The Sicilian-Austro-Hungarian-Romanian-Bucovinian stateless writer Gregor von Rezzori (1914-1998) never played an instrument. He knew Herbert von Karajan in Vienna during the 1930s, was close to the first wife of pianist Alexander Brailowsky who committed suicide, he mentioned, and had planned to write a memoir of the psychologically stressed Mitja Nikisch, son of the remarkable Arthur who led the Berlin Philharmonic, on his last days being ferried about Venezia in a gondola by a loving worshipper as he was abandoning life. Grisha. as he was called by friends, regretted losing his memory of details and couldn’t do justice to the Nikisch episode.
When exploring music and musicians from the time between the two world wars, many accounts simulate the society, taste, aesthetic, but hardly any captured its workings and perspectives with such an array of critique, stinging wit, and revelation as Rezzori did. His extraordinary background included a German tutor who had been Mark Twain’s mistress, work as a screenplay writer and actor with Brigitte Bardot and Jeanne Moreau in Mallé’s film Viva Maria. Rezzori’s novels are set in Berlin, Bucharest, New York, and wherever the action unfolds, his rapier zingers bring all to life. Anyone interested in this period’s culture will find a Virgil in Grisha.
On October 21, 1985, Rezzori was interviewed and read excerpts on WKCR, Columbia University’s formidable radio station (www.wkcr.org). An audio tape survives from the time when The Death of My Brother Abel was released in English:
For further reading, there is a pithy interview for Bomb Magazine:
On our blog, a personal memoir in two parts:
©Allan Evans 2014