Books by David Blum

QUINTET by David Blum
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Jan. 1, 2000

Inspired by an interviewer trusted as a confidant, five world-class musicians help him sketch engrossing self-portraits. Orchestra founder Blum (Casals and the Art of Interpretation, not reviewed) knows that "a person with artistic gifts will usually develop in one of two ways: as an artist at the expense of others, or as a human being at the expense of art." Yet his forthcoming subjects reveal how, despite diverse trials, they avoided either trap. Soprano Birgit Nilsson overcame voice-damaging instructors. Cellist Yo-Yo Ma, son of traditional Chinese parents, had to tame his own Americanized teenage wildness. Russian- born violinist Josef Gingold, longtime Cleveland Orchestra concertmaster, writhed under cruelty as an immigrant boy. Pianist Richard Goode, celebrated for his Schubert and Beethoven, still wrestles with dire stage fright. Jeffrey Tate, certified as a doctor, turned full-time conductor only after pain from his deformed spine acted like a "refiner's fire." As these highly accomplished performers reflect unpretentiously on their core musical experiences, Blum weaves in commentary from colleagues and partners, cherishing the incidental humanizing touch: Goode heading for a campus concert, a bag of books and scores on his back, still the student; devoted teacher Gingold's "jealous mistress" of a violin challenging him each morning: —I dare you"; Nilsson, known for her aquavit wit, pausing at the local churchyard to water her parents' grave. Striving to cast sound into words, and laud towering talents without fawning, Blum occasionally turns grandiloquent, but he never obstructs our view as his sitters answer what must have been prescient questions with fluent candor. The author's illness precluded updating these previously published heroes' tales before his 1996 death; this memorial would have benefited from a current discography. As good writers about art should, Blum sends the reader back to the works afresh'seeking these five interpreters as mentors. (5 b&w photos) Read full book review >
NONFICTION
Released: Nov. 1, 1992

To all those who dream of opening a restaurant, this uninspired account of an uninspired and unsuccessful enterprise offers little comfort. Both of the partners in The Falls, which opened in downtown Manhattan in March 1990 and closed 14 months later, were veterans of separate restaurant ventures, and they assembled a handful of semi-famous investors, most notably actor Matt Dillon, who attracted some celebrity-watchers and raised hopes that the place would be ``hot'' (a favorite term of the restaurant team and their seemingly like-minded chronicler). But neither the owners nor the models who got free meals and drinks in return for their miniskirted presence could make up for the ``comps'' (free fare) one partner handed out to his many friends; the manager-partner's skimming from the till; the scaffolding over the door; the chaotic service; the probable small miscalculations in menu-planning and plate-selection and whatever; the mysterious chemistry of N.Y.C. night life; and, to judge from the evidence herein, the general absence of vision. For a while, the place was packed; by the end, it was understandably empty. Blum, a free-lance journalist (The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, etc.), hung out during the planning and life span of the project and here reports on day-to-day trials and conversations in short sentences and one-dimensional thoughts. The overall impression is of a superficial scene, a senseless business, and shallow participants. Blum, though properly impartial, shows no evidence of either deeper thought or the wit needed to make the story sparkle. Read full book review >