Daniel Lelchuk gives a heat reflection on the sorely missed Jorja Fleezanis:
“Having a curiosity to know all the things, or as a lot as you possibly can. And consider me, you’re by no means going to be taught all of it anyway, so you might as effectively have a hell of an excellent time studying what you possibly can and residing deeper in the mean time than simply hydrofoiling by means of life, on the floor, which is, in the long run, fairly unsatisfactory.”
If there was ever somebody in music who practiced what she preached, it could be Jorja Fleezanis. The good American violinist who died instantly final month introduced endless curiosity to all the things she handled—and in doing so held her collaborators to greater requirements and enriched the lives of all those that had been fortunate to know and work together with her. She was so blissfully freed from clichés, freed from foolish bluster, freed from hypocrisy, so authentically herself. She was a lady of such substance: a selected mixture of demanding, curious, warmly maternal, razor sharp, observant, intelligent…
I first met Jorja within the fall of 2009 when she began her professorship on the Jacobs Faculty of Music, Indiana College, Bloomington. I had by no means met somebody like her, in or out of music. She had an power all her personal, an infectious ardour. Contemporary off the heels of serving because the longtime concertmaster of the Minnesota Orchestra, right here was an amazing musical power, sitting behind the second violins of a freshman-year orchestra taking part in with extra dedication, dedication, and drive than the entire string part put collectively. And it wasn’t simply right here or there. Jorja got here to some rehearsal (IU has 5 orchestras all of that are rehearsing concurrently) each day, interacting with conductors, gamers all around the orchestra, hanging round at break and afterwards to speak music. Whereas most professors at Indiana would by no means deign to set foot in a pupil orchestra rehearsal, Jorja beloved it, relished each second, and transferred her ardour and a focus to element to all who would take up it.
My first actual interactions with Jorja had been early within the Fall of 2009. On the time I used to be actually excessive on the fantastic Mozart divertimenti for 2 horns and strings (like Ok. 247, 287, and 334) and requested if by likelihood she may coach a gaggle I put collectively—from the primary violin place. I assumed it a semi-clever and never so delicate method of asking if she would play with us. She readily agreed, and we had some rehearsals, however for scheduling causes getting seven folks collectively frequently to rehearse proved too troublesome, so the group fizzled out, and I assumed it was completed.
Later that season, by which level we had gotten to know one another considerably over meals and lengthy conversations, Jorja requested me how effectively I knew the music of the Second Viennese Faculty, notably the primary quartet of Schoenberg. Her thought was to assemble a string quartet, two school and two college students, to review intensely the music of Schoenberg (and later Berg and Webern, too) and produce the underplayed chamber music masterpieces of the Second Viennese Faculty to life. She had studied these items together with her instructor Walter Levin, first violinist of the LaSalle Quartet (who specialised on this repertoire), and a central ardour of Jorja’s life was this wealthy, thorny, troublesome physique of music.
It was throughout this era that I obtained to know her as not simply nice musician, however as nice and voracious reader, full of marvel and curiosity, studying poetry to us, exploring connections between Schoenberg and numerous visible artists working on the similar time— all within the spirit of illuminating the music by means of the cultural context wherein it was created. She was continuously impressed by the love of books and literature of her late husband, the music author Michael Steinberg, and he or she credited him with opening up so many mental doorways in her life that she in flip tried to open for others.
Years and numerous Schoenberg cycles later, Jorja got here quite a few instances to New Orleans to play as visitor concertmaster with the Louisiana Philharmonic—I’ll always remember how her sound soared within the violin solos within the prélude to Wagner’s Tannhaüser and the Variations for Orchestra of Webern, how all the strings shone as she led in symphonies of Tchaikovsky, Sibelius, piano concerti of Mozart and Rachmaninoff, and way more.
There are such a lot of vivid particular person reminiscences of Jorja, many heat, some irritating, some difficult, most particular in a roundabout way or one other. We made dinner collectively many instances, often at her home, however generally she got here to my condo in Bloomington. On one such night time, my shut pal and studio mate cellist Kevin Kunkel and I had ready a feast for the three of us. She got here with a DVD in hand, and introduced “After dinner, we’re watching this.” It was the well-known video model of Richard Strauss’s Elektra, starring the good Leonie Rysanek, carried out by Karl Böhm. So after dinner, the three of us went to my laptop, put the DVD in, and sat riveted and glued to the pc display late into the night time as we watched this musical and dramatic triumph. It was an evening I’ll always remember. Even after having watched it a number of instances over the course of years, Jorja was shook and surprised. What professor at what music college shares experiences like this with college students? Jorja did.
Originally of Covid, Jorja retired from Indiana and moved to a lovely home she constructed excessive up on a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan, in her beloved house state. In the midst of the pandemic, I invited her to be a visitor on my podcast Speaking Beats with Daniel Lelchuk and for this we had a protracted, frank dialog. I’m so glad we did this, because it’s the one prolonged dialog of hers within the public, and it paints such a beautiful, intimate portrait of her and her deep relationship to music. Close to the top, I requested her what she is devoting her time to, and he or she defined two issues.
One, she needed to assemble all of the music opinions of her late husband Michael Steinberg and have them printed as a guide, as she so badly needed to forestall historical past from forgetting his nice writings. And two, she mentioned “So far as younger folks, I wish to do one thing on some degree to show tips on how to love music. The connection that you’ve got with music. What is meant to return out? It’s not essentially solely educating the music appropriately taught when it comes to the construction and what’s in it. However simply your relationship to it. That’s one thing I wish to discover, it’s one thing I wish to be taught to develop into a little bit bit extra centered in how I’d introduce it…Notably the three gents of the Second Viennese Faculty (Schoenberg, Berg, Webern). If I don’t take the time to proceed that work, I’ll haven’t completed my position as a musician, as a instructor, as a mentor.”
In January of this yr, Jorja and I had been speaking about what we had been each as much as musically. Out of the blue, she texted me a selfie after which an image of a path by means of the deep upper-Midwest snow she had cleared herself. She despatched the accompanying textual content: “That is additionally a part of my each day expertise, grasp of the SnowJoe snow blower!” I wrote again “Incredible!!! You look completely happy and wholesome!!!! And an excellent clear path!!!” to which she replied “You already know me, essential to know the place you’re getting into life and phrasing!!”
I feel she did certainly know the place she was going. I’m so unhappy her life was lower abruptly brief so she couldn’t fairly get there.