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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000336.txt from 2004/08

From: <>
Subj: [kl] Abe Galper
Date: Thu, 12 Aug 2004 00:25:50 -0400

August 11, 2004

It was with indescribable sadness that I learned today of Abe's passing. =
I =

received a phone call as my girlfriend Nancy and I were driving from Napa=

Valley, where we had just performed, to the Santa Fe chamber festival, wh=
ere =

we are about to perform. =

After many miles of sadness and silence, Nancy and I started to talk abou=
t =

Abe; his life, his family, his musicianship, and his legacy. (Nancy is th=
e =

principal bassoonist of the Pittsburgh Symphony. Although she wasn=92t ab=
le to =

go with me a few weeks ago, she has had the good fortune of meeting both =
Abe =

and Charna on a few visits she has made with me from Pittsburgh to Toront=
o. =

She also got to know him through many of my anecdotes.) I would like to s=
hare =

a few thoughts that Nancy and I talked about today, as outside of my pare=
nts, =

Abe certainly had a more profound impact on my life than anybody. =

I began studying with Abe at the age of ten. Initially, he was reluctant.=
But =

agreed to teach me after some not so gentle prodding from my mother. I =

studied with him continuously until I left for Curtis when I was 19. Even=

after Curtis, even after joining the National Symphony, even after joinin=
g =

the Pittsburgh Symphony, he continued to shape my playing on my regular =

visits to him. Whenever I would play for him, he had an uncanny ability t=
o =

diagnose problems and pinpoint areas of my playing that needed attention.=

(Always, it was back to basics.) =

The devotion that I felt coming from both Abe and Charna for the past 25 =
yrs =

was unwavering. He and Charna came to every performance. Even my appeara=
nces =

at the local Kiwanis competitions would be attended, and then dissected a=
t my =

next lesson. When my performances required travelling out of town, both =

Charna and Abe would be there. On one occasion, when my parents weren't a=
ble =

to, driving me to a competition at the Oberlin conservatory south of =

Cleveland. They even shared their hotel room with me when they discovered=

that my accommodations in the dormitory were too warm to be conducive to =

performing well. During the summer of 1987, he and Charna shared their =

journey to Israel with me as well. I went with them in order to prepare f=
or =

the 1987 Belgrade competition. His devotion became his family's when, fir=
st =

his daughter Chaya, and then his niece Ruth housed me and took care of me=
for =

2 months. His devotion required devotion on my part as well. Quitting my =

junior soccer and hockey career in order to avoid injury and foregoing su=
mmer =

jobs in order to practice were insisted upon. My lessons were exercises o=
f =

devotion in themselves. Often they were marathon lessons, lasting up to 2=

hours. Charna would thankfully come to my rescue by knocking on the door =
and =

telling Abe that enough was enough. At that point I would always be invit=
ed =

into the kitchen, where I was made to drink a glass of milk ("milk gives =
you =

good tone") and offered some of Charna's delicious goodies. This would be=

repeated not just once a week, but later in my high school career, three =

times a week. Don't get me wrong, the lessons were tough. Questions such =
as =

"Did you practice this, this week?" had no good answer, and I also learne=
d =

that the answer to the question "How are your reeds?" should be "good", l=
est =

I be told, with a chuckle, that when you practice a lot, you don't have b=
ad =

reeds. The lessons were tough, but fair, and I took deep pride when all t=
hat =

took place after playing an etude was a turn of the page followed by him =

saying "=85next". =

Although I met Abe after he left the Toronto Symphony, I still got to hea=
r =

him play, in recital, on records, and in lessons. It was the playing in =

lessons that was most impressive. Even very recently I would hear him in =
his =

studio and be totally incredulous at the refinement and control with whic=
h he =

could still play. To this day, when I think of how the clarinet should so=
und, =

I think of his sound.

All of this has made me feel like I never stopped having an active teache=
r. =

It helped that when Abe would call, his messages on my machine began with=
, =

"Hello, it's your teacher calling.." When I won the audition for the =

Pittsburgh Symphony, the first call I made from backstage was to Abe. =

Parenthetically, I say =93Abe=94. But even as I write this it seems odd t=
o say. =

It was always Mr. Galper. I spoke to Charna and she told me that he was i=
n =

the hospital and that I should call him there. I did so, and in a tired =

voice, he began to question me about the audition. "What did you have to =

play?" =

I told him.
When the list came to Prokofiev's 5th symphony. He inquired "Which finger=
ing =

did you use for the high F#?" =

I told him. =

"...Of course!" came his reply. My next conversation with him started wit=
h =

something I never thought I would hear. "You have a big job now, you can =
call =

me Abe". I laughed to myself. That was never going to happen. =

There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about or put into pract=
ice =

lessons that I learned from him. Whether it is in my playing or my teachi=
ng, =

his influence is abundantly clear. I can often hear his voice as I talk t=
o my =

students, most of the time quoting him directly. And so, as Nancy and I w=
ere =

driving today, and I kept an endless stream of Galperisms flowing, a smil=
e =

came over my face and warmth in my heart. And I realized that although I =
am =

no longer able to go to him for advice, or to share stories, his sound I =
will =

carry with me forever. =

Thank-you for listening=85.

Michael Rusinek

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