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III Finding the Old Spaghetti Factory: 1960

The Old Spaghetti Factory's Evolutionary Stages; Programming Chamber Works; Thematic and Vocal Performances, from Four Generations of Bachs to Merrie England; The "Great Unknowns"; Robert Hughes and the Oakland Youth Chamber Orchestra; Guests Artists and Recitals

Pippin

And I began to realize that the right place might not be so easily come by. Tragically, a couple of months later that same owner was brutally murdered. So it seems that my guardian angel had been on the alert. The other choice was the Old Spaghetti Factory.


Crawford

That's where I come in!


Pippin

[laughter] Well, the back room of the Old Spaghetti Factory has gone through a good many transformations in later years, but at this point in its evolution it was a drab, dowdy room indeed. It was small--less than half the size of what it later came to be when a wall was torn down. I believe it was seldom used, and in truth it was anything but inviting. The Spaghetti Factory was a huge place with a small kitchen, so there was no way they could expand the dining facilities without major surgery.

The back room had the great advantage of being cut off from the noise and bustle of the restaurant. It had a tiny, tiny stage that could barely accommodate a grand piano. Hold on! I've left out an important episode.

When seven years earlier I was resuming the Sunday afternoon concerts after the performance with Fiedler, Enrico bought me a piano he had seen advertised in a newspaper. The piano was owned by a man who, because he traveled a great deal, didn't feel like hanging on to it. He was asking sixteen hundred dollars for it. It was a beautiful instrument, a


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Steinway of the late nineteenth century, one of the golden ages of piano building.

And it had a curious history, with personal relevance. When I lived in Richmond, a Russian boy a few years older than me, brought up in Shanghai, came to town. His name was Vladimir Havsky. He was a dazzling pianist. We became friends, and often played four-hand arrangements of Beethoven symphonies together. I revered him greatly. Later on, he was lent a magnificent piano, one that I sometimes played on myself. Its touch and tone were unforgettable. Now twelve years later, here it was, up for sale!


Crawford

Had you put Enrico in touch with the piano?


Pippin

No, it was utter chance. It was Enrico who sent me over to inspect it in response to the ad. The owner casually mentioned that he had lent the piano for several years to a gifted young pianist named Vladimir Havsky. Vladimir! I still have the piano to this day.


Crawford

This is the one that you play?


Pippin

It is the one that I played throughout the twenty-seven years of concerts in North Beach--first at the hungry i, then Opus One, then the Old Spaghetti Factory. I've not used it publicly in more recent years because luckily the places where we perform have all had excellent pianos, and I don't like moving mine around unnecessarily. It is kept at the house of a former board member and manager of Pocket Opera, who treats it with tender loving care.

Of course, the piano went with me to the Old Spaghetti Factory. There was room on the tiny stage for the piano and for nothing else. Not so good for chamber music.

Once again, from somewhere out of the blue, an angel came to my rescue. Someone that I didn't even know volunteered to build a stage extension for me. I don't even know how he knew of my plight. But build it he did, and it was an excellent, sturdy stage that could be easily assembled and disassembled. The other instrumentalists were placed on it while I sat at the piano in back.

Each week the room had to be transformed into a concert room. So I would come in regularly at one a.m. on Saturday nights to get it in shape. The long series was launched on May 8, 1960. I know this because I was looking through some old


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programs just last night. But you know, I think that might be a good place to stop for now.



[Interview 3: December 11, 1996] ##
Crawford

We are meeting at the offices of Pocket Opera and we're about to begin interview number three, and it looks like you have something you want to start off with.


Pippin

Well, I want to continue where we left off. Remember, at the end of our last session, I had just arrived at the Old Spaghetti Factory, where Fred Kuh, the owner, opened his arms in welcome. There we began a concert series that was to continue for nineteen years.

I forget whether I described the Old Spaghetti Factory or not. Basically it was a friendly looking, spacious collection of rooms with high ceilings, a bit like a ramshackle old farmhouse. Fred was an avid collector of anything collectible. He himself lived on the third floor, and his apartment, which covered the entire floor, was chock full of things that he had picked up mostly at auctions. A totally random collection, or so it seemed to me. Much of it, of course, had penetrated to the Spaghetti Factory below, which was a kaleidoscope of kitchen chairs and tables, pieces of brick-a-brack, nineteenth-century statuettes, cameos, landscapes, et cetera.

That was the main dining room, which opened out to a back garden. But there was also a fairly small room in front--I can never make up my mind whether to call it the front room or the back room. It was hardly used. For one thing, the Spaghetti Factory, though a large place, had a small kitchen, so it was not a place that could expand indefinitely. And I suppose they'd really not found a use for that front room, which was located next door to an even smaller room where flamenco dancers performed six nights a week. Mercifully, they did not perform on Sunday nights. Sunday nights became mine!


Crawford

What was the address of the building?


Pippin

478 Green Street. It's now occupied by the Bocci Restaurant and of course it is much changed.

During my years there, that front room went through an almost Darwinian series of evolutionary stages. At first, it had a tiny stage that barely accommodated the grand piano. Somebody whom I had not even met sized up the situation immediately and provided the solution--a stage extension that


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he built himself. A gratuitous act of kindness that touches me deeply to this day.


Crawford

What was the size of the piano?


Pippin

Seven and a half feet. A Steinway. Somewhat smaller than a concert grand, but of course quite a bit larger than the usual baby grand.

It is an exceptional instrument that I am indeed fortunate to have. By that time, too, I had acquired a harpsichord which was far more portable than the piano. It could be easily shuffled offstage when not in use.

The metamorphoses, most of them for the better, started soon after my arrival. A theatre company came in, enlarged the stage and repainted the room in an art nouveau style, turning it into a charming little theatre. A couple of years later, the fire department came in to inspect and raised a collective eyebrow--for good reason, I might add. To pacify the inspectors, a wall was knocked out, an art gallery in front was eliminated, and the room was expanded to more than twice its former size. It now opened immediately onto the street.

This expanded room was of a size that one hundred people filled quite nicely. With one hundred fifty it felt crowded. With two hundred, which we often had, people were fitted together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. If one person moved, it meant that his neighbor had to move as well. [laughter] For some reason beyond my comprehension, the fire department set the seating limit at two hundred and thirty-eight. How on earth they arrived at that figure I cannot imagine. But we did not have to worry henceforth about our legality, although plenty of people worried about the fire hazard, especially when we plugged in the lamp and sparks flew out. [laughter]


Crawford

I remember it was hot!


Pippin

Who wouldn't? Ten minutes into every concert, and especially in the summer, the thermometer shot skywards. We seldom got through a performance without some people in the audience fainting.


Crawford

Performers, too?


Pippin

Never. Performers are made of hardy stuff. In more recent years, in other venues, performers have sometimes complained about the heat on stage. Never me. I have been through fire. I know what the real thing is like. I was thoroughly immunized


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by the Old Spaghetti Factory. I daresay once you emerge from purgatory any place feels like heaven.

At first, the concerts pretty much continued the pattern set by Opus One--a good many solo piano recitals, played by others as well as myself, and duo recitals, violin-piano, clarinet-piano, what have you.

Baroque concerts were somewhat more ambitious in terms of size, but still usually confined to just four instruments-- three plus harpsichord. But as the room expanded, so did the concerts. And the room was mine to do whatever I wanted to with!


Crawford

Was there a contract of any kind?


Pippin

I never had or wanted a contract. My relationship to the Old Spaghetti Factory was a matter of mutual benefit. I was not charged rent. Beer and wine were sold during intermissions only. I'm sure that the Old Spaghetti Factory made little money off the concerts, but the concerts did draw attention to the restaurant. They were prestigious, and of course people would often come for dinner before proceeding to the front room for the concert. So the Spaghetti Factory didn't suffer. I'm also certain that Fred Kuh derived satisfaction from supporting the arts in this extremely tangible way.

I felt some obligation to bring in a fair-sized audience, but this was entirely self-imposed. The subject never once came up. I never felt the slightest pressure, nor was I interfered with in any way.


Crawford

It sounds like an ideal situation.


Pippin

In many ways it was, but my relationship with the Old Spaghetti Factory was never an easy one. The atmosphere backstage at a busy restaurant is always tense. Pressure is high, the pace demanding, timing of the essence. And the forced smile takes its toll.

This was exacerbated at the Old Spaghetti Factory. As a benign gesture, and to surround himself with people to his own liking, Fred Kuh sought out waiters and waitresses at the art institute. Though no doubt welcoming the job, these artist-waiters were understandably inclined to feel that they were out of their element, wasting their talents on incompatible work. How well I knew! They tended to be touchy and irritable, and I suspected that they resented me precisely because I was doing the work I wanted to do.


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And they seemed to resent the concerts because they were a nuisance. The people who lined up to get in were in the way. Kitchen doors had to be kept closed on hot summer nights to block out as much noise as possible. Cleanup work had to be done afterwards.

But my greatest surprise was that many of them were hostile to the music itself. God knows what it represented to them. Fred, luckily, was supportive, appreciative and friendly, but his personal style tended to be combative. Extremely intelligent, constantly witty, he seemed to regard conversation as a sparring match. This I could enjoy as an observer, but it was a game that I was not good at. We never had an easy conversation.

On the whole, throughout these nineteen years, I felt very much as an outsider. Or rather, like a person living in two separate worlds. Inside my concert room, with the doors closed, I felt uniquely blessed. A room of my own! Everything that I wanted! An extraordinary opportunity to create something altogether unique. Outside, it was a different story.


Crawford

What were your audiences like?


Pippin

It was generally agreed that they covered a wider spectrum than the usual concert audience. They must have been fairly young, because to this day, people by no means decrepit come up to me after nearly every performance to say something like, "We go back to the Old Spaghetti Factory days." It seems like a badge of honor. But I should add that it was not easy to get an audience to the Old Spaghetti Factory. Unlike the Opus, which had built up a natural clientele of classical music devotees, the Spaghetti Factory offered no such means of publicizing the concerts. It was hard to get to. Parking was atrocious, at times impossible. The seating was anything but comfortable.

But on the positive side, it meant that the people who came had made a real effort to do so. They came because they really wanted to. They were primed, and they were alert. And I have to admit grudgingly that it was because of the uphill challenge that the programs became as interesting as they were.


Crawford

Tell me more about the programs.


Pippin

Understand, it is not easy to maintain interest in a concert series that goes on and on for nearly two decades. As a pianist, my fondest wish was to perform the chamber music for piano and strings of Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and Brahms,


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and given my druthers, this would have been the core of my career.

But it was precisely these programs that it was hardest to draw an audience to. Brahms, even Beethoven, had to be sneaked into a program that offered something more striking, or an interesting theme or idea. I had to explore constantly for new ways to stimulate interest by doing things that were not done elsewhere.

One way was to devise programs with unusual combinations of instruments, and combinations that could be used flexibly. At that time chamber music concerts tended to be largely confined to a few standard ensembles--string quartet, piano trio, wind quintet. This format left out much interesting music.

An appealing program could be planned, for example, around a piece like Casella's Serenata for clarinet, trumpet, bassoon, violin and cello. With this highly unusual ensemble as a centerpiece, the possibilities of variation were endless-- violin and cello, clarinet and bassoon, cello and bassoon, a trio for clarinet, cello and piano. Other combinations might involve flute, oboe or French horn. Or harp, or guitar. There are wonderful quintets for guitar and string quartet, for example. And contemporary composers are constantly reaching out for new color combinations.

Instead of using an entire ensemble for an entire program, it was my practice to break it down into smaller units. Even with a conventional medium like a trio of piano, violin and cello, I would tend to start with a trio, then do a piano-violin sonata, then a cello-piano sonata, then another trio.


Crawford

Unusual programming at the time.


Pippin

More so than today. But the most important expansion over the old days at Opus One was this: for the first time, I was allowed to use singers.


Crawford

Allowed to?


Pippin

Allowed to, yes, because at the Opus we did not have an entertainment license. For some reason that I leave to others to figure out, singers were classified as entertainers, instrumentalists were not.

This opened up an entirely new world, an entrance into the vast range of vocal music, not only for voice and piano, but for voice and a wide variety of small instrumental ensembles,


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from Baroque to contemporary. Indeed, going further back into the mysteries of Medieval music.

With this arsenal of resources, we began to explore programs that related to a particular theme or idea. I would like to talk about several of these.

A favorite of mine we called Music of the Bach Family for four generations. Of course, the Bachs were one of the great royal families of Baroque music. We started with a fine overture for four unspecified instruments by one of his uncles. Then some music by the great master himself, from which, needless to say, there is an infinite wealth to draw on. The third generation could be represented by one of at least three of his sons.

Johann Christian, his youngest, wrote some of the most charming and delightful early classical music, prefiguring Haydn and Mozart. Personally, I have never particularly warmed up to the music of Carl Philip Emmanuel, though he was probably the most highly esteemed living composer during his lifetime, rated far higher than his old-fashioned father, whose music was hardly known at all. There was another son named Wilhelm Friedemann, whom Bach himself considered his most talented son, but he was something of a wastrel, and there is an overwhelming reason to hold him in infamy.


Crawford

Whatever did he do?


Pippin

A crime against humanity! At the time of Bach's death, his manuscripts were equally divided between his two eldest sons-- Carl Philip and Wilhelm Friedemann. Carl Philip evidently did not consider them worth doing much with, but he did store them neatly in the attic, no doubt neatly tied with a ribbon. Heaven only knows what Wilhelm did with his collection. It has disappeared without a trace. So even though the sheer amount of music that we have by Bach is staggering, it still is only a fraction of what he actually wrote.


Crawford

How terrible!


Pippin

Heartrending! I suspect that there was considerable tension between father and sons. He was probably not an easygoing person, and furthermore, taste was shifting during his lifetime. Bach remained stubbornly true to the losing side, while his sons led the coming revolution!


Crawford

You mentioned a fourth generation as well?



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Pippin

Yes, a grandson. I don't even remember the initials that identify him. In the music of the third generation one notices a turn towards lightness and frivolity. In the next generation, the trend continues at an alarming pace. The grandson left only one piece that I am aware of: a piece to be played by three performers at one piano. He left specific instructions as to how this was to be done: a man is to be seated in the middle, with a woman on each side. Further, the man is to play the uppermost part with his right hand, and the lowermost part with his left. A footnote explains that it is necessary--essential--that they sit very close. Would grandfather Bach have scowled or smiled? I wonder.

In our performance I was lucky enough to have Gita Karasik and Jeanne Stark close to me on either side, our arms gracefully intertwined. [laughter]

There was no fifth generation. Though Bach was the father of twenty-two children, after two generations the Bach line was extinct--a startling insight into the mortality rates of that era when going to your doctor was practically tantamount to going to your executioner.


Crawford

Tell me of some of your other thematic programs.


Pippin

Three Centuries in Vienna was one that offered an inexhaustible wealth to draw from--Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, Mahler, Schoenberg, Webern, Berg. From the twentieth century we used a fine transcription made by Schoenberg himself of his Kammersymphonie, a reduction for flute, clarinet, violin, cello and piano--very difficult but very beautiful.

Another program: French Renaissance, Baroque and Impressionist. The latter was represented by the Debussy Trio for flute, harp and viola.

Also, Monteverdi and the Italian Baroque, which included Il Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda and some gorgeous vocal duets, among other things.

A Celebration of Merrie England I particularly enjoyed, largely because of a delightful tewntieth-century setting of The Canterbury Tales for voice, harpsichord and two wind instruments. Of course, he used only small excerpts from the exceedingly long fourteenth-century poem, but they were well chosen and all in middle English. The Elizabethans provided much merriment, as did Purcell a hundred years later. Also I discovered a collection of songs from the Restoration theatre that were both witty and bawdy. Only the words and the tunes


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were given, so I provided settings for harpsichord and various instruments.

A group came in with a program not of my planning called A Concert at Windsor Castle, circa l880, music that Queen Victoria might have requested. She was in fact a connoisseur and champion of composers like Mendelssohn, Rossini, Donizetti and Verdi. I put together a more serious program called Fin de Siecle, songs by Mahler, Strauss, Wolf and Brahms.

Landmarks of the Twentieth Century for violin and piano was an ambitious undertaking, planned and performed by Austin Reller and myself.

More general themes would be based on Music and Theatre, Music and Dance, or Music and Poetry. Music and Theatre might include a centerpiece like Stravinsky's L'Histoire du Soldat, which we did as a concert suite. Later on, as Pocket Opera, we did the full shebang--with narration, acting, staging-- dancing, no less.


Crawford

You weren't narrating?


Pippin

Not at that point. To round out the Music and Theatre program, there is music related to the Restoration theatre--Purcell provides an abundance. There is music related to French classical drama, music related to German nineteenth-century drama, not to mention the Elizabethans or the theatre of the twentieth century.

Music and Poetry might feature the Edith Sitwell-William Walton Facade. In our performance, the two distinguished readers were Lou Harrison and Ned Rorem. One of our favorite local composers was named Robert Hughes, also notable as a bassoonist and conductor. He is a good friend of Lou Harrison, whose music he has tirelessly promoted, as he has done also for the music of Ezra Pound. But also a fine composer in his own right.

Let me digress for a moment and tell you a bit more about him because probably no one else has contributed so much to give the Spaghetti Factory concerts their distinctive character. I met him first as a performer, and soon learned that he was a composer as well. We did an enchanting piece of his called Estampie, for celeste and tack piano. This was soon followed by a wildly dramatic piece for trombone, garden hose and percussion, called Anagnorisis. This is a term from Aristotle's Poetics, so Bob tells me, meaning the moment when a tragic hero recognizes the full implications of his fate.


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The introduction of the garden hose may sound like a joke, but in fact, when skillfully used, it becomes quite a respectable musical instrument--trust Bob to discover that!

Another piece was for Mexican clay flute, five coffee cans and jalataranga, which means tuned water bowls--tuned, that is to say, by filling them to precise levels of water. Tuning the bowls during intermission, incidentally, elicited this overheard exchange: "What are they doing?" 'I think they're about to feed the jalataranga." I might add that the five coffee cans make a delightfully delicate percussion ensemble.

This was followed in the late sixties by Elegy for Vietnam followed by a Protest. The Elegy was a beautiful, dark piece for cello and four bassoons. As you can see, each of these pieces was an exploration of new sonorities, but the sonorities were not a mere end in themselves. They were used for making expressive, highly charged music.

He wrote a song cycle based on the poetry of one of our cherished audience members, a poet named Hester Storm, who attended the concerts every week and sometimes reviewed them for a small weekly. Bob, an avid poetry reader, discovered her work and composed a group of songs called Storm Cycle. He had also composed a cycle based on Poems from the Palatine Anthology, a collection of short Greek poems discovered not too long ago. Both of these cycles were written for four voices and for such an esoteric collection of instruments and for specific players with such diverse and specialized skills that duplicate performances seemed highly unlikely. A philosophical statement that I much admire!

Music and Dance. The question is, when did they ever separate? Separate they did, but dance so thoroughly permeates our Western music tradition that it would be hard to devise a program that was not linked to dance. But no harm in calling attention to the linkage! Consider the piano solo repertory alone--the Bach suites, Chopin mazurkas and polonaises, Schubert laendler, Brahms waltzes, Prokofiev ballet music, Bartok dances in Bulgarian rhythms, American ragtime. This, of course, barely scratches the surface.

There were also programs that tended to sound embarrassingly like a college course: The Evolution of the Sonata, for one.

Besides these thematic programs, we would often do programs that were centered on a single composer, or on a pair of composers. One series that I particularly enjoyed putting


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together was called The Great Unknowns. Not quite whom you would expect to find: The Unknown Haydn, The Unknown Schubert, The Unknown Chopin, The Unknown Beethoven. The fact is that there is an enormous amount of music by all of these composers that is seldom if ever performed, for reasons that have nothing to do with intrinsic quality.

For example, Haydn wrote a lot of vocal music, including operas and cantatas, that is largely neglected, plus a huge collection of trios for piano, violin and cello. These are seldom performed by established ensembles because they give the lion's share to the piano, and string players don't enjoy being treated as second-class citizens. I'm sure that we came up with a fine violinist and cellist who could endure the humiliation for an evening. Aside from this "defect," the trios are among Haydn's finest works.


Crawford

And what would be the Unknown Chopin?


Pippin

Here there is not such a quantity to draw on, but still enough to make a sizable and impressive program. He wrote a fine trio for violin, cello and piano, also some lovely songs in Polish, for piano and voice. He wrote a delightful polonaise for cello and piano, and a cello sonata which in fact is his last major work and one of his ripest. I can't imagine why it is not played more frequently. I've heard that it's because the piano tends to dominate the cello, and it's true that the piano part is difficult and demanding, but it seems to me that the cello has quite enough to do to make a reasonably modest cellist happy.

Some of his pieces for solo piano are seldom performed. For example, an Allegro de Concert, a large-scale work, probably planned as a third concerto. But he only finished one movement of it and decided to dispense with the orchestra and make it a piano solo. It's an impressive, powerful and beautiful work, also very difficult--a factor that ordinarily doesn't drive pianists away. There are also some early rondos, Chopin in his superficial, glittery style, but delightful nonetheless. So you see, it adds up to a good-sized program.

Now the Unknown Beethoven, aha! [laughter] There's a sonata for French horn and piano. The first time we played this, Bonnie Hampton did the horn part on the cello. Zara Nelsova, a distinguished cellist, was in the audience. She rushed up afterwards and said, "Where did you find that wonderful cello sonata?" The Beethoven trios for violin, cello and piano are played, but there are a couple of equally fine


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sets of variations that are not. Most of his many sets of variations for piano solo are likewise neglected.

The list goes on. Beethoven's songs are seldom sung. There's one particular collection that should be wildly popular, one that fits ideally into a chamber music program. In his later years, he was commissioned to write settings of English, Irish, Scotch and Welsh folksongs, for voice, of course, with violin, cello and piano.

It seems that Beethoven got carried away with the project, as he came out with over a hundred of these arrangements. For some reason or other, these songs are usually dismissed by critics and biographers as potboilers, but to my mind, they are a wonderful balance between sophisticated, artful music and the often powerful, always delightful songs on which they are based. And they sound like Beethoven through and through.

These single composer programs would often be based on a single work, like Bach's Musical Offering, the Schubert and Schumann song cycles, Hindemith's Das Marienleben, or Strauss' setting of Enoch Arden for piano solo and speaker. More often they would be based on a set of works: the Bach suites for solo cello, also those for solo violin; the Mozart violin-piano sonatas, which are among my favorites of all his music; Austin Reller, David Abel and Anne Crowden each did a series with me. Austin Reller also did the Beethoven violin sonatas, as well as the Brahms. We also did the collected Beethoven trios and the Brahms trios.

A series of concerts was called Meet the Composer--always living, and usually local. Sometimes singly, sometimes paired. These included Lou Harrison, William Bolcom, Thea Musgrave, Ned Rorem, John Edmunds, Ernst Bacon and many others.

John Edmunds was a special case because, aside from being a gifted and prolific songwriter, he had done extensive research in Italy and his special interest were the cantatas of Benedetto Marcello and Alessandro Scarlatti. Talk about unknowns! John claimed that if the music of Alessandro Scarlatti were known, people would recognize that his genius overshadowed that of his more famous son fully as much as J.S. Bach's genius overshadowed that of his own sons.

Both Marcello and Scarlatti wrote a huge number of cantatas for solo voice and basso continuo--cantatas that exist to this day only in manuscript. John copied them out in his meticulously neat hand--these were the pre-xerox days--and


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composed settings for many of them. To my mind, they rival the best of Handel. Praise can go no higher!


Crawford

Did you ever do a Scarlatti opera?


Pippin

No, and except for the cantatas that John resurrected, I have little acquaintance with Alessandro Scarlatti. The few operas that I have encountered I found disappointing. I suspect that I shall eat my words one of these days.

With William Bolcom, I have to admit that I am cheating a bit, in that he played for us in '59 at Opus One. I had heard him play at someone's house and was dazzled by his playing, as I still am. His recordings of ragtime are a revelation.

Lou Harrison, who also became much more famous later on, gave several programs of his own music, often featuring oriental instruments, for which he has a deep interest and love. He even gave the premiere, at least in part, of his opera Young Caesar, which I understand is being done in New York next year, thirty years later.

In the more usual chamber music programs there was often interspersed music by local composers, like Richard Felciano, Andrew Imbrie, and Leland Smith. Dare I call Darius Milhaud a local composer?

I mentioned before that Baroque concerts were a mainstay at Opus One. That continued to be the case, but now they were expanded. Several times a year we would do a concert of Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque music. Of all of our concerts, these were the most consistently well attended. Now of course the real glory of Renaissance music is in the vocal polyphonic music, usually on a very large scale. This I never attempted to approach. But in the byways, in the nooks and crannies, there is much of interest and delight, in the dance collections, in the song collections, collections of consort music.

Interest in early instruments was high, and these concerts always featured recorders, krumhorns, the rebec, the viola da gamba, and occasionally the sackbut. We had outstanding players in Peter Ballinger, a marvelous recorder virtuoso, and Mary Abbott, who played beautifully on any number of instruments. Anna Carol Dudley was our star singer. I was particularly interested in Medieval songs, for which I did a number of settings. Bear in mind that we have only the tunes, with no indication whatever of how they are to be performed. Often even the rhythm is open to question.



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##

Crawford

Where did you do your research?


Pippin

Mostly at the UC Library in Berkeley, surely one of the best in the country. Much of this early music is collected in encyclopedic anthologies. Believe me, if xerox had not been invented, these concerts would not have been possible.

The Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque programs lent themselves to special themes. Each year, shortly after New Year's Day we would do a Twelfth Night program. Later in the year--guess when--La Primavera, spring, about which there is plenty of music in celebration.

In addition to these programs, which for the most part I organized myself, we had a good many visiting groups that provided their own program. Probably the most famous of these was the New York Pro Musica. They gave a couple of concerts that, needless to say, were packed to the rafters.

The John Biggs Consort was very popular in the sixties. Sally Terry was their vocal soloist. They gave a wonderful program of mostly Renaissance but also some contemporary music. The Berkeley Chamber Singers also performed for us, as well as a vocal group called the Renaissance Octet. And the Elizabethan Trio with Laurette Goldberg, Judith Nelson and Anna Carol Dudley.

Ian Hampton, a splendid cellist who had done the Beethoven cello sonatas with me, brought down the Vancouver String Quartet.

No doubt our most ambitious undertaking in terms of sheer size was the introduction of the Oakland Youth Chamber Orchestra, conducted at the time by Robert Hughes, whom I've already spoken of. He was eager to give the kids a broader outlet. Well, when you set up chairs for an entire orchestra, it was truly startling to see how little room was left over. [laughter] But nonetheless, with people pressed against the walls, we managed to accommodate a respectable audience.

I must admit that I had my own special greedy reason to include the Oakland Youth Orchestra, because this was my opportunity to play a concerto. They came back about half a dozen times over the years, later under Denis de Coteau.


Crawford

How many players?



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Pippin

Thirty or thirty-five. A good-sized orchestra for that room, as you can imagine. Bob was an impeccable musician, and I'm sure a wonderfully stimulating teacher and conductor, besides being a generally marvelous person to have around.


Crawford

Which concerti did you play?


Pippin

Four by Mozart, plus a Concert Rondo, and also an early work by Chopin, Variations on Mozart's "La ci darem la mano." This was his Opus 2, and it was this work that elicited a famous review from Schumann. The review began, "Hats off, gentlemen! A genius!" This is so touching. Chopin was nineteen at the time. I was startled to realize, good Lord, Schumann was exactly the same age! Such insight! Such confidence! Above all, such generosity!

I might add that my career playing concerti did not quite end there. I found out that several more of the Mozart twenty- seven piano concerti were written with a specific option that they could be played with a string quartet. Believe me, I played them all! Also Bach left seven concerti for keyboard and string orchestra, which meant that they also could be played with string quartet. Plus several concerti by Haydn. A substantial repertoire!

Getting back to visiting groups, one of my favorites was called The Macedonian Silver String Band, which returned several times. The folk music of Macedonia, Greece, Hungary and Romania is utterly enchanting and unique. This group had apparently done massive research and they seemed to have mastered the idioms and style. It was music I had never heard before, colorful and rhythmically fascinating, the music that Bartok drew from. With singers and instrumentalists, often interchangeable, and in various combinations, it was a blissful program.


Crawford

Were they local people?


Pippin

I believe so. One of them, incidentally, who played viola and sang entirely in the folk style--non vibrato, very straight tone--was Lorraine Hunt, now Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, a most highly acclaimed opera star, far removed from these Macedonian roots.

Another group whose performance frankly I don't remember-- it could have been that I was sick that night--was called the Bengal Folk Band.


Crawford

Did you find all these people yourself?



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Pippin

They would often call me. When it sounded like a good idea, I was more than delighted to welcome them. Usually I would know at least one person in the group, which gave a reasonably reassuring guarantee of quality. There were other independently formed wind and string ensembles, among them the Nouveau Wind Quintet, Baroque Brass, et cetera.

In addition to the visiting groups, there was a long and impressive list of solo recitalists. Some of the most memorable piano recitals of my entire life I heard at the Old Spaghetti Factory. Pianists such as Gita Karasik, Sylvia Jenkins, Justin Blasdale, William Corbett Jones, Janet Guggenheim, Nathan Schwartz, Jerry Kuderna, Laura Nicolaisen, Roy Bogas, Pamela Resch, Julie Steinberg, Zola Shaulis, Margaret Tan, and probably the most famous of them all, Ursula Oppens.


Crawford

Quite a list.


Pippin

Staggering! It truly is. The two most impressive performances of the Goldberg Variations I've ever heard were given by Zola Shaulis and Pamela Resch. Margaret Tan gave the finest performance I've ever heard of the Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue.

On one special occasion, Karl Ulrich Schnabel appeared, entirely as a gesture of friendship and support. It was an all-Schumann program, in which he played the Papillons and accompanied several groups of songs. He's come to the Bay Area for many years as a teacher and has given master classes and private lessons, both of which I've taken, incidentally. An inspiring teacher, a radiant personality and a very special pianist.

Another pianist who for me was a revelation, with some of the most extraordinarily sensitive and vital playing I've ever heard, was David del Tredici. He later on won a Pulitzer Prize as a composer, and as far as I know, has abandoned any career as a pianist.

The last I heard of him as a pianist was when he participated in a stunt performance which, as I recall, consists of thirty-two measures with the instruction that they are to be repeated two hundred and thirty-eight times. Well, you know, New Yorkers will do anything, so one night it was evidently decided to present the piece in its entirety, which meant that the pianists would perform in shifts, each of them playing their repeats for an hour or so. Presumably the audiences came and went in shifts as well. At the end of the performance someone reportedly cried, "Encore!"


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What a grotesque waste of talent! I remember to this day his performance of ten intermezzi and capriccios by Brahms, of the Schubert big A Minor Sonata, of Chopin ballades, of Schumann's Kreisleriana, of Bartok's Out of Doors Suite, of a long, densely elaborate and impossibly difficult piece by Villa-Lobos called Rudepoema.

In addition to the pianists, we had a number of first-rate violinists who gave recitals as well: Austin Reller, Linda Ashworth, David Abel, Nathan Rubin, George Nagata, Sabina Skalar among them. Violists John Graham, James Carter, Pamela Goldsmith. Cellists Bonnie Hampton, Helen Stross, Ian Hampton, Paul Tobias, Neal La Monico. Two nationally known flautists, Ransome Wilson and Alain Marion, and clarinetist Richard Stoltzman. Bruce Haynes, a specialist in Baroque oboe and recorder gave a recital, performing on both.

Often these were people who were traveling through, and some as well that were staying longer. Marion was giving a master class at the conservatory. Stoltzman was at the time centered here as music director of Young Audiences.


Crawford

Were these concerts reviewed in the San Francisco papers?


Pippin

By the mid-sixties we were getting excellent coverage from the likes of Robert Commanday, Marilyn Tucker, and Heuwell Tircuit on the Chronicle, Arthur Bloomfield on the Examiner, as well as critics on the Oakland Tribune, Sacramento Bee, and San Jose Mercury. However, this was slow in coming. The first twelve years or so we were almost never reviewed.

One day I decided to take the situation in hand. I typed out a list of the repertoire that we had performed in the past year alone, along with many of the better-known musicians who had participated. The list went on for about eight closely typed pages. The compositions were listed chronologically starting with Monteverdi, though in fact by this time we were already doing a good deal of Medieval music, much of which is anonymous. The music of Bay Area composers took up a full two pages. I thought it a most impressive list. A large proportion of it was music that was never performed in the standard venues.

So I called up the three leading critics of the three San Francisco dailies and went to see them. First to Arthur Bloomfield at the Call-Bulletin. He showed great interest, but


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I soon gathered that he was interested on account of an article that he was writing in which he argued that the musicians in the San Francisco Symphony did not need the pay raise they were fighting for because of the many opportunities they had to earn money elsewhere. You can imagine how close to a living wage an occasional appearance at the Old Spaghetti Factory would provide!

A bit put down, I went next to Alexander Fried at the Examiner. He glanced through the pages, looked up and said wearily, "All that noise!" Surely the most devastating words that have ever been spoken to me.

Badly shaken, I went finally to Wallace Dean at the Chronicle. With considerably less confidence, I handed him my sheets of paper, explaining that the music was listed chronologically started with Monteverdi. His words were, "In my opinion Monteverdi couldn't care less."

It was an appalling day. However, things did change and, as I said, we had excellent coverage for about twenty-five years, after which the doors abruptly closed again. Since '91, the press has stayed away almost entirely.


Crawford

What a lot of planning all this must have taken!


Pippin

Well, an evolutionary step happened in the summer of '65 that may seem slight, like most evolutionary steps, but it changed my life enormously. Till then, for several years, I had been mailing out a monthly announcement that would list the next four of five Sunday night programs. These announcements were also posted in various places.

This was a murderously time-consuming process. I had a primitive addresserette machine and several boxes of address cards. But we live in a most horribly mobile society! You never realize how much so until you're confronted each month with updating a mailing list. My mailing list was not large, never more than seven or eight hundred, but it was an onerous task.

Suddenly a little bright light turned on. Instead of putting out a program each month, why not plan a more extended series that would cover three months and include a dozen concerts? Not only would it mean sending out the mailing list only three or four times a year, but also being able to plan a series on a larger overall design. You'd be amazed at the


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number of people who were suddenly convinced that I was doing three times as much as I had been doing previously! People would take a look at these twelve concerts and say, "My goodness! How impressive!" Whereas before, looking at only four, it was "Ho hum."

Two and a half years later, the light turned on again. I got another bright idea! I woke up one morning and thought, "Why don't we do an opera?"


Crawford

Ah, the dawn of a new day!


Pippin

Well, definitely a new chapter.