Tuesday, April 14, 2009

My ditziest interview

Now that the fiddler Mark O'Connor has come and gone there is something I have to confess. Before O'Connor's concert, which was with the Orchard Park Symphony, I interviewed him on the phone. And I have to say this:

It was the ditziest interview of my life!

Now, the competition in that department is keen. I have done some mighty ditzy interviews. Once when I was interviewing Julius Rudel I had a momentary brain power outage and I forgot that Gregor Piatigorsky was a cellist and I thought he was a conductor.

Ha, ha! Now that I am writing this book on Leonard Pennario, that is not a mistake I will ever make again, I will say that! I feel as if Piatigorsky is my cousin or something. He is practically family!

But back then I was in this daze. And after that I was in the doghouse for a good portion of the conversation and it took a while for me to work my way out of it. I forgot what got me out of it. I think I demonstrated a familiarity with the conductor Hans Knappertsbusch and that was what redeemed me.

Back to Mark O'Connor and our interview a few weeks ago. What happened was, I had a million things going and I did not have time to prepare as well as I should have. My ultimate downfall was that the interview was moved up a few hours. Those were the couple of hours when I was going to do my research.

Then what O'Connor's publicists did was, they sent me this interview the Associated Press had just done with him. So I printed that out and went with that.

That was my real mistake. Because everything in this story was wrong!

Why had they sent it to me??

It got to the point where O'Connor was patiently correcting me. "No, I did have formal training." "No, my family was not from there." Then all on my own, without the help of that A.P. story, I got the name of one of his major works wrong. He corrected me on that, too.

Eventually I had to get off the phone just because I knew it was only a matter of time until I really blew it. You can only make so many mistakes, you know?

But the thing is, he was so charming. I could not get over that.

At the end I said, "Mr. O'Connor, I want to thank you for being so nice to me. I think it was obvious I was flying by the seat of my pants."

The reason I am telling this, besides just because I love laughing about stuff, is that I am endlessly fascinated by the process of interviewing musicians, especially from my ant's-eye perspective. I will have to start sharing some of the experiences I have had. You would not believe it.

Plus, I have a theory, that the greatest musicians are the nicest musicians. There are almost no exceptions in my experience. Perhaps one exception would be Karl Muck, whom we talked about the other day. But alas, I never interviewed him.

Here is Mark O'Connor's Appalachian Waltz which I listened to, naturally, after our interview. Why could I not have listened to it beforehand?

I guess that is all part of the adventure.


  1. I'm going to poke my stick in the beehive.

    I heard a lot of awful performances under Julius Rudel, and I don't understand his having any credible reputation as a conductor. After a Mahler 2nd Symphony which almost sounded like an unrehearsed PDQ Bach parody (the only good things in it were Maureen Forrester and the BPO Chorus), I swore I would never again buy a ticket to the BPO while he was director. I kept my oath. I assume he owes a good part of his career to his association with Beverly Sills. Either that, or he was a "smart" New Yorker who figured he was slumming among Buffalo primitives. It takes a lot more skill to lead and cue complicated orchestral works than it does to accompany, say, Donizetti.

    OK, kiddo, fly out and sting! I'm just an obscure local nobody, ja? Also, not nice enough to be a good musician...

  2. Controversy! Controversy, on my Web log! I love it. Prof. G, thanks! I wish I had been at that Mahler 2nd. The way you describe it is classic.