Monday, April 20, 2009

Someone else's ditzy interview

Remember a couple of weeks ago when I went on and on about the ditziest interview I ever did in my life? That reminded me of someone else's ditzy interview. I read it -- gee, it has to have been a year ago. But I just stumbled on it again.

This time I have to share it.

Ditzy interviews can be an art form all their own. You get all kinds of unexpected stuff, things that most scholars and musicologists would never stumble on. Particularly if the person plays along. Mark O'Connor, my ditzy interview, was a good sport. I should point out that he was only my latest ditzy interview. There have been others.

But I do not know if any of them approach this one I am going to share today. This one is glorious! It is so ditzy that I cannot even find the name of the journalist. He identifies himself only as David Bundler, har de har har.

But anyway.

This is an interview with the virtuoso pianist Shura Cherkassky. That is dear Mr. Cherkassky on the left in the picture above. Emil Gilels is on the right and in the middle is, ahem, Denise de Vries.

You can read the interview in its glorious entirety here but I will share my favorite excerpts. Enjoy!

It was great fun talking with Cherkassky and of all the interviews I've done over the years, it's the one I recall most fondly -- even though we didn't cover anything of substance. I spoke with Shura Cherkassky on November 14, 1987.

That is from the introduction.

Then you get:

SC: Could you speak a bit louder? It’s very dull the way it (sounds).

DB: Oh, okay.

SC: That’s better.

DB: How’s the weather back there, by the way?

SC: It's all riiight. Fine. It's not too cooold, noooo.

DB: That's good; I thought they had a blizzard back there in New York.

CS: But you know, I tell you, that's good for interviews. I’m a bit egotistic and it's selfish of me, but when I’m working, I like bad weather.

DB: You like bad weather?

CS: Yes, becaaause I don't think I'm missing anything in life. Because this life is a bit of a slavery. You devote yourself to music, and if it's wonderful outside, you say, "Oh my God, I wish I went out to friends outside, to go for a walk or do something." If it's bad weather, so I say then I'm not missing anything. It's very selfish of me, but that's the way I aaaam. I give you complete permission to put that in the paper.

Ha, ha! Already this is killing me. There's a lot more. We will break for a witty picture of Shura Cherkassky and then continue.

CS: See if you can speak a bit loud. I’m not deeeeaf or anything. It just sounds kind of distant. Yeah.

DB: I guess it’s the connection. May I ask you this? What’s the best thing about the musician’s life?

CS: Well, I can’t answer you that, frankly, because every musician is different -

DB: Well, I mean your life -

CS: - every musician is a different person. I mean, it's the way you arrange your own life. You know, I don't quite understand what you like me to -

DB: Well, I suppose, what you like about being a musician as opposed to something else.

CS: Yeahhhh. Well, of course it is my life and I love to do what I'm doing.

DB: Okay, well maybe it's a bad question. You have such a number of different likes. Let me ask you another kind of a strange question.

CS: Yeah.

DB: If you made a list of the things that you like and the things that you didn't like, which list would be longer?

CS: What, you mean the things that I like and I didn’t like. What do you mean? In the way of music?

At some point Shura Cherkassky becomes "CS" and not "SC." I like that about the interview too. I love so much about it. I am going to print it out and keep it.

Can you stand a little more? Sure you can.

DB: When you’re on tour, do you really have a chance to get around and see things or do you have to reserve that for your holidays?

CS: Very, very, very, very little. Veeeery little. Sometimes I have two hours free, and I hope that somebody to driving around to.

DB: That's terrible!

CS: Yeah, there’s very little time leeeft. Now for instance, I'm coming to Pasadena. You know Pasadena.

DB: Oh, sure.

CS: I used to stay at the Sheraton-Huntington, isn’t it?

DB: Huntington-Sheraton. I believe that's closed now.

CS: That's pulled down, so I’m gonna stay at some other hotel. And generally, I always have a piano and my room like I have it right here. But I don't suppose I'll have it for one day in Pasadena, so I just hope the managers will - I don’t know what time I'm arriving - hope he'll accommodating with practicing. To me, that’s very important. For one day, it's not worth having a piano in the room.

DB: How often do you practice? Do you try to practice every day for several hours?

CS: Oh yeeees. Certainly. And then the next day, from Pasadena, I'm flying to Utah - Provo. It's the second city after Salt Lake City. And then to Europe.

The connection was bad. Mr. Bundler, or whatever his real name is, tells us that at the beginning. That is part of the fun. I once interviewed Andrea Bocelli with an incredibly bad connection. We got disconnected twice. I actually only got about three sentences out of him but I was able to build a whole Sunday story around the goofiness of that phone call.

Back to Shura Cherkassky. At the end of it he says: "It will probably be a different kind of interview, yeah."

Here is a clip of Shura C. playing a piece by Josef Hofmann. I love what one commenter writes: "This little old man was always underrated."

I will say this: I am a fan!

Of Mr. Cherkassky, and of whoever did this interview.

It is a classic!

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