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Thursday, December 07, 2006

Now brandy for breakfast may be a distressing thought, but whisky for dinner is, I think, an absolute horror. -- Charles O'Connell, 1947

O'Connell was a conductor who ran the classical division of Victor Records for many years, and then later Columbia. I'd never heard of him, but I picked up his 1947 memoir of record producing, The Other Side of the Record, because it looked like fizzy gossip, and it is. He had to drink whisky for dinner with one of his record label's star conductors, Serge Koussevitsky. The book catalogues many mid-20th century classical equivalents of late-20th century rock stars demanding M&M's backstage with all the brown M&M's removed.

The book is not only gossipy, though -- O'Connell's ears are acutely attuned to all of music's resources, and he has fine things to say about tone color, an interest of mine. Rachmaninoff and Artur Rubinstein are the only pianists he recorded whose mastery of tone color he praises.

The book feels older than many other artifacts of 1947, perhaps because O'Connell is so breezily patrician and elitist in his outlook. I'm enjoying the gossip and the music love, and the breezy elitism is distant enough to charm now.
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