When the person I call ‘Monostatos’ came into our lives, it was a very puzzling time. What possible interest could this person have in us, I frequently wondered. Something seemed not quite right, but I could not put my finger on it. I grabbed a hint the first time I was asked to play the flute for him — he played accompaniment to a movement of a Bach sonata. He kept looking up at me from under his prominent eyebrows. He seemed to be lying in wait. But why? As soon as I flipped a page, he pounced, claiming I had ‘missed a beat’. What is going on here, I wondered? Why do I have the impression that it is either him or me?
In hindsight, of course, I wish that I had trusted that impression, for it defined the reality of the following 666 or so days. Stealth, deception, hidden ill-intent were the norm. Early-on, they were so far hidden as to be almost invisible.
And so, with helpful and gentle smiles, he enticed me to practice on the stage at Orchestra Hall after rehearsals, which I was invited to attend. How could anyone resist? So out came the Mozart flute concertos, and two of the Mozart violin concertos. The Khat, the Nielsen, Bach, whatever I was working on, soared through the hall and, so he said, through the rest of the building, as i practiced on the darkened stage.
We were the oddity of the orchestra at the time — the concert master called us “Beauty and the Beast” — the gangly young man with the flute player and her three adorable children. It seemed that everyone knew what was going on except me.
Well, that is not entirely true, as I had been studying with the Pricipal Flute player for a while before that. This argumentative little man, in addition to sandbagging my practice, practically accused me of being responsible for the name change of the orchestra. At the time, that seemed completely bizarre. But again, he knew more than I did. So I did have a heads-up — I just didn’t understand it.
But Monostatos agenda seemed to run afoul one day, after a very simple event. On the stage, once again, he asked me to play the Mozart D Major Concerto. He would accompany me (in a general way, as he was not a keyboard player).One of my favorite pieces. The first one I had performed, in fact, when I was in High School. It was, of course, astonishingly lovely to hear the flute in the acoustics of the hall. Afterword, he seemed nonchalant as usual, but there was a glint in his eye that meant trouble. I had done something again that had upset him. I waited for a verbal attack to come — or worse. But there was none.
Subsequent to that he slipped into a profound depression, spending his days in the darkened room I had long before abandoned, knees to his chest, clutching the sheets. I tried to help, but was pushed away. One day he walked into a psych ward and admitted himself. A few days later he left. Then he admitted himself to an in-patient treatment program (though he did not drink) and then left about a week later. I felt helpless and bewildered. I began to accept that nothing might ever work again, and that I had to prepare to take care of my children.
He would not talk, would not share. But, one evening, after going out for a bite to eat, leaving the children with a sitter, we drove to a new construction area on a street called Smetana Drive. I parked the VW beetle and tried to talk with him. What is going on, I pleaded. And then he whispered, in the dark — “I don’t know if you are an amateur or the most exciting musician since Mozart.” I was baffled, and stunned. What possible connecting thread could there be to all of this?
From that moment on, there was nothing but emotional and spiritual war in the house. He ended up running out one night, never to return. I was so relieved that the war was over I didn’t bother to ask what had motivated his becoming involved with us in the first place, much less the traumatic events that followed…
When the character I call “Monostatos” insinuated himself into the lives of my children and me long ago, perhaps his most consistent and favorite agenda was to try to convince not only me, but all his other contacts in the underworld of music, that I was some sort of ‘dangerous loonie’. At the time, this made no sense to me. Why become involved with someone only in order to discredit them? Why, when one had the ability to open door after door, would one then make sure that every door was slammed shut? As you can see, at that time I was rather naive about human nature, as well as unable to comprehend the full effect that die zauberflote has on some people. I know now that the most wicked of them will try to do just that — insinuate themself into our lives in order to create havoc and chaos, and then try to use that to their advantage.
At the time I knew Monostatos I had no frame of reference for the agenda that was taking place. But I do now, and, after the passing of time, I can say with absolute certainty, that he may be right! After all, I am known to recite Shakespeare at the drop of a hat. And Chaucer. Oh, a French poet here or there. And, last, but certainly not least, I am known to perform — on my own, I might add — some Monty Python sketches! Yes! Particularly the Dead Parrot sketch (from which I acquired my nickname of “Polly”) and — appropriate to Minnesota — the Spam sketch! You just never know when that might happen! So watch out! 🙂
Long ago, when my flute lessons took place at Orchestra Hall, my teacher, the then-Principal Flute, Sid Zeitlin, would turn me loose to practice on the darkened stage afterward. “Monostatos” did that as well, once or twice a month. Needless to say, it was a heady experience. Apparently whoever was playing on stage was piped throughout the building. I didn’t let that bother me. The sound of the flute with the acoustics at OH was sufficiently fascinating to take the edge off of any discomfort. However, as if by some sort of dark magic, players would crawl out from the woodwork to attempt to insinuate themselves into my life through flattery. I learned later that they were slandering me behind my back. Such is the life when one is born with a target on their back. :-0
For as long as I can remember I cherished every recording I could find made by Jascha Heifetz. My parents went to hear him once, at the Stratford Theatre in Connecticut, and refused to take me with them. It took me years to forgive them for that. That sound, that grace, those chops. I was mesmerized. When I began to play the flute seriously I realized that I wanted to play it as though it were a violin. I began to dream of somehow becoming one of Heifetz’ students, but even I realized that he would probably balk at having to deal with a flute player (or, more likely, roll his eyes and fall on the floor laughing) :-0 I would have been deliriously happy as a gofer, just sitting on the floor and listening to him play and teach, actually. I even had family in the LA area. I had everything figured out, I thought. I had the privilege of hearing one of Heifetz students perform the Haffner Serenade with the Minnesota Orchestra. The exquisite quality of Adam Han-Gorski’s sound and technique brought me to tears. Heifetz, the master, had done his job well. I tried to convince Mr. Zeitlin to write a letter of introduction to Heifetz for me, but he declined. So I wrote to him on my own. But a few months later he was dead, and my dreams were crushed forever.
So now I own the Complete Heifetz, and can honestly say that I have listened to virtually everything he ever recorded. The whole is far more patchy than the parts — in pieces where I would have expected him to be brilliant, he might sound annoyingly ordinary. Some of the itsy bitsy’s he so loved just make me grit my teeth. Some of his playing seemed stilted, as though he had not quite found the soul of the piece but was playing it anyway. Some of his playing (horrors!) sounded even ordinary. But on the whole I found I had uncovered one of the mysteries of his mastery — that when he learned a piece, he owned it, as though he were the composer. Not only did he know every nuance of style and phrasing, but he understood the architecture of the piece. He structured his performances so that there was only one real climax per movement. His playing was never flashy, it was always in proportion to the music.
I have heard it said (when he was alive many people said this) that Heifetz’ playing was ‘cold’. That, I feel, is another of his mysteries. Heifetz was from Vilnius, in Lithuania. He had the heart of a gypsy, but his playing was cool and his style eminently classical. Because the fire was controlled, it shone through the cool technique. The result was, as we know, simply breathtaking. During the years after that, when my chidren and I were locked out of Monostatos’ Orchestra, I found, as one of the clique I call “Monostatos” was a string player, that I could not longer tolerate the sound of stringed instruments. Except for Heifetz. During all the times of struggle and disappointment, his music was my lifeline. It still is. I do listen to other string players now, and recently enjoyed Hillary Hahn’s new recording of the Mozart V#5. She is splendid, and the recording is wonderful. Then I said, “Hmmm…how did Heifetz interpret this piece?” Different — light and delicate, yet with considerable power and speed. Flawless…
So, back to the darkened stage, where, at that time, I practiced not only the Mozart flute concerti, the Neilsen, the Khat, Bach, etc…but also parts of the Mendelssohn, the Brahms, even the Tchiakovsky. During the next few weeks I plan to record excerpts from some of those pieces. Stay tuned…:-)
Monostatos’ Orchestra seems to be attempting to go through a sort of rebirth. After the contentious and bitter lockout, which may well, in fact, have been in response to their, in effect, locking Mozart out some time ago, in terms of the great gift that I call die zauberflote, they seem to want to put the dismal recent past events behind by making a foray into new performing territory (not a bad idea) and conducting a media blitz intended to showcase them as ‘new’. Frankly, virtually nothing about this organization is ‘new’. In fact, what we may well be seeing is more of the ‘same-old, same-old’. Not that the ‘same-old’ is ‘bad’, just that it is predictably the same — a veneer of ‘grace’ and ‘loveliness’ masking the fact that its ‘voice’ (if you can even call it that) is empty and dead…
Why, you might ask, am I not tempted into mushy sentimentality about the supposed newness of the recent ‘historic’ runout or accompanying schmoozy current ad strategy? Frankly, any group who can put up with the character I call “Monostatos” is not deserving of being taken seriously. It has, in fact, settled its fate in my mind once and for all. Ironically, it appears that one of the previous administrators of this group attempted to oust this person, but in a turn of irony, they were the one to go. So I hold to no illusions about this situation. (I am, in fact, speaking from personal experience. I learned the hard way, and am not about to be fooled again.)
So, what is actually going on here? This is my impression. If this group was, in fact, put under judgment by the Lrd for their treatment, not only of an extraordinary gift of music, but of a gift of the Holy Spirit, they had the opportunity to, for example, come to repentance over the initial lockout during their own prolonged 18-month lockout and make appropriate apologies and amends. They were aware of the facts involving the initial lockout. But they chose to ignore that information and, in effect, ‘rebuild’. Not even simply rebuild, but attempt to claim they have re-invented themselves. I doubt that will work. I sincerely hope that believers will look very critically at having any involvement with this group, especially anything involving their children (yes, they manage to insinuate themselves in many schools). I consider the effect of their music unhealthy.
If I am correct, this glossy sheen of new-found respectability will in time wear thin and the public will once again have no choice but to deal with the grisly reality at the core of this group. As long as Monostatos is being protected there, this is an organization that can only be called Anti-Mozart. And, as we are, artistically speaking, currently in the middle of what I call “Minnegeddon” (this being ‘PartDeux’ as post-MO lockout) — that is the time when all Anti-Mozart is revealed. And so it will be. I could be wrong. But I don’t think so…
*Mozart for Believers…