Thursday, September 27, 2007

"Bist du bei mir"

WQXR 96.3 FM in New York City will play Albert's version of "Bis du bei mir" from his "Bach for Harpsichord" CD today at 12:40 p.m. They will program additional performances by Albert Friday in the late afternoon. (Thank you Hester Furman.) For an MP3 of the broadcast, click here.

This is from Albert's program notes:

"The group closes with another prayer, one for companionship at the end. This prayer, Bist du bei mir, was sung by Hugues
Cuenod countless times in concerts that he and I gave together. In remembrance of those magical times when I accompanied him, varying my figured-bass realization as we improvised together, I have made a transcription of this vocal work for harpsichord alone. In it are gathered the feelings of melodic and accompanimental spontaneity that Hughie and I enjoyed, along with some of the tender feelings that guided us along our way." --- Albert Fuller

Recorded: 20-22 April 1992, The Presbyterian Church, Rye, NY
Harpsichord: Thomas & Barbara Wolf

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

I've added two important tributes to the Albert Fuller site.

For the article by musicologist, David Fuller, click here.

For a letter by pianist Graham Johnson to Albert's friend, the tenor Robert White, click here.

If you would like to add a tribute or picture or other item, please send it to

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Albert Fuller, Conductor and Champion of Early Music, Dies at 81 --- Allan Kozinn, New York Times

I give my 100th blog posting to a guest author, Allan Kozinn, whose sensitive obituary appears in today's New York Times. Many of us around the country and around the world, stayed up tonight to read it the moment it was published online.

I thank Mr. Kozinn for writing such an important, insightful, and nuanced tribute. Please read it here.

The New York Sun obituary is here.

The Juilliard School's notice in the Times is here.

The Helicon Foundation's notice in the Times is here.

A blog remembrance by a Helicon Member is here. Thanks sohj!

Photo by Christian Steiner

Saturday, September 22, 2007

ALBERT FULLER 7/21/1926 - 9/22/2007

My dearest friend and mentor, Albert Fuller died at home this morning around 10:30. His friend Patrick Rucker was with him and so his last moments were spent being touched by someone he loved and who loved him.

His flame, which shown so brightly and illuminated so much for so many, became a flicker and then quietly and calmly went out. His light, however, remains radiant.

Helicon's notice in the Times.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Joshua R. Marks, "Honest Landscapes, VI"

This summer, while up at Saratoga Springs with the New York City Ballet, I visited the Tang Museum at Skidmore College and was pleased to discover the work of Joshua R. Marks. Joshua is trained as a sculptor and works also in photography. His work deals with perspective, size, vantage point, and plays with the expectations surrounding these elements.

In the Tang exhibition, hung six photographs in large frames made by the artist. The series was titled "Honest Landscapes" and I was immediately drawn to them. The subject of these landscapes, I came to realize, was New York City pavement, shot so close (inches from the ground) that the image could read as either immense or tiny, near or far. Manipulating elements of focus, the artist further affected viewer's perception of perspective. What were we seeing, a mountain or a tiny rock?

Visiting the works over the course of my two-week stay, I came to see that the beautiful, but quizzical frames told their own story. They suggested the interior wall and passenger window of an airplane with perfect details: the sloping concave shape, the color, and especially the representation of the window through which we see the photograph. Not only is the window's shape perfect, but there are two panes of glass (plexi, actually) with that tiny pinprick one finds near the bottom of such windows. The illusion is masterful without being over-done. In fact, the sculptural elements are in many ways, more realistic than the image contained within. The "Honest Landscapes" exist both as sculptures and photographs, blurring perspective, size, and proximity, in a conceptual whirl. What would it mean to look out a airplane window and see mountains rising—at once tiny and enormous—only inches above the Brooklyn pavement? In these works, Marks combined visual beauty with technical polish and conceptual slight-of-hand, even the title plays into the conceit. By accreting layers of illusion, he created six very strong works.

I contacted the artist to find out whether the works might be available. They were, and the process of choosing between the six was exciting. I even involved my parents in the process on their visit to Saratoga for my 40th birthday. It was a sight, the three of us, rushing around the exhibition, comparing, looking, talking about the works. Though I had to choose but one, I could imagine a space where all six might be shown in a row, taking the airplane window illusion to new heights. (Any collectors with big spaces reading this?)

I chose the sixth in the series, and when the Tang show ended, I paid a visit to Joshua's studio in Brooklyn. His wife was there assisting, and we three spent the better part of an afternoon talking and looking at Joshua's work. Totally delightful. They even drove me back to Manhattan with my new piece, talking about opera most of the way back.

I've tried to photograph the work to show its frame. I'm not sure I've succeeded, but I hope you get an idea.

Joshua R. Marks
"Honest Landscapes VI" 1/10, 2007
Photograph in sculptural frame by artist
Image: 11" x 14.5"
Frame: 34.5" x 29" x 1.5" - 3"
Artist studio, Brooklyn, NY 2007
Exhibited at The Tang Museum, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY, Summer 2007

More: Joshua's work is currently being featured at "Whitney Art Works Gallery" in Portland, Maine.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


The Albert Fuller blog is taking shape, with pictures, stories, lectures, press, writings, and recordings. If you'd like to participate, please send an email to and we'll get you involved.

photo by Christian Steiner

Friday, September 14, 2007

Wolfgang Rihm "Jagden und Formen"

I'm taking a practice break from several hours hard work on some particularly gnarly music: Jagden und Formen by Wolfgang Rihm. In three weeks we start rehearsals for the US premier of this hour-long chamber symphony. The concert is Thursday night, 18 October, as part of Miller Theater's dynamic, "Composer Portraits" series. I'm playing the solo English horn part and, well, it is very difficult. (My neighbors must think I've lost it . . . I began practicing this morning with the poised 1st oboe part to Don Giovanni which I'm playing tomorrow at the NYCO matinee. The post-lunch repertoire is of an entirely different stripe.) I love Rihm's music. His rhetoric is powerful, and utterly persuasive. His mastery of harmony, timbre, and counterpoint keep the ear riveted.

Repetitive practice of the sort I've been doing today, integrates the mind and body, dispersing the music throughout muscles first, and then brain. In fact, the body processes certain material faster than the mind can. Its athletic adeptness beckons the brain to catch up. (Jock to the nerd: "Come on, let's play ball!") Learning to let the mind trust the body is one of the great lessons of practicing.

Below are the first two of an eight-page passage with
the English horn playing the principal line.
It begins one beat before bar 161 and
clips along at eighth note = 144.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Albert Fuller

Writer, violinist, and film-maker, Paul Festa brought together a group of Albert Fuller's former students, to create a blog of Albert's writings, public lectures, and music. I will contribute, as will an international cast of those who, through the years, gathered in his large music room, "The Rendez-vous Lounge." In that space, music—and life—radiated with more intensity than anywhere else, and the most precious thing any of us possessed was our own creativity.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Moab Music Festival

Last year at this time I was playing at the Moab Music Festival, Michael Barrett and Leslie Tompkins' wonderful month of chamber music in one of America's most arresting settings. No oboes this year, so I'm in the pit of the State Theater rather than crossing the Colorado on horseback. But I did wear my Moab hiking shoes today when I walked the two miles from West 106th to Lincoln Center for the dress rehearsal of New York City Opera's "Opera For All" opening night gala. The terrain was less challenging than what I encountered in Utah, but Central Park West is, in many ways, its own reward.

I wrote the following remembrance for the festival's winter newsletter.

One Sunday morning last November, I got a call from Michael Barrett asking me if I might like to perform in the Moab Music Festival the first two weeks of September 2006. He told me who the other musicians would be and the musical programs and I instantly said yes. The music, masterpieces of Bach and Mozart, and the musicians, the finest in the country, were incentive enough, even with no understanding of what Moab itself would add to the equation.

Of course, it takes a long time to get from Manhattan to the the desert. Grand Junction’s tiny airport with its taxidermic bears and wild cats already felt like the “frontier” to me, but it was the final leg by car where I came to realize just how powerful and perfect a setting Michael and Leslie had found for their chamber music festival. It was a Sunday evening, and as I drove, the rocks and river made their first indelible impression on me. Lit with the violet shade of sunset, I began to see how utterly different this place was from any place I had ever been. And not only was it different, if you were open, it might just change you. Words like splendor, immense, and awe can merely describe the penumbra of Moab’s natural beauty. The wonderful novelist David Mitchell in his most recent book “Black Swan Green” wrote that “if the right words existed, then music wouldn’t need to.” As I was to learn, Moab, like music, escapes descritption by words and is best experienced in the body.

My first week was given over entirely to the music of J. S. Bach; for musicians, he is our Shakespeare. The morning after our Grotto concert I woke up at sunrise. It was my first day off since arriving, and with strains of Bach’s Wedding Cantata in my ears, I set out to see Moab. I had my virginal hiking gear purchased in town and plenty of water, sunscreen, and a Moab Music Festival hat. I was ready. I had a vague idea of finding some petroglyphs on the other side of 70 that I had read about, but basically, I was open to whatever might suggest itself. I turned up 128 for the first time, the morning light clear and bright. The Negro Bill Trail Head was the first thing to strike me, so at about half past seven, I started my first hike. For those of you who have been going to Moab for years, I hope you can still remember your first moment of enchantment there. This was mine. I had no expectations, only an openness, which was met with a rush of sensations as strong as any I’ve experienced. From the vast to the minute, my eyes breathed in the changing terrain in gulps, like a swimmer coming up for air after a long dive. My feet felt hungry to move in the landscape. At one point I sat on a flat rock in the middle of the stream and listened and looked. I felt such amazement that music, which had brought me to so many places around the world, from Tokyo to Paris to Peru, had somehow also brought me here, to this canyon and to this stream. Moments like these are what a life is built around.

Of course the genius admixture of great music, virtuosic performers, and immense natural beauty was demonstrated again and again throughout the festival, but there was one moment which for me crystalized it entirely. It was during the last of the Grotto concerts. The program included Mozart’s sublime quintet for piano and winds, which begins with three majestic chords, E-flat major, B-flat major, and back to E-flat. Michael’s inspired plan was to demonstrate the echo made by the canyon before playing the entire work. So when the audience was seated, we played each chord, waited for the echo to return to us several times, and then played the next and the next. The effect was extraordinary, like distant bells ringing out Mozart’s harmonies. After the demonstration, we begin our performance. Towards the end of the Adagio introduction, it began to rain and we took cover to wait for a change in the weather. At that point a woman walked up to me and said, “You know, I came all the way from Brooklyn for this concert.” “Well,” I answered, “ I came all the way from the Upper West Side.” We laughed about the chances of meeting so far from home. She then reached out and gripped my right arm and looked me directly in the eyes. “When you all played those chords and the echo came back . . . “ Here her voice broke and tears wet her cheeks. “I’ve never experienced anything like that in my whole life.”

Neither had I.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Brentano & Mozart

A friend who reviews for Fanfare and IRR showed me his recent cache of assignments. Nestled within Reinecke Symphonies and Sigfrid Karg-Elert piano music, was a July 10, 2007, Aeon France CD of the Brentano String Quartet playing Mozart, the Quartet, K. 464, and Quintet, K. 593, with Hsin-Yun Huang, viola.

The Brentanos gave their first performance of K. 464 at Helicon's 70th Symposium, May 16, 2004, so it was a pleasure to hear how their performance had grown. This CD is pure delight, I listened to it on and off all day.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

When in need . . .

If you find yourself a caregiver in New York City for someone facing end-of-life issues (a loaded phrase, I know, I know . . . ), I can tell you from personal experience the following organizations are vital and more helpful than I could have expected.

Alzheimers Foundation
Visiting Nurse Service of New York
Partners in Care

Remember, you're not alone.