Remembering Meyer Kupferman

Martin L. Nass
Richard Wilson
Eleanor Cory
Barbara Hardgrave
Mary Findley
Laurel Ann Maurer
Roberto Limon
Tristan Willems
Kazuko Hayami
Naomi and Stanley Drucker

Helen Armstrong
Stanley B. Winters
William Anderson
Christopher Vassiliades
Starr Library, Rhinebeck, NY
Loren R. (Jake) Lentz
Robert Phillips
Stanley Walden
Jeffrey James

April 22, 2004

This is written after the wonderful memorial concert for Meyer for inclusion in the tribute book.

Meyer and I were classmates at the High School of Music and Art and graduated in 1943. He was the first clarinet in the senior orchestra and I was in the first violin section. We were not close friends at that time, but had a chummy adolescent relationship. He had a wonderful sense of humor and was a great deal of fun to be with. We put on a performance of Pete and the Wolf and he played the role of the cat on the clarinet.

We lost touch for many years. I contacted him in 1978 because I was doing a research project on creativity in composers and was speaking to contemporary composers about their musical ideas. I am a psychoanalyst and was interested in the mind of composers. Meyer was a natural and we spent several hours talking together and this rekindled our friendship. My wife and I attended a number of concerts of his that he put on with his music and his most talented friends, many of whom performed at the memorial.

An excerpt from our interview in 1978 will illustrate Meyer's wonderful ability to put his creative process into words:

MN: Do you find that there is a particular process when you conceive of a musical idea?

MK: Yes. I feel like a fisherman sometimes, and I even tell my students this because when I teach, I'm very much involved with this process...I feel that you throw out something. You throw out a line and then it goes very far and then there's this kind of distant tug that's so subtle that the normal people ignor it. But the real fisherman senses that that tiny little nudge is something that one must be very cognizant of and follow it very carefully, very slowly, and sometimes zip in very fast. The worst thing in the world, the worst sin is to ignore it.

Thank you for the opportunity to celebrate the life of my friend and classmate Meyer Kupferman. My condolences to his family.

Martin L. Nass

April 16, 2004

I met Meyer Kupferman over twenty-five years ago. He quickly became a close friend and nurturing colleague. I have countless memories of showing him pieces in various stages of completion to get his reactions. These sessions often took place in his studio, but they also happened on MetroNorth trains or in my kitchen. He had so much experience, had written so many pieces in so many genres, that one was hard-pressed to present a compositional situation or problem that he had not already dealt with. He was especially helpful with orchestration. If what a sonority needed was the addition of an accented pedal note in the trombone, or a richer chord in the harp, he knew it and was quick to suggest it. Not that I took all his advice. Exotic percussion — particularly the talking drum — I left to him.

Meyer was a born teacher. He had the rare capacity to engender creative energy in his students and in his composing friends. For that reason alone his death is a calamity. But one misses his larger-than-life personality, the comic side that showed up in things like the tuba mute use that made that instrument into an obese gentleman tipping his hat. I tip my hat to this great friend.

Richard Wilson

April 16, 2004

for his 75th Birthday

As his student, shy face turned upward,
I brought him flowers instead of notes.
"Beethoven has found them all," I said.
Dry impatience was his message;
a sign, "No Entry Without Notes," blocked the door,
angering my roughest edges, starting my rattling,
stretching my sinews, until I left excuses outside,
dripping and disgusting, and
announced myself in a brave forte
screaming my response to his language,
answering his trombones with my clarinets,
blending his drums with my strings,
on the way to my own fanfares and fantasias.

The music still flows from his big baton
creating dramas, stating his history,
saturating us with elegance, as we
sit up, turn, and applaud
this colossus of a man.

Eleanor Cory

April 15, 2004

Working with Meyer was working with a force bigger than life, indefatigable, brilliant, humorous, intensely musical. My own life was enhanced by my intersections with his, and I'm grateful.

Barbara Hardgrave, mezzo-soprano
Professor of Voice
State University of New York at New Paltz

April 14, 2004

Meyer Kupferman Memories

In the fall of 1983 I was researching American music for violin and piano for a Weill Recital Hall program. After more than a week of listening to almost every such work in the Library of Congress, and wearying of hearing earnest but cold pieces, I discovered the spirited 1970 Fantasy Sonata by Meyer Kupferman, in a lovely performance on Desto by Robert Mann and William Masselos. Just what I was looking for, I thought-only I can't whistle, and one of the most beautiful parts of the piece is the ending where the performer whistles in duet with the violin! I tried and tried at home to teach myself, asking friends to coach me, but I finally gave up.

Meanwhile I had read a glowing review in a music magazine of a CRI LP of two more Kupferman works for violin, The Garden of My Father's House for clarinet and violin and Angel Footprints for violin and tape, performed by Max Pollikoff with Meyer himself on clarinet. I bought this wonderful LP and resolved to learn at least one of these works. But meanwhile I needed something with piano. Hmm, Meyer might have composed another piece for violin and piano.

I got his number from information in Manhattan. When I called, on a November afternoon, he answered the phone! Amazed to reach him so quickly, I stammered, in response to his "who are you anyway?," something about playing in a concert at Merkin Hall in December, and would he like to come as my guest. I guess my chutzpah and my excitement about his three violin pieces I had heard, and the tale about all that listening at the Library of Congress, won him over, and he suggested that maybe he'd actually like to write a new piece for me. I had commissioned several pieces before, but not from someone so well known, and was worried about the cost. He assured me we could work something out, especially since it involved a New York premiere in June.

On the day of the Merkin concert he invited me to a delicious Chinese dinner prepared by Pei-fen at their apartment and played tapes of other recent pieces. After the concert he approved of my playing and said he knew exactly what to write for me.

Sonata Guernica arrived in Washington in March and I trembled when I saw what lay ahead to be learned in just a little over two months. I didn't know what a startlingly good piece it was at first-all the techniques that had to be invented and notes that had to be learned were a huge worry-I simply committed to give a fine performance, even if it turned out I didn't like the piece.

At the concert, when the audience was so quiet and the applause afterwards so heartfelt, I knew we had a winner. So many people came up afterwards and said that, although they didn't usually like modern music, they found this to be a powerful and memorable work, and they wanted to know when it would be recorded. I have since played it numerous times, and I did record it, with Kazuko Hayami, who became a friend through our many rehearsals and coaching sessions with Meyer. At every performance of Sonata Guernica the reaction has been astonished enthusiasm. Marjorie Lee, the pianist for the first performance, liked it so much that she asked Meyer to write a piano sonata for her.

I subsequently commissioned two more Kupferman pieces, In My Father's Image for a memorial concert for my teacher, Sigmund Effron, in Cincinnati, and Memorabilia Fantasy (piano trio) for a summer concert series in Maryland at which Meyer also appeared as a guest artist in a breathtaking performance of his solo clarinet work Four Jazz Etudes (and a sensual Brahms Trio with vibrato!). Both new works turned out to be rewarding pieces for the performers, popular with audiences. Later I had the privilege of performing The Garden of My Father's House with Meyer in a concert in New York.

Working with Meyer was thrilling, inspiring, tiring, infuriating, funny, educational, and exhilarating. He pushed me beyond what I thought was possible for me, and I grew in technique and style because of his demands and encouragement. We became friends over the years and laughed often about how this "crazy violinist from D.C. called him up out of the blue-and couldn't whistle."

I will miss his laugh and much else. I am deeply grateful to have the living legacy of his music.

Mary Findley

April 14, 2004

It has not been an easy task to write down my thoughts about Meyer Kupferman. I remember the first time I played a work of his-an unaccompanied flute piece called "Arcana I". He was so enthusiatic! "Truly Sensational", he said. Truly relieved, I felt. His music is hard, but it is full of life-it's joys, it's pain. He once said to me that music must have "physicality", it shouldn't be totally intellectual. He wrote a masterpiece for me, the "Chaconne Sonata" for flute and piano. He called me from his home after only a month of composing and said "I would like you to come up to Rhinebeck and play through the Sonata so that I can be sure everything works for you." My husband and I made the trip the next week. He showed me what he had written-which was the entire Sonata. He insisted that I read the work at tempo -well, three hours later, he was sure and I was totally exhausted!

In 1998, Meyer flew out to Salt Lake City, Utah to be present at a concert that I organized of his music. He coached us in the usual Meyer fashion-constantly until we got right. We coined the phrase "Kupfermania" which he loved!

When I think of Meyer, I recall a big man with a big heart. He was so generous with his music. He taught me a great deal and I will forever know that he has shaped my musical life. I am indebted to him.

Laurel Ann Maurer

These Suns Are Dark

This character piece portrays atmospheric images of the tango and it was a generous and beautiful present that Meyer Kupferman gave me as a testimony of our friendship.

This work reflects most of Meyer's style. His atmospheric impression and his jazz-like harmonic language within expressionistic melodic lines are evident in a single movement composition which develops the opening Adagio misterioso. A varied spectrum of changes in tempo and mood prevails throughout the work evolving from a Rubato dramatico to a Delicatamente and Poco meno ma agitato, this last one preceded by a Quasi cadenza. A Slow Tango section appears from time to time, evoking the essence of the piece.

Kupferman's vision of the performance suggests that the guitarist should wear a special costume according to the poetic mood of the piece, and it must be"on stage through the prism of a mysterious, quiet, rotating pattern of lighting hues - amber, orange and deep red..."

These Suns Are Dark owes its title to Pei-fen, Kupferman's beloved wife.

Although I cannot be present at this wonderful homage, my heart and thought are with Meyer, Pei-fen and the wonderful friends that I have met through Kupferman's music.

His noble friendship and beautiful legacy is a life-time gift to share.

Roberto Limon

April 13, 2004

It was Thursday, November 27, 2004 when I received a frantic phone call from my daughters. I was in Slovakia, conducting and recording with the State Philharmonic at that time - I was just leaving my apartment to go to the hall for the dress rehearsal before a concert. They had told me that Jeff James had called to say that "Uncle Meyer" had passed away (My children always called him "Uncle Meyer" from the time they were able to talk.) It was difficult at first to understand them - they were hysterical and my youngest daughter, Victoria was sobbing inconsolably. You will note from Jeff James' letter that Victoria was Uncle Meyer's "painting buddy." They sent art supplies back and forth to each other in the mail and painted in Meyer's studio whenever we visited. I knew Meyer was ill - I visited with him many times in the various hospitals he had been in, but this is something that you are never ready for. As one does, I began to reflect on who and what Meyer was and meant to me.

I first made Meyer's acquaintance through the guitarist Robert Phillips in 1994, who had just commissioned the "Pipedream Sonata" from Meyer. I was at Bob's house for a Labor Day barbecue with his next door neighbor, the composer Frank Brazinski. I said that I was looking for some charts to play at the inaugural concert of the Adolphe Saxquartette. He told me to call Meyer, which I did.

Meyer said he had a Sax Quartet but would prefer if we performed a work for six saxophones entitled "Mystique". Meyer had written it in 1981 after attending an art show in Manhattan. I agreed, not knowing any of Meyer's music and it being only three weeks to the performance date (as all of you who knows Meyer's music can expect, I was in for the ride of my life). We began to work in earnest, but could not pull it off on our own. Frank Brazinski agreed to help out and conduct.

Meyer came to the dress rehearsal and asked Frank if he could have a "go" as to expedite matters. That, my dear friends was one of the most intense two hours of my life! Simultaneously, I felt like a true artist and the biggest "hack" ever to slap on a reed. Meyer conducted the performance and was received with a standing ovation from a packed house, screaming as if they were at a Metallica show.

Several weeks later, I called Meyer to thank him and to ask if he would write a quartet for us. Very abruptly, he said "NO"! My response was "Don't you love me anymore?". He said "Of course, I do, but I've already written one and had exhausted the possibilities" (Who was I to argue?). Meyer asked if he could write another piece for six saxes with "doubles" (each musician playing two to four instruments as one would do in a Broadway show). I said I love that and three weeks later, I received a phone call from him telling me the work was done. As others had already stated, he worked with an extraordinary facility. We performed "Mystique" again several months later live on WNYC Radio (Meyer was to conduct, but a postal truck had hit his car while he and his wife were driving. They were fine, but the doctor told him to stay home and rest. Frank Brazinski very admirably conducted the performance.) I bring this incident up, as it will become a pattern between him and myself later on.

We rehearsed and premiered "The Flight of Orestes" on the same day at Meyer's house and the Rhinebeck Arts Festival in 1995. I have preserved every rehearsal and performance with Meyer on videotape, which I will deposit in Meyer's archives in the New York Public Library for all to share - they are truly enlightening experiences!

"Mystique" was performed again at the Adolphe Saxquartette's New York Recital debut in 1996 (the same night the Yankees won the World Series (and I though all of the city was cheering for us!) Meyer conducted although at this point, we had learned to do the piece sans director). Chris Vassiliades also performed with us that night on a work for narrator, sax quartet and piano by Frank Brazinski.

In 2002, we were invited to perform "Orestes" at the World Saxophone Congress in Montreal. Meyer again was to conduct (he had done several rehearsals with us) but had to go into the hospital for surgery and could not attend. Dana Perna (Victoria's godfather and supplier of art supplies to both Victoria and Meyer) filled in as conductor.

There were many other incidents that filled in the times between, but the one that is closest to my heart was the day I stopped by for coffee after my last day of classes at the Conductors Institute. Meyer had just finished recording his "Flute Concerto" with Laurel Maurer in Monte Carlo and told me he was having a "beast" of a time getting a section accomplished due to a conducting technicality (we all know that he was a remarkable conductor as well). He called for a break, opened up his case of batons, and chose a baton I had handmade for him several years earlier. They returned from session and concluded the recording in one take. I left Meyer's house and returned home. Two hours later, my wife suffered a seizure and passed away six weeks to the day later. Meyer was a constant source of strength during that time.

Meyer Kupferman was an exacting taskmaster. He knew what he heard in his head and expected you to duplicate that. It was not always an easy job and he let you know when you weren't fulfilling your part of the contract." But, when you succeeded (and he was always in some part responsible for that), no higher praise could be bestowed.

Tristan Willems

April 13, 2004

My friend, Meyer

With his passing, I feel an important chapter of my life has closed.

Meyer was a prodigious composer, who, with his universe-size imagination, creativity and energy, never paused. Many of his works are named after constellations, which seemed to represent his spirit with no boundary. He had so much to say through his music and it was always meaningful. He was a master of diverse styles, ranging from twelve-tone rows, lively jazz, simple folk-song like melodies to works of extremely complex texture. His works are full of personality, individualism and free spirit.

Meyer was also a good friend and advisor. Ever since I was fresh out of college, he encouraged me and guided me in the positive directions. Working with Meyer, the clarinetist and the composer, in the ensemble "Music by My Friends" which presented new works by his colleagues and himself at the Carnegie Recital Hall, was the beginning of my journey with Meyer. He wrote many beautiful works for me and I felt proud and excited to give premiere performances of those works.

Meyer was a demanding coach, inspiring us to do our best, challenging our technical skills and imagination. We found ourselves surprised with what we could do and excited by the powerful message his music contained.

I have so many memories of Meyer. Some of them are humorous, such as the time when we 'bargained' a metronome speed, and when Meyer, Pei-fen and I wandered around Moscow where our recording sessions were taking place, looking for food. Some are simply 'nice' such as a lazy summer afternoon when we went out riding bicycles together.

It is hard to express my gratitude for Meyer in words, who enriched my life in so many ways.

Kazuko Hayami, pianist

April 13, 2004

Bravo! Meyer Kupferman! Your music and your spirit will always be with us!

Naomi and Stanley Drucker

April 8, 2004

Meyer was a very special friend

I, Helen Armstrong, met Meyer Kupferman in the 70s and became good friends. He wrote his violin concerto for me and another solo violin piece entitled Soundspells which had its premiere at Alice Tully Hall in 1978 in memory of my late husband, Alan Cohen. I will always remember his extreme talent and ability to get the maximum results from all our meetings — whether personal or professional. He was a unique individual! He always strived for the best and got it and will be remembered for his diversity of works, dedication and love he had for his students, friends, and of course his family. He will be missed immensely but remembered through all the performances of his works! I look forward to keeping him alive!

Helen Armstrong — violinist
Founder and Artistic Director Director — Armstrong Chamber Concerts

April 8, 2004

Meyer Made an Indelible Impression

Meyer Kupferman was among a handful of persons I know whose capabilities went beyond skill and talent to approach genius. His musicality opened a new universe to me, a musical naif when we first met in 1946 and still merely a member of the audience. I cannot say that everything he composed plumbed my musical depths because there was much he created that I never heard, his output is so vast. But I enjoyed hearing his works because they blended fantasy, humor, melody and atonality, and always originality, and because he was my friend and had composed them. He in turn listened patiently to accounts of my doings as a historian, educator, writer and civic activist. I was in awe of his virtuosity with the clarinet. Toward the middle of our lives we discovered a new mutuality, I with my marriage to a lady from Prague and my writings on Czech history, and he through close relations with Czech composers and musicians, which culminated in royal receptions in Prague's music world until today. It puzzled me that he gained greater recognition for his achievements among musicians 4,000 miles away in a small country rich in musical talent than he did in his native city and country; at least that is my impression. He was a dear friend, a generous host and I miss him.

Stanley B. Winters, Ph. D.

April 7, 2004

My Work with Meyer

Since I was 23 years old Meyer was coaching my performances of his music and he was one of the best coaches I've had.

Oren Fader and I had great fun with Meyer's guitar duo, Poetics 3, for 20 years. That was the first Kupferman piece I played. We performed it last November in Mexico and had as much fun with it as the first time, maybe more.

It took me 10 years to start playing Meyer's solo pieces well. They needed to be built into my nervous system. I eventually had great success with the solos Strumming and Through a Glass Darkly. I admire Strumming for the way all the movments revolve around G and G# in wonderfully inventive, surprising ways.

Meyer wrote Through a Glass Darkly for me as he was recovering from a serious illness. The piece is very dear to me. I am deeply moved by the struggle between different harmonic stances (or contrasting harmonic stances as emblems of struggle in general) and the gentle but poignant resolution at the end.

In 1986 my ensemble, Cygnus, starting commissioning new works with guitar by Meyer--Summer Music, Exordium, New Space--these works spanning a period of 12 years or so.

Meyer made a point of making opportunities for me to work with other of his players. It was a great pleasure for to work with the likes of Laszlo Varga, for example.

The most important development to have come out of my work with Meyer was my gradual acceptance of his musical pluralism. His vision of a music that didn't exclude any musical means. I find his two trios Icarus and New Space succeed in making seemingly disparate musical languages work together. I now attempt this in my own compositions.

Over the last few years Meyer came to recoginize my sincere and sometimes successful attempts at getting my mind around his musico-poetic conceptions and describing them in words. He consequently asked me to write quite a few program notes. I'm very proud of a few of them. I'd like to repeat one here:

New Space

For oboe, violin, and guitar

This piece was written in the Spring of 1998 for the Cygnus Ensemble appearance at the Raritan River Music Festival (Michael Newman and Laura Oltman, Directors). Kupferman received this commission just after sons were born to two of his friends, both guitarists. My son Henry and Robert Limon's son Robertito were both born within weeks of each other. Anderson gave the first performance at the Raritan River Festival in May of 1998.

New Space is in two movements. The first movement develops a long arching melody that is filled with spaces, long pauses. This melody first appears alone in the oboe. The melody is then treated in two ways, both strikingly beautiful and offering a striking contrast to each other. The first treatment is contrapuntal, employing Kupferman's "infinities row". As this rigorous development reaches a crucial point, the movement achieves a kind of epiphany in ostinati. The birth of Ostinato. (An ostinato is a repeating accompantal figure)

If the contrapuntal part is about development and gestation, then the ostinato section would be about the mystery of a new consciousness as it stares up at you and the world for the first time. The most miraculous moment of all of our lives, that all of us have forgotten-new space.

The first movement is cosmological. It ponders and probes the mystery of life and creation, through consciousness and consciousnesses of the nooshpere (Teilhard de Chardin's term), or, from the German tradition-the Umwelt. (I use the two terms interchangeably.) These terms describe the kind of space to which Kupferman's title refers, the unique and mysterious space of consciousness, where time, space and other aspects of physical reality may be defied.

While the first movement is cosmological, the second movement is about action; the first is about immanence, the second, actuality. There is the sense of the child's awesome and boundless will, paying very little heed to time and space and such, but rather climbing the walls, bouncing off the ceiling, sliding, crawling, and getting into all kinds of trouble.

Nowhere in the musical literature have I found a more profound and sincere musical exploration of the mysteries of birth and childhood.

William Anderson

April 7, 2004

Recollections of Meyer Kupferman, Chapter One

My first knowledge of Meyer Kupferman was when I was in high school in the late 1970s. A classmate was playing a piece from manuscript that absolutely fascinated me. Not only was the music itself absolutely mesmerizing, but the written page was equally fascinating. I am sure we all remember those pre-Finale days when all new music was hand-written and part of the expression of a piece was through the autograph of the composer. This was certainly no exception. Meyer's calligraphy was quite unique and seemed to have been written from the bold strokes of a magic marker. The sound of the piece matched the visuals.

A bit later in life at the energetic age of twenty-four I decided to program this fantastic piece, and thought that I would get a coaching from the composer himself. I picked up the phone and called him up. A few days later I entered Meyer's home on West 71st Street for the first time, and essentially never left. Anyone who knows Meyer knows that a simple coaching is a fiction. We met, talked for hours, played and experimented. It was the first of many of these sessions, and it was filled with reward, frustration, confusion, triumph and all of the incredible things that made me become a musician in the first place. Not only did Meyer give of himself to my performance of this piece, he showed up at the concert as well.

Subsequently, we had the idea to put together an all-Kupferman concert. We hased through many scores and found a concert representing four decades of piano music, with which I toured throughout the East Coast. The concert tour was very well received and helped to put me on the map, for which I will be forever grateful. Those concerts led to CD recordings, chamber concerts, and even published interviews and liner notes which I wrote for his albums. Alas all good things had to come to an end, but what an end it was: Meyer dedicated his Third Piano Concerto: Foxfire to me. I recorded it two summers ago in Prague. In his waning health he entrusted me to supervise his final two Cds, something I consider a great honor.

Meyer was the very definition of what I expect a composer to be, and so very rarely find: Robust, willing to work out problems, physically present at rehearsals and performances, and above all, willing to explore interpretations. He was a true musician as well as a force of nature. His efforts were tireless. At rehearsals, when others around us would collapse from fatigue, Meyer gave a pep talk and found that extra ounce of energy to have another go.

I believe that his music will live on as firmly as I believe that this difficult winter will pass. But there is a deep sadness to be without his presence. To say that his absence is deeply felt in my life is an understatement. It is a deafening silence indeed.

Christopher Vassiliades

April 7, 2004

The Starr Library in Rhinebeck, New York, remembers Meyer Kupferman as a beloved friend.

April 6, 2004

My most vivid memory of my several years studying with Meyer is when he went with my wife and me to my very first performance of classical music in 1998. We met him at his house...He had us come in and introduced his wife, Pei-fen, to my wife, Marilyn. Knowing his busy schedule, I was very impressed and honored by his support and graciousness. His conversation and friendship made the evening one I shall never forget.

Meyer was a great composer, a man of many talents,a wonderful teacher. He helped me to reach higher than I ever dreamed possible. I will surely miss him.

Loren R. (Jake) Lentz

March 17, 2004

When I approached Meyer about commissioning a piece for guitar, we discussed a short, single movement work for what I felt was a rather modest sum of money considering his stature as a composer. He told me that he would listen to my recording to see if he found my playing interesting, and would get back to me to let me know if he would accept the commission. He expected a downpayment prior to beginning the work. This was certainly fair enough. That was on a Thursday in March, 1994. The following Monday he phoned to inform me that he had written a 4 movement work, but that he was not sure that he was finished. He invited me to visit him in Rhinebeck that Thursday to read through the work.

When I arrived on Thursday he allowed me to read through the 4 movements of what he was now calling the "Pipedream Sonata", and told me that he was also writing a fifth movement, a toccata. By the following Monday it was completed. I have always found his exuberance for life, and the child-like enthusiasm for his work to be inspiring. He could be a serious artist and outrageously funny at the same time. I will certainly miss him.

Robert Phillips

March 10, 2004

I met Meyer when I moved my family around 1960 to upper Rierside Drive, in Washington Heights in Manhattan. One of my immediate neighbors was Jacob Druckman and somehow we three composers (Meyer was living then on another part of the Drive) were invited to give a joint evening of talk and taped examples of our music at the local library. Thus started some 40 years of parallels and coincidences that sometimes bordered on the alarming.

Like Meyer, I had graduated from Queens College (he was some 7 years my senior) and were active composer/clarinetists, with a prediliction for jazz and the theater. In '67 Meyer recommended me for a summer job as musical director at the resort theater at Green Mansions, in the Adirondacks, where I met my oldest and closest collaborator, the author and director Jacques Levy. That summer we did a production of Meyer's Gertrude Stein opera IN A GARDEN. When Meyer took his sabbaticals from Sarah Lawrence, I would cover his classes there. I also wrote pieces for his MUSIC BY MY FRIENDS series, (JACKS OR BETTER (AN OPENER), MOVEMENTS FOR WIND TRIO, and LEGNO,a piece for clarinet, xylophone and cello.) The coincidences continued piling up as I followed him up to the Hudson Valley (settling in Hopewell, Junction, an hour south of his Rhinebeck address) and even went so far as the fact that my wife followed his wife Pei-fen as the Dance Therapist at the Hudson Valley Psychiatric Center in Poughkeepsie! People have even told me that we looked alike.

In the mid-80's, I was asked to set Gertrude Stein's DOCTOR FAUSTUS LIGHTS THE LIGHTS for a German-language version at the Cologne Theater, thus following on Meyer's heels once again (he had, I believe, been given permission by the Stein estate to do the first realisation of this libretto). Recently I redid my score, reverting to the original English, and was able to play an excerpt for Meyer shortly before his death.

We would get together regularly to play clarinet duets and examples of our most recent compositions. I would proffer a newly performed or still in manuscript work and he would counter with 3 new CDs, featuring that months concertos, symphonies or chamber works. The profusion of his creative energy (manifest also in his paintings and writings) was staggering and put most of his contemporaries to shame. He was truly a modern-day Vivaldi. I and we will sorely miss him.

Stanley Walden

December 14, 2003

Dear Pei-fen,

I thought I would send you this letter to let you know how much Meyer meant to me. I admired him in several different ways.

I was in awe of his abilities as a composer - his easy facility (although I know he worked very hard to make it look easy), his tremendously prolific output, his remarkable gift for challenging players to go to their farthest limits and even beyond, and his seemingly endless invention. I honestly believe that as time goes on, his remarkable body of work will reach an even wider audience and that his recordings will prove to be a superb document of a great American composer and the full, vast range of his creativity.

I was also amazed by his care and dedication as a teacher. Although I never studied with him, several people who did have expressed how great a teacher he was and how he gave so much of himself to the student. This is, to me, the mark of a great teacher - someone who is determined to take the student's abilities beyond what they might realize, and finds a way to do it.

I was privileged to see both of these qualities come together in a number of commissions I was able to arrange for him. All of the musicians he wrote for in these projects were at first daunted, but ultimately more than fulfilled by the virtuosic quality of the music, and the incredible generosity in terms of time and teaching that Meyer gave to prepare them for the premieres. He would not let them be less than their best, and in this creative process, gave them all a great gift that came from deep in his soul.

Another area in which I was privileged to learn from him was his entrepreneurial skills. Even in the early 1990s, when many people still thought that the classical music business was in a temporary slump and would rebound to its former self, Meyer was already publishing his own music and issuing his own CD projects. Now that many other composers are on both of these bandwagons and have finally come to the realization of the permanent nature of the change in our business, Meyer's early vision of a type of self-sufficiency today seems prescient. The fact that so much of his music is available for the ages on CD and in published form (and that he controlled the rights to so much of it) is a wonderful testimony to this foresight.

Finally, but perhaps most importantly, I admired Meyer Kupferman as a man. His kindness, generosity, good humor (many phone calls beginning with "Hello, this is Herr Koopf") and decency marked him as someone who I was honored to know. Although there were many things over the years that will stay with me, one image overwhelms all others and seems to define the size of the man's heart. My wife and I had come up to visit Rhinebeck with our friend Michael Kimmel and his three daughters, the youngest of whom, Victoria, was an avid 3 or 4 year old painter. After a nice visit at the house, we all adjourned to a local Chinese buffet for lunch. After getting out of our various cars, Meyer spotted a store in the small shopping center that sold paints and art supplies. He immediately grabbed Victoria's little hand in his big one and informed us that he was going to get her some more painting supplies. The memory of the sight of that big man with the big heart leading that little girl by the hand was something quite special, and to me, said volumes about him as someone quite special.

I will always be grateful to Meyer for taking a chance in 1991 on a then relatively new arts consultant. I honestly believe that whatever success I may have in the music world is owed in no small part to my association with him and that whatever success I may have in the future, Meyer Kupferman will always be a part of me.

Jeffrey James

Jeffrey James Arts Consulting
Jeffrey James,   President
45 Grant Ave.
Farmingdale, NY 11735
Tel & Fax: 516-586-3433   E-mail:

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