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<<  -- 2 --  Jenna Orkin    ROSALYN TURECK


One night as she was talking about ornamentation in Chinese music, a theme I'd heard her expound on before, my mind wandered: There was Mary E in the previous night's master class who had played the E Minor Partita so ravishingly. What wouldn't I give ...
Then I heard a phrase that woke me from my reverie:
'... I've known this since my revelation when I was seventeen.'
What was that?
'... a revelation I had while playing one of the fugues from the Well-Tempered Clavier.'
For God's sake, tell us about your revelation. To hell with everything else.
At the end of the lecture she announced: 'Thursday evening is our last for this session. I will accept questions from the audience. These should be written down and given to one of the ushers during intermission and I will devote the final hour to addressing a few of them.'

The next day I took out her recording of the Well-Tempered Clavier, both books, and listened to the whole thing, searching for the fugue that had inspired her revelation. Her playing of the Fugue in A Minor, Book One was determined as though to prove something. I thought, 'This is it.'

Thursday night, come intermission, I wrote out my question and gave it to the usher who was collecting scraps of paper from members of the audience.

The final hour arrived. She answered questions on ornamentation. Then she said: 'The last question is about me.' She looked at the slip of paper I'd handed in and read: 'In your revelation when you were seventeen, what was revealed to you?'
She smiled intimately as though we'd settled in front of the fire for a tête-à-tête.
'It was a Wednesday in December, a few days after my 17th birthday. I was playing the A Minor Fugue from Book One of the Well-Tempered Clavier. And I realized how I must play Bach from now on. I fainted. When I woke up, I worked in this new way that had been shown to me, really. That week, instead of bringing in my usual three Preludes and Fugues to Mme Samaroff, I brought in only one. I explained to Mme Samaroff what had happened and how I was going to approach Bach from now on. She said, "You'll never be able to do it."'
Tureck smiled for the moral, of course, was, 'But as you see, the rest is history.'
That was it. Tantalizing stuff. But she hadn't said what had been revealed to her.
After the lecture I went back and stood on line in the 'green room' to pay homage. All concert halls have green rooms. None of them are green.
'Are you a pianist?' she asked.
I mumbled something appropriately modest.
She took my right hand and stretched apart the third and fourth fingers.
'With hands like that, you shouldn't give up.'
It made my summer. The gypsy had spoken. Like my mother, I had faith in experts.

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Copyright © 26 January 2005 Jenna Orkin, New York City, USA


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