The Corner

Culture

Greats We Have Known

Jessye Norman in Washington, D.C., July 31, 2013 (Jonathan Ernst / Reuters)

Martin Bernheimer was one of the most formidable, and best, writers I have ever known. He was also an amazing, unique personality. I have written about him here. For half a century or so, he was a leading music critic. He passed away at the end of last month. You could not imagine a more sparkling or interesting colleague.

While I’m on the subject of music, sort of: The latest episode of Music for a While is here. I begin with some Bach, because a listener asked me a question: “If you could take one composer’s music with you to a desert island, whose would it be?” I go on with some Beethoven, Chopin, and other characters. One of those characters is David Allan Coe, who wrote “Take This Job and Shove It,” which Johnny Paycheck popularized when I was in junior high. (I had occasion to mention this song in a political article recently.)

Also in this episode, I remember two singers who passed away in recent days: Marcello Giordani and Jessye Norman. They were both from Augusta: Giordani, the Italian tenor, was from Augusta, Sicily, and Norman, the American soprano, was from Augusta, Georgia. Jessye, in particular, meant a lot to me.

Anyway, I get into all this, and you might find it “a break away from the everyday,” to quote an old fast-food slogan.

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