Richard Einhorn: Yesterday Is Not Today

Making Recordings

FRANK J. OTERI: I want you to put on another one of your hats now. For many years, you were a very successful record producer and making records is, in a way, making something timeless that prior to the twentieth century was ephemeral. How did making recordings of people like Meredith Monk and Yo Yo Ma affect you creatively and affect your ideas about making music?

RICHARD EINHORN: Until I worked with some of the virtuosos I’ve worked with, I had no idea what was possible. And then there came kind of an epiphany, which is kind of an arrogant thing, but I was doing this recording of Karl Maria von Weber sonatas, and Jean-Pierre Rampal was playing flute and, you know, he’s a really good flute player and that’s really awful music. And I was sitting there listening, following the score, you know, listening to him perform and I said, "You know, I could write music much better than this." And I realized that then I had to quit because I’m so mad that they would be recording Weber rather than my own flute sonatas. I still think that. I still think Weber is a terrible composer. But I think that, that was the other thing, I didn’t know anything about nineteenth-century music. I had managed in my background to know a lot about twentieth-century music and eighteenth-century and before, but I didn’t know how many violin concertos Tchaikovsky had written or Beethoven or Brahms and, or how many piano concertos anyone had written and I didn’t really care that much, so suddenly here I was suddenly thrust into this whole thing. And I suppose it got me interested a little bit in the repertory, but not that much and oddly enough I now listen, it’s like I was reading Jan Swafford’s book about Brahms and said "Geez, I better get out the old Brahms records." And very little of it I find connects to me. Some of it just blows me away, but a lot of what she gets very excited about I’d rather be listening elsewhere.

FRANK J. OTERI: Well, it’s weird, you know in a way, to kind of come full circle. I think some of that’s the ghost of Schoenberg. I think we’ve yet to come to terms as composers with the nineteenth century. We’re still trying to run away from it like Schoenberg did. And it looms over us because it’s the period that is still the most popular among people who run orchestras and what they say audiences like. You can’t really listen to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony without making all of these other associations, but it’s a pretty good piece of music.

RICHARD EINHORN: Yes. It’s a really good piece of music. But no, I don’t think so. I just don’t like it. I don’t like the sound. It has to do with the sound quality of it and also the attitude. You know I hear Brahms working through his psychological problems, but frankly, I really don’t care. I mean, I feel for him, don’t get me wrong. I’m an empathetic guy, but I mean, you know, it’s not really what I come to music for. I think there’s more emotional truth in Bach or something else.

FRANK J. OTERI: Have you heard the period instrument recordings of Schubert?

RICHARD EINHORN: I’ve heard Elly Ameling do something, The Shepherd and the Rock, but I am sure that was an early, early instrument recording.

FRANK J. OTERI: I have done a 180 on Schubert since period instrument recordings came out.

RICHARD EINHORN: Really?

FRANK J. OTERI: It’s fantastic. I couldn’t listen to that music when I was in college, but it’s wonderful to hear a group like the Hanover Band do the Fourth Symphony or to hear the impromptus on a fortepiano.