Please visit my blog as I write my first book, the authorized biography of Leonard Pennario.
Sunday, September 16, 2012
Save me the waltz
Today after Mass and after Zumba I had a lot of work to do but I did a tiny bit of thrift shopping. I mean I stopped into a Goodwill. I know, this is a shock. But I did.
It is a long story what I was looking for but what I was looking for was not what I found. I found Leonard Pennario's LP of "La Valse." From the 1950s, on Capitol. It was 1956 if memory serves me but it is late and I have stuff in the oven and I do not have time to look it up.
This was the record that had the world premiere of Ravel's solo-piano "La Valse." Pennario was the first to play it by a very long time, I mean decades. Now nobody remembers that. Everybody wants to be a big shot and play that piece, but no one could tell you the first person to play it, who was Leonard. And Leonard played it better than anybody too. Listen for yourself.
Pennario records do not turn up as often as you would think at Goodwills. As Howard says, they are heirlooms. When they do turn up it is usually "Concertos Under the Stars" because that was such a massive best-seller, up there with Sinatra and Nat "King" Cole.
To find "La Valse" is extremely rare. It is more a piano-nerd album. Niche-market, you would call it. It is so beautiful, with its cool, cool artwork.
But here is what killed me.
I took the record out of the jacket and it was just as I expected.
It was all played and scratched up. The grooves were worn thin.
Honest, I get tears in my eyes when I see that. That is what I usually see when I take out one of these records. It just touches me so much how Pennario was loved. The people who bought his records did not stick them away in some cabinet somewhere. They played them. Even this egg-headed, piano nerd record! Someone had obviously loved the hell out of it.
A few weeks ago I was at a Salvation Army where the records are three for a buck, such a deal. Sometimes you see this situation, where somebody who obviously loves classical music and piano dropped off a collection. Or else his heirs did, who knows. Anyway there were all these beautiful piano LPs and I bought a few dozen of them. Horowitz, Al Brendel, Van Cliburn, Leon Fleisher, Byron Janis, etc. It was a treasure trove and I got all of it!
I figured there would be Pennario in there somewhere and sure enough, there was his album of the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1.
I began taking the records out of the jackets, just glancing at them. They were all in pristine condition. Archive quality. I loved that! I was getting a deal here, these beautiful mint-condition records.
Then I looked at Pennario's Tchaikovsky concerto.
It was all beat up!
Whoever this record collector was, he or she had played this record TO DEATH.
That was what was sitting on the turntable when all these other records were safe in their pristine little jackets.
What a wonderful legacy for an artist to claim, you know. That his records were played. That people loved them.
I have a newspaper clipping I love, that I found, from 1959. The writer referred to Pennario as "America's most beloved pianist."