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David Russell

In Memory of a Great Man

January 26, 2010 at 1:57 AM

News has reached me that my friend and colleague Orlando Cole has died at the age of 101.

He was an extraordinary person, 'cellist and musician. In spite of his length of years and failing health in recent times, the news still comes with a tremendous sense of loss.

In his memory, I would like to share a few stories he told, and some personal memories of him.

How amazing is this?--  There is a note in a museum written to him. It says: "Landy, I've just completed work on a string quartet---the second movement is a real winner! -- Sam  (as in Samuel Barber).

Speaking of Barber, it was Mr. Cole who premiered the Barber 'cello sonata. In fact, he said that Barber handed him the sonata one page at a time as it was completed so that he could learn it.

In his mid-90's (think about it!) he gave two full days of 'cello masterclasses in L.A.  At the end, he took on a question and answer session. The first question: "Mr. Cole, how long have you been at Curtis?"  Answer: " Chuckle, chuckle--Well---since it opened!

At the lunch table at ENCORE, I was conversing with him (I was in my 20's, he was approaching 90). I addressed him as "Mr. Cole". He interrupted me to say: "Dave, Mr. Cole was my father--I'm Landy!" I appreciate that to this day.

I remember with gratitude the CD of the Curtis Quartet's Smetana Quartet he signed over to me with his warm wishes for a happy career. He really meant it. I will always cherish his remarks after a string quartet performance...

I'll also always remember his chuckle. It followed almost everything he said--making it neccesary to listen very closely to what he actually was saying. Case in point: A mother brought her son to play for him. It apparently was pretty bad. His response? "Well (chuckle, chuckle) your son is not without a complete lack of talent!" The mother brightened until later (on the sidewalk---the power of the double negative hit home!)

Speaking of that sidewalk...he was an honest critic: "I wouldn't walk across the street to hear playing like that." (chuckle chuckle) Of course, he then masterfully taught how to play worthy of crossing the street!

I remember his "teammate" Billie (Metta) Watts. Such a pair of deep thinkers and fine people.

I remember his heart breaking at the lunch table the summer after his lifelong friend and colleague Jascha Brodsky passed away. He knew how to love a friend and did so freely.

Landy, your passing is a deep loss to us all. We love you. Thank you for your life. It made SUCH a difference.


From Pauline Lerner
Posted on January 27, 2010 at 5:01 AM

He sounds like a wonderful person.  It's no wonder that you have a great sense of loss.  I hope that writing about him here helps ease your pain.


From Terez Mertes
Posted on January 27, 2010 at 3:15 PM

What wonderful anecdotes and a wonderful tribute. 101 - wow, that's amazing. 

Thanks so much for sharing - I can feel his spirit you described so well shining right through.

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