REMEMBRANCES

Edmund-200As we honor the life of Edmund Battersby, you are invited to leave your thoughts and remembrances. Please scroll to the bottom of this page to place your comments.

15 thoughts on “REMEMBRANCES

  1. Julian Hook

    Edmund and I arrived in Bloomington in the same year, 1995—he as a forty-something professor, I as a thirty-something graduate student—and I became part of his first piano studio at IU.

    Within the first year or two he somehow came to be called, by many of his students, simply “Teacher”—a tradition that I hear has persisted through subsequent generations of students. The innocence of the nickname was of a piece with some aspects of his persona: he cultivated an air of obliviousness about practical matters, always claiming that he didn’t remember who was coming for the next lesson or where he had parked his car. But he had a powerful intellect and a vast knowledge of music, literature, and history—and as for the practical stuff, his students always suspected that the naiveté was a pretense, that he knew and remembered far more than he was letting on.

    As a pianist and teacher, he made an impression with his ways of being creative within the context of fidelity to the score, his advocacy for playing not too carefully but just a little dangerously, and his strategies for practicing (but not too much). His knowledge of music was impressively broad, from the meat and potatoes of Beethoven and Schubert to odd corners of the repertoire. He coaxed me to perform the fiendish etudes of Szymanowski, indulged my affection for the odd D-major sonata of Enescu, and shared unreservedly my enthusiasm for the rarely performed concerto of Dvořák. I remember discussions about assorted string quartets, symphonies, and operas; he knew those too.

    On Sunday morning, trying to come to terms with his absence, I sat down and played some pieces I studied with him. Among them was the first piece I played for him some twenty-and-a-half years ago, a Schubert Impromptu. In that first lesson, the ideas flowed with such breathtaking speed that I spent what seemed like the rest of the day with the score, trying to remember all that he had said. Today I remember most vividly something that happened within the first minute after we met, the moment when I suspected I’d found a kindred spirit. I told him which Impromptu I’d brought in—the first F-minor piece from the second set—and he responded with hushed reverence, “Oh! I think that’s the greatest of them all!” Perhaps not many pianists would share that pick, but I got it: we both regarded the dream scene with the hand-crossings as one of the most magical things in Schubert. I still revel in its expanse, its extravagance, its strangeness—and for me it will forever be linked with Teacher.

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  2. Lia Jensen-Abbott

    I studied with “Teacher” from 2001-2003. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I knocked on his door for my first lesson. I had never met him. Literally, his kindness and smile took my breath away. The lesson was amazing. We played Bach. As it was with every lesson, I went home exhausted by what he had said, trying to soak it in, and also still in awe of how much he knew. Even walking with him to get coffee was a transforming experience. He lived music. Since I have left IU, Edmund and I have remained very close. He is and has been part of my family. His loss is, as has been said by so many, a profound one. I am grateful I was able to see him in January and that I spoke to him only a week ago. He was a wonderful soul, a brilliant musician, and a great human being. His life was very full and I treasure that I knew him as well as I did.

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  3. Steven Spooner

    Dear Jay, your words touched my heart! Two things before sharing my own experiences with this dear man: 1) ‘teacher’ was a nickname that caught on due to an impersonation I did, an others followed, of a certain student who simply refused to call him ‘Professor Battersby’ and EB liked it so much he began to refer to himself as ‘teacher’. 2) when I needed a Schubert Impromptu for a competition, he recommended the F Minor, as well! I was so touched to hear your recollection of studying this piece with him.

    The day before yesterday I was alerted to the unexpected and tragic death of Edmund Battersby. Professor Battersby was my first teacher at IU and I am shocked and saddened by his death. I came to IU hoping to study with Lev Vlassenko but when I arrived for my audition, I discovered he had died and I went door to door to other teachers for openings. A friend of mine suggested I see Edmund and I think it was one of the best things I ever did for my comprehensive musical education.

    The first thing he did was assign me a Haydn Sonata…at our first lesson, it was if he were speaking a foreign language in terms of style, analysis of the slurs, thorough mastery of ornaments, etc. Even though his approach was all so new to me, I look back on that time as one of the most fruitful and interesting in my studies. I treasure all the times we went to coffee and discussed everything under the sun and even now I can’t help but smile when I recall his humor, wit, and grace.

    I am working on a recording project-box set of 16 albums and I planned to mail it to Edmund this summer with a note telling him how inspirational he had been to me and how many of these Classical pieces we worked on or discussed. But, sadly, it’s too late and he’ll never receive that letter because I was waiting for the right moment. Rest in peace, dear ‘Teacher’.

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  4. Clare Longendyke

    Seminar won’t be the same without you tomorrow, Teacher. I hope you found your car.
    With love, appreciation, and profound respect,
    Clare

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  5. Sean Cavanaugh

    One of the most memorable times with Teacher was the second time I was assisting his seminar. I was still in my Performer Diploma and was technically not enrolled in his class yet, but he allowed me to sit in every day. Mark Dezwaan and I agreed to surprise Teacher with small wardrobe challenge: throughout the course of the semester, we would gradually start wearing more and more dressy clothes. It began with button down shirts and slacks, evolved into shirts and ties, and by the end of the semester, Mark and I were actually wearing full three-piece suits every Tuesday and Thursday for Teacher’s seminar. He absolutely loved it! He always complemented our attire, and especially liked the wacky socks and ties we would wear. At the end of the semester, Teacher invited all of the “seminarians” to his house for a party. Mark and I, having reached the highest level of “dressiness” decided to rent tuxedos and showed up with a bottle of whiskey. He couldn’t believe it. We all ate a wonderful dinner, watched a movie about Schubert, sang happy birthday for one of our classmates using one of his Broadwood pianos (I played!), and had one of the most fun evenings with classmates that I can remember.
    Since I was teacher’s assistant for his seminars, I was always having to get recordings, scores, and make copies for him. He was good friends with Gina, who works in the mail room, and who was always very kind enough to fulfill his enormous and often bizarre copy requests. Gina started to recognize me, and each time I’d come by to pick up his copies she knew exactly who they were for. One time Teacher had me pick up a very large order of things from Gina including two copies of a 4-hand piano transcription of Rachmaninoff’s Second Symphony. When I brought them to him he asked me “Sean, do you like Rachmaninoff?” To which I replied – “Of course, who doesn’t like Rachmaninoff??” He handed me one of the copies of the piece and said “Good. Than this is for you. I had Gina make an extra one just for you.”
    One of my favorite memories was a few years ago – we were setting up for the studio party that night, and for whatever reason Teacher needed a ride back to school from his house to get his car. Had I known I would be giving Teacher a ride I would have cleaned my car, it was a mess. We got in my car and the first thing he says is “Sean, your car is as messy and mine.” I apologized for the mess and said “Teacher usually my car is cleaner whenever I’m dating someone, but I happen to be single at the moment so it’s gotten a little out of control.” Right away he said “No. Don’t clean it. Don’t spoil them. Just be you.”
    Teacher was by far the most unique person I’ve had the privilege of knowing. He was always himself. He was everyone’s Teacher.

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  6. Maureen Carr

    My association with Edmund Battersby goes back to the late 70’s when we were colleagues at Montclair State.  At that time, Konrad Wolff was on the faculty as well. These luminaries became a dynamic duo with lively exchanges of ideas. The musical cross-references were extraordinary.
    Many of us were present at Ed’s stunning New York debut in 1979 at Alice Tully Hall that launched his distinguished career.
    In October, 1981, Ed was kind to collaborate with me for a presentation on “Motivic Process in the Diabelli Variations” at a meeting of the Music Theory Society of New York State. The most exciting part of our preparation for this “lecture recital” was for me to observe Ed’s intrigue with Beethoven’s compositional process. For the lecture, Ed illustrated my examples at the keyboard and then played opus 120 in its entirety!
    It is too late for me to ask to ask Ed about Stravinsky’s appropriation of a Beethoven model for the second movement of his Piano Sonata (1924). My assumption is that “teacher” would have approved!
    Little did I know that Ed was called “teacher” at Indiana. Surely, this role was prefigured in his youthful days at Montclair! Most importantly, “teacher” led by example!  This is what makes him so unforgettable!  

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    1. Alana Murphy

      Hi Maureen, I’m a former student of Edmund Battersby (2008-2011 MM and performer diploma)– it’s so strange to read your remembrances, because I was just re-listening to a recording of a program that I played a little while after moving away from Bloomington. Among other things, I played the Stravinsky Sonata and am pretty sure that I talked to Teacher about it at some point (though I didn’t study it under him). I remember that he once remarked to me that Beethoven liked to pair C-minor outer movements with A-flat major slow movements, and that A-flat was his go-to key for very “religioso” moods… we noticed that Stravinsky paired these keys too in the sonata, and used a “pizzicato” left hand and lavish embellishments. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the slow movement was an homage to/ parody of the Beethoven model! Anyway, thank you for your memories, I will miss him so much.
      Alana Murphy

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  7. Gina Balestracci

    Oh how I will miss my friend Eddie! I worked very closely with him in his first life at Montclair State in New Jersey, where he was an honored member of the faculty and for several years the department chair. I had to laugh when reading about his “cultivated air of obliviousness”: it was the same at Montclair–and the students often joked about where he may have left his car on any given day.

    When he was chair of the department, I was his right hand–he often called me his boss. We had adjoining offices with a door between them. If he saw someone coming in through his secretary’s office whom he didn’t want to see (there was one particular voice teacher….), he would “escape” through our adjoining door. We had so many funny adventures. Eddie was such a sprite.

    My fondest memories, I think, are of his playing. Every day when he came into the office he would spend an hour or so playing from the WTC. I was so privileged to have these private, through-the-wall performances that bordered on meditations. He would draw things from the music that I had never noticed. We spent many hours discussing music of all sorts. His performances of Schubert’s music were particularly transcendent.

    We are fortunate that we have memories of Eddie in his many recordings. I listened to the Diabellis on Sunday afternoon, and was able to capture a tiny bit of what I shall miss. I played phone tag with Eddie just a couple of weeks ago. It’s hard to believe that that cannot happen again.

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  8. Derek Maninfior

    I’m still in a state of disbelief about the passing of Prof. Battersby. His impact on my musical/pianistic understanding is too profound to put into words. I studied with teacher from the fall of 2012 to the spring of 2015. He as with so many other students, opened my eyes and ears to the aspects of music that were so integral to his teaching ( devotion to the score, awareness of the historical/stylistic evolution of the repertoire at hand, and of course Bach!) But teacher was never one whose views were defined by dogma or strict ideology. All of his beliefs about the details of phrasing, ornamentation, counterpoint were meant to serve as means to an end with the beauty of simplicity being the ultimate goal. I will never give a another concert or audition without thinking of what he would say to me beforehand. I’m still coming to terms with the fact I won’t be able to drop by his office and see him playing along enthusiastically with a student working on a Bach sinfonia and I’m still coming to terms with the fact that I won’t be able to email or call him about my future endeavors, successes and failures. My life was changed for the better when I decided to study with him in the summer of 2012 and I am so thankful I did. Teacher, I promise to always live the way you told me to play- with presence and purpose and I promise not to let my tone become “too yeasty” from accompanying too many singers. I like to think that you are now in the company of the great masters who so enriched your life. Thank you for enriching mine.

    Derek

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  9. Junichi Steven Sato

    Like Julian (“Jay”) Hook, Steven Spooner, and many others, I had the privilege of being a part of Professor Battersby’s first studio at IU. F minor must have been Teacher’s favorite key–for one of the first pieces I was going to study with him, he suggested one of the Brahms’ piano sonatas, and when I returned the following week announcing my decision to learn No. 3 in F minor, he said he was hoping I would pick that one! In fact, it was in this very same work that Teacher managed to change everything about my piano technique, just by saying a few simple words. When I first arrived at IU, I loved to bang out fortissimos and the Brahms Sonata certainly provided me with many such opportunities. It was not uncommon for me to break many strings in a single week of practicing. Yet I carried with me a hidden jealousy of other pianists who could play just as loud but with a much deeper tone quality. Upon playing a few chords, Teacher just remarked, “cushion your attack.” Where others could only say that my tone was too harsh, somehow these words from him evoked an image inside me that helped relax my upper body and opened up my ear to the sound I was producing. I have never broken another string since that very day.

    There were so many unique personalities in our studio that made it vibrant, interesting, and loads of fun. Teacher had a way of leaving his imprint on each student while at the same time preserving the uniqueness of our personalities. This allowed us to be our own person within and not just a mere imitation of him.

    A little anecdote: Jay and I once attended an incredible concert by violinist Miriam Fried in which she played Partitas for solo violin by Bach among other things. As the two of us walked out of the hall, Jay asked rhetorically, “I wonder if anyone’s written a fugue for solo flute” to which I replied “I did” (the actual piece is a 3-voice fugue for any solo monophonic instrument). We had a chuckle about that. When I showed up to my next lesson with Teacher and dutifully knocked on the door at my lesson time, he stuck his head out the door and before I could even say anything, exclaimed, “You wrote a fugue for solo flute!?” Right then and there, with the door still open and Jay sitting at the piano (his lesson time was before mine), Teacher wanted to know more about the piece and how it was written, and eventually the discussion transformed into a mini-debate on whether the piece should even be considered contrapuntal (my response to that is still yes). This is the way he was–excitable, inquisitive, enthusiastic, philosophical, involved, all this despite his seemingly quiet nature.

    He will be sorely missed.

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  10. Lisa M

    I only had the privilege of studying with Teacher for a couple weeks at a summer festival in Leipzig, but my time with him was profound and it is one I hold closely in my memory. He went out of his way to get to know me, making me feel as though I was a regular in his studio back in Indiana. His approach to piano playing was very intuitive. “It’s natural law,” he said. I will never forget my final lesson with him in Leipzig working through Kreisleriana. After only a couple weeks of knowing me he was able to guide me through a technical and, I dare say, metaphysical transformation at the piano. It was as though he directed me toward a wavelength that I never knew existed. He suggested I audition to get a Performer’s Diploma at IU to keep studying with him and I will always regret not taking the leap.

    His warmth, humor, and heart will be missed. I still return to Brahms Exercises 2 and 16, Bach Vier Duette, and Kreisleriana to remember him and the kernels of wisdom he shared.

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  11. Alex Nelson

    I first met Edmund Battersby in August of 2008. In that lesson, where I played Chopin’s first scherzo, he said to me “so Alex, are you ready for life’s journey?” No 17 year-old could quite grasp what he meant by that, I certainly didn’t. He also told me I lacked mystery In the beautiful Polish lullaby section of the scherzo (Lulajże, Jezuniu/Lullaby, baby Jesus). Mystery became one of many running themes throughout my undergraduate lessons with him. Four years later, I ended my senior recital with Chopin’s metaphysical Polonaise-Fantaisie, a piece which so perfectly merges stately motives with free-form dreaming. When we met backstage there were tears in his eyes. He was so proud of me, and remarked that I had given “a marvelously mysterious and majestic performance.”

    He was my Teacher and mentor of eight years. He was the reason why I came to Bloomington, this place which has given so much to me. He knew me and knew how to develop me, both as an artist and person, better than anyone else. He was always building me up. Always referencing the interrelationships of Art, Music, Literature, and History. Always stimulating imagination and emotion, connection and empathy, beauty and transcendence. Always bringing these artistic expressions full circle into the relationship with the soul.

    He understood musical architecture better than anyone. And chaos, both in art and in life. And how to accept and live with both. He knew the devastation I suffered, and continue to suffer, when my wrist gave out the summer after graduation. The pain and resentment I developed towards the piano, even music. He remained steadfast and supportive while those feelings lessened with time. In fact, my transition to arts administration and the many incredible experiences I have had since was due to his influence.

    Edmund taught me how to grasp the tools, hope, and courage to enter the world of wonders. To embrace mystery, love, and the absurd. I can only aspire to resonate in life as he did, with humor, grace, and resilience.

    I haven’t been able to stop reading this text he sent me in July 2012. I share it now for the many of us who knew him:

    AN: [while I helped run his festival in Maine, I texted him something about impending doom-of-hand problems and if I’d make it through]
    EB: “You will – all part of life’s big experiment. Thanks for all the superb managing of all of us with style, charm and precision (add patience to those virtues.). You have a great life to live ahead of you and you are a comfort to those of us who worry about civilization’s future! Just don’t lose your sense of humor or the acceptance of the absurd and you will sail through life with the inevitable frustrations and disappointments, which will give you the right to enter the sublime. It’s all thrown in there together and you will make sense of it I am certain.”

    To Edmund Battersby, with love and gratitude for the rest of my journey.

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  12. Ruth Goveia

    I nervously anticipated my first piano session with Edmund Battersby during the Fall of 2000. As an ‘older’ student, I already had several years of college teaching behind me in South Africa when I decided to tackle the Doctoral piano program at IU in the hope of eventually continuing with college teaching here. I had feverishly prepared two Chopin études for our first meeting and felt as ready as I’ll ever be. After twenty bars or so, he stopped me: “Don’t go any further. We’ll have to start at the beginning.” I was taken aback after all that careful preparation only to play so little. Yet, after his sobering assessment, it became clear that I would now be starting a very different musical journey than before. After only a few sessions, everything made much more sense, as if waiting to be revealed all along. Together with others in his studio, I eagerly began to absorb his often repeated “takterstickung” and “imbroglio” enthusiasms. As for technique, his fingering approach and suggestions felt so right, logical and physically more comfortable than before, that it felt nonsensical to revisit my old habits. The simplest physical action usually served something bigger, rarely separate for its own sake. With Edmund, one usually learned about piano playing indirectly. His focus rather fell on beauty, art, and life issues in which piano playing was an inevitable expression. In an email to me, barely over a week before his passing, he had singled out the “Bermuda Triangle” of the last movement of Schumann’s 3rd piano sonata (with its vortex of shifting tonalities – which can so easily take a wrong turn in performance!) in a way that only he could indelibly etch in my memory.

    It is hard to get my mind around the idea that he has gone. Just being who he was, so authentically, added a rare and precious gift to my life. I had a dream recently in which he breezed into the foyer of the IU Student Union. I was so excited to see him, but as I put my arms around him to greet him, I cried because I knew that he would soon not be with us any longer. Waking up suddenly, I realized that he had already gone. Edmund, you are greatly missed.

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  13. Susie Parker Goetz

    It was 1965 Trenton Michigan High School the glorious sound of piano music coming from the auditorium, I followed the music, we were good friends immediately. When Eddie would practice I would sit beside him, sometimes I’d sit or lay on top of the piano. He told when he became famous I couldn’t lay on top of the piano. We were good friends and as we got older and got on with our lives, years later when we talked it was like we were kids, laughing and just being silly.

    Anyone who met Eddie was very fortunate, but to get to know his charm, intelligence and sense of humor was priceless and it’s an honor to know this remarkable man.

    It makes me so happy to read all the wonderful loving comments about my dear friend.

    Those harps in heaven needed Eddie playing the piano. You are one of a kind in this world and beyond, My Sweet Eddie…I love you and miss you.

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  14. Nancy Harris

    I first met Eddie back in the early 1980’s He was a close friend of a close friend of mine, Catherine Baird (deceased 1999). I was fortunate to hear him in Concert a few times at a wonderful art gallery in the beautiful Vermont countryside called The Four Winds Gallery way back in the 80″s. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have had his acquaintance as well as that of one of his teachers, Barbara Holmquest (also deceased, 2010). I loved Eddie’s playing and have two of his CD’s…the “Diabelli Variations” and the “Goyescas”. It was just a year ago yesterday that I was able to attend his concert lecture @ IU on the “Variations” and spent time in his home afterward visiting with the many friends and acquaintances who loved him so much. I was stunned to hear of his death while attending a recital here in Mt. Vernon, Ohio last May. There are precious few people who can completely make one feel as if they have always been their best friend such as Eddie did with me, a humble pianist with about a 10th of the talent Eddie had!

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