Sunday, October 15, 2017

A00006 - William Lombardy, Chess Grandmaster

William J. Lombardy in an undated photograph.CreditUnited States Chess Federation
William J. Lombardy, who was one of the most talented and promising chess players of his generation, winning titles and accolades while he was still a teenager, but who all but gave up the game at the height of his career to become a priest, died on Friday in Martinez, Calif. He was 79.
His son, Raymond, confirmed the death. Mr. Lombardy, who was born in the Bronx and had long lived in New York City, collapsed and died suddenly while staying with a friend in Martinez, his son said. The cause had not been determined.
Mr. Lombardy was the first American to win the World Junior Chess Championship — doing so with a perfect score, a feat that has never been duplicated — and he led the United States to victory over the Soviet Union in the 1960 World Student Team Championship, beating Boris Spassky, the future world champion. He was later named a grandmaster, the World Chess Federation’s highest title.
“His abilities were native, with a natural talent,” Anthony Saidy, an international master who played with Mr. Lombardy on the top American teams in the 1950s and ’60s, told The New York Times in 2016. “He always seemed to drag his matches out so long, getting out of jams until his opponent couldn’t.”
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But he came of age in the shadow of Bobby Fischer, the phenomenon out of Brooklyn six years his junior. Virtually all the sponsorship money and support available for American players went to Mr. Fischer.
Mr. Lombardy, left, at a news conference at the world championship in 1972, with Paul Marshall, center, lawyer for the United States chess team, and Fred Cramer, Bobby Fischer’s representative. CreditAssociated Press
Raymond Lombardy said his father had felt that if Mr. Fischer had not come along, he might have become world champion himself. But Mr. Lombardy was not resentful of Mr. Fischer, with whom Mr. Lombardy had an almost brotherly relationship, the son said. “He was not jealous,” he said.
Mr. Fischer was not the only impediment to an even more successful chess career for Mr. Lombardy, however. Brought up in the Roman Catholic faith, he had a competing interest — his church.
William James Joseph Lombardy was born on Dec. 4, 1937. Though he would be known as Bill in both his personal and professional life, he disliked the name, his son said. His father, Raymond, of Italian heritage, was a supervisor for the Savarin restaurant chain, and his mother, Stella, with Polish roots, was a beautician.
Though both his parents worked, the family struggled to pay the rent living in a less-than-adequate apartment in the Hunts Point section of the Bronx. Bill Lombardy, while attending St. Athanasius School in the Bronx, slept in a room that had little insulation.
“I think we could have stored meat in there — like a refrigerator,” he was quoted as saying in the 1974 book “My Seven Chess Prodigies,” by the renowned American chess coach John W. Collins, who taught Mr. Lombardy informally for many years. (Mr. Fischer was another of his students.)
No one in the Lombardy family played chess, but when Bill was 9, a 10-year-old neighbor, who played the game but who always lost, decided to teach him. The neighbor wanted a sparring partner whom he could beat. In a couple of years, Bill was already showing unusual talent and playing regularly, often in city parks.
He went on to graduate from La Salle Academy, a Catholic school in Lower Manhattan; attended City College for three years; and later enrolled at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers with the intention of becoming a Roman Catholic priest. He was ordained in 1967 by Cardinal Francis Joseph Spellman of New York and remained in the priesthood until the late 1970s.
Most great players start out as tacticians, always looking to attack, before they evolve into strategists, plotting a long-range path to victory from the very first move. Mr. Lombardy was a strategic player, and a good one, from the beginning.
By 14 he was a master, and in 1954 he won the New York State Championship, becoming, at 16, the youngest champion in the state’s history until then.
Two years later he tied for first in the Canadian Open, and in 1957, in Toronto, he won the World Junior Chess Championship with a perfect score of 11 wins, no draws and no losses. “Clearly, he towered over the field,” Mr. Collins wrote.
Mr. Lombardy, pointing, observed chess matches in 2016 at a cafe in Stuyvesant Town, the apartment complex in Manhattan in which he lived at the time. CreditJohn Taggart for The New York Times
In 1960, Mr. Lombardy was the top board for the United States team that competed in the World Student Team Championship in Leningrad — now St. Petersburg — in Russia. It was there that he beat Mr. Spassky while winning a total of 11 games, drawing two and losing none as he led the United States to victory over the heavily favored Soviet team.
It was the only time the United States ever finished ahead of the Soviet Union in any team competition, and it caused a crisis in Soviet chess circles.
Later that year, Mr. Lombardy played in the Chess Olympiad in Leipzig, Germany, and again had an outstanding result, including a draw with Mikhail Botvinnik, the former world champion, who had lost his title several months earlier. (He regained it the following year.)
Mr. Lombardy was named a grandmaster after the Olympiad.
At the 1960-61 United States championship, he finished second to Mr. Fischer, qualifying him for the 1962 Interzonal in Stockholm, the next step on the road to the world championship. But instead of entering the tournament, Mr. Lombardy, by then enrolled at St. Joseph’s Seminary, decided to pursue ordination.
He continued to compete, though intermittently, for the next 20 years. He won or tied for first in the 1963, 1965 and 1975 United States Open Championships, and he played on United States national teams in the 1968, 1970, 1974 and 1976 Chess Olympiads, winning an individual gold medal and three individual silver medals, all as a reserve. But for all intents and purposes, the serious part of his chess career was over.
In 1972, when Mr. Fischer qualified to play a match for the world championship in Reykjavik, Iceland, against Mr. Spassky, the reigning champion, he asked Mr. Lombardy to assist him by analyzing adjourned games. In the Fischer-Spassky event, which became known as the Match of the Century, 14 of the 21 games were adjourned. Mr. Fischer won and was crowned world champion.
Mr. Lombardy eventually left the priesthood, his son said, because he had lost faith in the Catholic Church, which he believed was too concerned with amassing wealth. Soon after, while competing in a tournament in the Netherlands, he met and married a Dutch woman, Louise van Valen, who moved to Manhattan to live with Mr. Lombardy in his two-bedroom apartment at the Stuyvesant Town complex. Mr. Lombardy had moved there in 1977 to help care for his friend and coach Mr. Collins, who died in 2001.
The couple’s son, Raymond, was born in 1984. The marriage ended in divorce in 1992 after Mr. Lombardy’s wife had returned to the Netherlands with their son. Besides the son, Mr. Lombardy is survived by an older sister, Natalie Pekala.
He had been staying with friends since he had fallen on hard times and been evicted from his apartment at Stuyvesant Town for being behind in his rent — an episode that was the subject of an article in The Times in 2016.
Though he was a good student in school, Mr. Lombardy did not like to study chess from books; he preferred to hone his skills through practice. “There is nothing like plenty of experience,” he told Mr. Collins, “doing it on the board, getting your head knocked about a bit, and learning from every win, draw and loss.”

Friday, June 2, 2017

A00005 - Sondra Bianca, Concert Pianist

Sondra Bianca (17 November 1930) is an American born concert pianist and pedagogue who retired early in her career from recording and live performances.[1]


A child prodigy, Bianca first studied with her mother and then with Frank Sheridan at Mannes Music School and Isabella Vergerova at the Curtis Institute of Music. This led to what is documented as an amazing performance as a nine-year-old of a Mozart piano concerto, played from memory, for the New York Philharmonic - which led to her later appearing with said orchestra as a soloist.[2] Her career, therefore, started before the age of ten, at which time she was a soloist with the Schenectady Symphony Orchestra and performed over CBC Radio in their French division.
Later in her career, she performed in Europe with the Hamburg Symphony Orchestra conducted by Hans-Jurgen Walther, the Hamburg Symphony Orchestra conducted by Carl-August Bünte and the New Symphony Society Orchestra conducted by Walter Goehr among others. One of her notable American performances was on January 20, 1955, when she was the guest soloist with the Florida Symphony conducted by Frank Miller. The programme included Andre Bloch's "Concerto No. 1", Liszt's "Concerto in E flat", Glinka's Overture to "Russian and Ludmilla", Handel's "Water Music" and Georges Enesco's "Roumanian Rhapsody No. 1".[3] Another notable performance was the piece Rhapsody 21 for the Century 21 Exposition, conducted by Paul Whiteman. One of the specialties in her repertoire was George Gershwin's "Piano Concerto in F". Due to its ban in Nazi Germany it was unpopular in that country for many years. Recent study has shown that she may have been the first to perform the concerto in that country after the end of World War II.[4]
After retiring from live performances, she continued teaching other young pianists. Due to her early exit from performing, she is regarded as something of a mystery by modern enthusiasts of her surviving recordings.

Pseudonym recordings[edit]

For reasons unclear, her recordings were released on various budget record labels under a handful of pseudonyms. Some of these names include: Albert Cohen, Karl Bernhard, Frederick Antenelli and Suzanne Auber.

Partial discography[edit]

Friday, May 19, 2017

A00004 - Kjell Baekkelund, Norwegian classical pianist

Kjell Bækkelund (6 May 1930 – 13 May 2004) was a Norwegian classical pianist, born in Oslo. He was known as a child prodigy.
Bækkelund made his debut with the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra at the age of eight. His final years of study took place at Stockholm, with Professor Boon, and at Vienna, with Professor Seidlhofer. In 1953 Bækkelund won first prize in the first Scandinavian Musicians' Festival held at Trondheim; and in London the same year, he was awarded the Harriet Cohen Medal as "the finest pianist of the year".

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

A00003 - Orion Perseus Howe, Teenage Medal of Honor Recipient

Orion Perseus Howe (December 29, 1848 – January 27, 1930) was among the youngest recipients of the Medal of Honor for his service in the American Civil War as a Union drummer boy. He was awarded the medal on April 23, 1896.[1]


Howe was born in 1848 in Portage County, Ohio but after his mother died in 1852, the family moved to Waukegan, Illinois.[1] Howe left his home—accompanied by his younger brother, Lyston Druett Howe—when he was 12 to serve in the 55th Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment.[2]
Howe and his brother both served as musicians in the same regiment where their father William, a Mexican–American War veteran, was the regimental band leader.[1][2] He was awarded the Medal of Honor for remaining upon the field of battle until he had reported to General William Tecumseh Sherman the necessity of supplying cartridges for the use of troops under command of Colonel Oscar Malmborg on May 19, 1863.[3] However, Malmborg had ordered Howe to fetch the wrong caliber of cartridge—.54 caliber instead of the needed .58 caliber.[2] Howe was one of several men who volunteered to complete this task; while the others were killed, Howe was seriously wounded, and it took several months for him to recover.[4] On December 25, 1863 Howe reenlisted in the same regiment, being discharged as a corporal on November 30, 1864, and taking part in 14 battles.[1][5]
A historian wrote of Howe: "We could see him nearly all the way . . . he ran through what seemed a hailstorm of canister and musket-balls, each throwing up its little puff of dust when it struck the dry hillside. Suddenly he dropped and hearts sank, but he had only tripped. Often he stumbled, sometimes he fell prostrate, but was quickly up again and he finally disappeared from us, limping over the summit and the 55th saw him no more for several months."[2]
General Sherman wrote to Secretary of State Edwin M. Stanton about Howe, and for his bravery President Abraham Lincoln appointed him to the United States Naval Academy in July 1865 because he was too young for West Point.[2][5] Howe reportedly graduated from the Naval Academy Class of 1870;[6][7] however, General Sherman noted that Howe could not graduate.[8] He later graduated from the New York University dental school.[5] Howe settled in Springfield, Missouri, where he died and was buried in the Springfield National Cemetery.[1]

Medal of Honor citation[edit]

Rank and organization: Musician, Company C, 55th Illinois Infantry. Place and date: At Vicksburg, Miss., May 19, 1863. Entered service at: Woken(should be - Waukegan), Ill. Birth: Portage County, Ohio.
In 1982 the Waukegan, IL National Guard Armory was renamed in his honor. The 933rd Military Police Company currently drills there.[9] Citation:
A drummer boy, 14 years of age, and severely wounded and exposed to a heavy fire from the enemy, he persistently remained upon the field of battle until he had reported to Gen. W. T. Sherman the necessity of supplying cartridges for the use of troops under command of Colonel Malmborg.[10]