Thursday, April 8, 2010

Light Quips

David Broder, in the April 8 Washington Post, mentions Liz Carpenter, who died last month, and a story she told on herself:

"Carpenter, a fifth-generation Texan with a crown of white hair, covered Washington for Texas papers with her husband, Les, until 1960, when she became an aide to Lyndon Johnson, just nominated for vice president. She went to the White House with him and Lady Bird, where her smarts and irrepressible sense of humor survived the tumultuous years of his presidency.

"She fought chauvinism in the Washington press corps and the wider world, and she treated aging with the same scorn she showed male jerks. In the last Carpenter speech I heard, she said she had just come across an envelope from the Alzheimer's Association and thought to herself, "I'm getting to the point I ought to send them something. So I opened the envelope and read, 'Thank you for your contribution.' ""

This reminded me of my determination to memorize the Schumann I played a month ago and then my disappointment in needing the score in front of me at the concert -- just in case.  A fellow musician comforted me with the news that Svatislav Richter, a renowned pianist, experienced a memory lapse at a concert and for the rest of his life employed a page turner whenever he performed.

"That reminds me of something," says Virginia.  "I heard that Jascha Heifetz required one of his long-time page turners to address him as 'Mr. Heifetz.'  Could that be true?"

"Maybe, if this one's true," I say (from "Heifetz Quotes on Facebook" (

After a very successful American tour that ended up in Carnegie Hall, the journalists went to see David Oistrakh backstage. They asked him with great enthusiasm who he thought was the best violinist. He replied after looking towards the ceiling:

"It's me!"

The journalists were very surprised at his answer and asked him why.

"God told me!" said Oistrakh.

A week after, Heifetz was playing in Carnegie Hall. Of course, it was an electric performance, so the journalists went to see him backstage. As soon as they got to him, they asked him the same question they had asked Oistrakh.

"Who do you think is the best violinist?"

Heifetz answered, "Well, it's me, of course!"

"But Mr.Oistrakh told us God had assured him HE was the best!"

Heifetz:  "Well, I don't remember ever telling him that!"

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