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The Music Column

How Long Has This Been Going On?

We live in revolutionary times of rapid technological change, and yes, it is a little disconcerting when the rules morph and the practices mutate.  But I did predict years ago that vinyl would be back, and so it is.  This year’s junque is next year’s antique.  And I remember back even to Before Vinyl.

A life-changing opportunity came my way 57 years ago, when a music-loving professor gave certain 78 rpm shellac albums to my mother: He was going with the market to full LPs in his little office and needed the space.  The next thing the kid that I was knew, I was stacking 78’s on the spindle to drop in sequence, just to see what was on the records.  I had no idea what I was doing, but no difficulty in appreciating that it was something big.  The quality of the pianism I heard has stayed with me for a lifetime: Sergei Rachmaninoff and his two biggest concerti; Alfred Cortot and the Chopin F minor, the second concerto; Egon Petri and the Liszt A major, another second concerto; and others such as Wilhelm Backhaus and Walter Gieseking.  But as it was, I learned some basic repertory without any admonitions whatsoever, and Golden Age pianism as well.  And such an awareness has never left me one whit.  There are other beauties, of course, but the appeal of masterly pianism for me has never dimmed.

From such beginnings, webs of connections spread out.  I met a former...

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