Reflecting on a friendship with Peter Michalove, composer

I was recently interviewed for a News Gazette article on the composer, Peter Michalove.

Second career as composer brings acclaim, satisfaction

Peter passed away earlier this week, and I just wanted to reflect on our friendship:

I met Peter three years ago, after sitting next to him at a concert and striking up a conversation during intermission.  I told him I was a viola player, he told me he was a composer, and (I thought, facetiously) offered to write me a piece for my upcoming Masters recital.  I was so surprised within a month to receive an e-mail with the first movement of his developing viola sonata.

With trailing chromatic lines which reached high into the range of my instrument and crashing dissonances, at first I wasn’t sure that I would be able to prepare his piece in the span of a few months.  However, we pulled through and performed it in May, recording it again later that summer.

My experience with Peter didn’t end there.  In the fall semester, he invited me to help teach his OLLI class on the Beethoven String Quartets, and I ended up being the sidekick in his “Art of Variations” and his final class on the Bartok String Quartets this Fall Semester 2013.  During his lectures, I realized how deeply he understood music and how much he reveled in sharing how to listen to his peers at OLLI.  We’d exchange violist and composer jokes, I would rescue his lecture slides and cue the recordings, and I even cameoed with a broad sword during his lecture on serialist music to keep more tonally-oriented people from running out of the room.

Over long lunches before the class, we’d talk about everything.  From my anxieties of trying to make it as a new graduate in the working world, to his broad world travels with his wife Sharon, to his eclectic past as an IRS worker, Classical Mongolian language instructor, and his rediscovered passion for composing.  And sometimes he would talk about his cancer.   An articulate and expressive writer, he would describe choosing his listening mix for the day as he would receive his cancer treatments in his posts on Facebook.

In the fall of last year, my husband and I thought of the idea to put on a concert of his compositions and called him up with the proposition.  Despite the fatigue and pain of the cancer and treatments, he embraced the idea and we presented his recital on February of 2013.  With a standing room only audience, it truly was a magnificent event.

We had been working together to put together a second concert for this February 2014, but when I visited a few weeks ago, I sadly realized he would not be there to see it.  I put out a call to the musicians on the program, and assembled a small group of string players and a pianist to come to his home for a house concert on that Sunday.  We played three movements of his Divertimento for String Quintet, sight-reading, due to the time constraints from the last-minute call.  Pianist William Heiles, performed a few movements from his Bagatelles and Bach’s Goldberg Variations.  My husband and I brought sparkling apple cider and cookies and we toasted to Peter in his hospital bed.  Before I left, I told him how much it meant for me to help him achieve his dream to become a composer and reflect on the journey we’ve both had in this friendship.  He passed away later the next day.

Peter, you are so loved and will be so missed.

Peter Lyd Jef2

Peter Michalove’s composition website

Peter Michalove’s obituary

The second recital of Peter Michalove’s compositions will be on Monday, February 3rd, 2014 at 7:30pm at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute

1800 Oak Street, Suite 108
Champaign, IL 61820

Update 4/2/14: concert review in News Gazette by John Frayne

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