Dennis Brain: The Horn Player (EMI, four CDs). This specially priced box set contains most of the commercial recordings of the great British horn player whose death in a 1957 car accident deprived the world of one of its most prodigally gifted instrumentalists. Brain’s celebrated studio performances of the concertos of Mozart, Richard Strauss, and Paul Hindemith are all here, together with a generous helping of chamber music, including the exquisitely played versions of Dukas Villanelle and the Schumann Adagio and Allegro that he recorded with Gerald Moore in 1952. If you’ve never heard Brain’s horn playing, prepare yourself to experience a miracle of suavity and grace (TT).
Archives for October 27, 2008
Mrs. T and I just returned from a much-needed holiday at Ecce Bed and Breakfast, our favorite retreat. One of the books that I brought along with me to read was Some Buried Caesar, the sixth of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe novels, published in 1939. In it Archie Goodwin makes the following remark about Lily Rowan, his on-again-off-again girlfriend: “I was wondering which would be more satisfactory, to slap her and then kiss her, or to kiss her and then slap her.”
I must have read the book a dozen times over the years, but never until now had that line caught my eye. Suddenly a coin dropped in my head and I remembered another line: “She reached a quick arm around my neck and started to pull. So I kissed her. It was either that or slug her.” It comes, of course, from Raymond Chandler’s The Little Sister, published in 1949.
Chandler once told a correspondent that he considered himself “far above” Stout, and very likely he did. But could it possibly be that he was thinking of Some Buried Caesar, consciously or not, when he penned that famous line?
Time: near the end of a leisurely dinner. Place: Restaurant 15 Main, Narrowsburg, New York. Frank Sinatra’s recording of “Thanks for the Memory” is playing in the background.
SHE I never liked that song.
SHE Don’t say it–I already know what you’re going to say. “Well, I like it.” Of course you like it. You’re got more in common with your parents’ generation than with ours.
HE What do you mean? I know twice as much about rock and roll as you do.
SHE Yeah, but you never hung out in bars and danced with girls when you were in high school.
HE I was always on the bandstand. And how come you don’t like “Thanks for the Memory”?
SHE It’s corny.
HE (with mock outrage) What do you mean, corny? It’s one of the greatest list songs ever written.
SHE One of the what?
HE List songs. You know, songs whose lyrics are a list. “You’re the Top” is the locus classicus of the genre. “You’re the National Gallery/You’re Garbo’s salary/You’re cellophane.” (Triumphantly) What do you say to that?
SHE It’s still corny.
She rolls her eyes.
* * *
Decide for yourself:
“The silent bear no witness against themselves.”
Aldous Huxley, Point Counter Point