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Abravanel Memories

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Click on links below to access highlights from oral histories of Utah Symphony musicians who played under Maestro Maurice Abravanel. During interviews conducted during the 2014-15 season, we asked these musicians to recall their days making music with Maestro Abravanel , especially during the period of recording the Mahler symphonies. The complete oral histories will be archived in the McKay Music Library in the School of Music at the University of Utah.

abravanel

bonnieMangold     

Bonnie Mangold: Utah Symphony cello, 1969-2007 (38 years)

This is the first post in our Mahler Memories Series, which will provide highlights from oral histories of Utah Symphony musicians who played under Maestro Maurice Abravanel. During interviews conducted during the 2014-15 season, these musicians recalled their days making music with Maestro Abravanel , especially during the period of recording the Mahler symphonies. The complete oral histories will be archived in the McKay Music Library in the school of Music at the University of Utah.

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Tom Baron     

Tom Baron: Utah Symphony violin, 1968-2015 (46)

Abravanel was not one to placate us in any way. He would not cut anyone any non-professional slack. We did beautiful work with him. He demanded it and he got it from us, and we didn’t know how. We’d listen to those CDs later and say “Is that us?” We never could figure it out. He was in touch with something that collectively we would feel.

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Carolee Baron     

Carolee Baron: Utah Symphony cello, 1968-2012 (44 years)

[Abravanel] called to tell me that I was in the orchestra and then he said there was a tour that summer. There was no summer season, just an extra thing that they had added—a five day tour to the west coast. And we were going to be playing Mahler 2nd and Mahler 4th. I was 17, and I was about this close to saying, “Who’s Mahler?” because I did not know who Mahler was. But some little thing in the back of my head (thank you, thank you) said “Don’t ask that.”

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Julia Lawrence     

Julia Lawrence: Utah Symphony violin, 1965-2011 (45 years)

I’m not sure I had ever heard of Mahler before I got into the symphony. Probably I had heard his name in my music history classes, but I’m sure I had never played anything by Mahler before I got into the orchestra.

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ardeanWatts     

Ardean Watts:

I think of Maurice as a kind of high priest. And Mahler’s the Bible. You know he knew how Mahler’s genius was the genius of transforming the angst, the misery of national, international and personal into a kind of redemptive sound.

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claudiaNorton     

Claudia Norton: Utah Symphony bass, 1967-present (48 years)

His greatness was so encompassing. I think because of his expectations and because of his greatness as a musician and his completeness. It was contagious. We really became great from just being around this incredibly unusual person.

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lynetteStewart108     

Lynnette Stewart: Utah Symphony violin, 1969-present (46 years)

I was raised in Utah, and as a teenager I played Utah Symphony’s Salute to Youth. Then I went to BYU for a year. At the end of that year, John Chatelain, who was Utah Symphony’s principal second violin at the time, called me to say there were three openings in the section, and he wanted me to come audition. That was how I started with Utah Symphony. Now there are only eleven of us left in the Symphony who were hired by Maurice Abravanel.

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craig Fineshriber     

Craig Fineshriber: Principal Percussion and Librarian, 1971-1994; Principal Percussion, 1971-2011

When you’re only sixteen, and Abravanel was conducting the orchestra, there are several things that happen. One of them is you are just scared to death. And secondly, you really do view him as a gigantic personage. Almost godlike.

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Frances Darger     

Frances Darger: violin, 1942-2012

Abravanel gradually, slowly built the whole thing up like you can’t believe. He got into the community, he bought a house, he moved here, he was here all the time except for the summer. If we’d go play in Southern Utah, he went with us to southern Utah. He took us everywhere.

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Russell Harlow     

Russell Harlow: clarinet, 1971-1985

We were doing the Saint-Saëns Organ Symphony in the tabernacle with Abravanel, and Alexander Schriner, the organist. It was towards the end of Abravanel’s career, and both men were very old, and at one point Schriner was not with the orchestra.

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Russell Harlow     

Ralph Gochnour: flute, 1956-99

When I started with the symphony in 1956, the salary had just raised to $50/week. There were only two woodwind spots in each section, and those were already filled by our principal Gene Foster and our piccolo player Ted Wight, so I was hired as second flute, but I also had to handle the library to earn a full contract.

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