Saturday, March 02, 2002

My old friend David Hunt, who ran my record shop Orpheus and now does golf in San Francisco, is as wise and witty a friend as I have. Recently we exchanged e-mails about a new Schubert recording by the Russian pianist Volodos that includes Liszt's transcription of "Der Muller An Dem Bach" (The Miller at the Stream) from Schubert's Parnassian song-cycle Die Schone Mullerin. David's comments should cheer up even the grayest day or soul:

"I have five "Mullers" and I love them all, but Sofronitzsky finds an extra dimension that the others, for all the beauty involved, do not. You and I
know what that is but perhaps not what to call it. Volodos plays the Sonata better than anyone save Richter. I went the other night to hear Tilson
Thomas and his band accompany Renee Fleming; she sans some new songs that he made out of Emily Dickinson poems, which, if you ask me, simply cry out not
to be set to music. We also heard "Four Last Songs;" he takes everything too fast and she poured out fabulous sounds, but I was curiously unmoved;
loving and admiring but not carried off, as one should be by that music. Davies Hall is a horror visually and you always feel that the percussion
section has bought the seats next to your own. Next week I fly south to hear Haitink and the Vienna--a Haffner and a Schubert 9th. I am agog with
anticipation. A 10 on the opener at Poppy Ridge yesterday got me off to a slow start. Worse than an Emily Dickinson reading."

In all the controversy about high-tech golf equipment and the way it's allowing the pros to make a mockery of great older course - AND (in my opinion more important) turn the game into a world-class bore - why has no one looked to Major League Baseball of an example of how technological limitation can be imposed for the good of the game. Namely, in the National Pastime's adherence to wooden bats in the face of the high-tech metal wonders (some retain for $300!) used in college ball right down to Little League. MLB has done this on grounds of safety: a baseball comes off a wooden bat at around 90 mph vs. 115-120 mph for metal (about the difference between my golf swing speed and a tour pro's). But metal bats would also usher the 110-homer season and slugging averages in the .900s. Something to think about.
A funny thing happened on the way to trying to finish Jonathan Franzen's much talked-about novel The Corrections. On a trip abroad, I happened to read The Sun Also Rises. After Hemingway's prose, and directness of spirit, I found Franzen unreadable. Literally! Oddly (or perhaps, ironically - read on!) one character in Sun speaks derisively of the sort of "Irony and Pity" that New York (and New York writers like Franzen) specialize in.
This is my new blog. In view of the infrequency of my NY Observer col (now every other week in response to budgetary tightening) this will be a way to exchange ideas, post stuff I couldn't work into the col., launch vicious unprincipled attacks on the wicked, foolish, forward and vain, name names etc. etc. Welcome!