Thursday, September 18, 2008

House of cards

Yesterday was a great day. There is this marvelous institution, the International Piano Archives. I almost said the International House of Pancakes. That is what Howard says all the time when I mention the International Piano Archives, which I have been doing a lot these days.

Because the head of the International Piano Archives, Donald Manildi, has done me a great favor. He has sent me a 15 -minute radio interview he did with Leonard Pennario when Pennario was in Minneapolis playing Manuel de Falla's "Nights in the Gardens of Spain" with the Minnesota Orchestra.

For me, getting something like this is like Christmas to the 10th power. I was so excited I could hardly get the CD into the player. Well, I am bad with CDs anyhow.

I will have to listen to this interview many, many times, but for now, after hearing it only twice, I will say it one of the best interviews with Pennario I have ever seen or heard. So many times, whenever reporters did sit Pennario down, they asked him about dumb stuff. Like his bridge playing. Especially his bridge playing. Look, I know Pennario liked to play bridge. But 100 years from now no one will care about that. If anyone even says the word "bridge" to me again while I am trying to talk about Leonard Pennario I am going to lie down and die. Honest.

Mr. Manildi did not ask Pennario about bridge. Pennario mentioned it in passing when he was listing his hobbies but that was it. Thank you, Mr. Manildi. Thank you!

One funny footnote on the bridge business. In the early '90s I was, and I am not kidding, the bridge editor. A big part of my job was formatting the columns by the bridge columnist Alfred Sheinwold so that the hearts and spades, etc., would come out OK in the paper.

This was a tedious job and irritating job, made worse because you'd do the Sheinwold columns in batches. You'd have sheinwold/1, sheinwold/2, and so on, all through the month. The head of the copy desk, Scott Thomas, used to soothe me by telling me, "Think of yourself as the world's highest-paid clerical worker." Scott could always see the bright side of things. Eventually he left The Buffalo News to become a minister for the United Church of Christ.

The day I could put Sheinwold behind me and go on to writing about music was a very happy day indeed. I never wanted to see that name again.

Ten years later there I am in California and Leonard Pennario and I are lying around one night going over these pictures. "This is Alfred Sheinwold," he said. "He was a great bridge columnist, and --"

"I know who he is," I snapped.

Ha, ha! Well, Pennario was sympathetic. He was always very sympathetic with me. He soothed me the way Scott Thomas used to, telling me gently of how he used to accompany Sheinwold in Schubert songs, how Sheinwold loved Schubert, what a beautiful voice Sheinwold had. Which made me feel a little better about all those hearts and clubs.

All the same, I wish all those people hadn't asked Pennario about bridge. I was careful to interview him about substantial things. Such as whether or not he had kissed Elizabeth Taylor.

I know what will matter to future generations.

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