24 February 2003
A little traveling music, Sergei
It's somewhere between Then and Now, though closer to Then, and I'm in the sort of record store we don't have anymore, the sort where John Cusack and Jack Black are running things. And I've just made some unfortunate comment about ordering some classical item by mail, which should give you some idea about how long ago this was.
"Why do that? We can get you anything in Schwann," said Cusack.
Well, okay, that sounded like an offer, and I have to admit I was sort of skeptical; I mean, these guys were specialists, and classical music wasn't their specialty as close as they got, so far as I knew, was that vaguely-Wagnerian noise from Phil Spector's Wall of Sound. Still, throwing business to your friends is the American way, and so I decided to give them the order: the 3-LP box (circa 1975) of Vladimir Ashkenazy's recordings of the Prokofiev piano concerti (London CSA 2314) with André Previn conducting the LSO.
John was as good as his word, and he called me the next weekend to let me know the set had arrived. I didn't even razz him for mispronouncing "Prokofiev". (A weekend or two later, I stumbled over "Penderecki", which surely proves something.) And I played these things endlessly; in fact, in 1982, I peeled off ten bucks more for a cassette copy of the Third and the Fourth from this very set so I could schlep it along in the car. (I didn't get around to buying a really good tape deck until the following year.)
I still have that tape; it squeaks a bit during fast-wind, which suggests that it's probably not long for this world, but twenty-one years isn't at all bad for a commercial-grade (read: cheap) cassette, and it still sounds pretty decent though not as good as the CD reissue (London 452 588-2, two CDs), which showed up at my doorstep this weekend. It's not ideally configured, what with my two favorites on two different discs, but I can live with it.