Saturday, February 6, 2021

Nightmare in the Library

 I have been wanting to get my Music Critic web log going again but it is hard to break a long silence, you know? You are always looking for something of Great Import.

Well. Yesterday I was working on my other blog and I found this post I had never published.

I had written it up several years ago one day and I kind of remember it, the way I remember everything I write. I think I published it for about two minutes and then pulled it down. I thought it would sound too negative or something. I thought it would hurt Andre Previn's feelings. He was -- is -- still among us. 

Isn't it odd, the last post I wrote, a few weeks ago, was about Andre Previn. Hmm. Well, back to this old post. In any case I thought better of it, for whatever reason.

Not now.

Now I just think it is funny!

Anyway, without further ado as we say in the music biz, here it is. I titled it "Nightmare in the Library." Take it away, Mary:

I was at the downtown library with my friend Melinda and she was checking out videos. So one thing I do when I have a few minutes to kill is, I go to the music section and wander around. As I wander I scan the shelves and periodically I pull out this book or that and check to see if Leonard Pennario is in it.

He almost never is. I do not hold my breath. It is a funny thing about Pennario, he is so forgotten and overlooked and under-appreciated. I have a kind of joke going with myself about that. I mean, when I pull out these books I never expect to find him in them. Once I was startled to find an interesting few paragraphs about him in a book about child prodigies. That will actually make it into my book. But I am so used to disappointment.

Yesterday I happened to see this moldy old biography of pianist and conductor Andre Previn.

I stopped. Pennario had made this record with Previn in the early '60s. It was Previn's first record and the record company set him up with Pennario to record Rachmaninoff's First and Fourth Piano Concertos. Record companies used to like to have new conductors record with Pennario because Pennario was so reliably great, plus he was such a pro. He would give the conductor no problems and make the conductor look good and the record would be beautiful and sell well.

Perhaps Previn would mention this episode, considering it was his first record and all. Were it not his first record I would figure he would not bother mentioning it because, as I said, no one mentions Pennario. But it was his first record. Anyway, I took the book off the shelf and opened it to check.

To my astonishment there he was, in the index. "Pennario, Leonard."

Wow! This was nice. I was getting over my cold and I still had that kind of wobbly feeling you get before you are quite healthy again. I needed a pick me-upper. I turned to the page. And you know what, I could not believe what I found.

This book was so snotty! 

The writer, who, I did not notice his name, sort of sniffed that Previn's first two records had been with pianists Leonard Pennario and Lorin Hollander. Annoyingly the book lumped them together, as if there were no difference. Then the writer went and described the Pennario recording sessions as "uneventful."

I mean, I am sorry that Pennario did not need his own special stool, you know?

Sorry that he was not drunk or zoned out on pills or wearing a big heavy overcoat or threatening to quit the concert stage. Sorry that he simply walked out and played incredibly. Sorry that he was courteous and easy to work with and did not give Previn a hard time or look like a bum or do anything else that would have given him worth in a journalist's eyes.

Well, maybe I had imagined the negative overtone. Perhaps this stupid writer had not realized that "uneventful" had a negative timbre. But no! The writer went on to quote Previn as saying that he did not think either of those first two records was any good. Previn said, "They showed that I could conduct and that soloists enjoyed working with me."

The nerve. The nerve!! The ego!! The nerve!!

Here by the grace of God you are teamed up with this magnificent musician, and that is what you have to say. Thanks a heap, Andre. Thanks a heap.

Here is a picture of Andre Previn who threw Leonard Pennario under the bus.

I do not normally rant like this but once in a while I allow myself the luxury. This is the kind of stuff I am up against.

The writer also dismissed the record as "standard repertoire." Actually, you know what, it was not. This record was, in its way, historic. This was the record that made Pennario the first pianist after Rachmaninoff to record all four concertos, in addition to the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. Because the Second and the Third Concertos and the Rhapsody have always been big hits, but no, the First and the Fourth were not in the standard repertoire. They were not performed very often. They are beginning to gain ground now but even now, they are off the beaten track.

Oh, what am I carrying on for. Previn, Schmevin.

I have real work to do.