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Monday, May 14, 2007

Rhapsody on Somebody Else's Superior Vocabulary, Part I

My mentor of mentors praised me once. She said she approved of the way my words were articulated, one to the next. "It reminds me of what Isaac Stern once said about music, that it was the stuff between the notes." Mortar and hinges. Cartilege and tendon and fascia enlaced, one to the next. I always thought Isaac Stern was full of shit, and not just because he ground me into the New Haven asphalt with his custom-made Italian heel after I played the Bach Chaconne for him in his room at the Taft. He was full of shit because of the way he played the Beethoven concerto--yes, as though he were telling a story, but he's not telling the right story! This is an opera about the beauty and muscularity of human thought, and his is the story of a lumbering, ponderous formality. It's not without its own beauties, but honey, whatever I did to the Chaconne at least I didn't slip it a Roofie. Heifetz played the Beethoven concerto with passion and elegance so powerful his recordings leave a slipstream behind them, into which we fall, amazed and ennobled. It's funny, I've only just realized--I haven't heard anybody's recording of the Beethoven concerto in more than ten years, maybe fifteen. I can't start now, James is asleep on the sofa, and I don't have the Stern recording with which to keep him that way.

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