At the mall the classical section of CDs is small
if not demeaning as in smaller stores. Among
the expected—Andrea Bocelli, Carl Orff, compilations
for relaxation—you find oddities: Scandinavian
oratorios, a version of the Latin mass based
on African chant, great works performed by orchestras
of obscure European cities at bargain prices.
Suddenly I see myself decades ago:
Saturday afternoons in the dim Sixth Avenue
Record Haven, flipping through dusty bins
of LPs, searching for works I’d never heard of
or never heard, music I could afford to buy
and would always love. I still own Record Haven
treasures, with generic jackets, with an extra hole punched
near the center, marking what washed up there
as discontinued titles and overstock.
Watching always from bin after bin, from dozens
of albums, was Guiomar Novaes. Her label used
cheap album art, pastel backgrounds framing the same
black-and-white photo: Guiomar at the keyboard,
hands posed alluringly over the keys, Brazilian
eyes imploring you to buy her albums—even
discounted, even with the extra hole—hundreds
of Guiomar Novaeses to break your heart.
The Web, translating from Portuguese: “Guiomar was a musical child,
when it heard other children in the garden of infancy to sing,
then it went for the piano and it touched what it finishes to hear.”
Indifferent to solo piano music (till later I loved
someone who played it), I always passed Guiomar by
with her persistent entreaty: Buy me, mister. Take me
home. I’ll play good for you. Did it mean her records
didn’t sell, that manifold presence at Record Haven?
Okay, I feel guilty: your Chopin, Guiomar, might have
broadened my experience. In any case, you wouldn’t
have earned royalties from overstock sales.
Her marriage: “Otavio Young Chicken, civil engineer, architect and also composer,
was the chosen one for Guiomar Novaes to be its friend, until the death separated them.”
She died in 1979, “victim of gluts of the myocardium.”
Tonight I arrange stereo components in a new cabinet,
reattach the wires and jacks. When I test each unit,
an LP on the turntable sounds richer than a CD.
Maybe they’re right, the vinyl fanatics hunting for records
in obscure shops and websites. So much is gone now:
the low, dusty buildings on Sixth Avenue; special shops
devoted to classical music; the pleasures of album art;
Guiomar, live, recorded, or in black and white.
“Guiomar Novaes was one of the more the pianistas notables
of all the times. Its scales and its trinados will be forever.”
In the malls shelf space for classical CDs contracts;
there’s nothing of Guiomar Novaes to buy. At concerts,
even when hip Baltic composers are scheduled, the audience
is older than me. But music remains to be played, to be loved
by us throughout the world whose quest was searching
through the dust. We still join in beseeching strangers
to take us home, to love our smile, our art. And the notable
pianista who watched me is ever the muse of my hunt.
Pron. (hard g) gee-oh-mar noe-VAH-ess.
“Garden of infancy” is the Web’s over-scrupulous translation of kindergarten; “Young Chicken,” of Otavio’s last name, Polito.
“Trinados” are trills.