RIP Leon Fleischer

Whenever one of the giants of the music world passes from this realm into the next, it always makes me profoundly sad. It doesn’t matter if I had any sort of direct musical connection with them. The fact that a great voice was gone was somehow felt, seismically, even if far away, across the world.

In the case of Leon Fleischer, I had a direct connection with him. A smaller one than many had, but still dear to me. In my second year as a fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center, he was the coach of a chamber group I was in. We were working on the Brahms g minor Piano Quartet. I remember bits and pieces of the actual rehearsing and playing, but very clearly some of the things that Mr. Fleischer said to us.

One of the best was “Are you doing this out of conviction, or of convenience?” What a marvelous question – and perhaps a rhetorical one at that. It probes right to the heart of the musical decision-making process. And it belies a work ethic that was underpinned with an inquisitive, seeking mind. It makes (or does it?) a couple of assumptions. First, have you thought out what you want to do in this musical moment? And second, have you done the work necessary to accomplish what you really want to in this musical moment? Two really simple questions which open a vast realm of musical exploration. What is happening here? Why is it important? Is anything unimportant? Am I capable of doing what I internally hear, here? If so, what does that mean? If not, what does that mean? Is there a time when taking the easy road is the best? Is there a time when pursuing the most difficult solution is unavoidable and inevitable? And so on, and so on…

A mind that can take the overwhelming task of making music and distilling it into a single, probing question such as this is rare. Many musicians can do the work, but aren’t necessarily able to express it in such cogent terms. I would say that this is the most valuable part of Mr. Fleischer’s genius. There are generations of brilliant pianists who would probably agree with me.

Godspeed, Mr. Fleischer.

With Leon Fleischer at Seji Ozawa Concert Hall, Tanglewood, 1995.

cellist leo eguchi featured on music podcast

Festival co-founders Sasha Callahan and Leo Eguchi.

The co-founder and artistic director of the Willamette Valley Chamber Music Festival, cellist Leo Eguchi, is featured in this edition of Robert Hunt Simonds’ podcast Performing Labor. I can’t wait to be performing with him again this year!

this friday: feldman

This week’s Portland Social Distance Ensemble production.

From our press release this week:

“This week the Portland Social Distance Ensemble presents Morton Feldman’s masterpiece, “Clarinet and String Quartet”, in a cross-continental chamber music concert performed live by clarinetist James Shields and violinist Emily Cole (CA), joined by violist Ron Blessinger (Portland) and cellist Laura Metcalf (NYC). Their program also includes “Romance” by Gerald Finzi, the second movement of his beautiful “Five Bagatelles”.

Composed in 1984, Feldman’s “Clarinet and String Quartet” is a study in musical contemplation, an invitation to enter a sound world of evolving color and abstract gestures.

An avid collector and friend of abstract painters Mark Rothko and Philip Guston, Feldman once remarked that in certain paintings, when perspective disappears, the meaning, the experience, is “…not confined to a painting space but rather existing somewhere in the space between the canvas and ourselves.” This remarkable quote takes on added significance in our performance, with the performers and audience separated by great distances, yet connected via our collaborative technology.

Go to to continue bringing live music to your home every Friday at 6pm PDT

The Portland Social Distance Ensemble is an experiment in building community through collaboration, a place where artists can safely come together to do our part in making the world a better place.

45th Parallel Universe will be presenting weekly live streamed performances every Friday @ 6 PM PDT, featuring talented musicians who are eager to get back to the business of creating new musical art.

Each performer participates remotely from their homes, with their playing combined into a unified performance using innovative technology designed by Friend of 45th Parallel Danny Rosenberg. These performances are only possible because of your generous support.”

Streaming Links:
or head to the 45th Parallel Universe web page.