The Corner

Rolling Your Own (and an Evening Chez Buckley)

I’ve done a new Jaywalking podcast, which gives you a little music, a little politics, and a little more. I say that I like a performer who “rolls his own” — that is, who writes his own music, in addition to performing it. Daniil Trifonov does this. (I lead the podcast with his piano concerto.) So do a handful of others, most of them pianists.

In the past, there was no great division between composers and performers. Think of Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven. Think of Chopin, Paganini, and Rachmaninoff. But then, in the first part of the 20th century, there came this split.

You know who was a helluva pianist, a big virtuoso (apart from the fact that he was a sublime musician, and a genius)? Bartók. That is how he made his living for a long time. The piano music he wrote, he wrote for himself to concertize with — including his Concerto No. 2, one of the most difficult pieces in the repertoire. (This comes up in my new Jaywalking.)

On the subject of Hungarian pianists: WFB once invited to dinner a remarkable man, Balint Vázsonyi. He studied at the Liszt Academy and escaped Hungary in ’56, when he was 20. In America, he got involved in politics. Indeed, he ran for mayor of Bloomington, Ind. He also spent some time in my hometown, Ann Arbor, Mich.

So did György Sándor, another Hungarian pianist, who comes up in this new Jaywalking. (I both talk about him and play a brief recording of his.) Sándor was a protégé of Bartók, and it was he, actually, not the composer, who gave the premiere of Bartók’s Concerto No. 3.

I don’t know about Sándor’s politics. I can guess. Most of those guys were deeply freedom-loving. Balint Vázsonyi was a conservative of the Reagan stripe. He prized the liberalism — the classical liberalism — that allows high culture and other good things to flourish.

After dinner, WFB asked Vázsonyi to play something. Vázsonyi demurred a bit, pointing out that he had drunk wine, but he went to the piano and played some Schumann — the Arabeske in C. WFB loved it, as he did civilization at large.

I end the new Jaywalking with the playing of Myra Hess — Dame Myra Hess, the British pianist — who was one of Vázsonyi’s teachers, along with other greats (e.g., Dohnányi).

I’m sorry that Vázsonyi and all the others were run out of their native lands, needless to say. And, of course, many did not reach exile: They were imprisoned or murdered where they were. But I was awfully glad to meet these refugees and exiles, and they enriched the lands to which they went, chiefly ours. I kid about Ann Arbor as a left-wing citadel. But it was also stocked with people who had fled tyranny, and knew the value of liberal democracy, and I profited from them immensely.

Most Popular

Politics & Policy

Students’ Anti-Gun Views

Are children innocents or are they leaders? Are teenagers fully autonomous decision-makers, or are they lumps of mental clay, still being molded by unfolding brain development? The Left seems to have a particularly hard time deciding these days. Take, for example, the high-school students from Parkland, ... Read More

Romney Is a Misfit for America

Mitt’s back. The former governor of Massachusetts and occasional native son of Michigan has a new persona: Mr. Utah. He’s going to bring Utah conservatism to the whole Republican party and to the country at large. Wholesome, efficient, industrious, faithful. “Utah has a lot to teach the politicians in ... Read More
Law & the Courts

What the Second Amendment Means Today

The horrifying school massacre in Parkland, Fla., has prompted another national debate about guns. Unfortunately, it seems that these conversations are never terribly constructive — they are too often dominated by screeching extremists on both sides of the aisle and armchair pundits who offer sweeping opinions ... Read More

Fire the FBI Chief

American government is supposed to look and sound like George Washington. What it actually looks and sounds like is Henry Hill from Goodfellas: bad suit, hand out, intoning the eternal mantra: “F*** you, pay me.” American government mostly works by interposition, standing between us, the free people at ... Read More
Film & TV

Black Panther’s Circle of Hype

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) first infantilizes its audience, then banalizes it, and, finally, controls it through marketing. This commercial strategy, geared toward adolescents of all ages, resembles the Democratic party’s political manipulation of black Americans, targeting that audience through its ... Read More