My Muses

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During my college years, I had the opportunity to encounter two remarkable musicians at the University of Washington, Eva Heinitz and Silvia Kind. I also discovered the high art of Wanda Landowska. Miss Heinitz had studied with her at St. Leu, and Miss Kind would qualify as Landowska's academic grandchild. The good sense and high art of these three have inspired me ever since.

- John W. McCoy

Silvia Kind
Wanda Landowska
Eva Heinitz
To Silvia Kind I owe my introduction to the harpsichord and its lore. I played the flute, as she had in her youth in Switzerland. Her supply of hilarious stories and inspirational anecdotes seemed inexhaustible. Her autobiographical notes, written for a festschrift commemorating Swiss composer Peter Mieg, give some hints of her career, which included a long association with Paul Hindemith. On several of her recordings (Nonesuch and others), she announces the subtitles of each movement, a very helpful practice she swears was just a happy accident in the studio. Her students are forever grateful for her enthusiastic encouragement as well as the tea and fortune cookies. An excellent appreciation of the great champion of early music, and of high standards in all of music, has been posted on the internet. I have heard professionals deprecate her Pleyel harpsichords that she herded around the world "like a lion-tamer" from concert to concert; they were built all wrong, had the wrong tone, etc. But the same complainers wondered aloud how she managed to coax such wonderful music out of them! It is no mystery to me: she had something to say, and she taught herself painstakingly exactly how best to say it. Through her recordings and her writings that match them almost measure for measure, Wanda Landowska is still very much among us. Eva Heinitz had a reputation of being a very demanding teacher, and I knew that to be true! She taught us how to work, how to make practical music. Accompanists got their licks in her chamber music classes, too. She would say, "Now, I'm not a pianist, but if I were, I would play it something like this" — then, motioning to the stunned accompanist to scoot over, she would sit down at the piano and deliver the music with astonishing insight and subtlety of touch. I always relished that moment, when the true essence of the piece was suddenly revealed. Her devotion to teaching led her to a magnificent gesture, when she donated a prized cello to endow a scholarship at Indiana University.

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