Thursday, 2 June 2011

Thin blooded and mad as a hatter.

Not the pianist Leslie Howard, the other one.

Galloping down to London to meet my radio producer, Elizabeth, but before then, taking furious thought on questions, forms, narratives in advance of the programme that is scheduled for October. Today it is Simon Broughton. In Hungary we will interview the virtuoso violinist Roby Lakatos, the band Parno Graszt and the singer Márta Sebestyén, but first an interview next week with the Australian pianist Leslie Howard, a Liszt specialist.

The name Leslie Howard takes me back to the wartime film actor of that name, one of the suavest of Englishmen you'd think, but his father was Hungarian and he himself was really Leslie Howard Steiner. Killed when his aircraft was shot down in 1943. As the whole world knows, rub an Englishman hard enough and a Hungarian appears under the sheen.

A good friend who has just returned to America laments the immediate loss of contact with English friends, to whom out of sight, out of mind, seems to be an immediate and permanent condition. My parents used to say the English had thin blood (they were híg vérű) and I supposed that in the long run this proved to be a difficulty for them since all their friends in the end were Hungarian emigrés like themselves (my mother's 'end' was considerably sooner than my father's). Yes, I reply to my friend, but then there is a furious, mad-as-a-hatter side too, that I rather like, or at least I like intimations of it. Furious diffidence. It's not a working class trait, of course, it's an educated middle and perhaps upper class trait. One behaves in acceptable ways. One knows when to keep one's distance. One also knows when to blast the buggers out. And, at almost the same time, an infinite gentleness that wouldn't harm a hair, a kind of sensitivity that forbids overt self-promotion. I rather like that too.

Life will be different with Parno Graszt.

There is more of them on YouTube

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