Married Filing Separately
This month the DSSO opens its 81st season with Tchaikovsky’s monumental fifth symphony. It brings to mind three maritally challenged gentlemen.
The story starts in 1997. As a staff conductor with the New York Philharmonic I was called on to conduct a subscription concert with no rehearsal. Guest conductor Leonard Slatkin was delayed by a violent storm on his way to the hall, so I conducted the opening work, a difficult new piece. Maestro Slatkin is a person of wit and charm, and clearly technological knowhow, as is evidenced by the playful, loving email he authored: “The thought of my modem inside your laptop turns my mainframe on.” Unfortunately the recipient was not his wife. It’s my understanding that she was not amused.
Having discharged my duties at that concert to general satisfaction, I was asked to conduct a series of outdoor concerts in a program including Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5. Tchaikovsky composed the work at the age of 48 in his full maturity as a composer, and in the eleventh year of a two-and-a-half month marriage. Huh? Tchaikovsky was deeply troubled by his homosexuality in a world that simply did not accept it. So, when a female student professed her feelings toward him he did what anyone would under the circumstances: he married her. After a traumatic two and a half months, which he referred to as his “brief insanity,” he was so devastatingly dispirited that he fled the country to regain a level of emotional stability, and never again lived with his wife.
At the concert in New York’s Central Park I was introduced to the crowd of 75,000 by the mayor: a man by the name of Rudolph William Louis Giuliani. “Rudy” to his friends. Backstage before the concert began I said to him “Mr. Mayor [we were not on a first-name basis], you might be interested to know that I’m a native New Yorker.” He whipped out a pencil and pad, and wrote down the names of the schools I had attended. During his introduction he stretched out his applause by mentioning each of those schools one by one. That man is a great politician. And a serial marrier, having been wedded for 14 years to educator Regina Peruggi, for 18 years to media personality Donna Hanover, and for nine years and counting to nurse Judi Ann Stish, herself on her third marriage. I give Judi another five years tops.
The concert also celebrates the great Henry Fogel, guru of the symphony orchestra business, with a performance of a work composed in his honor, and with his narration of Aaron Copland’s Lincoln Portrait. Mr. Fogel is observing his 70th birthday in Duluth, accompanied by Frances, his wife and life partner (one and the same, I am happy to report).
Markand Thakar is the Charles A. & Carolyn M. Russell Music Director, Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra; music director, Baltimore Chamber Orchestra; principal conductor, Duluth Festival Opera; and co-director of graduate conducting, Peabody Conservatory. www.markandthakar.com