Sunday, April 19, 2015


1. Death in the fannish family. Art Widner, the Wonderful Beard, was 97 I think, and bounded around in half-his-age style for an amazingly long period. He was a great guy to have for a friend. Here's what I wrote about him long ago when he turned a mere 80.

2. Day two of the piano roll symposium. Statistics on piano rolls: some of the most popular composers of the day (early 20C) included Edward MacDowell, Moritz Moszkowski, Ethelbert Nevin, and some others neither I, nor (it turns out) Baker's nor Wikipedia had ever heard of. Among pianists, mentioned Ervin Nyiregyházi, who derailed his career with what were called "wayward" piano roll interpretations. Audience member question: "Did he ever cure this?" Everyone at the symposium who'd ever heard Nyiregyházi's later recordings (including me): "No!"
Best line of the symposium: "If you want to keep a secret from a pianist, just put it in the critical notes."

3. Marked my renewed involvement in fandom by attending the local SF social group, PenSFA, for the first time in mumble years. As I'd hoped, there was talk of Puppygate. About four of us (all anti-Puppy, of course) went at the question of what to do about it in a fierce but intelligent argument, where everything said was productive, interesting, responsive to what had been said, and made one think when it disputed you. Only problem was getting the others' attention when I started to utter a sentence. At one point everyone was tumbling over each other to disagree with me about something, and I kept interjecting "No, no, no," until someone said, "You can't just say 'no': you have to make an argument," which unjust accusation got on my nerves and I burst out very loudly with, "As soon as I can get another word in edgewise!" I'd been saying "No" not as a substantive response, but as a marker to indicate my disagreement until such distant future time as I might gain the floor. Despite this hitch, I'm grateful to all of them for the engagement.

4. San Francisco Symphony review: Sunday matinee, the only time I was free to attend this interesting program, but a time I hate to go, as the hall tends to be full of fidgeters and talkers. Some behind me exclaimed (fortunately between pieces, as new musicians came on stage), "Look at the big red thing!" Doubted they'd be interested to know that it's called a contrabassoon, so I said nothing.
The concert itself: Igor Levit, looming over his piano keyboard as if he were planning to bite it in a tender spot if it had any, waited glacially long intervals before playing the next note in Mozart's K.271 concerto. Stretching Mozart's lyricism to the breaking point seemed to be the principle here. Or it could have been guest conductor Pablo Heras-Casado, since they played Debussy's Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun with the same languid pauses. On the other hand, Haydn's Symphony No. 44 was brisk and powerful, while Stravinsky's Symphony in 3 Movements was brisk and colorful but totally emotionless, which may be how Stravinsky wanted it but makes for boring listening.

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