Friday, March 8, 2013

Columbia SAX 5284

SAX 5285

Brahms Symphony No. 2, Tragic Overture

George Szell, conductor
The Cleveland Orchestra

Pressing:  ER1 (semi-circle first label)

Condition:  EX+

Stampers:
YAX 3347-1
YAX 3348-1

Performance:  9/10

Sound:  7/10

Comments:

The third Brahms symphony release by George Szell and the Clevelanders in the SAX series.  Sound quality is quite good, though, to my ears, not quite as excellent as that on the recording of Symphony No. 1.  This is pretty subjective.  This was never released on the Epic label, and I'm not sure it was ever released as a single standalone album on the U.S. Columbia label.  It was included as part of the boxed set of the 4 Brahms symphonies.  Again, this has U.K. stampers, so I suspect that it may have been remastered and re-pressed in the U.K.  I don't have the U.S. Columbia record for comparison.  Another beautiful cover with what looks like a photograph of Schloss Neuschwanstein in Germany.  The covers of the U.K. releases of Szell doing the Brahms symphonies definitely beat out the U.S. covers in terms of design and quality, with the exception of Symphony No. 3, which essentially has the exact same cover in both the U.K. and the U.S.  Again, pretty rare.     

Columbia SAX 5279


SAX 5279

Brahms Symphony No. 1

George Szell, conductor

The Cleveland Orchestra

Pressing: ER1 (semi-circle first)


Condition:  NM


Stampers:

YAX 3341-2
YAX 3342-2

Performance:  10/10


Sound:  7/10


Comments:


Although this is the first Brahms symphony, it is actually the second in the Columbia SAX series releases of Szell's Brahms symphonies with the Cleveland Orchestra.  The first is Brahms 3rd symphone (SAX 2572).  I believe that this album is the equivalent of Epic Stereorama BC 1010, but one thing that puzzles me is that the published date on SAX 5279 is 1967, which is at least a few years after the Epic release was issued.  The stampers on this record are clearly Columbia/EMI with the YAX prefix, so perhaps the original recording for Epic was remastered with new stampers in the U.K.  The record is very nice and plays dynamically with minimal surface noise.  The front cover is beautifully laminated with a scenic landscape (a Bavarian forest?).  As with all of the Szell Brahms symphonies on Columbia/EMI, this album is relatively rare.


     










Thursday, March 7, 2013

Columbia SAX 2490


SAX 2490

Szell Conducts Russian Music

George Szell, conductor
The Cleveland Orchestra

Pressing:  ES1

Condition:  NM

Stampers:
BC1002 A1
BC1002 B1

Performance:  10/10

Sound:  8/10

Comments:

I love Russian orchestral music.  Have I said this before?  Maybe, but I'm saying it again. This is probably heavily influenced by the fact that we played a lot of Russian music in orchestra, both in high school and in college.  Interestingly, we played Rimsky-Korsakov's Capriccio Espagnol in both high school and college, and not surprisingly it is one of my favorite orchestral works.  The Polovtsian Dances we did in college as well, as part of an all Russian concert in which we also performed the Capriccio Espagnol and Borodin's In the Steppes of Central Asia.  We were the non-music major orchestra at Northwestern University, but did we get a full house that night at Pick-Staiger and a standing ovation.  Kudos to then-conductor Stephen Alltop, who has now been replaced by Robert Hasty.  In any case, George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra give an outstanding performance on this recording of both of the Capriccio Espagnol and the Polovtsian Dances.  Sound quality is excellent.  I've never been a big fan of Mussorgsky's Prelude from Khovantschina, but it is here to perhaps provide some calm relief from the otherwise high-energy repertoire.  I would've preferred Night on Bald Mountain.  Tchaikovsky's Capriccio Italien rounds out the set.  

Again, I want to point out that the stampers here are the U.S. stampers, BC1002 A-1, B-1, which I suspect denote a first pressing.  This album was released as Epic Stereorama BC1002.  Unlike the previous Mendelssohn album I just wrote about, I don't have the U.S. pressing of this record and cannot compare, but if it follows in the same vein as the Mendelssohn, I wouldn't be surprised if the U.S. and U.K. pressings sound pretty identical.  The U.S. one will be far less than the U.K. pressing for sure.  This is available on CD from Sony Masterworks, most recently remastered in 2005 I believe with Szell's recording of Pictures at an Exhibition.  Now that is one dynamite Russian music CD at budget price!!     

Columbia SAX 2468

SAX 2468

Mozart:  Symphonies No. 38 in D "Prague", No. 39 in E flat

Otto Klemperer, conductor
Philharmonia Orchestra

Pressing:  ER2

Condition:  NM

Stampers:
YAX 539-2
YAX 540-4

Performance:  10/10

Sound:  7/10

Comments:

Klemperer could do Mozart right.  Tempos are quite perfect, and you get the clean, clear textures that Klemperer is known for, particularly with the wind instruments.  Here he does the "Prague" symphony (No. 38) and Symphony No. 39.  I'm pretty content with this late red label pressing, which plays cleanly without fault and delivers the music very well.  I'd be willing to say that it probably sounds as good as a first pressing, but I haven't done the comparison.  Production quality is, as with all the Columbia SAX records, quite high with a beautifully laminated cover with a lovely painting and solid liner notes on the rear.  If you're looking for it in digital, you should also have no difficulties here, as EMI has released this in a number of incarnations.  You can find the 3 CD boxed set of all the late symphonies as part of the Great Recordings of the Century series (may be out of print, but you can definitely find this used) and if you're willing to dish out a little extra cash, you can get the same recordings in SACD format with a nice booklet-bound case (I wrote about this in a prior blog from 2012).  I've listened to the digital, and, in all honesty, I much prefer the vinyl format.  Everything sounds much warmer, and there is a greater sense of realism when you listen.  This is true whether you're listening to it on loudspeakers or as headphones. 
 

  






Columbia SAX 2395



Columbia SAX 2395

Haydn: Symphonies No. 98 in B flat, No. 101 in D major "The Clock"


Otto Klemperer, conductor
Philharmonia Orchestra

Pressing:  UK, ER2


Condition:  NM


Stampers:

YAX 515-9
YAX 516-9

Performance:  8/10


Sound:  7/10


Comments:


As you can see from the picture, this is a late red label pressing with the magic notes logo in the postage stamp box.  I'm not sure if these records were pressed using valve equipment, but from what I've read on the internet, they may not have been.  You can generally find these pressings for a fraction of the price of a first or even second pressing.  Sound quality, in my opinion, is still quite good, and you might not even be able to tell a significant difference between these pressings and a semi-circle label pressing.  Then again, if you're just trying to get a vinyl copy of a rather valuable album, you might just want to pick up one of these for less until you can get a good deal on an earlier pressing.  I wanted to be impressed with this particular album but have to say that I wasn't.  It might just be the quality of my copy.  Klemperer is not the name you usually associate with great Haydn interpreters, but he's actually not that bad.  Tempos are not leaden like in some of his later Beethoven and are reasonably brisk.  Textures are clear.  I'd say that these performances are enjoyable, though you might get a little more excitement out of listening to Sir Colin Davis and the Royal Concertgebouw on Philips.   
 


Columbia SAX 2524


SAX 2524

Mendelssohn: Italian Symphony, The Hebrides Overture; Weber: Oberon Overture

George Szell, conductor
The Cleveland Orchestra

Pressing:  ES1

Condition:  NM

Stampers:
BC1259 A-2E
BC1259 B-2

Performance:  10/10

Sound:  7/10


Comments:

Another U.K. release of a U.S. Epic Stereorama album (BC 1259).  As I was alluding to in my post on SAX 5292, this is one of the Columbia SAX albums which must have used the same U.S. stampers used to press the Epic releases.  I've included a close-up of the stampers on the copy I own.  Note the BC 1259-2E, which is the same as the U.S. Epic release album number.  If you look along the deadwax though (not shown in picture), you will find a XXSB-55874-1K, crossed out.  I happen to also have the Epic album for comparison, and the stampers for that are XXSB-58774-1H, XXSB-58775-1C.  So I suspect that Columbia/EMI did not make their own stampers for the U.K. release and rather used U.S. stampers.  This would explain why the U.K. and U.S. releases sound pretty much EXACTLY THE SAME.  I could NOT detect any significant difference in sound quality and would thus propose that for some of the Szell Columbia/EMI releases, the U.K. pressings are, in fact, not superior to the U.S. pressings.  This makes a world of difference for some collectors, because the price difference between the two is astronomical.  Take, for example, this album.  A U.K. pressing will fetch $150-500 in excellent to near mint condition.  The U.S. pressing can be found for under $10.  Okay, perhaps the U.K. pressing has a cooler label and the cover is laminated, but seriously guys, who's looking?  If you're in it for the music, do yourself a favor, find the U.S. Epic release and save the money for different records.  The performances on this album are, as one might expect from Szell and the Clevelanders, fantastic.







Columbia SAX 5292

SAX 5292

Brahms Symphony No. 4

George Szell, conductor
The Cleveland Orchestra

Pressing:  ES1

Condition:  VG++ to EX


Stampers:
YAX 3349-1G
YAX 3350-3G 

Performance:  10/10

Sound:  7/10 

Comments:

George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra recorded all four of the Brahms symphonies ranging from the late 1950s to mid 1960s.  To my knowledge, in the US, the 1st symphony was released in stereo on the Epic label (which was owned by Columbia) as Epic BC1010.  Symphony No. 3 was released in stereo on Columbia MS 6685 with the first pressing being a "2-eye".  I don't know the catalog numbers for Nos. 2 and 4, but the whole series of 4 symphonies was released as a Columbia boxed set D3S 758.  British Columbia/EMI released these symphonies in the U.K. as part of the SAX series, and these are all quite rare and, if you've been following their status on Ebay, quite valuable.  I have the 1st, 2nd, and 4th symphonies but am still working on getting the 3rd.  I do have the 3rd as the U.S. Columbia release, and I might say that it sounds pretty darn good.  Rumor has it that the U.K. pressings are superior to the U.S ones, but I have to throw doubt into this.  For one, I know that some of Szell's UK releases were made from U.K. stampers, but some of them were also stamped using the Epic stampers.  I suspect that some of his recordings were remastered in the U.K. from the original tapes, whereas others may have simply used the U.S. stampers with perhaps higher quality vinyl.  I'm not sure what the answer is, but if you can shed light onto this topic, please enlighten us all.  In any case, I listened to No. 4 this morning, and it is excellent.  Performance is crisp and disciplined, as one might expect from Szell and the Clevelanders, and sound quality is, if not quite exemplary, still excellent.  My copy is pretty clean with the occasional crackle or two on side 2.  Brahms' 4th is my favorite of his symphonies, and I love the Academic Festival Overture, having played the 1st violin part in high school orchestra, so this record is a real treat for me.



   

    

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

What's playing in my car?

Picked this up on sale at Arkivmusic.com for $9.99 a few weeks ago based on its positive reviews.  It's been leading the classical charts in the UK now for weeks.  Initially, I asked myself, do I need another CD of the Korngold Violin Concerto?  I've loved that piece since I was in high school, when a violinist friend of mine introduced it to me and bought me a CD of Heifetz performing the work for my birthday.  The Heifetz recording is one of the classics, especially since the work was dedicated to him.  Nicola Benedetti gives a very nice performance of her own of concerto, backed by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra conducted by the young talented conductor, Kiril Karabits.  What really caught my attention on this album, though, was not so much the concerto but the shorter pieces arranged for violin and orchestra which fill out the rest of the album (in fact they surround the concerto, being placed both before and after it on the CD).  Some of these are well known (e.g. Schindler's List theme, Por una cabeza), but two pieces really jumped out at me.  One was the theme to the 2004 movie "Ladies in Lavender", which starred Judi Dench and Maggie Smith.  I've never seen the film, but the theme is beautiful.  Benedetti's violin really sings on this work, and I've found myself repeating this track over and over in the car on my way to work.  The second track is the last one, "Gluck, das mir verblieb (Marietta's lied)" which is from Korngold's opera, Die Tote Stadt.  I believe that this is a violin transcription of one of the arias.  It is also lovely!

Columbia SAX 2467

SAX 2467

Richard Strauss: Also Sprach Zarathustra, Till Eulenspiegel

Lorin Maazel, conductor

Philharmonia Orchestra

Pressing:  ES1


Stampers:
YAX 951-13
YAX 952-13

Condition:  NM

Performance:  10/10


Sound:  8/10


Comments:


I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this album is a fantastic record, both for its repertoire as well as its sound quality.  Here is a young Lorin Maazel with the Philharmonia Orchestra giving exciting interpretations of two well known Richard Strauss tone poems.  I never really listened to the Strauss tone poems growing up, but lately I've come to really appreciate them (my favorite has to be Death and Transfiguration, or Tod und Verklarung in German).  When it comes to Also Sprach, I think many classical vinyl collectors think about the Reiner 1954 RCA Living Stereo version being a reference (and the very first stereo recording of this work), alongside other recordings by Karajan with the Vienna Philharmonic (the one actually used in the movie 2001:  A Space Odyssey) and Zubin Mehta, both on Decca.  I have never owned the Reiner recording in its vinyl incarnation, but I have the SACD release which came out in the early 2000s.  I can only imagine that the vinyl version is even more stunning.  This Maazel recording has been out of print for a long time, but when I last checked Amazon.com this morning, it appears that at least the Also Sprach has been issued on 24-bit remastered CD.  Cover art is entirely different from this one (I think it is the cover from the US Angel release), which is too bad, because this cover with Maazel mid-air conducting is cooler and classier.  Sound quality for this LP is excellent on my system.  Be sure to turn up the volume when the neighbors are away.  Runs for around $50-100 for an excellent or near mint copy on Ebay.
 





Columbia SAX 2463


SAX 2463
Debussy: La Mer, Trois Nocturnes

Carlo Maria Giulini, conductor
Philharmonia Orchestra

Pressing:  ES1

Stampers:
YAX 917-5
YAX 918-4

Condition:  EX

Performance:  10/10

Sound:  9/10  

Comments:

This is one of my all-time favorite SAX recordings and simply one of my favorite recordings of Debussy's La Mer and Nocturnes, period.  Everything seems to work right here for Giulini and the Philharmonia.  Importantly, for orchestral works like this, I feel that great sonics can really enhance your listening experience, and the sound of this record is absolutely gorgeous.  Dynamic range is quite wide with rather good bass extension, making for a visceral listening experience.  In La Mer, you can really feel those waves crash, and the finale is glorious.  The Nocturnes are also very nicely done here.  Fortunately, this album was remastered onto CD for the EMI Great Recordings of the Century series, and the digital transfer was actually quite good.  It's worth picking up, unless you want to hunt for this on LP.  I will say, though, that this record shows up reasonably often on Ebay, and prices range from about $50-150 for a turquoise/silver first label pressing and $30-50 for a second label semi-circle pressing.  Well worth it!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Columbia SAX 2388


SAX 2388

Brahms Violin Sonatas Nos. 1 and 2

Igor Oistrakh, violin
Anton Ginzburg, piano

Pressing:  ES1

Stampers:
YAX 593-11
YAX 594-11

Condition:  EX
 
Performance:  9/10

Sound:  7/10

Comments:

To my knowledge, this is one of the rarest Columbia SAXes and the only one starring Igor Oistrakh, the son of the legendary David Oistrakh.  All the Oistrakh recordings on British Columbia fetch high prices on Ebay and the classical dealer's market.  This one is a charm to listen to.  I love the Brahms violin sonatas, and Igor Oistrakh's performances are both warm and dramatic.  Like his father, he plays with a beautiful, singing tone.  I get the impression that the recording must have been made in a small studio, since my ears pick up very little reverberation or resonance (update 8/4/15: I'd now call this dry).  It gives the listener the overall sense that you are intimately witnessing a private recital with these two great performers.  My copy is pretty clean, except for a small mark on side 2 which causes a few repetitive tics.  All things considered, very enjoyable.  This recording is also available on CD from EMI:


http://www.amazon.com/Beethoven-Schubert-Brahms-Chamber-Violin/dp/B000002SEE/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1362457758&sr=8-3&keywords=igor+oistrakh+brahms+sonatas


  


Columbia SAX 2368


Columbia SAX 2368

Tchaikovsky "Pathetique" Symphony

Carlo Maria Giulini, conductor
Philharmonia Orchestra

Pressing:  ES1

Stampers: 
YAX 408-4
YAX 409-7

Condition:  NM

Performance:  10/10

Sound:  9/10

Comments:

Okay, so I have decided not to pursue my original plan of going through the SAX series in the order of catalog number but rather by what album I happen to be in the mood to listen to on a given day.  I happened to be at home working this morning and had the opportunity to listen to four of the albums in a row.  Lately, I've been listening to the last three Tchaikovsky symphonies (4-6), particularly the Mravinsky recordings on Deutsche Grammophon as I mentioned in a previous post.  Inspired to check out another interpretation of the 6th symphony, I pulled this record from the shelf this morning.  Boy, what a treat.  I'm a great admirer of Giulini's work, and his early recordings for British Columbia were, in my opinion, a superb testament to his talent as a conductor.  This record is no exception.  It might not pack quite the same "punch" as the Mravinsky, but it has plenty of drama and excitement.  My favorite movement is the 3rd.  As for the recording, the surfaces of my disc are quiet, and the music plays with great dynamic range without any distortion during louder passages.  Again, like many of the orchestral recordings in the SAX series, one gets the impression that you are sitting somewhere in the middle of the concert hall listening to the performance.  Highly recommended.  I should note that this performance is readily available on CD from EMI.  You should be able to get both the Tchaikovsky 2nd and 6th symphonies on the same disc at a budget price.  Highly recommended!  

Friday, March 1, 2013

A tribute to two gentle souls

When I was a first year medical student in Chicago in the late 1990s, my entire class received an email stating that a local retired blind physician was looking for students to come over to his home to read medical journals aloud to him.  At first, I was so caught up in trying to memorize anatomy and histology that I didn't have the chance to respond to the notice.  Months later, a female classmate of mine came up to me during improv comedy practice and told me that she had been reading for this blind physician for a few months but could no longer keep it up.  She asked if I'd be willing to take her spot.  He would pay $20 per hour, she said.  Sure, I said.  Why not?

A week or so later, I found myself taking the El from downtown Chicago to Lincoln Park, where this blind physician and his wife resided.  I didn't know what to expect, but I was more than ready to recite results and data tables from JAMA and the New England Journal of Medicine.  For $20 an hour, it wasn't bad at all!  I was very warmly greeted by both the physician and his wife, who lived in a three story townhome on a quiet street that was beautifully and quite artistically decorated inside.  Since I will not divulge their names for matters of privacy, I will refer to them as Dr. and Mrs. X.  Dr. and Mrs. X were both in their 70s and had been married for several decades.  They were an adorable couple, and one could tell from the onset that they loved each other and were still in love with each other.  It was really wonderful to see how tender they were with one another.  Dr. X had been trained as a general and plastic surgeon around the time of World War II.  Mrs. X, retired, had been one of Chicago's most prominent public relations executives.  While my dates may be off, my understanding is that he was diagnosed with a pituitary tumor sometime in the 1950s and underwent an operation, during which he suffered injury to his optic nerve and was left permanently blind.  While I would wager to say that most surgeons who have lost their vision would give up hope of ever practicing again, such was not the case with Dr. X.  Armed with a passion for medicine and the human condition, he quickly retrained himself in the field of psychiatry and pursued a career as an active psychiatrist for the rest of his working life.  When I saw him for the first time sitting their in his study with his sunglasses, he truly looked like a gentle soul.  And a little like the British jazz pianist George Shearing.

I started out reading an article from JAMA for Dr. X.  It surprised me at the time that anyone could sit through an oral account of a medical journal article, but Dr. X sat there quietly, intently listening and occasionally asking me to repeat a passage.  After a few pages, we changed tunes, and he asked me to read him some clippings from the recent Chicago Tribune.  And so the time passed for the duration of an hour, at the end of which Dr. X handed me a $20 bill and asked me to return in 2 weeks.

Little did I know that this was only the beginning of what was to become a wonderful friendship.  In the ensuing weeks, JAMA was replaced entirely by the Chicago Tribune.  Dr. X began to share with me anecdotes from his life story -- his time in the Navy, working as a surgeon at the University of Chicago (if memory serves me correctly, he started the burn unit at the U of C Hospital), his tragic intra-operative loss of vision, his return to medicine as a psychiatrist.  I would have to say that he was a physician in the tradition of Sir William Osler.  It was clear to me that he was genuinely and selflessly dedicated to the care of his patients.  Medicine was not a business but a service to humanity.  In addition, he had a wonderful sense of humor.  As a first year medical student just learning how to communicate professionally with patients, Dr. X was an inspiration.  He then inquired about me, and I proceeded to share with him my own life history, from my upbringing in the western suburbs of Chicago to my college years at Northwestern University to my latest challenges as a medical student.  He was always a patient and sensitive listener, offering little wisdoms at opportune moments.  Mrs. X frequently joined us in these conversations, and I found her to be just as gentle a soul as her husband.

Dr. and Mrs. X had a black console piano on the second level of their home which Dr. X used to play.  He rarely played any more, although he was still an avid fan of music.  He frequently asked me to sit and play for him, and I was more than happy to do so.  Interestingly enough, he not only bore a faint resemblance to but was also a great fan of George Shearing, the internationally renowned British jazz pianist who also happened to be blind.  He loved listening to George Shearing's recordings.  Perhaps Dr. X felt a connection with George Shearing because they were both blind.  Who knows?  I never formally asked him that question.  To the side of the piano was a low-lying bookshelf which contained a collection of books as well as a few dozen vinyl records.

So for a year and a half, I visited Dr. and Mrs. X at their home every two weeks.  What began as reading medical journals for Dr. X evolved into visiting close friends, and although he and his wife both insisted on compensating me for my time, I politely decline payment.  We had become friends, and in many regards, I came to view Dr. and Mrs. X as grandparent-like figures in my life.  We'd chat about all sorts of things, but most of the time I enjoyed listening to Dr. X share with me stories from his past.  Sometimes he'd repeat himself, but I didn't mind.

After my second year of medical school, I left Chicago for a year of research at the NIH in Bethesda, Maryland, and unfortunately that put the brakes on my routine visits.  I kept in touch with Dr. and Mrs. X, though, and we'd periodically catch up over the telephone.  During my year in Maryland, I bought my first turntable and began taking an interest in collecting vinyl records.  I told Dr. and Mrs. X about my enthusiasm and excitement about this new hobby, and they mentioned that they also had a small record collection and that some time in the future I should come by and take a look.  I thanked them for the invitation and said that I'd love the opportunity.  Things were going well for both of them until one day I called and found out that Dr. X had fallen from the stairs in his home.  He had survived the fall but had sustained some injuries.  From the tone of her voice, I could tell that Mrs. X was worried about her husband.  Not long thereafter, Dr. X passed away, news which saddened me deeply.

When I returned to Chicago in the summer of 2002, I called up Mrs. X to see how she was doing.  I could tell that she missed her husband dearly.  How could she not, after having shared most of her adult life with this man?  We met a couple of times, mostly at the P.J. Clark's on State Street, which had been one of her favorite places to hang out.  We talked about her health.  We talked about Dr. X and how we both missed him.  She shared with me some of her stories from her past career as a public relations executive.  I remember her telling me a story about how she arranged a big event for some big names in Chicago and got Stevie Wonder to perform there.  These kinds of things were the norm for her during the peak of her career.

With the return to medical school came the beginning of my clinical rotations and the end of much of my free time.  Hours were spent in the hospital, and more hours were spent studying at home in my apartment or, perhaps more importantly, catching up on lost sleep.  I tried to call Mrs. X from time to time, sometimes catching her at home and other times not.  I wondered if she was doing okay.

Then on one summer day as I began my last year of medical school, I received a letter in the mail.  I checked the sender's address, and it was stamped with the name of a law firm.  Crap, I thought.  Was I already being named in a medical lawsuit??  I hadn't even begun to practice!  After anxiously tearing the envelope open, I discovered that my initial worry was unfounded but was instantly brought down by the news of the letter.  Mrs. X had just passed away.  In the letter, I was being asked to give her lawyer a call at my earliest convenience.

Metastatic colon cancer was the diagnosis, one which I had no clue that she had.  Mrs. X had never wanted to burden anyone with her illness, explained her lawyer, a really friendly fellow who had known her well in the last several years.  She had passed away quietly at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.  I don't know and guess I never will know if anyone was with her at the bedside when she died.  She and Dr. X had never had any children, and I didn't recall hearing much about any local family.  It made me sad to think that I could very well have passed by her hospital room while I was working without even knowing that she was there. 

As it turns out, in her will Mrs. X left to me her husband's personal record collection.  When the lawyer told me this, I was speechless.  I honestly didn't know what to say.  I was so moved that she had thought about me.  Would I be happy to meet him at their home this coming Saturday, asked the lawyer.  Yes, thank you, I replied, and marked it on my calendar.

A few dozen records returned to my apartment with me that Saturday afternoon, mostly an eclectic mix of jazz records from the '60s and mostly George Shearing.  Also in there was a record of Ernest Hemingway reading his own works and a record of the actress Ingrid Bergman.  It wasn't so much the actual albums that mattered to me but that I was able to preserve a memory of my two dear friends.  I will say, however, that one of the albums, "The Way We Are" with the George Shearing Quintet on the MPS label, has become one of my all-time favorite jazz albums. 

Mrs. X passed away 10 years ago last month, Dr. X a year before that.  I will always remember the wonderful mornings I spent with them at their home, reading aloud the newspaper, playing the piano, laughing over life stories, and being blessed with the opportunity to share a brief moment in the lives of these two gentle souls.