Recent Reading – Two Memoirs

Two very different books with fascinating stories to tell:

Good Things Happen Slowly – Fred Hersch. A leading jazz pianist tells about not only his journey as a musician, but as a gay man and as a survivor of incredibly grave illness. His prose is no less finely shaped than his work at the piano. Like all the best writing about music, it made me want to go back to the music – in this case, both his recorded performances and his published concert music.

Here’s a live Hersch performance of “In Walked Bud”:

George Szell’s Reign – Marcia Hansen Kraus. As a native of Cleveland who just missed the Szell era, I was fascinated by this collection of tales describing the history of the Cleveland Orchestra in the mid-20th century. Szell’s autocratic leadership of the orchestra led to its supreme excellence, and the remembrances of many of the members of the orchestra gathered here shed light on what it was really like to work under the maestro. Kraus, the widow of Felix Kraus, an oboist in the Orchestra during the Szell days, has not written a dry scholarly book (though it is meticulously footnoted), but rather a very human portrait of an organization and its leader, doing us the service of recording the reminiscences of those veterans of the Szell era who are still among us.

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