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Saturday, December 10, 2016

A dream

please note: this is now a space for my writing. older posts on frugality remain for those interested.

A dream from a few weeks ago:

I was sitting with my grandparents Emma and Leo. We were cuddled together watching a video. The video was one that was recently sent to me by Evan, the son of my mother's late first cousin Herbert.  Herbert's parents had made a movie of their doted-on son--then named Heinz--in Vienna 1937. I hardly know Evan, but we saw him in Seattle last spring and he promised to make a copy of the video for me.

The video shows mostly Herbert at age 3--in the park, on the city streets. Near the end are a few glimpses of his older cousin, my beautiful mother at age 7. There are even a few glimpses of Leo, easy to spot with his round, completely bald head.

My grandparents and I were waiting for the parts with my mother. We were joined by a blog-friend, whom I've met. I said to her,  "Wait; I want to show you my mother."

My grandfather turned to me and spoke for quite a while. It was all in German. I was trying to figure out if I could understand any of it.


It has occurred to me that my grandfather never really knew English very well. The only thing I remember his saying to me is "I just want to live long enough to see you get married." That didn't happen. I was so happy to see my grandparents in the dream.

Friday, December 9, 2016

My Mother's Chauffeur

Note: This is a personal space for writing now. Older posts on frugality remain; frugality  is a timeless practice.

I know so little about life in Vienna, the city my mother's family left in 1938. On election night, I felt an increasing sense of panic and fear. I said to my family: Perhaps this is 1% of what my grandparents felt in the years before they left Vienna, while in Belgrade, and even when they arrived at Ellis Island.

Although my mother's photos were all lost during her move to Florida, her cousin's widow gave me some photos. I have a thumb-sized photo of Herbert and his parents getting ready to board their ship for America. And then I remember an exhibit of anonymous newspaper photos that we saw in Amsterdam: the one that haunts me was of an upper-middle class young Jewish couple, she in a fur coat, he in a suit, being turned away by immigration officials in Cuba in the late 30s. The look of horror on their faces. They knew what they were in for.

Sadly, I only have fragments. The people who did remember have been gone for many years. My mother mostly says she remembers nothing. Many years ago she said "We had a chauffeur to take me to school." When I expressed amazement, she airily replied, "Oh, everyone did."

This comment has given my husband the impression that my mother's family was extremely wealthy. That is not the case. They were middle-class in a time when middle-class families had household help, as my husband's family in the midwest also did.

A few months ago, a thought popped into my head. Why a chauffeur? My grandparents lived right across from the Freud Museum at Bergasse 19. Surely in that densely populated residential area, there were schools within walking distance.

Then the next thought: Was my mother driven to school so she would not have to walk? Then a worse thought: Did my mother have to wear a yellow star?

I have not had the courage to ask my mother these questions. She is 86 and seems to be fading. Perhaps I will ask. I do want to know.

From Viennacitytours (!)

By the turn of the century, Jews were adding to the prosperity of Vienna in all areas of cultural and economic life. Such prominent names as Oscar Straus and Sigmund Freud were recognized as making large contributions in the fields of music and science. In fact, three out of four Austrian citizens awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine were Jewish. More than half of Austria's physicians and dentists were Jewish, as well as more than sixty percent of lawyers and the majority of university professors. Many were also leaders within the Social Democratic Party.

Because of an atmosphere of religious, economic, and cultural freedoms, the Jewish population of Vienna grew exponentially. While there were only 6,200 Jews residing in Vienna in 1860, in 1870 there were 40,200. By 1900, this had increased to 147,000, and in 1938 the population peaked at 185,000. 

While anti-Semitism had been steadily increasing as the Jewish population had continued to prosper in the first three decades of the 20th century, violent displays were always policed. Nonetheless, Vienna's prominent mayor, Karl Leuger, was elected five times. Together with Georg Schonerer, another prominent anti-Semite, Leuger was was noted by Hitler as being one of his biggest mentors.
Nazi Germany annexed Austria in March 1938. Jewish apartments and businesses were pillaged, prominent Jews were forced to scrub the city's sidewalks and were chased through the streets. Any residents who tried to aid their Jewish neighbors were likewise arrested and deported to concentration camps. In May 1938, Nazi Germany put the Nuremberg Racial Laws into practice. Jews were subsequently stripped of most of their civil liberties, excluded from most professions as well as the city's universities, and were obliged to wear a yellow Star of David badges at all times. Jews fled Austria, with over 30,000 settling in the United States.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Notes from the Cottage: My Mother's Memories

Note: In case you haven't seen my other headings, this blog is no longer devoted to my frugal adventures (though I am still frugal), but serves simply as a site for my musings and memories, meant for my family.

Comments are neither expected nor solicited, but I am grateful for the many kind ones I have received.

My mother's memories

My mother's usual response to questions about her past: "I don't remember." She gets rather agitated. There seem to be a lot of painful things she doesn't want to bring to the surface.  Every now and again, she says something about her childhood and youth.

I mentioned that I had looked up the ship manifest for her family's journey from Belgrade to the US in 1938.  I did this because her cousin Herbert (now dead one year, a loss to his family and many others) told me a few years ago that his family sailed from Trieste on the Normandie. He was only 4, so he must have known this from his parents. My mother, who emigrated when she was 8, said she knew she had come on the Queen Mary but didn't know from what port. The manifest (via Ellis Island records, fascinating) listed the port (Cherbourg).  When I told her this, she said, "I knew it was France. I remember seeing the Eiffel Tower, but knew we didn't sail from Paris."  So my information brought out a tiny memory.

As we were driving back from a concert at Tanglewood, where her uncle had been principal clarinetist, we passed the cottage of a principal string player. She said, "Musicians aren't normal. They are high-strung. They think they are better than you." Then she mentioned the musician whose house we passed.

She went on, "He is a snob, but a good bridge player. My uncle was a good bridge player. They had big bridge parties. Koussevitzky would come. My aunt would cook and serve. I did the dishes. Maybe that's why I hate doing dishes."

To Tom: "Bert didn't know how to listen to classical music. It was very hard for him."

Interestingly, Bert (my father) was obsessed with Victor Polatschek and talked about him constantly, even though he died shortly before my mother went to college, where my parents met.

To us: "When I was a kid, I went from concert to concert [and, of course, my mother and her parents lived in an apartment with her aunt and uncle, so music must have been emanating from his practice room]. Everyone was playing music. All i wanted to do was go out and play."

Interesting too: perhaps this explains why I grew up in a house almost completely devoid of music. We didn't even have a radio on, except when we went on long car trips. I have been trying to compensate for my lack of exposure to music for most of my life.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

King Lear and the Cottage: Nothing

I asked my mother recently if I could take some of the furniture from the cottage. Nothing is good or fine, but it is for me imbued with memories and feelings. This is something discussed both by Marcel Proust in his magnum opus and by Marie Kondo in her decluttering masterpiece. These two writers are definitely a pair of incongruous bedfellows. But there they are in the same sentence.

I asked my mother what she wanted from the house.
Answer: "Nothing."

"And your brother doesn't want anything either."

Here we are back in King Lear. After asking his daughters to perform and say which one loves him most, Lear is treated to extravagant declarations of absolute love by the two bad daughters. By the time Cordelia's turn comes, the connection between words and meaning has been so violated that she replies 


"Nothing will come of nothing. Speak again."


Monday, May 16, 2016

Learning from King Lear: The Cottage

As a lifelong lover of books, I often--no, always--find something to provide not just intellectual satisfaction but emotional comfort. There is truly nothing new under the sun.

As I was teaching King Lear last semester, I was struck by how much in that play--which deals with old age, loss of power, and the love of children for difficult parents--resonates with my own life. I say to my students, whose faces show disbelief, that they won't really GET the play until they have aging parents or ARE the aging parent themselves. It is true.

As I get closer to retirement, I identify with Lear, who gives away his power and property only to discover that two of his children do not love him, and, in fact, "desire his death." The good child, Cordelia, has been banished. Also banished is his serving man Kent, who returns in disguise to serve his master. When Lear asks Kent what he sees in him, Kent replies "authority." That is precisely what I have as a teacher that might be lost in retirement. 

Now, facing my mother's decision to sell the cottage, I find myself learning from the daughters,  TRYING to act like the good daughter, but sometimes veering to the cruel daughters, whose thoughts are matched with actions of shocking cruelty. They, after all, have the power. Still, even though my fleeting thoughts will never be matched with action, it's often hard to work on one's thoughts.

Like my mother, King Lear is miserable in his old age and occasionally flies into fits of anger and tears. Like King Lear, my mother has made her decision to sell the cottage to "prevent future strife" between her children. She says she will "feel better" when the house is gone. This is the opposite of what Lear does, but the root is the same: to try to keep control over things when one doesn't have that much control in other aspects of life. 

I am trying to prepare myself for the sale. I feel tremendous grief in anticipation. Tom says that is understandable: selling the house will be like a death for me. 

When Lear is reunited with Cordelia late in the play, he tells her "I know you do not love me." He says that she has cause not to love him, though her sisters do not.

She replies (in perhaps the most moving lines in all of literature, at least as I know it) "No cause, no cause."

Needless to say, I don't expect my mother to say anything like what Lear says, nor have I been banished and disinherited like Cordelia. The situation is different. People are more important than things. Love, even when it doesn't "work," is the answer. (A famous essay on Lear is by Stanley Cavell: "The Avoidance of Love.")

But--in my anticipation--I expect my mother to ask me if I am angry with her for her decision. She might not. Or she might say something else.

But I am nonetheless practicing: "No cause, no cause." 

PS: The wonderful Ian McKellen Lear is no longer available free on "Great Performances." But if you have Amazon Prime, you can watch it for free.

Friday, May 13, 2016

A Cottage of the Mind

It occurs to me that like most beloved places, the cottage in Stockbridge is as much a place of the mind as a place in reality. Why does it occupy such a  place in my mind?

It is not simply, I don't think, that it is a beautiful place, though it is. In the Berkshires, on a lake, with a community beach. It is that my beloved relatives lived there: my Aunt Fritzi, my grandparents Emma and Leo. They represented Vienna to me. They lived the life I felt happiest in: very cultured, as people from that time and place tended to be. They loved music and art. My grandmother often sent me cards that she wrote while in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. 

My own life in suburbia on Long Island was--even when I was a child--a place that I did not find beautiful. (It wasn't--and isn't.)  My parents did not listen to music. When I was old enough to take the train to New York City, I got a student membership to the Museum of Modern Art and spent many hours wandering through the collections. I wanted to be an artist then.

It strikes me that the cottage--as a place of the mind--is connected to my love of reading. I was--as a girl--always lost in a book. My best friend for many years (till her family moved and I received a returned letter stamped "Address Unknown") loved reading too: we would read together and swap books. I am the only reader in my family. It is not that my parents weren't intelligent: both were college educated. My father had a PhD in the days when that degree was rare. But they did not read. So I always felt somewhat alien in my family and in the town where I grew up.

Perhaps I read to draw a world closed around me. 

A pastoral world. An enclosed world of art and imagination.

Is it any wonder that when I was in college I wrote my thesis on pastoral poetry?

Or that when I went to graduate school, I ended up doing my thesis on The Faerie Queene and some plays by Shakespeare-- that represented, explored, or WERE enclosed spaces of art and imagination?

So I am somewhat comforted by the thought that--even when the cottage is no longer accessible to me or to my children as a real place that we can visit--I can recreate it by thinking about it, and perhaps by writing about it.

My Proust-loving husband reminds me of a famous quotation by his favorite author.

The only true paradise is a paradise we have lost.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Tom's Gift to Me: Reading Proust

Tom's birthday was Monday. I am uncertain what gifts I have brought to his life, but he has brought me many. I began to be smitten when the person who introduced us remarked "He spent the summer in the woods reading Proust. In French."

And so it began. Tom rescued me from my loneliness. I am a moody person: he continues to put up with that and to soothe me through my many insecurities.

He still reads Proust all the time. After you've read it once, you can dip in anywhere, at any time. You only know that when you're finished though.

I probably would not have had the discipline to read all of Proust on my own. I am an extremely fast reader of prose, probably why I ended up studying poetry, which forces one to slow down. Proust requires verrrry slow reading. Even a slow reader can advance through a two page sentence, get lost, and have to start over again.

I finally read all the volumes two or so years ago. It took me fourteen months. While the madeleine episode is the most famous (it occurs in the first volume, thereby, perhaps, relieving many of the need to labor though the rest) the true great moment of the book is in the last few pages of the last volume, "Time Regained."

There, he says that Gilberte, now grown up, is "like one of those star-shaped crossroads in a forest as in our lives, from the most diverse quarters? Numerous for me were the roads which led to Mlle. de Saint-Loup and which radiated around her."

Then, a few pages later, the end of that paragraph: "But the truth, even more, is that life is perpetually weaving fresh threads which link one individual and one event to another, and that these threads are crossed and recrossed, doubled and redoubled to thicken the web, so that between any slightest point of our past and all the others a rich network of memories gives us an almost infinite variety of communicating paths to choose from." (These are from pages 502-504 in Modern Library translation).

Of course, I don't--or really can't--aspire to anything like Proust's grand cathedral. And I am not writing about my own memories, really. I would like to create a bit of a record for my children (who may not even be interested) of people who died before they were born. I have a few letters, the guestbook, a few photographs, a few documents. Too few.  But I am trying to get a sense of the web. For me, it always centered on the cottage in Stockbridge.

It is interesting that I started writing these little musings right before a realtor came to my mother with a "rich doctor" who wanted to buy the cottage.

Happy Birthday Tom. Thanks for the gift.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Why was a portion of the cottage in my name?

A few years ago my mother called with great urgency in her voice. There was a mistake in the trust. You and Steve are part-owners of the cottage! This will cost you a lot of money in taxes when you inherit it! Your father paid a lawyer a lot of money to draw up the trust and he must have made a mistake. Thank God I noticed it.

Upshot: sign our portions of the cottage over to my mother. Which we did. With a lawyer in Florida. At separate times. 

I had some misgivings (my mother and father had talked about selling the cottage many times) but knew I had to do it. Otherwise, my already fraught relationship with my mother would be destroyed. She would be angry with me for the rest of her life. I thought of having her sign something saying  but I knew that would also be a problem.

My mother declared that the cottage would remain in the trust and that (and this is a quote; she often says terrible things like this and later says she didn't mean them): "You and your brother will have it and then you can kill each other."

It was depressing but I did it. My brother did it too at another time, but I have no idea how he felt about it. He's fine with the house being sold in any event.

I asked my mother how I came to own a fraction of the cottage--or why a fraction was in my name. She had no idea. I thought my father must have done it, but he was very possessive about the house and I couldn't imagine it. 

Well, of course my mother has now decided to sell the property. She will have large capital gains on it. She has no immediate need of the money. She signed some very disadvantageous contracts with the realtor. I told her she should hold on to the cottage and sell it when she needed the money. That it was an insurance policy of a sort. She said "That's what your father said." (He was smart about money).  But the realtor approached her with a buyer--and so she put the house up for sale. The buyer seems to have evaporated--but perhaps not. The realtor had my mother sign a dual agency contract, whereby the realtor represents both seller and buyer--very bad for the seller. 

Last night I had a lightbulb moment. When my Aunt Fritizi died, she left her estate (small, sadly. She had a long widowhood) in thirds to her siblings (I believe her older sister Julchi pre-deceased her, so that portion went to her descendants). The cottage was at the time worth about 25,000. My parents bought out the shares of the relatives in Yugoslavia and Hans, Fritzi's brother. My grandparents--or perhaps just my grandmother--retained a share. They spent every summer there until they died--first my grandfather and then my grandmother. 

I think that my brother and I may have been left my grandmother's share. I think that together we owned a third. They may have wanted it to go to us and not to my father if my mother died before him (????). Of course, owing to the communications difficulties between my brother and me, I can't ask him--he wouldn't tell me his feelings in any case. 

I want to find a copy of my grandmother's will. My mother was an only child. 

I was almost 30 when my grandmother died. I hadn't seen much of her since I was going rather crazy in grad school--I say this to my shame. There was not much focus on having grandchildren see their grandparents in those days (this is something Tom and I were aware of and we have funded our children's trips to both families). Luckily, I sent her a letter a bit before she died--I had seen a greeting card of a girl lost in a book. That was me. She sent back a letter in reply thanking me for the letter with the exclamation "And what a beautiful card." Thank heavens I did even that, a very small thing and not enough.

Is it strange that I want to know if my grandmother left her share of the cottage to my brother and me? Since my share is signed over I am not a part-owner any more. 

But I am touched at the thought that my grandmother might have been thinking of me. I would like to know. I miss her so much. There is so much I want to ask her, so much I want to tell her.

Monday, May 9, 2016

The House in Belgrade

Note: I mentioned a few weeks ago that this space is now a holding place for various musings about my family history, about which I know very little. My writings--occasional pieces in many senses--are  in no particular order. I have been grateful for the kind comments I have received. They were totally unexpected. I'm still frugal, but I won't be writing on that topic anymore. Thanks again to my past readers.

Emma was a superstar student and was encouraged to apply for various fellowships, the most prestigious being the Rhodes. She worked and reworked her essay, gathered numerous letters of recommendation, and made it to the final competition in Houston. She did not get the Rhodes, which surely would have propelled her along the academic track she was being groomed for. She now says she is grateful that she didn't get it.

She also applied for a Fulbright to teach English in Serbia. That took a good deal of strategizing. Many of the countries required fluency or near fluency in the language. Her friend A, another superstar student, did not get a Fulbright to France, perhaps because she was not fluent in the language. 

Serbia did not require applicants to have the language. And she had a good story for Serbia, a reason to go: my mother and her family passed through the country as they escaped from the Nazi regime in Austria.This was a route taken by many Austrian Jews. One of my grandmother's sisters --Julia--had married a Serb, a very successful man named Nikolai Petrovic. 

My mother, who remembers very little, does remember a beautiful house with a swimming pool. Emma wrote a beautiful essay recounting what she knew of the family history, a story of a Serb saving a family of seven from genocide. Added to that: Emma had become very interested in icons and learned that Serbian churches were full of some of the beautiful images she had been studying.

Amazingly, the house was still in the possession of the family. It had been divided in two. The bottom floor was occupied by Emmi, Julia's daughter, and her family. Her one child, Marina, had just sold the bottom floor to a wealthy family.

The upper floor was occupied by Julia's son George, a chemist, and his wife Ilde. Julia lived with them till she died. My great-grandmother Minna lived there too. George died some time ago, so the upper floor was--and is--occupied by his widow Ilde, who had a distinguished career as a journalist. 

Emma contacted Ilde before she went to Serbia and boldly asked Ilde if she could stay with her for a few days. Ilde declared that she didn't like people, but that Emma could stay. What a gift for them both. Emma became quite close to Ilde. 

When Tom and I went to Serbia two summers ago, we got to meet Ilde and to see the house. Ilde was very frail. The house,which I will write more about later, was filled with pieces of her past--photos of her parents, both doctors, who were killed by the Nazis. Ilde herself was in two concentration camps and somehow survived. Even though there was something of a Miss Havisham sense of decrepitide, the house remains elegant. And the pool is still there.

Ilde is dying now, so I don't suppose I will get to see her again. Meeting her--and seeing the house--were among the most moving experiences of my life. I only wish I had been able to meet George, my mother's first cousin.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Guestbook: September 14, 1946

Dear Mr and Mrs Polatschek,

I feel very out of place writing in the midst of the autographs of all these famous people, but anyway I'm not too original about these things., so I'll just give you my love and many more thanks for having been so kind to me all this summer.

I hope you'll come and visit me very soon and mother will cook then. (Maybe I will too.)


(Anne Davenport)

Except for the name "Ormandy" among the guests before Vicky died and left Fritzi a widow, I do not recognize any of the names. A bit of research has revealed that some, indeed, were eminent figures. Much of the writing is by German speakers and I have difficulty deciphering many of the names.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Farewell to the Cottage

We arranged to spend a month at the cottage in Stockbridge to see if we wanted to keep it after my mother (now 85) was gone. This was my mother's decision. We could afford to "buy my brother out." However, two weeks ago, a real estate agent approached my mother and now my mother has decided to sell it. It has been in her family since 1930 when it was built.

It is the place of my happiest memories. So this will be my last summer there.

I am too distressed to even post photos of the most beautiful place in the world. I guess I will have to write about it instead.

Friday, May 6, 2016

How Susi Came to Give Me Some Family Pictures

12:32 PM (1 minute ago)

The woman we met at Dollar Tree because she came upon  my mother  throwing up in the parking lot was Susi Moldauer. (My mother was throwing up because she needed to take a pill while we were driving and said she couldn't drink our bottled water because it wasn't cold. Taking the pill without water made her sick).

It was a lucky meeting because Susi had some family photos which she sent me. (All our family photos went missing when my parents moved to Florida around 1992. I feel the loss sorely).

Her mother Else Moldauer was a good friend of my grandmother Emmi and my great-aunt Fritzi. I must have met her, but I can't separate her from the other Viennese women speaking a language I did not understand.

Mrs Moldauer was mean, according to my mother. "Her husband committed suicide, but nobody told me" she added. Then the zinger: "And Susi's brother drove off a cliff." All told in a very matter-of-fact tone.

I went to college with Mrs Moldauer's grandson. I didn't really know him. His father must have been the one who died tragically: he was an eminent physicist. 

"One of the creators of statistical theory of nuclear reactors, Prof Peter A Moldauer, died in a tragic traffic accident on January 27, 1984. "

The Moldauer family, like my mother's family, came to the United States from Austria in 1938. Ship manifests are easy enough to find: they came on the Conte de Savoie: Carl Moldauer 37, Else Moldauer 41, Peter Arnold 15, Suse Hermine 4.

Carl's dates: 1901-1972.
Else's dates: 1897-1993.

The web of acquaintance. As a child I thought almost everyone in Boston was from Vienna. 

Thursday, May 5, 2016

The 1940 Census: 21 Parkman Street

The Loefflers and Ornsteins arrived in the United States in 1938--having passed through Belgrade where they, along with Minna Loeffler, were sheltered by Nicky Petrovic, husband of Julia Loeffler. From there, they went by boat (in separate sailings) to Boston, where they were sponsored by Victor Polatschek. Minna Loeffler, mother of Julia, Fritzi, Hans, and Emma,  stayed behind (reasons given are conflicting, but her presence put the family in terrible danger) and was hidden during the War.

Crabbed handwriting in the little boxes of the 1940 census.

21 Parkman Street, Brookline Massachusetts

Victor Polatschek
Frederika Polatschek
Hans Loeffler
Anna Loeffler
Herbert Loeffler
Leo Ornstein 
Emma Ornstein
Renee Ornstein

Victor Polatschek  is listed as being in the Boston Symphony Orchestra with an income of $5000. 
Hans Loeffler is listed as an inventor-auto searchlight with an income of 0.
Leo Ornstein is listed as a clothing factory clerk with an income of $1000.
All are listed as being from Vienna. All adults are listed as having reached grade 8 (?). Herbert had reached grade 0; Renee had reached grade 3.

Hans, with a partner who also ended up in Boston, had owned an auto dealership in Vienna. He sold Bugattis.
Leo owned a business (fabric?) in Vienna. I have the document in which he signed over his assets to the Nazi government.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Dr Shain

On the road in Stockbridge is a pretty house with a sign saying "Guesthouse." I could swear that I was taken there (perhaps with my younger brother) to play with Dr. Shain's granddaughters. I need to find out if Dr Shain did, indeed, own that house at some time.

My great-aunt was widowed in her late 40s (1948). Her husband had been an eminent musician, and my mother, whose family lived with Vicky and Fritzi, occasionally mentioned names that are familiar even today: Leonard Bernstein ("I saw him being made," said my mother), Serge Koussevitsky. When Vicky died, Fritzi lost much of her social standing and social circle.

She was a beautiful woman and--though I don't remember this--an excellent cook. Viennese cooking is very refined, so this is probably true. I have an old Dionne Lucas cookbook with her name in it.

Every now and then, my mother would say "My aunt had an affair with Dr. Shain." Once she added, "when his wife was in a wheelchair."

Fritzi had many guests at her cottage, some for meals, some overnight, and occasionally some paying. She had a long widowhood and even Vicky's generous life insurance proceeds didn't last. 

I have the guestbook from the cottage. In it is this poem. I will scan and post the page at a future date.


A lovely lady by good fortune met me
whose popularity is so great we all must agree
Like a magnet, her charm which she doth possess
Draws everyone to her whether in cheer or distress.

It is Fritzi this or Fritzi that, is all you hear
And to each and everyone she brings joy and cheer.
Here is wishing you all a Very Happy New Year.
With the hope all of us next spring in good health return here.

Arthur I Shain

Monday, April 18, 2016

Fritzi's friends

My great-aunt Fritzi was beloved of many. My grandmother was a prickly, rather dissatisfied woman--I have inherited that temperament. Fritzi, beautiful and even-tempered, was everyone's favorite. 

At least once I got to stay with her after my family went home from the summer house she had in Stockbridge. She was worried that I would be bored without kids my age (perhaps 9 or 10). I told her that I liked old people. It was true.

I accompanied Fritzi on her daily rounds. We visited John and Meredith who had chickens. My aunt went there to buy eggs. They lived in a tiny red house. I was told that John built it himself. They also had a greenhouse and a work shed. Across the road was a duckpond.

I found the house fascinating. It was the smallest house I had ever been in. There was a sleeping loft. To access it, one climbed a few steps, walked on a piano top (which served as a step) and the rest of the steps continued from there. I mentioned this to my mother, wondering if it could be true. She didn't know.

We passed the house on every visit since it is on the road to the cottage. It looked uninhabited for many years. Then a few years ago I noticed a "for sale" sign. The windows of the house were boarded up. A year later the house was torn down. I will never know for sure about that piano step. 

One day, I will post some of the photos we took of the property in its decrepitude, not as it is in my memory. 

My aunt was a famous gardener and people came to admire her plants. One day she took me to see an acquaintance, an eccentric old woman who was a retired school teacher. Her house was decorated with geometric black, red, and gray rugs, which years later I realized were Native American rugs, probably valuable even then. The owner too had a famous garden. She had been to Japan, which seemed to me very exotic. She had created a Japanese garden in her backyard. She had had large and beautiful rocks brought from afar. One, I was told, cost $100. I was amazed at the sum. 

Eventually, my aunt found a young girl for me to play with. We didn't like each other very much. That girl is all grown up. Though I have never seen her again and can't remember her name, she too still visits Stockbridge every year. Her brothers bought her share of their family house, and she remains close to an aunt who also summers there. If we ever visit at the same time, I mean to ask her if she remembers our failed play date.

When we visited Stockbridge last summer, I told my husband Tom that it was the only place in the world where there were still people (very few by now) who knew my great-aunt.  She died in 1969. There are still people who smile when they meet my daughter, because they know that she is named for my grandmother Emma, who spent her summers there as well.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Vicky's Clarinets

My mother sometimes remarked that no one knew what my great-aunt Fritzi had done with Vicky's clarinets. Noodling around the internet last year, I found out--from a blog post by the eventual recipient of the instruments. Their eventual donation to the Boston Symphony is--like so much in life--entirely fortuitous.

I mentioned the article to my mother's cousin Herbert (who died last year). He and his wife had seen the clarinets on display in Boston. He did not seem to know that their whereabouts had been a mystery to our family. This is perhaps because my mother Renee and her parents lived with Vicky and Fritzi. My grandparents continued living with Fritzi even after Vicky's death.

Fritzi, who had no children, was like a mother to my mother, and like a grandmother to me. Herbert and his parents moved to a house of their own. In a flash of memory, my mother mentioned that Herbert's father Hans had thrown a chair at Vicky. Eight people in one apartment was perhaps too much.

The Long and (Wood)Winding Road of Two Clarinets

This essay is a research document that accompanied  my donation of Viktor Polatschek's two Albert/Muller/Oehler system clarinets, an A clarinet and a Bb clarinet,  to the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO), on Sunday, August 12, 2012, under The Koussevitsky Music Shed at Tanglewood. The clarinets have been shown publicly at Symphony Hall in Boston since the fall of 2012 as a highlight of a feature display on the current clarinet section of the BSO. I am indebted to Ms. Bridget Carr, senior archivist of the BSO, and to Ms. Jill Ng, senior major gift officer of the BSO, for their assistance with this project.
Viktor  Polatchek's two Albert/Muller/Oehler system clarinets
Manufactured c. 1909 by F.Koktan and Sons, Vienna

This is a story about three musicians, two of whom never met and the third the link between the two, about the richly resonant and textured woodwind instrument that has defined their lives, and about the love they each have had for their chosen instrument and its craft. It is also a story about mentorship, heritage, stewardship and legacy, connecting episodes in the lives of these three musicians, with the clarinet epicentric as their muse, and with clarinetistry as the roadmap. It is an interesting story which fills in some holes and closes some loops along the way, much as pressing the many rings and closing the many holes of the clarinet help to make its sound so unique, elegant, tonally even and seamless through the diatonic scales.

There are three interconnected strands to the circuitous journey of two clarinets, from their manufacture in the early 1900s in the workshop of the pre-eminent woodwind maker in Vienna, Austria, Franz Koktan and Sons, to their purchase by the then principal clarinetist of the Vienna Philharmonic, Mr. Viktor Polatschek, to his crossing the Atlantic in 1930 to become principal clarinetist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO), to their being given to Mr. Eric Simon by the Polatschek family sometime after Polatschek's death in July, 1948, to their being given by Mr. Simon to me in June, 1994, to my donating them to the Boston Symphony Orchestra on August 12, 2012. 

Viktor Polatschek (1889 - 1948)

Viktor (Victor) Polatschek was born January 29, 1889 in Chotzen (Choceň in Czech) Bohemia, in what is today the Czech Republic. He began to study the clarinet in 1903, at age 14, in Vienna, at theKonservatorium fur Musik (later named the Akademie fur Musik),the Vienna State Music Academy. He studied with Professor Franz Bartolomey from 1903 to 1907, graduating with highest honors, and then re-enrolled in 1909 to study with Professor Hermann Gradener. He began teaching at the Vienna Music Academy in 1921 while playing at the Vienna State Opera. He kept his academic post until September 30, 1932. His students included Alfred Boskowsky, Viktor Korda, Hans Kremsberger and Eric Simon. 

In 1910, at the age of 21, Polatschek was appointed as one of the two clarinetists of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (VPO) and at theWiener Staatsoper (Vienna State Opera(VSO)) in 1912,. He was named principal clarinet of both VPO and VSO in 1921, and held those positions until 1930.
Viktor Polatschek in 1930, at age 41,
when he joined the BSO
(courtesy BSO Archives)
Polatschek was also active in clarinet pedagogy at the Vienna Music Academy, and composed several works for clarinet which also have a teaching function. Notable are his etudes based on themes from famous works, including one based on Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire, as well as  two important and challenging clarinet primers, the 12 Etudesfor Clarinet, and Advanced Studies for Clarinet. Polatschek was also a musical adviser to the Edward B. Marks Music Corporation. 

In 1930, at the urging of Maestro Serge Koussevitsky, Polatschek emigrated to the U.S. to join the Boston Symphony Orchestra(BSO), and shortly thereafter was named principal clarinet of the Orchestra. During his 18 years with the BSO, Polatschek played the lead parts of the wondrous clarinet literature for symphonic ensembles. He soloed in the Mozart Concerto K.V. 622 on November 14 and 15, 1930, and the Brahms Quintet for clarinet and strings, Op 115, on April 27, 1933. 
Polatschek continued teaching at Tanglewood at the Berkshire Music Festival during the 1930s and 1940s. He was said by one of his students, Professor Henry Gulick of Indiana University, to be “an impeccable musician, with great taste in music, with a very courtly and refined personality.”

On July 27, 1948, while rehearsing the Bach-Mozart series of concerts with the BSO at the Berkshire Music festival at Tanglewood, Polatschek sustained what was presumed to a massive heart attack, was moved to  nearby Stockbridge, Massachusetts for treatment,  and died. He was 60 years of age. His widow and sister survived him.

According to Pamela Weston, in her book More Clarinet Virtuosi of the Past, also referenced in the FSU PhD thesis of TL Paddock in 2011, “A Biographical Dictionary of American clarinetists,” Vienna’s clarinetists, including Polatschek and Wlach, played a German-made clarinet, the Oehler-Albert system clarinet, which is also called the “German ‘simple system’ clarinet.”

A short the history of the clarinet

The clarinet, a single reed instrument developed from the ancient chalumeau, was largely the work of the workshop of Johann Christoph Denner of Nuremberg. By 1707, Denner had perfected an instrument which we would recognize today as a primitive clarinet, with few holes and minimal keys. Over the next century, various design modifications took place to allow the still evolving clarinet to play several octaves, with all notes largely in tune.

A modern day clarinet

Two Denner clarinets from the early 1700s.
Note the minimal use of keys.

In  1810, Iwan Müller (Ivan Mueller) developed a clarinetmechanism that he called the “German simple system” which included two “brille” (spectacle-looking metal rings) on the upper joint. It was Müller who had the clever idea to add pads of kid leather stuffed with felt to the keys, and countersink the holes, creating air-tight seals, and thus improving the clarinet’s chromatics dramatically.

Oskar Oehler (1858-1936) combined the so-called Albert clarinet system of Belgium (1844) with Muller’s German “simple system,” and added his own modifications, to create the Albert/Muller/Oehler clarinet system.
The Oehler system "adds tone holes to correct intonation and acoustic deficiencies, notably of the forked notes (B and F). The system has more keys than the Boehm system,up to 27 in the Voll-Oehler system (full Oehler system). It also has a narrower bore and a longer, narrower mouthpiece leading to a slightly different sound. It is used mostly in Germany and Austria. Major developments include the patent C, low E-F correction, fork-F/B correction and fork B♭."
Franz Koktan was a Viennese maker of Oehler-system clarinets (Anthony Baines, Woodwind Instruments). Viktor Polatschek and Leopold Wlach, Polatschek’s student and another prominent clarinetist, played Oehler clarinets. Wlach succeeded Polatschek as principal clarinet of the VPO and VSO after Polatschek moved to Boston.
The clarinets that Polatschek and Wlach played were crafted by Franz Koktan and his son, Franz II (Franz junior), who continued his father’s clarinet workshop from 1907 to 1945. The following data about the Franz Koktan clarinet manufacturing family was obtained from The New Langwill Index:
Koktan, (1) Franz (b) Klein Oreschowitz / Bohemia 12 July 1842; (d) Wien (Vienna)  3 September 1901) WWI ; fl Wien  (Vienna), 1880-1901. From the same village as Bradka, he is first listed in Wien in 1880 as a specialist in clarinet.
Wien 1888, 1892 (flute, clarinet, bassoon).
Koktan, (2) Franz, junior (b) Wien 29 January 1881; (d) ibidOctober 1971) WWI fl Wien 1907-1945. Son of (1), he worked in the shop after his father’s death; 1907 successor; 1924 admitted master. Clarinet specialist; reported to have attempted between the wars to manufacture the Heckel-model bassoon in Vienna.

Eric Simon
(N.B. I have researched Eric Simon's life from his memoirs and papers, which reside in an archive that his family donated to Yale, and which is now accessible as:  The Eric Simon Papers in the Irving S Gilmore Music Library at Yale University, New Haven, CT.)

Eric Simon (1907-1994) was a clarinetist, composer, music editor, and one of the great clarinet pedagogues of the 20th century. He and his good friend and colleague Leon Russianoff trained many of the world's greatest clarinetists in the mid-twentieth century.
 Eric Simon was born in Vienna in 1907 and began to play piano at age 8. In 1921, at age 14, he switched to clarinet, and began taking clarinet lessons from Viktor Polatschek in Vienna, at which time Polatschek was principal clarinetist of the Vienna Philharmonic and the Vienna Staatsoper. After Polatschek came to America to join the Boston Symphony Orchestra as its principal clarinet, Simon continued to study with Polatschek's successor at the Vienna Philharmonic, Leopold Wlach. Polatscek and Wlach both played German-system clarinets - the Albert/Muller/Oehler clarinets.
Simon moved to Sherman CT in 1949 where he lived for the rest of his life. From there, he traveled into NYC to teach at Mannes College of Music, to give clarinet lessons and to edit, transpose and transcribe a significant amount of the clarinet literature, for several music publishing houses.  Many of today’s most popular clarinet music scores, from Schirmer’s Music Publications and International Music, bear the name of Eric Simon in the top left corner, right under the name of the composer.
My own musical journey began in elementary school when I sang in the chorus in a 1960 performance H.M.S. Pinafore. Our family moved to Garden City in 1961, where I began fifth grade. It was the afternoon of October 3rd of 1961, during the New York Yankees-Cincinnati Reds World Series, that my father, who was not a baseball fan at all (he, being Italian, much preferred soccer to baseball), came home carrying three musical instruments, a flute, a trumpet and a clarinet, to see if I might want to take music lessons. He asked me to try them, which I did (after the Yankee-Reds game, of course, which the Yanks won), and, for some still inexplicable reason, liking the sound and feel of the clarinet the best, I chose that instrument and never looked back
Fifth and sixth grade were a joyous musical time. Our music teacher and conductor, Mr. Thomas E. Wagner, was legendary throughout not only Nassau County but all of New York State (NYS Teacher of the Year) as a music instructor and pedagogue, and somewhat of a "pied piper" to his music students, as he too was a clarinetist. Several of my classmates and schoolmates who also played under him as their band director have gone on to professional music careers (Douglas Hedwig at the Met Opera Orchestra on trumpet, Mark De Turk as a professional clarinetist and university musicologist, and pianist and organist John Tesh, ofEntertainment Tonight and "The Red Rocks").
Although middle school music was a blur of squeaks and squawks, I stuck with the clarinet, to the consternation of my sisters in the next bedroom, but in high school things took off. Our high school band and orchestra conductor was the disciplinarian and perfectionist, Mr. John Chadderdon, himself also a clarinetist. Those of us who were serious about our instruments were expected to audition for both. Mr. Chadderdon expected, and received, nothing less than excellence at all times. He rehearsed us intensely, and took us to the NYSMA (New York State Music Association) competitions each year, where we played the highest (6A) level compositions, and won each of the three years I was in high school. Indeed, senior year, our concert band played the band transcriptions of the complete Borodin second symphony and the Dvorak ninth symphony in concert !
In high school, I studied with Paul Doty, who was a clarinetist with both the New York City Ballet and New York City Opera. In my senior year, as was the custom for first desk players, I got to choose a solo piece to play with the symphonic band. I wanted to perform the Weber Concertino or the Mozart Concerto, but the latter was too long, and (Mark) DeTurk, one year ahead of me, had played the Weber the year before. So I chose the Ernesto CavalliniIntroduction, Theme and Variations. It thankfully went well, in late December of 1968, despite the fact that I had a 100 degree fever that night. I crashed at home through the week of winter break, too feverish and weak to attend my grandfather's funeral three days later.
I also was invited to play saxophone in a rock band, the All-American Band (which included Hedwig and Tesh, as well as Bob Eggers, a superb vocalist and guitarist, who went on to Yale and became pitchpipe of Yale's Whiffenpoofs, America's oldest a cappella singing group, and is the currently active as the group's archivist). This rock band was a great escape from academic work and gave me a taste of the great pleasure and great challenges of learning to play improvisationally.
I went on to Princeton University the following fall, and stayed with the clarinet, joining the infamous Princeton University Band, where I helped to write those hilarious and very off-color half-time shows for which certain Ivy schools (Princeton, Yale, Harvard and Columbia) are well-known. In the fall of 1972, as Band president my senior year, I remember being in One Nassau Hall (once the capital of the United States during the Revolutionary War) on more than one occasion, in then President Robert Goheen's office, trying to explain why Princeton's alumni shouldn't be that upset in their numerous phone calls and letters they sent President Goheen about the salacious double entendres we were announcing and playing on the football field ! That is when Princeton University first initiated a censorship board to "help out" the Band with its half-time shows.
Off the football field, the Symphonic Band was led by the beloved Dr. David Uber, principal trombone of the New York City Ballet, and a fine interpreter of the music of William Schumann, Gustav Holst and Percy Grainger. The Princeton University Symphonic Band joined forces with Harvard's Symphonic Band to perform at Avery Fisher Hall in the spring of 1972, which we recorded on vinyl LP, essaying Holst's Planets, and Grainger’s Lincolnshire Posey.
During medical school at Weill Cornell Medical College, I continued with the clarinet, playing occasionally with the Doctors' Symphony, which back then met at the 92nd street Y or at Mount Sinai. As an intern and fellow in San Francisco, I had just enough extra money to take lessons with David Breeden, then the principal clarinet of the San Francisco Symphony, and during ophthalmology residency at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami, I studied with William Klinger, the principal clarinet of the Florida Philharmonic. While in Miami, I got to meet a former violinist of the Budapest String Quartet, a Mr. Polyatkin, who had retired to Miami Beach, and spent several remarkable evenings with him and his new string quartet, playing the Mozart and the Brahms quintets. On one memorable night, Mr. Polyatkin and his wife invited me to accompany them to hear the Beaux Arts Trio at the Dade County Auditorium. After the performance I spent that evening in the Green Room with the Polyatkins and the Beaux Arts’ great musicians, Isidore Cohen, Bernard Greenhouse and Menaheim Pressler, listening to their marvelous stories about the glories of chamber music before and after the Great War.
During my thirty-year career as a clinical ophthalmologist, I stayed close to the clarinet and classical music. I began to delve deeper into the clarinet chamber literature, with piano or strings, giving a number of lecture-recitals on Mozart, Brahms, Schubert and Schumann, interpolating the backstory of their musical lives and medical illnesses with performances of their ineffable chamber works for clarinet.
In 1991, I organized and lectured at The Connecticut Mozart Festival, a thirteen-concert Festschrift of Mozart and his music, to honor the bicentenary of the composer's death (and finally got to play that Mozart Concerto, dressed up as Anton Stadler, to boot). Earlier, in 1987, I collaborated with Jonathan Lass M.D., a fine cellist, professor and chair of ophthalmology at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, in founding the annual classical music recital that took place annually for twenty years, during the meetings of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. A remarkable number of ophthalmologists are also outstanding instrumentalists and vocalists, and the orchestra was of the highest caliber given that these musicians were not music professionals.
Six years into my career as an ophthalmologist, in 1988, I began to care for a patient, Mrs G.L. Born in Vienna, she was a Mozart lover, and having found out about my own love of Mozart and the clarinet, began to help translate some of the German primary sources I showed her of Mozart's life and medical problems. She invited me to lecture and perform in recital at Heritage Village, the retirement community in which she lived, and told me in passing that she happened to be the first cousin of a certain Mr Eric Simon, and whether I had heard of him.
I was elated to hear of this coincidence, because, as every clarinetist knew, Eric Simon was the pre-eminent clarinet pedagogue and musical editor for our instrument. "Edited by Eric Simon" or "Transcribed and Transposed by Eric Simon" was a common finding in many Schirmer editions and International Music editions for the clarinet. In fact, the edition of the Mozart Clarinet Concerto KV 622, published by Schirmer, in the reduction from A clarinet and orchestra to Bb clarinet and piano, was the product of Eric Simon's editing and transposition. It remains a classic edition and is still one of Schirmer's best sellers.
Over the ensuing years, Mrs. L. kept asking me if I wanted to meet Mr. Simon, and of course, I said yes each time. But, for some reason, I didn’t get  around to it for another five years. During that time, Mr. Simon would call me at home or on my cell phone (quite new then), often at odd times of day, in that quiet, mysterious, Yoda-like voice of his : "Vincent, this is Ehreek Sigh-Mohn" and we would talk, often for hours, about the clarinet, its textures and nuances, about various interpretations of the clarinet literature, about which was the best clarinet book I had read (a tie between Jack Brymer’s and Keith Wilson's), about whether I liked Reginall Kell more than Frederick Thurston (I liked Kell more), about what I thought of Richard Stoltzman's vibrato (I liked it because it was Dick Stoltzman’s after all, and I didnt think it was overdone) and about how amazing it was that there had finally been a female member of the Berlin Philharmonic, (and this under von Karajan!), and it was a clarinetist, the brilliant Sabine Meyer. Often, on these phone calls, he would ask me to visit him, but I always demurred, what with patients the next day, or surgery to do, soccer or swim practice with the kids, vacations and all of the rest of life that took precedence.
In June, 1994, during one of Mr. Simon's phone calls to me, he at one point in the conversation casually asked once again for me to come visit him at his home. This time, out of a combination of respect for him and sheer exhaustion, I agreed. He asked me to bring my Bb clarinet, to prepare the first Brahms clarinet sonata, the f minor, Op. 120 No.1, with its difficult opening measures of vast and exposed intervals, and to bring the score that he had edited from Schirmer's.
How did he know I had that particular score?  I guess becauseeverybody who played the clarinet at the time had that score, which Simon edited, in the volume “Masterworks for Clarinet and Piano;” that was the score from which we all learned the Brahms sonatas. The original 1896 Simrock edition (Simrock was Brahms' publisher in Leipzig) was too difficult for us American clarinetists to obtain.
I practiced the Brahms for about a week, and called Mr Simon back that I was ready to come to see him. It was to be the following Saturday. It turned out that he lived in Sherman, Connecticut, only about forty minutes away from my home, another curious coincidence.
I got there around 11 am, to see a lovely, tidy, one-story steel and glass house not dissimilar from the famous Philip Johnson "Glass House" in New Canaan, set back from a pond on a verdant piece of land, forested with enough trees to create a dappled effect on it.
I entered through an open door into a small vestibule which opened onto a large living room. A Steinway grand piano was in one corner, near the only bank of windows, which faced the pond, but every other space- wall and floor, and cabinet- was covered with sheet music!
There was no place to sit, because the couch and all the chairs also had sheet music on them. Mr. Simon was in the corner near the piano, hunched over gnome-like, and greeted me enthusiastically. He asked me to take out my clarinet, put the Brahms score on the music stand that was already set up, and begin the f minor sonata, he accompanying on piano.
After the eighth measure, he stopped me. I shuddered, expecting the worse. And it came. He paused, and then for the next thirty minutes, he critiqued my playing, the quality of my tone, the tightness of my embouchure, my tonguing, my legato, my phrasing. I was so embarrassed and angry at myself that I had actually driven up there just to be humiliated like that, that I wanted to leave. He sensed my frustration because at that moment he said: "Vincent, don’t worry. Last Saturday morning, Richard Stoltzman was standing right where you are standing, and I critiqued him just as severely!"

What ??!! 
Things went better from there, and I got through the first movement reasonably unscathed. I really wanted to go on and play the autumnal, elegiac and poignant second movement with him, but we never did.
Instead, he began to talk to me about the clarinet and its history, and he  started to show me some musical scores; first editions dating back to the 1890s, of the two Brahms sonatas and the quintet and trio, of the original 1920 Durand edition of the Saint-Saens sonata, of the first edition of the Poulenc sonata, of an early edition of the sinfonia concertante for winds and orchestra (KV 297b, Anhang 14.01) that may or may not have been one of Mozart’s compositions, of his (Simon's) correspondences with his friend Leon Russianoff, and of letters from and to Benny Goodman.
It was amazing.
I was witnessing music history.
Here was a master teacher of the clarinet, of my chosen instrument, one of the last living links between the great 19th century and early 20th century clarinetists of Vienna, Germany and France, of Langenus and Bellison and Bonade, and the present day. I was at once astonished and mesmerized. I didn’t realize that four hours had already passed by that point, and I told Mr. Simon I really had to go.
As I left his home and was walking to my car, he called me back and said that he wanted to give me something. So I went back to the front door and he handed me a large and heavy cardboard box, and told me to look inside.
In it were dozens of scores.! And what wonders were contained therein !
I had a glimpse of the Simrock first edition of the great b minor Brahms clarinet quintet and the Simock edition of the two Brahms clarinet sonatas as well ! There was the Saint-Saens sonata,  one of the Weber concertos, the Poulenc sonata and the d’Indy trio, and a number of chamber works by composers I had never heard of (and I thought I knew the clarinet chamber literature).
Beneath the scores, there was also a black music case. Mr. Simon asked me to open it, which I did, and he said, "Vincent, these are Viktor Polatschek's clarinets. You know the name. He was the principal clarinetist of the Boston Symphony for many years." Actually, at that time, I didn’t know that name at all. And, I also didn’t know what to say.
What I did notice was that the clarinets in that music case weren't Boehm-system instruments; that is, they weren't the French-made Klose/Buffet Boehm system, which is what most of us play in the US.
I assumed that they were German clarinets, with the Albert/Oehler system, to which  Mr. Simon concurred, and I told him that I probably couldn’t get a good sound from them. He responded that I needn't worry, and that I should just take care of them. I thanked him profusely for these gifts and I left. 
There were a few more phone calls with him over the summer, mostly of me thanking him for his largesse, but those phone calls came to an end too.
Mr. Simon passed away four months later, in October 1994, at the age of 87. I had given him my word that I would take care of the clarinets, and indeed, the clarinets have laid safely in my library for the last eighteen years. The scores still do as well, and when I play the Brahms sonatas, the Saint-Saens, the Mozart, I only play from the editions which he gave me. For some reason, I feel closer to the composers and to their music when I do.

Three years ago, I began to correspond with Dr Nick Zervas, a prominent neurosurgeon at the Massachusetts General Hospital and a board member of the BSO, about the possibility of donating the two Albert/Oehler system clarinets to the Orchestra, for them to archive, house and display in Symphony Hall.  I had never played the two instruments that Mr Simon had kindly given me, but I felt over the years that they should eventually be donated to a musical institution, and returning them to the BSO was the right thing to do.
There were issues with provenance, and I just gave up for a while. At the time, I didn’t have any documentation, besides Mr. Simon's parting words to me, that they were Polatschek’s.

Now, after examining the clarinets under high magnification, identifying the etched inscriptions of "F. Koktan, Wien" on the upper and lower joints of both instruments, identifying numerical codes on the upper and lower joints of both clarinets, noting the Albert/Oehler mechanisms in both instruments, marveling at the fine condition of the East African hardwood (Melanoxylon dahlbergii) of which they are composed, and researching and piecing together the three interdigitated stories, there is no doubt that the two musical instruments that Eric Simon gave me that day in the summer of 1994 are indeed the very clarinets of his teacher, Viktor Polatschek, of the Vienna Philharmonic, the Vienna Staatsoper and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. I sent detailed photographs of both clarinets to a music instrument appraiser who specializes in woodwinds, who concurred. He  documented the serial numbers on the upper and lower joints of both instruments and confirmed with Viennese archives that  the clarinets were made sometime between 1905 and 1910.

On August 12, 2012, under the Koussevitsky Music Shed at Tanglewood, during the intermission between the Beethoven Fourth Symphony and the Mozart Piano Concerto No, 23, in A, KV 488, with the help of Bridget Carr and Jill Ng at the Boston Symphony Orchestra, I donated these two splendid, Viennese clarinets to the Orchestra. The donation took place at a sacred source of classical music, at one of its epicenters, Tanglewood, in Lenox Massachusetts, where Viktor Polatschek played those clarinets each summer from 1930 to 1948. 
  BSO Archivist Bridget Carr receiving the
  Polatschek clarinets from me at Tanglewood
Aug 12, 2012

I have helped ensure that these two historical instruments have been brought back to their last musical home, to Symphony Hall in Boston, where, under the baton of Maestro Serge Koussevitsky, the clarinetist Viktor Polatschek played them so marvelously those many years ago.

Sic transit gloria mundi

At Symphony Hall in Boston on Saturday, May 5, 2013
with the Polatschek clarinets on display.

   Polatschek clarinet mouthpiece .
   Note the multicolored sock swab

The Polatschek clarinets on display
 at Symphony Hall

@ Vincent P. de Luise MD, A Musical Vision,