At the corner of Rachmaninoff and Poe, NYC

Rachmaninoff
He composed nice stuff. Sad, introspective, gorgeous, difficult...all that.  It was and is "date music" - if of course you can convince the poor girl that you aren't a complete nerd before you spring early 20th century Russian symphonic music on her as the creme de le creme of the evening.  Rachmaninoff was a man of melody; beautifully spun tales with no words necessary.  It was always as his pen was dipped directly into thoughts and extracted and placed on paper as notes with no words needed.

Rachmaninoff left Russia at the time of the revolution, went on to Stockholm (I visited the apartment when I lived there) and then to New York City, taking up residence at 505 West End Avenue. Now starts out tale.


It is/was a smallish apartment made even smaller by a Steinway grand piano given to him by Steinway and Sons.  As curiosity would have it, I had some chamber music rehearsals in that very building with a Steinway which permitted no room for nearly anything else.  During one of our breaks I went around the corner to Edgar's Cafe (now closed). I went north to the corner and turned east on 84th, now Edgar Allan Poe Street and up the grade toward Broadway.
Edgar's

Edgar's was a quiet, perhaps sullen, place that smelled of decades of spilled whiskey and spill ink.  It stood about where Poe took up residence in 1844. You see, Poe had quite the drinking problem that cost him much of his livelihood.  His wife was long suffering at this point and his move from the writers haven of Washington Square to the rurals of Bloomingdale New York (which was what this section of the upper West Side was named) for her condition of consumption (tuberculosis) plus his poor financial condition, this was to be something of a tonic.  It is said he finished "The Raven" in this residence which may or may not be true but Poe was a man of words, careful, selected words that, with each dip of the pen, were scrawled out in perfectly descriptive etchings.  Here are the tales published in that fateful year of 1844:

A more accurate picture of the Poe residence was taken in 1888:

The steps lead down to 84th Street and we note the slope up toward Broadway, same that was noticed 45 years ago coming out of Rachmaninoff's apartment building and turning east on 84th.

Rachmaninoff wrote a piece for "high voice" in 1915 about the time of his exile from Russia and it was called "Vocalise" (song with no words).   It is really nice and pleasant and short..but you can get your feet wet.  It also seems appropriate for this little tale of Poe and the neighborhood where these two remarkable talents found refuge. One pen to ink to words, the other to notes. I think they still have a whiskey at Edgar's now and again.




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