A Library-Like Atmosphere

balakirev_libraryI made my first trek ever to the New York Public Library to research that last blog post, as Rimsky-Korsakov’s memoirs mostly aren’t available online.

I mentioned my library-visiting intent at a gathering earlier in the week, and was intrigued by a) the extreme level of horror my friends expressed that I had never been and b) the fact that their horror was primarily related to my lack of visiting the main branch to see its beauty. As opposed to say, being mortified that I don’t read enough, or that I still buy books, or that my reading tends towards teen-level dystopic fantasy. I also haven’t been to the Brooklyn Public Library, although, as I assured one snarky friend, I HAVE been to the public library in my hometown – admittedly, probably most recently in the ‘80s. Also, nobody asked, but I could have navigated the libraries at the University of Chicago in my nightmare-filled sleep. Continue reading

Oh The Horror! The Horror!

On my flight home to Arkansas for Christmas vacation, I started listening to the 12-CD set of Bach organ works in dad’s collection, “L’Oeuvre D’Orgue,” from Lionel Rogg. This was perhaps not the wisest choice, as I found myself being bombarded, on a particularly bumpy return flight to Newark, by BWV 565, Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. You know, this:

Continue reading

Coffee, Coffee Muss Ich Haben

I’m a total coffee addict.

I’ve owned three espresso machines in as many years — I think this last one, a Nespresso model that seems like it should also be able to, I don’t know, convert water to wine, given how much it cost, will stick. I think nothing of going miles out of my way for a good cup of coffee — especially if it entails the beans being shot through pneumatic tubes first. I don’t mind making my friends drive miles out of their way, either, just so I can find a decent cup (yeah, North Fork of Long Island, I’m looking at you, and I don’t care if your wine people sneer at me when I bring my coffee into your tasting rooms, either.) I once dressed up for Halloween as “not a morning person,” wore my PJs, wrapped my alarm clock cord around my neck, and incorporated a coffee cup into my costume. In short, without my coffee, I would dry up like a piece of roast goat.

Not that that’s the imagery I would necessarily have chosen, that last bit, but I must admit it fits. You have a character named Liesgen, invented for Bach’s Coffee Cantata, to thank for that. Continue reading

Going Punk Rock at Carnegie Hall: Bach & The Goldberg Variations

And so we begin the “B” composers, where we run immediately into the implacable wall of Bach.

Judging by volume, Bach was by far dad’s favorite composer. I count about 140 Bach CDs in the collection, and another half dozen or so by his sons. We are going to be with the Bachs-es-es for a while, as I write the 14 or so blog entries required per my rules, minus the one post I got out of the way earlier.

I start with the Goldberg Variations for one simple reason: they are the inspiration for this blog. Here’s the story: Continue reading

On Malcolm Arnold And Drinkin’

Malcolm Arnold. Dances: Scottish, Irish, Cornish, English. Sarabande & Polka from ‘Solitaire.’ The Philharmonia, Bryden Thomson. 1990

Most of my dad’s CDs, I went home and packed up early this summer. But a few of them have been in my own collection – meager in comparison to his – for years, including this one.

I stole this CD during my senior year in high school, when I played the bassoon solo in the second movement of Arnold’s “Four Scottish Dances” as part of this thing called All-State Band (I wonder if it’s still around?), where you go away for a few days, rehearse a few pieces, and then perform them for an audience of parents and band directors, mostly. Continue reading

The ‘Noble Density’ and ‘Mellow Puffs’ of Vyacheslav Artyomov

Vyacheslav Artyomov. Hymns. Melodiya.

This is a CD I bought dad as a gift while I was living in Russia. This was something I did from time to time, bringing him music from whatever odd place I had been, in an attempt to confound him by finding something he didn’t already know about that he might like.

I bought this CD knowing nothing about its contents. This was the mid-90s, when the Internet was only just getting started – not even, really, in Russia – which hindered, ahem, research. And many of Moscow’s stores were still holding onto their actively anti-consumer past, making it hard for someone whose Russian was sketchy to solicit help. Such was the case with the place where I bought this CD, the exceedingly Soviet Dom Knigi (House of Books), located on the even more Soviet Noviy Arbat street. Continue reading

Kalevi Aho: Quintet for Bassoon and String Quartet

Kalevi Aho: Quintet for Bassoon and String Quartet; Quintet for Alto Saxophone, Bassoon, Viola, Cello and Double Bass. Sinfonia Lahti Chamber Ensemble. Grammofon AB BIS, 1996 and 1997.

I deduce from the copyright date, 1998, on this CD that my father purchased it well after I had begun to play the bassoon. After I had quit, for that matter. I wonder if he might not have acquired it had I not brought the ungainly instrument into his household, but who knows. I was not home much after 1991, when I graduated high school, and I do not recall ever having heard these pieces. They are difficult to like. Continue reading