Tuesday, April 01, 2008

A Fool's Day Squib

The Vancouver CBC station reported more anti-intellect acts by CBC's management this morning. The reader assured us this was not a joke: The CBC, after better than 30 years on radio and television, has canceled the Canadian Air Farce.
For those unfamiliar with Canada's premiere satire troupe think of the network canceling Saturday Night Live.
But my favorite CBC/April Fool memory is of Bob Kerr, host of Off The Record. This was a long running afternoon classics show which could play a full Mahler or Buxtehude symphony without interruption. And just as well do a smattering of art song fragments. Bob featured his favorite instrument on his Organ Thursdays which introduced more than one generation to the breadth of the King of Instruments. His commentary on both composers and performers was always considered, informed, and zestful with never the least hint of academic stodge or snobbishness. Never did he indulge, as is the fashion in the US, in an attitude of: "Now, do listen [children], this will be so-o-o good for you."
One April first, mid 80's or thereabouts, he burst into his opening theme glowing with the excitement -- very infectious -- of this marvelous discovery that only just arrived in his mail box. He had played it once before the show and now promptly played it for his listeners. What we heard was a more than acceptable standard of play of the Minute Waltz distanced by the obvious youth of its recording technology, like listening to a cleaned up wax cylinder of Caruso. Bob was utterly fascinated with it. He played, he said, a British CD Mags' insert which claimed to be a recording of Chopin playing the Minute Waltz in something just over 60 seconds.
How was this possible?
The magazine claimed that a hitherto obscure Frenchman had invented a recording device -- I think it involved smoke patterns on glass but, then again, that might be my imagination supplying what my memory lacks -- and just happened to live near the villa occupied by a Mme. Sand and M. Chopin. The latter was gracious enough to perform for the instrument. The result was buried in the back garden to preserve it from one war or another until it was forgotten. Gr gr gr gr someone overturned that corner and retrieved the precious artifact. Science was enlisted to devise a means of reproduction. This led to the flimsy CD included in the magazine.
Bob was oddly skeptical and enthralled all at once. Partly he denied the notion of the inventor while he so much wanted to hear Chopin play even at the great technical remove offered. He played it once or twice more, interspersed with this information and his reactions, before turning to the day's program. But he did so only to clear our palettes. Soon he was back to play the cut and marvel at the wonder of actually hearing Chopin perform the Minute Waltz in something like 68 seconds. This was more than the title called for, but rather less than the vast majority of pianists managed, as somebody hastily sent to the disk library for examples proved.
Over and again was the wonder that we listened to Chopin himself.
And what did we think of that?
Then the canker worm raised its head. A listener called in to report that Bob might want to examine the mast head.
There it was: "Issue 0401." The rage for a lost penny wasn't in it.
Bob informed us he had already sent a postcard to the magazine canceling his subscription. For several minutes he fulminated against the asininity of the perpetrators. The imbecility! The Rudeness! The just plain impoliteness of it!

And the wonder we felt: "What was it about that recording that we experienced when we believed it was genuine?

That passionate, intelligent, involvement with music is what CBC used to be. Since Brian Mulroney gutted the CBC budget causing the decimation of the news department, until then one of the finest in the world, in the late 80's 'til now when the boobitariat reins at CBC headquarters it has been downhill all the way up.
tag: ,

1 comment:

  1. You can listen to an ancient recording of Joachim and Brahms playing together. And there's a rumo that Tchaikowsky made a recording, but it has not surfaced, I believe.

    There are two "recordings" of menuets from Mozart's time. Actually these are music boxes. They give slight hints about tempo and interpretation.
    - The Precison Blogger