By FRANK BEHRENS
It had to happen some day. After living up a hill two and half miles from the center of Keene, NH, we have decided to move into town and spend our Medicare years saving gas and possibly losing some pounds by walking to almost every place we need to go.
So a month and a half before the closing date, I began to haul cardboard cartons into my basement to begin to pack. Now, I must make one thing clear. The sight of a wall not covered by a book or CD case in my present home is rare indeed. In estimating the insurable value of my CDs alone, I had to measure them by the foot, estimate how many discs there are to a foot, estimate the average resale value as well as the original cost of those discs, and then put a price on them. Then repeat the above with my DVDs.
But alas, getting them all into cartons, labeling each one to determine for which room it is destined, is quite another matter. So the question arises, “MUST they all go?” That means weeding out (1) what is in bad enough shape simply to throw out and (2) which ones can I spare and donate to the Friends of the Keene Public Library book sale?
When it comes to novels, I don’t think I will ever really read all those Perry Mason paperbacks, but I certainly will reread my Agatha Christies. And so on. But when it comes to my collection of books about music, my heart breaks to part with a single one. Given a desert island choice, I would certainly opt for my 20-volume The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, which I picked up at that same library sale for $20.
Do I need five books about George Gershwin, five about Jerome Kern, six about Richard Rodgers, some with Hammerstein, some with Hart? Of course not. But which ones do I get rid of? Each contains something I MIGHT conceivably perhaps need for a talk—if I live to be 500. I’ll take them all so there will be no regrets.
And is it vital to keep all the Penguin and Grammophon Guides from 1975 up to this year’s edition? Well, I tell myself, with all the reissuing of older recordings onto new CDs by all the major labels, it would be nice to read the original reviews.
As for recordings, aye, there’s the rub. As I wondered in a past essay for this journal, do I REALLY need all those “Carmen” sets? Well, the one in Italian is a novelty. I never play it, but it is nice to know it is there. Then the 1950 recording with the Opera Comique is doubtless the most authentic and has an all-French cast. Actually, the 1911 recording with dialogue on the Marston label, taken from Pathe cylinders, is indispensable. (Just why, I could not say.)
And Troyanos is so good in the Solti version, and Beecham conducts a great recording with Victoria de los Angeles on EMI. Well, maybe the one with Callas can go to give me a two-inch savings in space.
And then there are the six “La Boheme” sets, not to mention the duplications of “La Traviata” and “The Barber of Seville.” Four “Mefistofele” sets? Then, what about operas of which I have only one version (“Oberon,” for example) but never play? A clear case of having for the sake of having. Or more optimistically, a case of “some day a friend will ask to borrow it for some good reason.” Like, yeah.
It gets worse in the symphonic department. Do I really want to pack the complete symphonies of Boccherini? Every single Sousa march? Every single short piece written by Johann Strauss, Jr (on 10 CDs) and every note of piano music written by Grieg (on even more than 10 CDs)? Well, I DO like Grieg and seldom play Strauss.
As for the DVDs, that is another problem. As I have said in past articles, so many productions of opera from Europe are of the “director-as-destroyer” type (the male chorus of “Un Ballo in Maschera” discovered on toilets reading the Wall Street Journal being my favorite), that I keep them only to use as examples of how NOT to stage an opera. But are they worth packing and moving? If they are that bad, do I want my library to have them for the innocent to take out?
Sigh. By the time this article appears, I will have made all my decisions. However, I would really like to know if others have gone through this agony when they moved. (And what did they do with all those cartons?)