The Army needed engineers and after basic training I was sent to Lehigh University to study engineering. Lehigh University was a short ride from New York City and weekends were spent in Manhattan.
I spent Saturday afternoons listening to the New York Philharmonic under a new young conductor, Leonard Bernstein. Evenings were at jazz joints: The Village Gate and uptown on 52d Street where Roy Eldridge was debuting.
My family had implanted music as a necessity.
Once back at Lehigh I cut classes and went to the record collection. I wasn’t sure I would survive the war. I wanted my dead brain stuffed with the best music I could find.
I learned seven Beethoven and four Brahms symphonies. I also memorized the Beethoven Violin Concerto with Jascha Heifitz as violinist. At the time the records turned at seventy-eight revolutions per minute. There were perhaps six minutes on each side. What I learned, and didn’t know I had learned, was the exact time a record would stop, drop, and be replaced.
On one of my weekends in New York I saw that Albert Spalding, the renowned violinist, would play the Beethoven Concerto at Carnegie Hall.
I bought a ticket. There would be no pause in the music, no clank as the records dropped. I should have heard the violin concerto in concert glory, instead of the scratchy records that dropped in the Lehigh listening room. It should have been wonderful.
Except that Albert Spalding, tall, slim, grey and elegant in a full dress suit, was a dud.
The tempi were off, his arpeggios and cadenza were inelegant, and I went back to Lehigh and the 78 records, drop noise and all. Heifitz interrupted by clanks every three minutes was far more moving than Spalding, moving uninterrupted.
Jascha Heifitz, Beethoven Violin Concerto in D Major op 61, Off the Record