Mendelssohn’s Dairy

I’m working on the transcript of an interview I conducted with Bob Burg, for a story in a forthcoming edition of Networking Times. At one point, talking about maintaining the proper mental posture while asking for referrals, Bob says, “In a very posturized, non-threatening way, you’ve let this person know what you’d like …” The person who transcribed the recording (the excellent Sandi White, my favorite transcriptionist on the planet) understandably transcribed it this way: “In a very pasteurized, non-threatening way…” I love it when Bob heats up his words so as to destroy any stray bacteria, molds, fungus or yeasts. Makes for much safer listening. Which reminds me of something that happened with my dad. For a few years before his death, we were working on a project to translate the complete correspondence between Johannes Brahms and Clara Schumann (which covered decades, and has never been fully translated into English). He would translate each letter by hand onto a yellow legal pad. Then twice a week, we would get on the phone together, and he would read me his latest installment. I would type it as he read, then later clean up his English a bit and email the result to his secretary. One day he was reading me his translation of a letter in which Brahms told Clara about a concert he had attended. He reported that when he heard a certain piece by Felix Mendelssohn, “. . . it brought me to tears.” For the normally gruff and sardonic Brahms, I thought this was a pretty touching comment. A few days later my dad called, laughing...

Love and Residual

A few weeks ago, I got a check in the mail for $404.79. But before I tell you what it was for, I have to digress. It has to do with my dad. My dad was born in Germany and emigrated to the United States during the war. Before leaving his homeland at the age of nineteen, he had published his first book in German: a translation of an eighteenth-century classic text of music composition that had been used by Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and scores of illustrious others. The original text was in Latin; my dad’s translation was, of course, into German. After arriving here, he was eventually drafted into the American army and shipped overseas, ending up back in Europe as a counterintelligence agent tasked with debriefing citizens. The war’s close found him in a town near the mountain whereupon sat the castle occupied by the legendary composer Richard Strauss (of “Also Sprach Zarathustra” fame — you know, that dramatic music that plays in the opening scene of Stanley Kubrick’s “2001” when the apes discover the big thingamajig). So my dad goes up the mountain to interrogate Strauss, and finds the old man teaching his own grandnephew composition, using … (wait for it) … my dad’s book. After returning to the States, my dad eventually translated the book again, this time into English, and it was published here by W.W. Norton as The Study of Counterpoint. My dad taught me composition from it when I was a teenager. It’s still used in schools today. By now, I’ll bet you’ve figured out how this all ties back in to that...