I grew up in a home where classical music was pretty much the only music played–except for Edith Piaf, Yves Montand (my mother had a crush), and Harry Belafonte.

I was raised not so much on opera (although my mother had a particular fondness for soprano Victoria de los Angeles, and certainly for many Italian and French operas.)

Sadly, in our household there was a lack of German opera recordings (although my mother did have some Lieder recordings).

This was likely due to my mother’s first-hand experiences in Europe after World War II. She lived in Paris during this period and worked with an organization that helped with the resettlement of Jewish refugees. In her work, she saw first-hand the tragedy and ravages of the war.

Sadly, this experience also gave her an unfortunate dislike of Germany – and she, like some others who lived through this period, refused to listen to quite a bit of German music.

Oddly, she kept the famous Debussy recordings of pianist Walter Gieseking, a known Nazi collaborator (perhaps because he was born in France.)

In any case, I came to German opera and conductors and other musicians on my own, much later, and when I was in conservatory.

Piano and string recordings were “king” in our home and I grew up on a steady diet of Heifetz, Piatigorsky, Horowitz, Josef Lhevinne, Schnabel, Rachmaninoff, Novaes, and lots of Russians such as Richter, Gilels, Oistrakh and many, many others.

Orchestral recordings that were part of my parents’ collection included a good deal of Toscanini, Szell, Reiner, Cluytens, Ansermet, Sir Adrian Boult, Horenstein, and others (memory is kind of foggy here…)

I began playing piano at a very young age and making up my own music. While I do not want to “age myself” — yes, it’s vanity, but this was the first music I heard as a VERY young child:


I was already in bed, and I would hear it from my bedroom as my parents finished off listening to the evening news. The Scherzo of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony was something I heard every night from my bedroom.

I knew it was the end of the evening for my parents, and I always felt a bit scared that I knew the house would be silent after it was over.

Paula Mlyn, Co-founder, A440 Arts Group. Feline caregiver.