<< -- 4 -- Jenna Orkin ROSALYN TURECK
She spoke of playing in India for Indira Gandhi after which she'd been invited to dinner. The hall was so vast, she said, that the two hundred guests looked like an intimate dinner party. For dessert they were served cake with gold icing.
Back at my dorm I consulted my Indian neighbor about this.
'Gold!' she scoffed. 'Nobody eats gold. Now silver, yes, we eat.'
One night with George, a graduate student in Music History whom I was dating, I invited her to dinner.
George ordered fish which he had a hard time filleting.
'Pass that over here,' Tureck said. 'You have to know about anatomy for this.' She was being arch again, as she opened the fish to reveal its feathery bones. 'One day you'll be able to tell people about the night Tureck showed you how to dissect a fish.'
I thought, 'How she must despise us, to think that we will look back on this as one of the high points of our lives. So why is she spending the evening with us?'
We talked about what a small world Oxford was. I told the story of a letter I'd just received in spite of a comically bungled address (garbled name, wrong college.)
'That's nothing,' Tureck said. 'I used to get letters addressed to Rosalyn Tureck, London, England.'
She seemed to hover on the verge of delusions of grandeur. (Once when I answered the phone in New York she said, 'This is Madame'.) She sounded not so much like a genius as like a charlatan until one remembered that the boasted accomplishments were real. I reflected that if, in the hereafter, one met hundreds of people who said they were Napoleon, one of them might be telling the truth.
'What is your thesis about?' she asked George.
'German lieder of the post-Romantic era.'
'Mmm ... How decadent,' she said suggestively. 'And are you a composer yourself?'
'I wouldn't call myself a composer though I've written a few songs. To poetry of that period, as a matter of fact.'
'Hm! You must play them for me some time. Have they been performed?'
'Yes. A student at the Royal College performed them for her jury last year. As her twentieth century piece.'
The flattering two-way banter went on. I grew angry not at being used as a catalyst for this marriage of two kindred spirits but at being ignored; jealous not for my 'boyfriend' but for her. I think she thought she knew my type so she didn't need to ask me anything.
'We should order dessert,' I said. 'They're closing in fifteen minutes and the waiter's giving us dirty looks.'
'Well!' Tureck said, looking with amused astonishment at the vigor of my annoyance. (There's life in the little nebish yet.) 'Let's ask for the menu, then, shall we?'
'About your revelation when you were seventeen,' I said, my boldness feeding on the point I'd just scored. 'What was revealed to you?'
She laughed and took a deep breath. 'Play the long notes long and the short notes short.'
By this time I knew her well enough to understand this gnomic, seemingly banal statement. (When I told this story to a critic years later, he scoffed as at an instance of 'in vino veritas'.)
What she meant was this: The score is only a potential thing. The performer 'realizes' the score in the sense of making it real.Her job corresponds to that of the creator in that she must reveal what he has conceived. She must not add, but simply make real.
Copyright © 26 January 2005
Jenna Orkin, New York City, USA