are Muscovites, and know little of what 'fun' Petersburg composers would have. So, here's my suggestion," he folded his hand and leaned over the table, "That we do a collaborative composition."
Everyone exchanged glances rapidly. "But, how could we ever do something like that in one night?" Sergei Ivanovich asked.
"Simple. It's limited. This is what we'll do: each of us start a small improvisation for piano, only a few measures, and then we pass on our composition to another until they've done what they can, and so forth, all the way back to the original, who finishes it off. I would think... 4 lines of manuscript per person, that is 2 full staff lines, would be enough of a limit. Or should I say challenge?" he looked deviously at Seryozha.
"That's an excellent idea!" Anton exclaimed. "It's true we never did that at Moscow, we were such bores you know."
"Not to mention that we didn't all get along," Sergei Ivanovich added with a smirk.
"Ah, very true."
"We didn't always either," Sasha pointed out, "But the numerous collaborative compositions trained us in many things. Sometimes it helped us to find our individual voices, but it also helped us to work together, to think alike for a common goal. It's a bonding experiment, as Mily Alexeyevich always said."
"Ah, but what if I have no ideas right now?" Sergei Ivanovich whined.
"Tough," Sasha smirked. "But don't worry, we'll give you time."
Anton went and got 4 manuscripts of paper, and so they all got their pens out to begin.
Sasha made his example first, and showed it to everyone.
"Anton, now try to add on to what I have, see what you can do."
Anton looked at Sasha's sketch, a light-hearted polka. It seemed already set up for a modulation, so Anton did just that. He then showed it to the rest.
"See? Not as hard as it seems. Go ahead now, and do your own," Sasha said.
Anton wrote a slow, melancholic tune as much as he could, and gave it to Seryozha, who finished at the same time. As Sergei Ivanovich expected, he had to think for a while before he could come up with something, so Anton wanted to take Seryozha's piece.
"Wait!" Sergei Ivanovich told him, "I want you to start mine out."
"Very well, hurry up though, will you?" Anton laughed.
So Anton finally waited for Sergei's when it was done but even so it didn't impress him too much. Anton treated it like an introduction, and to tease Sergei, he made it into a waltz. He finally moved to Seryozha's work, which already was being worked on by Sergei Ivanovich while Anton wrote his waltz. The others finished up what they had. Over all, this took about 45 minutes.
When everyone got their original improvisations back, everyone began exclaiming how strange and confused their works had become. Sergei Ivanovich's was definitely the most botched.
"How on earth did you guys changed the tempo twice in my piece?" he exclaimed.
"Well, it is what it is," Sasha smirked. "We take your theme and transform it. Obviously someone was having a bit too much fun with mine though," he gave a mock-hostile glance at Seryozha who burst out laughing.
"What did he do?" Anton asked.
"He turned my polka into a polonaise, and he didn't even use any grace notes. How do you not like grace notes Sergei Vasilievich??"
"Oh, I'm just not into them. I figured I needed to tone down your optimism is all," Seryozha sat back in his chair, also with a smirk.
"Bah! You do confuse me sometimes. You all get to cadence your own pieces though, do finish that up. Then, we will play for each other."
5 minutes later, they went to Anton's piano and began playing their improvisation.
It was a long time since Anton found this much amusement from music.
For a whole hour they joked and laughed about it until their sides hurt.
"I doubt anyone would want to hear such rubbish from us," Anton laughed.
"Oh indeed, this is just for Sergei Ivanovich. You will keep them, won't you?" Sasha asked.
"Oh yes! This was very memorable, thank you. May I keep them all?"
"Do what you like, I don't mind," Sasha replied.
Sergei Ivanovich put the manuscript sheets in his suitcase.
Altogether, they spent more hours drinking and talking, but everyone left at midnight, for Sergei Ivanovich was traveling back to Moscow the next day. Anton would never forget that night. One of the last happy memories he had.