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Norbert Brainin: Founder and
Lyndon LaRouche and Norbert Brainin.
In December 1987, Brainin together with Cologne pianist Günter Ludwig gave a (first) solidarity concert for LaRouche in Boston's famous Jordan Hall, with sonatas from Mozart, Brahms, and Beethoven, when LaRouche was put on trial for purely political reasons. The concert was reviewed very favorably in the leading Boston newspapera testimony to Norbert's courageous engagement. The U.S. government some months later was forced to declare a mistrial, since the political fallout for then-U.S. Vice President Bush senior threatened to become too damaging. Brainin also stood by his friend LaRouche, when the latter was put on trial againin practically the same caseat the end of 1988 in Alexandria, Virginia, and was sentenced to 15 years in prison, after a rocket docket trial, which had nothing to do with a fair trial according to normal legal standards.
Several times in the U.S. capital, but also in many European citiesamong them Paris, Milan, Munich, Hamburg, and WiesbadenBrainin played solidarity concerts for LaRouche in the following years; he also visited his friend twice in prison in Rochester, Minnesota, where the two discussed, in a very noisy environment, questions of Classical compositionabove all the principle of motivic thorough composition, which was very close to Norbert's heart.
Norbert was especially interested in cooperating with LaRouche in the field of the science of music. At the end of the 1980s, this meant above all the fight for the low tuning of C=256 Hertz, the so-called Verdi A of 432 Hz, a proposal which the famous Italian soprano Renata Tebaldi had made in a discussion with LaRouche. After long conversations concerning the scientific relevanceand not only the obvious practical oneof a unified (lower) tuning as opposed to today's absurdly high Karajan tuning of A well above 440 Hz, Brainin, who of course had grasped the meaning of this question for singers immediately, studied this problem intensely. Using the Adagio from Bach's Sonata for Violin solo in G-minor, Brainin demonstrated for the first time in a private setting with LaRouche, his wife Helga, and some friends, in August 1988 in his beautiful Summer house in northern Tuscany, Italy, the fact that a Classical composition (and also his Strad) sounded much betteri.e., fuller and more transparent at the same timein the low tuning. Spontaneously (over lunch) the decision was made, to repeat this experiment on stage, which occurred in December of that same year with extraordinary success in Munich, Germany.
Before that, though, Brainin paid his tribute to science. In order to demonstrate the superiority of the low tuning in a parliamentary hearing in Rome, which became the basis for a parliamentary initiative to pass a law on the Verdi A, Prof. Bruno Barosi, the director of the world-famous International Institute of Violinmaking, in Cremona, Italy, invited Brainin to his lab, recorded certain tones (and their octaves) both in the low and high tuning, did a spectral analysis, and finally evaluated the findings. At first, Barosi and his assistent were totally baffled at the absolute precision of Brainin's intonation: I have had almost all of the world's top violinists in my lab, but something like this, I have never seen. Brainin is precise to the very Hertz, and that always. Again, and again. That is truly unique. The other findings were not so surprising, but equally clear: The lower tuning created a larger sum of overtones, which explains the fuller sound; it was also proven, that Brainin's Strad had its best resonance by far at exactly C=256 Hz, which is about A=432 Hz. This is clear proof, that Antonio Stradivari understood the superiority of the low tuning, and had built his instruments accordingly. Said Barosi laconically: That I expected; in this lab we have tested all the Strads we could get hold of, and the result is always the same. Not only these tests, but also Brainin's ensuing demonstration (including Bach's Adagio as an encore) were videotaped, and broadcast on Italian regional TV the same evening; the video was shown to parliamentarians in Rome some time later.
After that, Brainin demonstrated the superiority of the low tuning, in many concerts, in which he also had the courage to explicitly tell the name of the instigator of this international campaign, Lyndon LaRouche. In the meantime, the superiority of the low tuning had been acknowledged by many of his famous instrumentalist colleagues, like his friend, the pianist András Schiff, for instance. The singers were definitely in favor of the low tuning, with only a very few exceptions. After the debut in Munich with pianist Günter Ludwig, which is available on audio and video, Brainin demonstrated the advantages of the low tuning with other ensembles: with a piano trio, for example, and with a string quartet. In a truly memorable concert with the Orlando Quartet, which was also educated by members of the Amadeus, in Wiesbaden in 1992, Brainin even played viola in the performance of Mozart's C-minor String Quintet KV 406. He shut the mouths of many intransigent journalists by telling them with a smile, My Strad simply sounds much better this way.
At this time, Brainin was also engaged in studying an important principle of composition which he had been thinking about already for many years, which for an artist who had studied, rehearsed, and performed all great Classical string quartets again and again for over 40 years is not surprising at all: The principle of Motivführung (motivic thorough composition), as Brainin called it, was developed by Joseph Haydn. In 1995, while giving a master class at Dolná Krupá, a castle near the Slovakian capital of Bratislava, where Beethoven is supposed to have stayed and composed, Brainin said that so far nobody had understood fully the extraordinary significance of this principle of compositionwhich Mozart had developed further in a decisive way, and which Beethoven then masterfully exploited to the fullestwhenever he had brought it up for discussion, except LaRouche. His talks with LaRouche in the prison at Rochester also dealt with this question, which in 1992 led to the essay Mozart's Revolution in Music 1782-86, one of several philosophical writings by LaRouche, written during his 1989-94 imprisonment under extremely difficult conditions.
A result of this close cooperation were several demonstrations of this principle of composition, which Brainin explained at master classes with young string quartets. With the Munich-based Henschel Quartet, he produced a film for the Schiller Institute, in which he demonstrated this principle using works from Haydn and Mozart. At the master class at Dolná Krupá he worked for almost a week with the Slovakian Moyzes Quartet, and the Hungarian Auer Quartet, and demonstrated with Beethoven quartets the significance of Motivführung. The intensitybut also easeof Brainin's teaching is best shown by a caricature drawn by the young primarius of the Auer Quartet. This sketch was inspired especially by the very first lesson these young students got from Brainin, when he interrupted their playing with a loud 'Noooo,' telling them that playing string quartets is not entertainment, but a bloody serious affair, science; and he added: At least a whole dimension is missing here. To grasp and adequately perform this scientific dimension of Classical musici.e., to bring out the real content of the music behind the notes (Furtwängler), was Brainin's primary concern. In this respect, he made no compromises, and could not joke about it, no matter with how much Viennese charm he uttered his inspiring, or critical words.
This uncompromising seriousness in deeply rooted human affairs was, to a very large degree, the basis of the enormous artistic charisma of Norbert Brainin. He gave one of the most moving examples for this in early December 1989, shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, when he played a Beethoven Matinee for German Unity in Berlin, especially for the people in Eastern Germany, the then still existing German Democratic Republic. The many letters which the Schiller Institutethe organizer of this concertreceived before the event, already made clear that this concert would become a milestone: Will come under any circumstances. But need a definite OK, since I still have to repair my Trabi. (That was the little car most East Germans drove at that time.) Or: Need definitely a ticket, since I have to drive 250 km to the concert, and: I am 10 years old, but I absolutely want to hear the Maestro. More than 1,000 people came to the concert at the Berlin High School of Arts, among them about 800 G.D.R. citizens, who were not asked to pay. The performance of three Beethoven sonatas (op. 12, no. 3; op. 96; as well as op. 47, Kreutzer) created real storms of enthusiasm, but the reaction to Brainin's final encore became the biggest compliment an artist can receive: first, a considerable silence, then a long standing ovation, since Brainin with his interpretation of the Adagio from Beethoven's Spring Sonata in these turbulent times had hit exactly the right tone.
An equally moving example was his concert on March 24, 1993 in Birmingham, Alabama, in honor of Martin Luther King, who had been murdered 30 years earlier. Two days before this concert, Brainin and Ludwig had played the same programbesides sonatas from Beethoven and Handel, they performed César Franck's A-Major Violin Sonata because of its deep religious characterfor a mainly African-American audience in Washington, D.C.; in the Ebenezer United Methodist Baptist Church, where America's greatest President, Abraham Lincoln, and the former slave and freedom fighter Frederick Douglass had spoken. In Birmingham, the concert took place at the famous Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, the center of the activities of the civil rights movement there in the 1960s, which in 1963 had been hit by a terrible bombing attack, killing several children. Many of the listeners, some of whom even brought their babies with them, had never attended a Classical concert at all, but were thrilled, and deeply moved. The Mayor of Birmingham declared this day to be Dr. Norbert Brainin Concert Day in Memory of Civil Rights, and presented a certificate of honor to him. Schiller Institute Vice President Amelia Boynton Robinson, who during the 1960s, had fought successfully side by side with Martin Luther King for the Voting Rights Act, declared afterwards: These concerts laid the seed for the coming together of the civil rights movement and Classical culture, which we have to bring to life again in America.
In every epoch there are sublime personalities in music, who because of their towering artistic capabilities and moral integrity are not only able to actually reach, inspire, and thrill people deep in their souls, but who also have the power to considerably shape their time. In the 20th Century, among these personalities were undoubtedly Wilhelm Furtwängler, Pablo Casals, Yehudi Menuhinand Norbert Brainin.
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