Monday, October 15, 2007

AF tribute by Johan Stern

One time at Juilliard I had to take the baroque cello owned by the school to a violin maker for some adjustments and new strings. I was playing some chamber music with Albert and another student of his, the oboe-player Andrew Adelson, preparing some trio sonata for his recital. Albert suggested that I should take the cello to William Monical at Staten Island and he asked me if I would like him to join my trip – of course, I was delighted to accept his offer! From the first day I came to New York I was mesmerized by the city and used most of my spare time to explore it. In books like E.B White’s Here is New York or Singer’s Enemies unfolded all those typical New York stories of completely different worlds taking place just some blocks away from each other. It all felt so different from Europe, not to mention Sweden where I grew up!

We took the subway down to Battery Park, Albert lecturing about the history of the New York Subway, the different private lines long before the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. I couldn’t have found a better guide than Albert; with all his knowledge about the city he was the perfect companion, telling amusing stories, sometimes flavored with indecent details of the secret liaisons taking place in the empty driver’s compartments during roaring rides underground. We boarded the ferry and smelled the breeze from the sea and Albert’s stories changed, describing the sight of the QE and the other great ocean-liners and long before that, how poor and oppressed people from Europe approaching New York with hope of freedom.

Another great memory is how Albert in his Performance Practice class at Juilliard made a thorough analysis on Madonna and her Marie Antoinette remake of “Vogue” from the MTV Video Music Awards 1990. It was one of his many unique qualities – to see and understand a brief moment of what most of us would think was nothing more than superficiality, and understand the very human meaning of it as an expression – far out or "hot shit on toast under glass" as Albert would call it if it really was something very special. How an artistic statement always has many "historical siblings" – a direct link to history, and the need of generation after generation to retell it.

I am very grateful to have so many good memories around Albert's: all the discoveries in our coachings with the TestosterTones playing the Brahms trios, our sudden concerts! – his great trust in us, his warm hospitality, our exit subito when he suddenly felt tired and we, totally unaware of how time flies absorbing scents and sounds of the enchanted gatherings around the Rendezvous Lounge – overtaken and aroused scattering into the city night. I have written him many times over the years, just small notes on postcards from my tours and travel. It was always so natural to share a new moment of experience with Albert.

To put words to what Albert represents is very hard but I can honestly say that still 15 years after my great couple of years at Juilliard, he is still with me on a daily basis in my musical life.