Monday, July 30, 2012

The greatest compliment I've ever been paid

Last Friday afternoon I interviewed (to drop a name) Don Preston, the original keyboardist with the Mothers of Invention, who will appear in Sellersville Aug. 9 with a couple of Frank Zappa's other old bandmates. (The act is billed as the Grandmothers. Clever, eh?) I felt the chat went well, but I didn't know how just well until today, when, before writing the article, I called Rob Duffey, the group's manager, to verify a couple of names. Rob told me that soon after we spoke, Preston called him to say he enjoyed talking with me, and that it was "not a stupid interview." Apparently, Don has has suffered through a lot of of stupid interviews, and, therefore, when he says an interview was "not stupid," it counts as genuinely high praise. It made my day.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Minor celebrity

We like to push the extracurricular activities of the editors here at Montgomery Newspapers, and so my upcoming guest shot on Marvin Rosen's radio show is now the subject of a preview article in Ticket, our entertainment insert.

We figured if our executive editor rated an article when he signed copies of his new book, a two-hour program on EC was just as newsworthy.

In the interest of objectivity, Frank Quattrone, the Ticket editor, assigned Mary Cantell to do the story, instead of letting me write it myself. I must say it was a little disorienting to be on the recieving end of an interview, though Mary made it quick and painless, much like lethal injection. When my sister saw the article, she said she was surprised to learn that I didn't like Lawrence Welk. To be fair, my father didn't like Elliott Carter.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Evelyn Lear 1926-2012

I learn from Lisa Hirsch that the soporano Evelyn Lear died July 1. Of course, I remember her first and foremost for American Scenes, American Poets, an album of songs by Charles Ives she recorded with her husband, the late baritone Thomas Stewart. It was my first exposure to the songs of Ives and remains both a favorite recording and another one of those Columbia classics Sony has never seen fit to release on CD.

Strange, though — Lear was an American (born Evelyn Shulman in Brooklyn), but for a long time I assumed she was ... well, I know not what. My confusion was due to a minspronunciation on the Ives recording. The song "The Light That Is Felt," with text by Whitter, contains the lines "And only when our hands we lay / In thine, Oh God! the night is day." Maybe she was distracted, maybe she was uptight, maybe she wasn't making sense of the lyric, but for some reason, Lear pronounces "lay" as "lee."

And only when our hands we lee ...

Regardless, it is a wonderful rendition of a wonderful piece. When my mother died in 1999, I hired a soprano to sing it at her funeral — in large measure because of the impression Lear had made on me 25 years earlier.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Radio Date

On Wednesday, July 25, I will appear as the guest on Marvin Rosen's radio program "Classical Discoveries Goes Avant-Garde" on WPRB Princeton. We will be playing and discussing the music of Elliott Carter. Airtime time is 11 a.m. - 1 p.m. EDT. For those of you in the broadcast area (including Philadelphia), WPRB is at 103.3 on the FM dial. The show may also be heard around the world at, and Marvin saves his programs as mp3 files for two weeks or so (server space is limited) at his own Classical Discoveries website.
The playlist will include Carter's String Quartet No. 4 with the Composer's Quartet and the the Concerto for Orchestra with Boulez and the New York Philharmonic, as well as some shorter pieces and historic recordings.
I want you all to blow off work and listen.