Touching on This and That

Ethelbert Nevin

[May 2007.]

At La Folia’s semi-annual writers’ brunch (the editorial staff passing around amuse-bouche platters as we sipped Dom Perignon from Baccarat flutes), I learned that I receive the most mail. Actually, it’s not so much approbation as expressions of disgust and dismay.

In no particular order:

  • Yes, it’s completely coincidental that my parents burdened me with the handle of an American pianist-composer. My namesake died on February 17, 1901.
  • Despite heroic efforts on my part, Hindemith persists as a non-favorite. If you find my viewpoint thuggish, why not write your own article? Management’s always on the prowl for fresh perspectives. (The honoraria aren’t much — nothing in fact — and the dental plan plain sucks.)
  • I write about the radio because the world gets smaller and smaller, and if you’re using a computer to read this, you can listen in live (http://whrb.org/).

There! I feel better already.

Speaking of radio, WHRB did just conclude its Spring Orgy. Brahms and Stravinsky were the headliners, with Ligeti and Szymanowski as my stumbled-upon faves. Bicycle horns and alarm bells in the recently deceased Hungarian’s Le Grand Macabre enlivened a routine drive. However, nothing came close to the luminescent beauty of the Polish composer’s Stabat Mater, truly a drop-everything listen. Other moments included a nice, chewy Louisville Orchestra Orgy. I planned to seek sanctuary in a radio-free zone during the Daniel Pinkham Orgy, but, alas, took in some brass music. (Hey, if the locals don’t celebrate their own, who will?)

I may joke about the gaffes WHRB’s college-age staffers let fly. Isn’t that half the charm of college radio? Most of the DJs are unfamiliar with classical’s vastness, and I’m still not sure how to pronounce Ferneyhough or Adès. However, when professional stations make these mistakes, I’d love to throttle the boob at the mike. Had I my way, one egregious specimen would be a tidy pile of cinders. He delivers at least one zinger daily. It’s painful. Not long ago he misattributed to Weber Bizet’s one and only symphony. Later, he back-announced a new work by a leading American composer as My Father Knew John Adams. This might be funny between the farm reports and flea-market announcements of small-market radio, but not on NPR. The man needs to look for another gig.

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I hadn’t heard of Joyce Hatto until the relevant organs of information gave me to understand that it’s approximately impossible not to know about the lady. The ones making the most noise were of course the dupes. I can appreciate their need to clear the air. Classics Today (http://www.classicstoday.com/) had fun with it on April Fool’s Day. It’s amusing to me that major outlets and players saw it portending a further degradation of the damned-thing-just-won’t-die classical-music recording industry. If Hatto’s label, Concert Artist (http://www.concertartistrecordings.com/), had released piano works of Boulez, Cage, Carter, Feldman or Xenakis, I’d like to think our staffers would have noticed the ruse. Then again, what sort of nut dares to copy another’s Godowsky release thinking that no one would notice?

* * *

la la (http://www.lala.com/) has me puzzled. You list CDs you want and those you’d like to trade. If someone requests one you’re willing to relinquish, la la provides mailers and postage. The transaction makes you eligible to receive something on your wish list. My days of playground cupcake-sharing tell me that some anonymous soul gets the better deal and I get stuck with dreck or a great deal of unredeemable credit. I understand that all CDs have the same value. You might relinquish mid-price pressings and never receive that o/p you crave. What happens in the unlikely event everyone wants the same rare item? It also appears that you don’t trade the original jewel box, just the disc and as little paper as possible as a postage-saving device. Most of the time I’m after CD and booklet and with some labels, Kairos for example, the whole thing. While I haven’t tried it, I cannot see la la replacing in-store trading.