During the very first years of the Miró Quartet, we were lucky enough to work with the former second violinist of the LaSalle Quartet, Henry Meyer. He became one of the most important mentors we had–coaching us through much of the classical repertoire, and introducing us to many of our first major professional connections: including Isaac Stern, Jeunesses Musicales Deutschland, and the Hochschule Luzern in Switzerland. He also became a dear and close friend until he passed away a few years ago.
During these years we knew him, Henry often spoke of his close colleague and friend, Walter Levin, who had played first violin in the LaSalle for decades, and was now another major teacher of talented violinists and quartets in his own right. Many of our friends in other young quartets (like the Artemis, Casals and Kuss) were working with him extensively in Europe–but despite his reputation and our busy schedule our paths never crossed. We heard so much about Walter Levin, but in our 17 years playing concerts together around the world we never met him.
Until last Thursday!
We had heard that within the last year, Walter and his wife Evi had moved from Basel, Switzerland to Chicago, taking up residence near South Lakeshore Drive by lake Michigan in a lovely retirement community called Montgomery Place.
Since we were scheduled to perform in Chicago the following Friday night, we contacted Walter and Evi to see if they would like to meet with us–and they invited us to dinner at Montgomery Place! Over stir fry and pistachio cannoli, we shared reminiscences about our good friend Henry, and heard wonderful stories of the LaSalle’s travels in the 60s and 70s (who knew that they had played the Debussy Quartet for the Princess of Tonga in the rain on Fiji?). It was wonderful.
To top it off, Walter agreed to hear us play after dinner! In the activities room, in front of dozens of the retired professors, doctors and artists who live at Montgomery Place, the Miró Quartet played one of the most special performances of our lives! We chose Brahms first quartet in c minor to play, and I admit to personally being more than a bit nervous with such a quartet legend in front of us!
Walter had wonderfully insightful comments and observations about our playing–it’s clear a lifetime of music making is still very much at his fingertips, and his ears are razor sharp. By the end of an hour of working together, our interpretation had reached a new level and depth thanks to him. It was a momentous experience for us, and I hope for all the listeners watching the process as well.
Chamber music is in every way about connections and communication: between musicians onstage, between the musician and the audience, and even between a long dead composer and the next living generation of listeners in the 21st century. Although meeting for the first time, all four of us felt a deep connection to Walter Levin, not only because of his experience, artistry and wisdom, but also because of the deep love for Quartet music that he shared with our friend Henry Meyer, a love that Henry had himself so generously shared with us so long ago, at the very beginning of the Miró Quartet. Last Thursday we found a new friend and mentor, who marvelous seemed in so many ways to have been a part of our musical lives and hearts all along.
I’ll never forget that evening–hopefully the first of many more spent with Walter and Evi Levin! Perhaps next time we’ll play some Schoenberg or Beethoven…I can hardly wait!
Deepest Thanks to Walter and Evi…see you both again soon! ”