Teresa Sterne: guiding genius of Nonesuch Records when it took flight entered my life when Arbiter first started, around 1995. She was a mentor who adamantly did her utmost to help me become civilized and insisted I tune in to Mark Twain’s The Mysterious Stranger. Twain had been a mentor to her since she grew up during the Depression in Borough Park, Brooklyn and found affordable editions of his works at a nearby grocery store. This precedent followed her as she developed an inexpensive and extraordinary record label to document the finest new music of all times, remarkble pre-20th century repertoire, revive Scott Joplin (looming behind her in the photo); she elevated World Music out of its shlock status of the International bin.
Our friendship continued until her life’s premature end. Some time before she took ill, Tracey handed over a cassette from an Italian radio program, saying it was just too much for words. A first listening found an accented dissecting of the Lennon-McCartney song Dear Prudence abetted by a pianist:
It struck me that something sublimely ironic was at play and perhaps more would emerge, but anyway I kept quiet, sitting back and enjoying time’s passing, eventually seeing the flow of this genre morph into shreds:
One wondered, just who was this mysterious singer?
Italianizing Liverpudlians just like her Roman ancestors spread their architecture, law, and style throughout an expanding empire, her bio depicts a champion of avant-garde music, opera, one whose life was cut short in 1991 at age forty-nine: Alide Maria Salvetta. And her pianist was Antonio Ballista, noted colleague of Ennio Morricone and an accomplished musician of many genres.
Tracey may have cried Uncle by the time this cassette hit mid-point but taking it home, a surprise came up in the last minutes when an RAI announcer stated that Ms. Salvetta, in the shoes of a singer, would now put on a pianist’s shoes to play a duo version of Back in the USSR.
My deep regret is that Robert Ashley didn’t get his hands on Salvetta to sing his texts and collide with his keyboard wizard Blue Gene Tyranny.