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Faces: Chapter 5

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Vasily was at an orchestral concert when he came across the famed man.
"Greetings, sir!" Vasily hailed him in the lobby of the concert hall they were in. Piotr Ilyich and his colleagues were together in a group, chatting about how everything fared. When Vasily stepped up, everyone became hushed, and watched him carefully.
"Hello, young man! Did you like the concert?" Piotr Ilyich spoke up with a smile. He was a handsome middle aged man with a graying beard.
"Yes, you're Symphony in E minor was very touching, a true masterpiece. I imagine everything you've written is admired as greatly!"
"Ah, thank you, young man."
"I just wanted to comment because well... I compose too."
"Is that so?" Piotr Ilyich was intrigued, and the colleagues all began looking at each other.
"Yes. I've taken lessons, and have created a few works, nothing published though."
"Who was your teacher?"
"Ilyinsky, do you know him?"
"Yes I do! But he's not associated with the Conservatory. Did you get any training there?"
"No, I unfortunately had to drop out after 1 semester. The expenses had begun to add up, and I felt I learned the basics."
The colleagues, all about the same age as Vasily and some older began to scoff. But Piotr Ilyich was still intrigued.
"That is unfortunate. But one doesn't need that much of a formal education to compose. It takes experience above all. How long have you composed?"
"Almost 6 years now, mainly choral works, but a few orchestral things."
"Are you working on anything right now?"
"Sir, I think we ought to go now for our reservation," one colleague interjected coldly.
"Ah Anton, just let me have a few more minutes. Have you any work to show me, er... I'm sorry I don't know your name..."
"Vasily. Vasily Sergeyevich."
"Vasily Sergeyevich! Why don't you dine with my group tonight? We were just about to go, and perhaps we can talk more about this."
Vasily stared in bewilderment at his unexpected fortune. He looked to the colleagues who all scrutinized him coldly now, and rather superciliously. After all, who was this stranger that he should be allowed to join in personal engagements with them?
"Ah, I'm afraid I can't stay," Vasily frowned, "I need to get up early tomorrow to go to a rehearsal. I conduct a choir."
"Well, that's too bad. Perhaps I could meet you again? At my home? Show me what you've done then instead."
"I would greatly appreciate it, sir!" They arranged a time and place, and so they parted.
Vasily frowned as he left the building. He said he had a rehearsal but really it wasn't until 10 AM the next day. He really was just afraid of the others.

The next day, Vasily brought his Orchestral Suite in B minor to Piotr Ilyich in his well-to-do apartment. Within minutes, Piotr Ilyich began to praise it.
"You are truly unique, Vasily Sergeyevich! None of those banal "Russian sensibilities" so popular nowadays. You are Russian, but you are yourself too. A bit of a mutt, aren't you? Your lack of formal training and influence might do you good," Piotr Ilyich smiled.
Vasily shrugged his shoulders. He never considered his lack of education an advantage.
"I only write what I like, sir, and I'm not really into any single school of art."
"Please, don't call me sir. I'm Piotr Ilyich to you now," he grinned.
Vasily smiled. "I can only help feeling small in your presence."
"Well, certainly I am well known. But one only feels small by perspective."
"I agree! There's not need to look at others for perspective, but only take one's aim to the highest goal one can know. Music is the most wonderful ideal I can think of on this earth, and if could make even a small contribution to the world with music, I would... would--"
He was talking so fast that he went into another coughing spasm.
Piotr Ilyich's eyes flashed at seeing him suddenly convulse into coughing so quickly.
"Are you alright?" he asked with dearest sympathy.
Vasily took a pause to catch his breath. Whenever this happened, his lungs were on fire afterwards. He knew it to be serious.
"I'm alright," he smiled in a pain manner. "It's serious, but I'm managing it."
"It's not...?" Piotr Ilyich's eyes lit up with horror.
"Consumption?... I'm afraid so."
Neither said anything for a moment.
"How many jobs do you have right now?"
"Four. I conduct in 2 different places, and perform in 2 others. Oh, and I do some copyist work as well."
"All of that? Does it pay?"
"Just barely."
"Do you have any support elsewhere?"
"A little from parents and church. But I have a wife, and she takes care of me when she's not working," he smiled.
"Do you want a family?"
Vasily frowned.
"I don't think I should. Not with all of this."
"I see... If there's anything I can do to help, I will. I see that composing is not able to be your priority, but it tends not to be for most. But if you're a conductor already, that might be a good niche for you. Tell me about any choral performance you do, I would love to come."
"Indeed. I love conducting, and I have definitely the most experience with that."
After much more discussion, Vasily left Piotr Ilyich's home, and went straight away to see Irina.
"Something great has happened, Irina," he began immediately as he entered through the door. Irina was in their kitchen, making their small dinner.
"What is it?"
"I met someone who might be able to help us."