That Baize Green Book

In 2004, I was working as a librarian at a small private music school in the city where I reside. My job was to circulate the materials, enter new ones into the collection, and make sure that everything was organized. During the spring of that year, I was asked to look through a bequest that had been gathering dust for nearly forty years and which had never been shelved. That was when my journey as a pianophile truly began.

Truth be told, I had always been surrounded by piano music. As a small child, I would climb on my grandmother’s lap and bang out what I thought was Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto on an ancient upright. When I was eight years old, I started piano lessons and continued taking lessons every year after that through college. I became good enough to play some Mozart variations, a couple of Chopin preludes, and some pieces by Lutoslawski. No Rachmaninoff or Liszt for me.

However, that wasn’t a problem. Even though I couldn’t play some of the pieces I enjoyed, I could listen to them over and over again. Rachmaninoff preludes, Liszt rhapsodies, Chopin mazurkas… You name it. I probably listened to it hundreds of times and drove my parents and sister somewhat crazy, but that didn’t mean that I was a pianophile. I was merely someone who listened to piano music and enjoyed it.

That is until that fateful day when I walked into a corner basement room and started picking up the sheet music from the dusty shelves. Much of what I found was dusty, dog eared, or damaged by water. A lot of the sheet music was completely unplayable, but there were treasures – Godowsky transcriptions, rare pieces by Scriabin, first Russian editions of Rachmaninoff, and a great deal of music by Liszt and Chopin in editions by some of the great pianists of the day.

Among the sheet music was a baize green book. At first, I didn’t pay any attention to it and so I let it sit on the shelves as I cataloged the rest of the collection, organized it, and shelved it. Finally, it was the only thing left and I opened it up. Inside, I found hundreds and thousands of programs that had been carefully cut out of newspapers over a span of thirty or forty years. Everyone from Paderewski to Moiseiwitsch to Rachmaninoff, Gieseking, William Kapell, and Glenn Gould were included.

Slowly, I began to look through those programs. I wanted to listen to many of the pieces which were mentioned. I wanted to hear the performers for myself. I wanted to find out what it was that had made so many generations of musicians fall in love with the piano and compose so much wonderful music for it over the centuries.

That baize book led me on a journey that still continues to this day. I have found out about pianists that I never knew existed, listened to repertoire that I thought was long gone, and fell deeper and deeper in love that with an instrument that I had started playing as a third grader.

This blog is a chronicle of the many things that I have found along the way. Please join me!

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