I met Elliott in the fall in Berlin in 1965 through my late husband Nicolas Nabokov who was then the director of The Berliner Festwochen. Elliott and his wife Helen were very close friends of Nicolas since the early ’40s. Their lives entwined, first in Annapolis when Nicolas and Elliott were both teaching at Saint John’s, then in New York, Paris, Rome in 1954 when Nicolas had his Festival “Music in Our Time” and arranged for Elliott’s First String Quartet to be premiered in Europe by the French Parrenin Quartet.
In Tokyo in 1961 Elliott’s Second String Quartet was performed by The Juilliard Quartet during Nicolas’s “Tokyo East-West Music Encounter.” Last but not the least, Elliott was invited in 1963-1964 for a year as composer in residence with Helen, in Berlin, in the program DAAD devised by Nicolas.
Nicolas was steadily an admirer of Elliott’s music. There was mutual respect and gratitude between them, so much so that it was Elliott who was the instigator of the biography of Nicolas presently being written by the musicologist Vincent Giroud.
After the death of Nicolas in 1978 and of Helen in 2003, I was very proud and touched that Elliott kept his friendship towards me. Regularly, I would visit him for tea or a delicious dinner prepared by Lorna St. Hill the wonderful lady who looked after him. Elliott was a gourmet who loved also the best wines.
It was such a privilege to listen to him reminiscing in his perfect French on his Paris years studying with Nadia Boulanger, or telling me anecdotes about Nicolas that I did not know, or discussing a piece which had caught his attention in the magazine Le Nouvel Observateur to which he subscribed. I was in awe of his phenomenal memory (to quote Fred Sherry), his curiosity and how he was still engaged in his work.
I saw him last at the end of August before my departure for Paris and Berlin. He seemed more frail but totally preoccupied by the piece he was working on. I had no hint I would never see him again. Ultimate attention of a friend, he had Virgil Blackwell write a letter on his behalf to Daniel Barenboim to arrange for me seats at The Staats-Oper for a performance, which permitted me to hear Die Walküre. I never had a chance to thank him. When I came back to New York he was not well and did not want any visit and, he was gone….
Goodbye my Dearest Friend!
New York, January 15 2013