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Eagle Minds

Selected Correspondence of Istvan Anhalt and George Rochberg (1961-2005)

Alan M. Gillmor

Publication Year: 2007

Eagle Minds—a selection from the correspondence between the Canadian composer and scholar Istvan Anhalt and his American counterpart George Rochberg—is a splendid chronicle and a penetrating analysis of the swerving socio-cultural movements of a volatile half-century as observed by two highly gifted individuals.

Beginning in 1961 and spanning forty-four years, their conversation embraces not only music but other forms of contemporary art, as well as politics, philosophy, religion, and mysticism. The letters chronicle the deepening of their friendship over the years, and the openness, honesty, and genuine warmth between them provide the reader with an intimate look at their personalities. A fascinating intellectual tension emerges between the two men as they record their individual responses to musical modernism, to changing political and social realities, and to their Jewish heritage and sense of place, one as a son of Ukrainian immigrants to the United States, the other as a refugee from war-torn Hungary.

Allowing us a privileged glimpse into the private lives and thoughts of these fascinating men, Eagle Minds is a valuable tool for scholars interested in North American composers in the late twentieth century and essential reading for anyone interested in the cultural and social history of that era.

Published by: Wilfrid Laurier University Press


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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix

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pp. xi-xii

My profound gratitude must be offered first, of course, to Istvan Anhalt and George Rochberg, who cooperated in this enterprise with uncommon generosity, clarifying countless points of fact and obscure calligraphy. Moreover, both took the time to proofread their respective letters in a draft version, catching as a consequence numerous typographical errors which one is...

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pp. xiii-xliii

In the late summer of 1960, an International Conference of Composers was held in the southwestern Ontario town of Stratford, since July 1953 the home of the renowned Stratford Festival. Under the leadership of Canadian composer Louis Applebaum, who in 1955 became the first music director of the festival, an eight-day series of panels, discussions, and concerts...

Part I: A New Friendship (1961-1964)

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pp. 3-10

Dear Istvan, I hope this finds you & yours well. Things are not as good here as we would like. [Our son] Paul's condition remains only poor to fair and new complex developments keep arising. Perhaps we are too impatient but it seems like a long time for him to remain this way without the assurance of better days ahead...

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pp. 11-17

Dear Istvan, [ ... ] The week in N[ew] Y[ork] took its toll. I'm battling a cold but will survive I'm sure. The performance was poor but the recording session went very well so things tended to achieve a balance.1 You are perfectly right in pointing out the lack of insight into the true nature of the work. But what should we expect in...

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pp. 19-22

Dear Istvan, [ ... ] I have ordered the two books you brought to my attention & am eagerly awaiting their arrival. The Whitrow book1 especially sounds "meaty." At the present time all these matters seem so remote mainly because I have been so deeply involved myself in family & the university that the little time left...

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pp. 23-25

Dear Istvan, [ ... ] I have been back & forth between here & home a number of times since Jan. Several reasons necessitated this, among them not only Paul's situation which remains about the same-he's just had a second series of drug treatments which we hope will help-but my own inability to stick it out here alone for...

Part II: Musical Composition (1965-1976)

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pp. 29-35

My dear Istvan, [ ... ] Needless to say I am touched that you continue to plague your colleagues with the plan for a lecture. The policy you outline seems "conservative" only on the side of the date-limit. Other than that I myself feel that the intelligent lay audience needs the general overview, the insight, the assistance through the...

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pp. 37-46

My dear Isty, Imagine two wonderful things happening to you on the same day: I came home from Swarthmore College where I heard a beautiful performance of my [La] Bocca [della Veritá] for oboe & piano played by two young, incomparable musicians (from N[ew] Y[ork]), Ronald Roseman (oboe) & Gil Kalish (piano), sat down...

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pp. 47-55

My dear Isty, By now the premiere of Cento has taken place1 & we are very eager to hear how it went. If you just say the word, we shall try to arrange to come to Montreal to hear it. Please understand that my initial response was basically only to one-half of the total sound world of the work. Hence my inability to say more. It is a rich...

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pp. 57-71

My dear Isty, [ ... ] These weeks since early Dec. have been exhausting but I am back on my feet especially now that I've pushed the Symphony [No. 3] very close to the end. I wish there were some way to send some of it to you; but it's too early. Everything is still in an "unfinished" state. Once I reach the end of the work I must...

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pp. 73-77

My dear Isty, It seems like "forever" since I last wrote. Finally the summer has reached a point of stasis and I can begin to think again and think about writing again. But all the while you've been very much on my mind: wondering how your work goes for you...

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pp. 79-86

Dear George, [ ... ] I was of course pleased that you came to be a witness to Foci. I read, and reread, your response to this performance, and am grateful for your sincere act of agreeing to give so much attention and thought to this work. I respect your response...

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pp. 87-94

Dear Isty, I hope by now the score & tape of the IIIrd [Symphony] have reached you. The problem with sending the score was that the U.S. Post Office has size limitations so I finally got around to the Railway Express. Also since I couldn't send my own copy of the tape which I needed I asked Steve Albert, my former student...

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pp. 95-103

...My Dear Isty, I'm writing this now so that it will reach you if you already returned from your trip to Hungary and if not, will be there when you do return. It was more than good to hear from you & to know that all is well. I look forward very much to reading your lectures and hope you had great success with them. What a sensation...

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pp. 105-107

My dear friend Isty, So much time, so many events (private and public) have taken place, so much of what we call "life" has flowed past us since I last wrote. It was not negligence or forgetting that kept me from being in touch but a crazy combination of being taken up by much activity so that the surface constantly seemed in a constant boil and...

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pp. 109-110

My dear Isty, It was good to get your letter and the news that La Tourangelle was in the final, final stages of completion. You know my best wishes go to you for its successful production. If it comes at a time when we are free I'd love to make the trip to hear/see it. Paul's memorial concert was a great success...

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pp. 111-112

My dear Isty, The time rushes by & suddenly it is the day before the birth of your La Tourangelle. I wish I could be there.1 Nothing would make me happier than to hear your music with you and to have a long talk like we used to. You'll understand I know when I say that I am working again (a piano quintet which must be ready...

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pp. 113-116

My dear Isty, I've just come up for air after another concentrated spate of work and decided it was time to be in touch with a friend whom I feel I've neglected-but you understand, not intentionally-it seems as though the last 2 years have gone solely...

Part III: The Aesthetics of Survival and Alternative Voices (1981-1985)

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pp. 119-120

Dear Isty, It is a wonderful feeling to have re-established our old friendship and I know you & Bea will be here in a matter of weeks. This is not even an "interim" letter. I shall pull out all the stops! When we last talked I was literally on the verge of finishing the orchestration of the opera;1 and now, as of Monday, I can say it...

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pp. 121-131

Dear George, It is a day to be happy and celebrate: I got back a friend. You! Or, to put it better we proved it to each other that we have never lost our mutual friendship, which just slumbered during all these years while we went on in our separate trajectories (let's be more modest, at least for myself, and say: paths...). It will, of course...

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pp. 133-137

My dear George, [ ... ] Winthrop is complete as of this past Monday. (Did the soundwaves of my big sigh of relief tinged with joy reach your soul's ear in Newtown Square? It ought to have propagated itself that distance...) Its vital "statistics": about 2½ hours of playing time, 741 pages of full score (of which 12 are double left/right pages);...

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pp. 139-149

Dear Isty, Our books must have crossed in the mail and when yours arrived I spent the rest of the day reading as much as I could-mind you, not every word-but in an effort to get a big design of it and dig into its essential core. Unfortunately I had to put off writing you right away (which was my first impulse) because things were...

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pp. 151-182

Dear George, Finally, the peaceful hour to respond to your marvellous letters from Dec. 7th and 8th - Where to begin? Perhaps with the question: how did the performances of the Oboe Concerto go? And the recording session? Please tell me about these in some detail in the next letter. We, of course, got the card with...

Part IV: Politics, Religion, and Society (1986-2000)

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pp. 185-194

My dear Isty, I hope the cassette of [Symphony] #5 has reached you by now; and once you've had a chance to "assimilate" it, you'll let me know your reaction. I spent the 2 weeks following our return home recuperating. I was really exhausted, not so much from the musical side of the week in Chicago-that always has...

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pp. 195-203

Dear George, [ ... ] Your letter from Australia was a treat. It must have been a strange experience. (The place seems to draw. Presently, 2 young former associates of mine-student copyists-are spending a year in Sydney, one of them studying with Sculthorpe whom she likes much, and are delighted with the Aussie way of doing...

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pp. 205-222

My dear friend Isty, [ ... ] The Suite for orchestra from The Confidence Man which I had to let "hang-fire" through Dec.-Jan. is now completed. And before I gear up for some chamber music I must write, I want to settle a few details in the sketches for the 2nd Suite (from the same) for soloists, chorus & orch[estra], put them aside 'til I'm...

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pp. 223-236

Dear George, [ ... ] I am quite a bit closer to thinking about undertaking writing a new opera now than when I wrote to you some cryptic words about it the last time. Yet my escape gear is kept in a good working order, just in case... But I will tell you here a bit, with the understanding that: (a) you won't hold me to this undertaking...

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pp. 237-244

George, dear friend, [ ... ] I am faced with the decision-to-be-made of embarking on writing a new 3-act opera. But let me backtrack a little. I don't know if I told you of the theme of this opera. In any case I would prefer not to get into this since I need to build up an inner pressure in this respect. But I can and wish to tell you about some side...

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pp. 245-258

George, dear friend, Once again I'm late with this, a response (inadequate, I feel, it will be) to your Nov. 11 letter. Things are, still, in flux, unsettled as to 'the project', and I find myself not quite 'in harness, driving on to a goal/deadline, but I am not 'free,' 'in-between projects,' either, as this one continues to firm up in stages. 2 years...

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pp. 259-268

My dear Isty, [ ... ] I'm truly sorry to hear you're still ensnared by that mountain of paper & the reasons it grew to such proportions. At this point I really have no words of comfort. Except: knowing you, you will not let it go to waste-it will issue in many things including the Quartetsatz for the Glenn Gould Memorial.1 I just finished (as pure diversion) The Lyre of Orpheus [1988] by Robertson...

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pp. 269-275

Dear George, [ ... ] I was, lately, helped by, finally, understanding the psychological relevance of the old Kabbalistic idea of Zim-zum (or tzim-tzum) which puzzled me for years. In case you are rusty about this here is what I think it (originally) meant, as a theistic notion. If God is everywhere in the universe how could...

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pp. 277-282

George, dear friend, This is the promised sign of 'life in progress' I envisaged when we talked on the 'blower' about a week ago. My head and 'emotion-tank' is so full, so beware (I should beware) as I am going to try to contain the danger of overflowing, spilling out, messing up the carpet, imposing your wonderfully patient...

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pp. 283-300

George dear friend, Your letter of Dec. 28 with "THE TEXT" written, as always, in your spontaneously, sinuously, flowing script, a beautiful script which-even to look at-gives me always a 'high' pleasure, arrived this morning ... another 'red letter' day, for this.1 [ ... ] I opened your letter, realized with astonishment that...

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pp. 301-320

Dear friend Isty, [ ... ] Time for me has become something different from what it felt like when I was much younger. In a curious way it has collapsed and the past is far less remote. That is, past times (historically) feel much closer, and at moments more "contemporary." This produces some very odd sensations to say the...

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pp. 321-340

Dear old Friend, I'm sitting here trying to remember if I sent you the enclosed already.1 If so, just pass it on to some needy friend or just toss it. Also I have to assume you've already run into this stupid academic game going on in the "humanities" (the very term...

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pp. 341-352

Dear friend Isty, [ ... ] It has been fairly hectic, specially the months of March into early April with performances of Circles of Fire, the 75' 2-piano work. I'll be joining Sally Pinkas and Evan Hirsch in Cincinnati in a few weeks for another performance]. (Sally called yesterday to tell me they will do it in Israel this summer...

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pp. 353-366

George, dear Friend, The faint dull thud that shook some of the windowpanes in your house on this past Monday (the 8th), which you might have(?) noticed and located as to source coming from a distant northern locus... well... it possibly was caused by the millstone that fell of[f] my back as I wrote the final note in the...

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pp. 367-383

My dear George, This is about a week past the double premiere (Jan. 28-29) of Millennial Mall (Lady Diotima's Walk) in Winnipeg and I'm still hovering a few inches above ground. But don't misunderstand this... I'm too old to fool myself and rarely 'go euphoric' over anything. Yet I was close to this in relation to Valdine Anderson...

Part V: Envoi (2001-2005)

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pp. 387-397

My dear George, The date on the upper right should have been marked as 11 1/9/2001 for the obvious reason that after 11/9/2001 each day will appear as 11 x/9/2001. One feels that something has changed yesterday that one will not be able to erase from...

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pp. 399-400

Dear Isty, old friend, I'm sorry not to be able to be with you and Beate, your family and friends on this great day of your book launching, another marker in your long trek capped with recognition of your accomplishments in music which have earned you the love and respect and admiration of so many, myself included. So I greet...

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pp. 401-404

Isty, old friend, [ ... ] I confess I'm no longer comfortable in this world for so many reasons, the most immediate Bush's push to Empire, spread Democracy to the Moslems in the Middle East as he slowly is squeezing the life out of our "democratic form of government" right here in the States. World Dominion...

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pp. 405-407

My dear George, [ ... ] I better not get into politics, war, terror, and the like. I still read the papers & watch the evening news ... The world is changing in some ways... I guess. I also watch with indifference the machinations related to technology, dumbed-down entertainment... yet I would be churlish not to acknowledge that...

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pp. 409-411

Dear old Friend, Isty, I've been plugging away at reading our letters and stopped a few moments ago at page 234. My assistant (or secretary-whichever comes closest to her enormous range of help to me) Beverly Holmes1 called to say she was bringing chapters from the (by now) old "treatise" on Chromaticism this morning...


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pp. 413-426

E-ISBN-13: 9781554580927
Print-ISBN-13: 9781554580187
Print-ISBN-10: 1554580188

Page Count: 474
Publication Year: 2007