Commonplace Book: Dinu Lipatti’s last concert

Today, an excerpt From Paul Bailey’s quiet, moving and beautifully controlled novel Uncle Rudolf. The narrator recollects being taken to a life-changing concert the pianist Dinu Lipatti. (The uncle in question, a fellow Romanian, is a successful tenor in light music, and rueful for an operatic career that never quite arrived.)


It was no spectre who began to play Bach’s First Partita. The apparition became on the instant radiantly animated. Were we aware of the perseverance, and superhuman fortitude, that propelled him that September afternoon? If we were, that would have been our sentimental illusion, since his undoubted fortitude was kept hidden by the pianist behind a necessary mask of civility. It was afterwards – after we had listened in coughless silence to the Mozart Sonata in A minor, two Schubert sonatas and a captivating string of Chopin waltzes – that we realized what an Olympian event we had been privileged to attend. We had not been watching a showman display his skills, nothing so predictable or commonplace. Lipatti was above display and superficial cleverness. He had played for us exactly what the composers had intended us to hear.

Uncle Rudolf was too moved to speak, and so was I. In the years to come, he would often refer to the miracle that had taken place in Besançon, for Lipatti never performed again in public, and died on the second of December that same year.

Lipatti is, at least to music lovers of a certain age, a cult figure of the piano–a transcendent talent, who died young, and left recordings that like Callas’s are instantly recognizable, The word NYTimes critic Harold Schonberg used to sum up his playing was virility, but an aristocratic virility, not brawn rather a strength in reserve inbued with sovereign elegance.

Uncle Rudolf and his nephew are not wrong…and Paul Bailey has written an unusual thing, a novel about a life in music that has a sotto voce ring of truth. (Perhaps because it is shot through with regret…)

Surprising Words: Gawker Unionizing?

Although it would seem to be the most post-modern/neo-liberal company ever (based as it is on the intersection of gossip and metadata), it appears that the writers at Gawker are trying to kick it old school and unionize.

The New York Observer has the story.

Gawker Staffers Trying to Unionize

“Gawker’s editorial employees are attempting to start a union, writer Hamilton Nolan announced in a post this afternoon. If the efforts prove successful, according to Mr. Nolan, it would make Gawker Media the first major online media company to organize.”

I have no idea if it will work–odds would seem long, but if there is an online ‘working class’ that would benefit from organizing, it probably does include writers and content people as well as those in things like the Amazon Mechanical Turk labor force. Unlike software developers, who in my experience have a fairly intense distaste for organized anything, writers feel put upon (‘because we are’ says a little voice in my head), and although it’s like herding cats, can see some value in coming together.

So stay tuned, like the meltdowns at “First Look” all of this will unfold in real time on the web, with the principals  tweeting copiously about it: and Gawker might find itself Gawked at.


One of the fathers of the American Labor Movement, Samuel Gompers. He may be smiling  at Gawker’s editorial workers’ fight to organize. Gawker readers, on the other hand, will probably be staring at the abs on that guy on the right and thinking about, um, pilates, that’s it. Courtesy of AgnosticPreachersKid at en.wikipedia.


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