Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Confessions from the keyboard

I am reading a book I got at the University Women's Second Hand sale. It is the memoir of the great accompanist Gerald Moore, called "Am I Too Loud?" It is accompanying me through my life!

Today we would call Mr. Moore a collaborative pianist. But he called himself an accompanist, although he talks in the book about how he was an equal partner with the great singers he partnered on stage.

I have always wanted to read this book. And I was lucky to get it! I paid maybe $2 for it. The Internet makes it clear it is out of print. On eBay there is one for about $10 and otherwise they are all $50, $75, the sky is the limit.

Perhaps when I am through with this I will sell mine!

No, I do not think so. It is just too charming.

Gerald Moore's personality just jumps out at you.

About Feodor Chaliapin, the great Russian bass:

Fred Gaisberg suggested to me in Glasgow that we visit the singer's bedroom at noon to see how our hero was faring. There he was sitting up in bed with the only solid food he allowed himself prior to a concert: a boiled egg and coffee. The egg standing in its cup looked exceedingly minute by contrast with the enormous torso behind it. Each mouthful, one felt, had a long way to travel: up, up, precariously balanced on its spoon between the waistline and the lips, and then down, down a very long way before it reached its destination.  ...

And then I saw a tragic performance; Boris Godunov's death scene was enacted: a distant mumble like the growling of a double bass came from the depths of his being, as with beetling brows and mouth drawn down in despair I heard these anguished words, "M-m-m-m, they bring no salt with my egg."

They don't write like that any more.

Another quote on Chaliapin I cannot resist: "Chaliapin came in clad in a pair of shorts and a kimono round his shoulders. His torso was bare and was so white, so vast, it reminded me of a wall on the Acropolis."

I can see I am going to wind up copying out this whole book onto my Web log!

There are big chapters of course relating to Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, pictured here suavely with Moore...

... and John McCormack. That I have not gotten around to them yet is high praise for the book! There is too much other great stuff to keep me occupied.

Elisabeth Schwarzkopf comes off as nice.

At a recent performance in Salzburg of 'Don Giovanni' all she could find to say to me was how marvelous Leontyne Price had been and that she had never sung opposite such a Donna Anna before. I told the American girl of this praise from the finest Donna Elvira of our time, but Leontyne said, "Elisabeth made it so easy for me by her encouragement and friendliness."

"The American girl." I love that.

I think you can find Gerald Moore talking on YouTube.

This is just one instance. He is playing Brahms' "Vergebliches Staendchen" and explaining it. Wow, this is fun. I love hearing his thoughts on this song. There is no video on this by the way. Which does not surprise me. Though there are plenty of videos of Mr. Moore on stage he writes that he considers television an abomination.

Dear Mr. Moore.

By the way here is the book's opening quote:

"Normally the most considerate of accompanists, on this occasion Gerald Moore too often overwhelmed the singer."
-- London Daily Telegraph, May 8, 1961.


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