One of my great mentors at the Juilliard School (and afterwards) was harpsichordist Albert Fuller. It so happens that I know Jim Roe, current President and CEO of Orchestra of St. Luke’s because of Albert and one of the selections I play in my Bach Family Album is Albert Fuller’s arrangement of Bist du bei mir from Anna Magdalena Bach Notebook. There are no accidents in life and mentors like Albert stay intertwined with us for the rest of our lives.
Albert lived in a spectacular early 20th century duplex on Manhattan’s west 67th street between Central Park West and Columbus avenue, in one of the buildings originally built as artist studios. The living room has double height ceilings, so it could serve as a studio and in Albert’s case it was always filled with music. The doors were open for musicians to rehearse at any time and this is where Albert, together with Alice Tully, started the Helicon Foundation concerts – Sunday afternoons with champagne, iced tea, cheese sticks, cookies, camaraderie and music!
One evening, sometimes in early 90’s, I was coming to his apartment for a drink (at his “positive bar”, as he called it), before going out for dinner. When I arrived, there was a note in his beautiful handwriting at the door that said that he was upstairs getting ready, but that the door is unlocked and that I should let myself in. The apartment had a vestibule, so I opened the first door and at the very moment when I opened the second door, this music flooded the space from his loudspeakers.
I froze at the door, my eyes and ears wide open and, as the shock turned into joy, I felt like I entered the most amazing combination of a church and a disco. If you knew Albert, you’d know that he was equally comfortable in both. It’s my most favorite memory of J. S. Bach’s music. There is no music without people – those who compose it, those who play it and those who listen to it. We are in this together.