Seán Deibler: Hava nashira, shir Halleluia

We'll sing together, sing Halleluia

Remembering Seán Matthew Deibler (1947-2009)

I met Seán for the first time at the Bartók Seminar in Szombathely, Hungary in July 1987. In the beginning, he confused me twice: due to his fluent, excellent Hungarian I almost could not believe it, when I found out, that he was American. And also, I thought he would be at least 10 years younger than he in fact was... To me he always seemed ageless, eternally young…

We became friends almost at first sight. One month later already, in August 1987, he came to visit me and my family at my home in Bratislava in former Czechoslovakia. That was quite an undertaking, because Czechoslovakia was part of the communist political block and he had to apply for visa, which were not so easily given to US citizens that time. During those unforgettable three days I had the privilege to follow Seán’s conversations at the piano with my father, composer and conductor Ľudovít Rajter (1906-2000) – for me that was vivid music history happening in the present moment. My father and Seán also became close friends.

Rajter Lajos, Seán Deibler, c. 1997

We visited the home of Ján Albrecht (1919-1996), a unique unforgettable personality of Central European culture, at Kapitulská Street, and with my sister and two friends we sang canons in the St. Martin’s Dome Cathedral Seán has taught us minutes before. I still preserve Seán’s handwriting of some of them (Shir Halleluia…), we sang Viva la musica by Praetorius, from him we learned also Mozart’s Dona Nobis Pacem canon and a part of Steve Reich’s Clapping Music. All these little masterpieces I remember by heart since then.

After that we remained in contact through telephone and written correspondence, and we saw each other every year or every other year, in Budapest or Bratislava (great music parties at our house!).

I spent a fantastic week in his house at 2024 Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia in November 1992. Seán invited me to a Philadelphia Orchestra concert conducted by Stanislaw Skrowaczewsky (Mahler Symphony No. 4 with Roberta Alexander as brilliant soprano soloist), as well as a very interesting pre-concert talk - Seán was a fantastic music presenter!

One day Seán took me to a lesson of ear training he gave at University of the Arts. I saw and heard how he uncovered hidden abilities in his students. What a great teacher he was!
He also gave me the chance to attend a rehearsal of his Choral Arts Society of Philadelphia and I will never forget the beautiful, immensely powerful sound wave of Anton Bruckner’s Ave Maria those around 100 voices produced together. What amazed me even more, except professional concentration and highest quality of vocal interpretation there was an athmosphere of sincere friendship, I would almost say: LOVE all over the rehearsal room… No doubt, that this was created by Seán’s charisma… I was stunned… A thrilling, workshop-like atmosphere I experienced at a rehearsal of the Music Group of Philadelphia. They worked on pieces by contemporary composers. After the rehearsal there was a great party for friends and donors of the Music Group of Philadelphia, a gathering of educated, beautiful human beings.

In Philadelphia Seán introduced me to many wonderful people I will never forget: Joseph Jackson - organist, Stephen Rossmeisl (“Öcsi”) - recording producer, Murray Savar - member of the Music Group of Philadelphia, and Bill Gatti….

I can not imagine finding a better guide in Philadelphia….

In the mid- and later 1990s I remember visiting two concerts in Budapest conducted by Seán, one at the Liszt Academy with Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms, the other an open-air concert at the Budapest Castle.

I am thankful and proud, that I had the chance to contribute also to Seán’s few, but significant professional connections to Slovakia. The first one in January 1993, my mother, at that time General Manager of the Slovak Philharmonic, invited Seán to guest conduct Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra & Chorus and to perform John Adams’ Harmonium, for the first time in Slovakia. It was a special occasion, because Slovakia just became an independent country and entered the United Nations. The concert on January 21, 1993 was attended by the political leaders of the country in this period, including Vladimír Mečiar, Ivan Gašparovič and Ľudovít Černák.
Here are the full programs and of the concerts:

21 January 1993
Bratislava, Redoute, Concert Hall of the Slovak Philharmonic
Concert celebrating Slovakia becoming an indepedent member of the United Nations
Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra
Slovak Philharmonic Choir (chorus master Blanka Juhaňáková)
conductor: Seán Deibler
soloist: Torleif Thedeén – violoncello
opening speech: Ivan Gašparovič, President of the Parliament of the Slovak Republic
National Anthem of Slovakia
Mikuláš Moyzes: Naše Slovensko (Our Slovakia)
Antonín Dvořák: Concerto for Cello and Orchestra B minor
John Adams: Harmonium for Chorus and Orchestra (1st time in Slovakia)

NB Slovak Television broadcasted the first half of the concert live (there might be a recording in the archive...)

22 January 1993
Bratislava, Redoute, Concert Hall of the Slovak Philharmonic
Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra
Slovak Philharmonic Choir (chorus master Blanka Juhaňáková)
conductor: Seán Deibler
soloist: Torleif Thedeén – violoncello
Maurice Ravel: Pavane pour une infante défunte
Antonín Dvořák: Concerto for Cello and Orchestra B minor
John Adams: Harmonium for Chorus and Orchestra (1st time in Slovakia)

During the rehearsal week Seán took part in an inspiring public debate with composer Peter Zagar about Harmonium and minimal music. He also gave an interview for the Slovak Philharmonic monthly paper.

Despite the full schedule of the week Seán was so generous to visit also a rehearsal of the youth choir ECHO I sang in that time. We almost could not believe what quality of sound and interpretation we achieved in his hands in not more than an hour (Duruflé: Ubi caritas). All who were there remember this as a unique musical and human experience.

In 1998 through the agency rara musica, which I am running together with my mother, I invited Seán to conduct the Košice State Philharmonic Orchestra and the Košice St. Caecilia Choir in a recording of the orchestral and choral parts for a modern ballet project of the Bratislava Dance Theatre – Romeo and Juliet. The music was composed by Henrich Leško. Our days together with Henrich and Seán in Eastern Slovakia were full of fun and exciting work, the orchestra playing under Seán’s hands just wonderfully. The recording contributed significantly to the great success of the performances, not only in Slovakia, but in other countries including Japan as well.

In May 1999 Music Group of Philadelphia conducted by Seán presented the American premiere of Apocalypsis Iohannis, a piece by our mutual friend, Slovak composer Peter Zagar, which my agency rara musica has commissioned and brought to first performance in 1995.

Although in age he was closer to my mother, he was like a brother for me, and as he told me, my mother reminded him of his mother. Somehow he was a part of our family, we all loved him. After my father died in 2000, Seán was among the first who called and gave us spiritual support…

We spoke English, Hungarian, sometimes German and Russian together. Seán enriched my life beyond imagination and through many colorful memories he is still present and remains a strong source of energy and joy of life.

“You will miss my humor”, he told me when he left Bratislava after his first visit in 1987. Although I do miss him a lot now, I am very fortunate having had the opportunity being in his presence so often, listening to him making music, laughing (that incredible vibrant, musical laugh that infected everyone), drinking first class vine, having endless conversations….

I assume Seán gave the gift of at least one beautiful, unforgettable memory to everyone he met. He certainly gave many such gifts to my family: my late father, my mother Elisabeth, my sister Astrid, my love Soňa, as well as to my - our Slovakian friends, conductors Tono Popovič, Braňo Kostka, Michal Vaňouček, composers Henrich Leško, Peter Zagar, as well as to Mirko, Bany, Albert and others…

I hoped so much to introduce Seán to my son Michael, born in October 2005… But, as my little boy said to me, seeing me in tears, “we have him in our hearts”, and that will not change, until I breathe.

As a tribute to Seán Matthew Deibler, on January 18, 2010, in my monthly show Ars Musica on Slovak Radio 3 (Radio Devín) I will play recordings conducted by Seán: Michael Kaulkin’s Cycle of Friends and excerpts from Henrich Leško’s ballet Romeo and Juliet.

♣ Bratislava, January 13, 2010 ♣

3 komentáre:

  1. Adrian,

    This is such a wonderful blog entry. Lilla Gabor just sent me the link.

    I can't thank you enough for sharing the details of your friendship with Sean, and his accomplishments. It is truly enlightening and heartening to read your recollection of events.

    You've touched my heart in ways I can't fully express in words.

    Yours sincerely,
    Bill Deibler (Sean...aka...Bunky's brother)

  2. Dear Adrian,

    Thank you for posting this entry. I regret we never met although Sean spoke of you often to me, especially when I was a student in Budapest from 1988-1993. I can remember Sean speaking of these concerts, and detailing the events he experienced in Bratislava. He was very proud to be working with you in your country.

    I hope someday we will meet, not the least because my paternal heritage is indeed Slovak, as you can see from my surname :)

    Best Regards,
    Pamela Pecko

  3. So glad I found this blog, albeit belatedly. Sean Deibler was my teacher for six years as a boy at The Haverford School. He was quite literally the reason I attended school, his class transformed me and taught me an appreciation for music that lives with me today. I was a Soprano 1 in his choir for 5 years and was introduced to so much variety that it opened my soul to sounds that I never dreamed of comprehending. Cheers to the friend of my teacher and my personal Maestro..Thank you......Chris Kramer