Thursday, July 11, 1996


Have Radio, Will Travel - The Catskills

LOOKING AHEAD by Wally Dobelis

First about the travel. To go to the Catskills, we crossed the mighty Hudson River at Kingston and followed Route 199 into Route 28, the road marked picturesque by the AAA up to Boiceville. This is what I'd call the Middle Road to the Catskills, in Ulster County, a wide easy highway in the valley with mountain views on both sides,leading through the tourist country of the Game Farm, Catskills Railroad and the ubiquitous Esopus River with its rafting attractions. (The Lower is the Borscht Circuit Route 17, in Sullivan County, to Liberty, to the former Grossingers, Concord and the famous Roscoe Diner; the Upper is Route 23B over the Greene mountaintops to Oneonta in Otsego County, where I lost my 1977 Ford Maverick years ago. Oneonta is a college town with brick sidewalks and geranium pots hanging from streetlights on Main Street, just like Oxford. Route 28 becomes narrow, crooked and immensely picturesque in the poverty-struck farming country of Delavare County, above Fleischmans, Margaretville and particularly after the exit to New Kingston. Here the views are truly momentous and cows abound on vertical pastures.

Our Brooklyn Heights friends Tom and Julie, both amateur gourmet chefs, had recently acquired a 37 acre property with a cabin and a stream, cornfields and wildflower meadows, with retirement in mind, for the price of a studio apartment in a Manhattan coop. (You too can have equal pleasures if you don't mind up to four hours on on the road, much of it twisting, each way.) Their forever winding dirt driveway is kept accessible by a local contractor for $500 a year, and a carpenter last Fall jacked up the house and strengthened the supporting cinderblocks and the basement walls, just in time for the floods. That closed the exits for the field mice who seek refuge indoors during the harsh months. Julie fed the rapidly multiplying basement dwellers birdseed every weekend until the spring, when she trapped them in a Have-A-Heart trap, up to seven at a time, and released them behind the stream. That's a true New Yorker Liberal, a much maligned breed. New Yorkers will feed the needy and the homeless, but we do not condone corruption.

As for the radio part: we too are country folk, on this side of the mighty Hudson, in Columbia County. This is the time of the year when our ancient cat Missy, a dignified house cat, will begins to act like a youngster, chasing birds and snakes on the lawn and under the trees that we have planted in the past 16 years. This is also when the purple fruit of the crabapple tree outside the window start swelling, and we start looking for the Tanglewood Music Festival schedule in all seriousness. Lenox is only 40 miles away, and July, the starting month for the concerts, is upon us.

Over the years we have attended many open rehearsals of the Boston Philharmonic on Saturday mornings, and listened live to the Tanglewood concert broadcasts over WAMC, the Northwest corridor FM Public Radio network. (Their station identification takes a minute and two deep breaths of the announcer's lungs to detail. All of the stations invoke visions; WAMC Albany, originally the Albany Medical College station; Kingston, an ex-IBM town, dying; Middletown - Rt 17 to the Catskills, Roscoe Diner; Canajoharie, near Syracuse - the gorge; Ticonderoga - up North history, fort, Lake Champlain; Great Barrington, Mass., the top of our ski mountain where the station is located. Now a deep breath - Oneonta, hanging geranium baskets on Main Street, and 50 c beers; Newburgh and Rensellaer-Troy, sad poverty.)

The live Tanglewood concerts were announced, for years, by the slowest-speaking thoughtful musicologist with the deepest voice in radioland, and a name that's impossible to get right - Robert Gelertzman? Anyway, we knew him as Deep Throat.

Today, Deep Throat has a 7 to 12 AM Morning Pro Musica program on WAMC, Sat/Sun, and, while traveling to the Catskills, we caught a most delightful program centering on J.S. Bach's transpositions. I'm a sucker for the divine Chaconne, a movement in Bach's BWV 1001-5 (the acronym is for the Bach's Werke Verzeichnis by Schmiege, like the Kocher Register of Mozart) series of sonatas and partitas, solo pieces for an unaccompanied violin. Chaconne is a movement of Partita 1004, and we first heard it around 1985, in Carnegie Hall, performed by Millstein, who waddled out like a smiling penguin in a tails suit - and then he played, like an angel with a violin. There was never anything nobler in my musical experience than this. I could have fallen down and adored him. Of all the recordings of the Partita I have acquired since none match Millstein's cool remote passion, if you can imagine it.

Anyway, Deep Throat teased us along by playing the Chaconne's twin, the Fugue from the Sonata 1001 in G-minor, and its transcriptions for organ, Bach's own Prelude and Fugue (539 BWV), and for lute (123 BWV). There was a Nicholas Garousis guitar version too, and we heard it. All this was getting me excited, in anticipation, and Deep Throat worked the audience. Before he played the Chaconne, from Partita 1004 in D-minor, recorded by Arthur Grumio, Deep Throat teased us, explaining that a Chaconne is like a Passacaglia, utilizing harmonic variations, except that it uses needs a continuo and the Passacaglia uses an ostinato. I was dying. But then he played it, followed by the Firrucio Busone piano transcript from 1987, popular but ordinary, and broke out the Brahms' earlier, 1878 Study for piano, left hand only, played by - you guessed right - Leon Fleischer. Fleischer, the musical director of Tanglewood, lost the use of his right hand twenty years ago. Now we know of it as ergo???, Glen Gould had it too, but Fleischer pulled out, an in the 1995 Tanglewood season he was the surprise guest, playing two-handed piano , at the Seiji Ozawa-Yo Yo Ma anniversary performance. The Brahms was the more sensitive transcription, despite Busoni's popularity. I know there is a also a Andres Segovia guitar version, which did not get mentioned.

I'd die listening to J.S. Bach, but not the oeuvre. Pasacaglia and Fugue in , xxx. P.D. Q. Bach, otherwise known a xx, has it down. But this is not a paean of Bach, it is about Public Radio, to which we listen while traveling cross- Northeast. New York to Boston, Boston to Cape Cod, we move from station to station as we travel through the short range of FM transmitters. WGBH in Boston is a key station.

While within the WAMC area, we find out the true range of Prof Allen Chartock of SUNY New Paltz, whom New Yorkers remember of from the weekly dialogue program with Governor Mario Cuomo, who when cornered gave as much as he got, accusing Allen, a Massachusentsian, of having no right to talk New York politics. It was a good act, and the sensible Carl McCall interviews do not replace the fun. Allen ia a WAMC power, seemingly in charge of the Environment and Govenment programming too. Doesn't he ever sleep?

Wally has found out since that Deep Throat is Robert G. Lurtsema of WGBH, Public Radio station in Boston And Chartock is not infallible - during the pre- 4th of July period he chortled that the threat of missed vacations (recess is end June to January, except for committee chairs and an occasional recall by the Gov) would be the only thing that would force the legislators to complete the budget. But he was wrong - the legislators took, the holiday, left the staff memners to dicker on the remaining details, and came back in July to pass the law. School districts are really hurting, they had to borrow money for expenses, and my local school board in Columbia County, in sheer frustration, voted to bill the Gov $8,000, the interest it cost them.

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Member items are based on a complex formula, which involves seniority and delegation decisions. Thus Manh del may decide to put in extra money for an AIDS facility by giving it to the member in whose distr it resides. Not quite parochial. Discret funds. Cheese Museum .Steve fully funded the Citizens United Against Riverwalk. Sm amount may be crucial for a

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