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Remembering William Schuman

This is a comment on the article about the William Schuman Violin Concerto (Faculty Forum, “Reflections on a Legacy,” April 2010). I participated in this performance of the concerto in 1956 and I remember it well. I can’t escape the thought that the adjustments made by Schuman to the concerto after this performance were a result of Isaac Stern having a huge memory slip in the middle of the piece and skipping something like 200 bars. I can still hear Jean Morel trying to get everybody’s attention by screaming (as quietly as he could) the number of the bar he was going to conduct next.

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Another incident regarding William Schuman—a matter that concerned me—took place in the summer of 1958, when the Juilliard Orchestra went on a State Department tour of European festivals. The State Department received an invitation for the orchestra to play in the Ba’al Beck Festival in Lebanon, which was then a very well-known and prestigious festival. As Mr. Schuman recounted to us, he was invited to the State Department and he told them there might be a problem, as there was one Israeli musician in the orchestra (me). The government people told him to leave me in Paris or some other European city and travel to Lebanon without me. His response: Either all of us go or we won’t go! And that’s how it was. The orchestra didn’t go. We don’t see many courageous moves like that anymore. That really endeared him in my heart.

Uri Pianka (Diploma ’58, violin
Houston, Tex.

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