Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Letter from the pianist Graham Johnson to Albert's dear friend, the tenor Robert White


Dearest Bobby,

Albert was a great musician and a marvellous man. He had a level of perception and understanding of the "bigger picture" of both life and art that made him an invaluable mentor and an enchanting if exigent friend. His ability to understand the significance of someone like Alice Tully in the history of the arts in New York, and within the history of that great genre, the mécène, is typical of his perspicacity. He sought to draw bigger and more lasting conclusions from the details of life he experienced. He was always the philosopher. There are literally hundreds of young men and women, perhaps like me no longer young, who learned to know themselves and to love themselves a little better through Albert's artistic and philosophical intervention. He believed in the power of intervention and the power of art, and as such was a partaker of the mysteries as well as a creator of them. He could change a life or turn it round over cocktails.

Of course he was an early music specialist and he will go down in history for his work in the fifties and sixties with people like Dowd regarding the great harpsichord revival that fuelled a thousand other developments in all walks of musical life. But he retained voracious interests in ALL aspects of music-making and he greeted those whom he regarded as talented with an openness of heart that will always be unforgettable. I shall never forget him and his sometimes irascible kindness, Like all great artists he was capable of being moody and self-absorbed, but he remained to the end someone who respected talent, when he saw it and found it, as an utterly sacred thing to be nurtured, helped, advised and encouraged. One of the greatest teachers, thus, that I have ever known. After an evening in his company when he was on form, one could be lifted to another place. Whatever our problems we were artists and part of a family that nothing could destroy. He made one feel part of a blessed community of kindred and supportive spirits.

He treasured a signed portrait of Mae West I bought him at the Argosy Bookstore after staying with him in 2000 with Brandon. Couperin and Aretha Franklin, Alice Tully and Mae West, that was our incomparably curious, incomparably iconoclastic Albert. I joked with him that the great art gallery in Vienna must have been named after him .... the Albertina. It should have been. Goodnight dearest friend.


No comments: