Archive - Apr 12, 2013

Date

Rachmaninoff

On the trip home from Minneapolis today, the roads were clear and I was able to enjoy an album of the great Sergei Rachmoninoff playing his own music in 1911-1915, when he was at his prime as a great pianist. Here, he plays his most famous Prelude, a piece he grew to hate closer to his death in 1943 because everybody insisted upon hearing him play it as if it was the only piece he wrote. It was a great piece, of course, but one can understand his exhaustion at being treated like a one-trick pony. 

I don't think there is anybody who physically mastered the piano like Rachmaninoff. So excessive was his strength that he was forced to use at least half of it to restrain himself. Horowitz just lets his strength go and the piano roars and rumbles uncontrollably. Rachmaninoff holds back and uses his strength to produce absolute accuracy, absolute control, absolute tautness. His rhythms are so controlled, so tight, so strong that one almost gets a headache imagining how much thought he put into a piece before executing it to perfection. 

We are lucky to have these recordings (look up "A Window in Time") which were made by a piano roll machine long before audio recordings were of any quality. The rolls were discovered in the 1980s and a piano was constructed to replay them. Thanks to these rolls, we know how the scowling Old Man intended his piano pieces to sound. Would that we had the same for Bach. 

UPDATE: At least we have Rachmaninoff playing Bach, anyway! 

Scully

As the Twins lose badly to the New York Mets tonight, I am reminded why baseball is such a great game: We still have the opportunity to see Joe Mauer ply his trade every couple of innings at the bat. What a pleasure. Mauer is one of the great hitters of all time, and watching his every at-bat is a worthwhile endeavor no matter how out of reach the game. 

Last night, the Dodgers and the Padres had a brawl. Zach Greinke, the Dodgers' $140 million pitcher, broke his collarbone in the altercation. But what most people are enjoying is the rendition of the incident by legendary broadcaster Vin Scully, 84 years of age. Watch as he makes sense of a senseless situation as only Vin Scully could. 

Scully is a national treasure. What a joy to watch him get credit for his excellence while he is still plying his trade. I preferred our own Herb Carneal, of course. Home town favorite. More Minnesotan, despite his Virginia drawl. But that Scully's old school excellence is recognized for what it is warms my heart. 

Forty-seven years ago, Vin Scully called a perfect game pitched by the equally great, equally legendary Sandy Koufax. Here is Scully's poetry describing the event as it occurred. It is a legendary passage in broadcast history. As you get into the broadcast, Scully starts time stamping the event. At the end of the tape, Scully finally explains why.

Dodger players report that transitor radios of Vin Scully calling the games are so prevalent at Dodger Stadium that they hear him calling the game as they play it. 

UPDATE: If you skip the other recordings, do listen to this one of Scully's tribute to UCLA coach John Wooden.