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<<  -- 4 --  Bill Newman    MIND MY HARPSICHORD!

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Igor never showed he was tired, at all. When he came to dinner at Dryburgh Mansions, Erpingham Road -- Liz was a damn good cook -- Paul and his then wife came along too, and Quita was there. It was not one of those perfectly arranged events that went off to a tee. I had recently been given a pheasant by a colleague -- as it happened, dead for quite some while. It was laying in our fridge and had started spreading an unpleasant aroma. No! Nobody fancied it. Mention was made purely to get people's reactions, but the joke was on me! Igor, meanwhile was still in my playroom -- so designated by Liz, whose firm impression of me was that I would never grow up. My playthings were my 78rpm and long playing records -- CDs hadn't been invented.

A loud shout went in Igor's direction to 'start eating, or else!' But he was otherwise engaged, having 'discovered' 10-inch shellacs of Chopin's B minor Sonata performed by Alfred Cortot. 'My God!! Do you know what you possess, here! A collector's piece, if ever I saw one.' It hadn't then appeared in an LP transfer by EMI-France. Cortot accompanied us right through dinner, and was pronounced superior to Dinu Lipatti, whose dimly recorded version had rival virtues.

Yes -- Igor, like me, possessed that 'little boy joy of life', which all who care about the Arts, generally, never grow out of. His father though, the celebrated Russian basso Alexander Kipnis, had long since retired from the Met but was still living in the States. My pride and joy at EMI was the nomination and creation of repertoire for the HMV Golden Voice series. Working on 78 metal parts/library discs at Abbey Road Studios, transfer work was a matter of slightly filtering out surface noise, spotlighting the voice without detracting from the original timbre. No 7 in the series became devoted to Alexander Kipnis in a 1967 reissue, HQM1101. It contained music by Mozart, Rossini, Verdi, Wagner, Schubert and Brahms. 'Send it on to the old man. He will be delighted.' Only excerpts from Boris Godounov were currently available on an RCA LP.

I did so, and had a praising letter by return. Two years on I wished to do a follow-up, but had a special request to make. I needed Igor's help to pave the way. Wotan's Farewell had been recorded years back by Alexander, and issued on HMV 78s. The Magic Fire Music from Die Walküre, however had not appeared, but I knew of metal parts at Hayes. One, without the other, would not make musical sense. Was there a personality problem on the sessions with conductor Leo Blech?

'Write to him, and state your case!' Igor urged. I did, and had a letter of refusal back. I never gave up on this issue, and had a batch of pleading letters from New York. Then Alexander died, suddenly.

The Art of Alexander Kipnis, released in 1969, with his wonderful sleeve note, was an object lesson to all music lovers, amateur and professional performers, on understanding the operatic role, the conductor, and the interpretation of lieder. Alongside Gounod, Russian folk songs, Wagner's Parsifal, Richard Strauss and Brahms Lieder, there was nothing of his wonderful Wotan. Ironically, Angel Records included both linked excerpts, for the very first time, a year or so after Alexander's death. I was furious, and gnashed my teeth beyond closed doors in front of Igor. 'Look, Bill. It's every great artist's right to make a decision in their lifetime. Just write it off, please!'

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Copyright © 15 March 2002 Bill Newman, Edgware, UK

 

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JENNIFER PAULL'S KIPNIS TRIBUTE

THE IGOR KIPNIS WEBSITE

 

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