I only learned recently that Michael Ponti died in October, at 84. He was a high school hero of mine, raising unknown composers like Alkan, Henselt, Liaponov and countless others up from the ashes of history’s neglect, while also storming through complete works of Rachmaninoff, Scriabin, and others. I don’t know his discography off the top of my head but it was formidable. The sound quality could be pretty bad, and the album cover art could look like some found object from a thrift shop. But the energy was like no other, with pioneering exploration of unknown repertoire rivaled perhaps most closely by John Ogdon.

I don’t know if I still have those Vox and Candide label albums of Ponti’s. I don’t think I ever digitized them, which would be an odd oversight if the albums are still in my possession. I find but one album of his on Usenet.

Ponti’s passing is a tad personal for me. I was friends with Don Garvelmann for many years until his death. As a lead boss in New York’s Piano Mafia Don was, of course, familiar with Ponti’s work, and more than that the two were friends. On account of this I got to meet that high school hero either before or after a concert he did at Fordham University. I think it was in a hotel room but that detail is lost.

Garvelmann, as I recall, authored many of the liner notes for Ponti’s records. I happened to be with Don at the Walter Reade Theater when he took word from another pianist that Ponti had suffered a horrible stroke. Don was shaken by the news.

To be honest, I thought Ponti had died not long after the stroke. I was unaware he still stayed active at the piano, with left-hand-only repertoire, all the way into his 80s. After Don died I lost track of a lot of the world of pianists and the concert scene.

He got suitable writeups in Gramophone and in the latest issue of International Piano, where I first read the news. An admittedly cursory search turned up scant if any mention in social media, and not a peep from the Times.

He was larger than life. Brash, loud, even coarse at times. I’m not going to lie: he left me not wanting to know more about the person. That’s fine. I don’t expect heroes to be angels. But meeting Ponti was something of a bucket list item for me, to spend an evening with the guy whose records spun so many hours on my turntables.