Not long ago, I was talking about nationality, and how names can fool you. I related a memory: When I was a kid, I assumed that John Ireland, the composer, had been Irish. Come to find out, he was English (and of Scottish descent). Though Anatole France, rest assured, was French.

Today, other than the hymn My Song is Love Unknown and the anthem Greater Love Hath No Man, which may be familiar to churchgoers, John Ireland is known for one piece, basically: his song Sea Fever, a setting of the poem of John Masefield. After talking about nationality and so on, I went to YouTube, looking for Sea Fever. My eyes fell on something else by Ireland: Decorations, a suite of three pieces for piano. They are fine, Impressionistic pieces, and they deserve to be programmed.

Is YouTube the greatest invention since the wheel? I suppose you would have to say the internet is, for YouTube is part of the internet. But YouTube, to me, stands out.

I had never known about Decorations. I do now – and I have YouTube to thank.

Is YouTube the greatest invention since the wheel? I suppose you would have to say the internet is, for YouTube is part of the internet. But YouTube, to me, stands out.

I was making a trip to Norway. Before setting out, I wanted to listen to some Grieg. So I went to YouTube and my eyes fell on the Holberg Suite, in a piano version. (Usually, you hear this suite in its chamber-orchestra version.) The pianist was Maria Grinberg – and from the first notes, it was clear that she was an intelligent and dynamic pianist. Where had she been all my life?

She was a Russian pianist, living from 1908 to 1978. She was almost never allowed out to the West, and she was kept under a bushel at home, being out of favour with the authorities. But she lives on in YouTube. I wrote an article about her, borrowing my title from Broadway: “I Just Met a Girl Named Maria.” I received a note from a Russian arts journalist, who said: “Thank you! My piano teacher, who worshiped Grinberg, took me to the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory for a recital of the great lady’s.” The journalist will never forget Grinberg, and neither will I, now that I know her.

For weeks, I binged on Grinberg. Once I asked Riccardo Muti, the Italian conductor, “Do you ever go on YouTube binges?” “No,” he said, somewhat uncomprehending. But YouTube binges are among the healthier binges that people engage in.

The other week, I went to a Schubertiade, ie, a concert whose programme offered various pieces by Schubert. The first one was the Fantasy in F minor, for piano duet. Later, I wanted to check a few things in it, so I went to YouTube. There were many, many recordings on offer. One of them was by James Levine and Evgeny Kissin, live in Carnegie Hall.

I attended that concert, actually, and reviewed it. It was only in 2005. And the concert was turned into an album. Under the Fantasy in F minor, on YouTube, there were many comments. The first of them said, “I grew up with this CD.” “Grew up with”? That’s the sort of thing I might say about, for example, Wilhelm Kempff! But everyone has to start some time.

I tend to use YouTube for the musical, but, of course, there are worlds of other material. In July, President Trump declared a certain week “Made in America Week.” I was writing about it and had a memory: years before, on television, there was another Made in America campaign, starring such celebrities as Bob Hope. I went to YouTube, and there it was: the very ad I had remembered. (The year was 1985.)

Furthermore, I remembered an ad in which people sang, “Look for the union label,” a song urging solidarity with organised labour. New words went with Jerome Kern’s old tune, Look for the Silver Lining. Anyway, I flicked my fingers: and there was the ad, on YouTube (1981).

What else can YouTube throw up? Well, I was thinking of Alicia de Larrocha, the late pianist, and in particular her playing of Rachmaninoff. She recorded very little of that composer. But I remembered hearing her play a group of preludes in my hometown of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Do you know that YouTube had them? Not all of them, but two of the preludes from that very recital? Yes, on October 18 1976.

Once I asked Riccardo Muti, the Italian conductor, “Do you ever go on YouTube binges?” “No,” he said, somewhat uncomprehending. But YouTube binges are among the healthier binges that people engage in.

I was 12 years old. And the playing, I’m glad to report, was exactly as I had remembered.

But YouTube can contradict memory. Two of my favorite comedians when I was growing up were Jonathan Winters and Richard Pryor. I thought they were brilliantly funny. A couple of years ago, I YouTubed them: not so funny. It could be that I have changed, or that comedy doesn’t age well, or both.

Allow me a final YouTube story – a final testimony, so to speak. I have just read Harvey Sachs’s new biography of Arturo Toscanini, and he mentions a collaboration between Dame Myra Hess and Maestro Toscanini in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto in C minor. I had never known, or had forgotten, that Hess and Toscanini performed together. I went to YouTube. In about 1.5 seconds, I had Hess, Toscanini, and Beethoven, from December 1946.

I don’t take it for granted, this Alexandrian library of sight and sound. Yet I have become accustomed to it. It is professionally helpful, personally satisfying, world-opening—and binge-worthy.