Mendelssohn’s Dairy

October 30, 2008

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 so hard he could hardly get the words out. He’d just received my written version of that installment, and found a significant error.

Turns out, what Brahms had actually written was that while sitting through the Mendelssohn, “. . . it bored me to tears.”

I guess the Mendelssohn was just a little too pasteurized for Brahms.


  1. Chris Brenner

    I liked the Mendelssohn Diary, a good story.

  2. jdmann

    Ha! Thanks, Chris — only I should point out, it’s “Dairy,” not “Diary.” (I wonder if Mendelssohn wrote about it in his diary!)


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