In 1918 the music critic Olin Downes published a book called The Lure of Music. It’s a collection of biographical sketches of famous composers, and it includes listening suggestions, samples of the composers’ works on Columbia records. Most of the composers Downes writes about—people such as Verdi, Chopin, Berlioz, Dvorák—are among the immortals… They were famous then and they’ll always remain famous. But what’s fascinating to me is that I know hardly any of the performers’ names on the recordings. Oscar Seagle, Kathleen Parlow, Hulda Laschanska, Florencio Constantino—ever heard of them? Neither have I, but they must have been a big deal in their time for Columbia to have recorded them. The lesson here—and it’s a good one for today’s performers to remember, if only to keep their egos from swelling too grandly—is that performers and performances come and go, but what lasts is the music.
This has been A Minute with Miles – a production of South Carolina Public Radio, made possible by the J.M. Smith Corporation.