January 27, 2010

Reading Jellinek

The book came today, that is, George Jellinek's autobiography My Road to Radio and The Vocal Scene: Memoir of an Opera Commentator (2007).  Having loved his programs since I first tuned into WQXR after moving to New York in 1989,  I thought I should know more about the man I recently blogged about and met a few years ago. 

The book?  It's a highly entertaining read. Wry.  Funny.  Poignant.  Chock full of operatic luminaries.  One passage, about Jellink's interviewing Alexander Kipnis, made me laugh and cry.





Alexander Kipnis (1891-1978)

When I honored the late Alexander Kipnis on his 80th birthday in 1971, he regaled my listeners and me with the following reminiscence: "In my childhood in Ukraine, Jewish parents of musically gifted children had several options.  If they were wealthy, they bought a piano for their kid; if they were middle class people, they bought a violin.  My parents were poor, so I became a singer."  When I asked for his thoughts on why there have been so many distinguished bassos among Russian singers, he quite seriously attributed that fortuitous phenomenon to the cultivation of vodka. 

He's a truth-teller,  this Mr. Jellinek.  Tells it like he heard it.   I like the man all the more.

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