WATCHED BY GUIOMAR NOVAES

novaes

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.

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