Interview with Miriam Fried
For the last weekend of July, I went to Marlboro Music Festival to catch up with some of my closest friends and I happened to run into my old teacher Miriam. She is one of the people that had the biggest influence on my life—she was not only a violin teacher, but also a life coach. I don’t think I would’ve started this project if I hadn’t studied with her! It had been about 2 years since we’d last seen each other, and we ended up talking for hours at the “coffee shop” where people hang out at night over... wine. And of course, I had to ask her to do this interview—I was very curious to hear what she had to say. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and stories, Miriam!
Mari: What was the first piece by Britten you’d ever heard?
Miriam: It was either Peter Grimes or the War Requiem. Probably the War Requiem, because I believe I heard that when I was still in Israel.
Mari: And what was your first impression of his music?
Miriam: I was perplexed.
Mari: How would you describe his music?
Miriam: I think it is very personal, it has a unique style—quite recognizable, actually. The repertoire that I know best is really the string quartets and the Violin Concerto. I think it’s very powerful—emotionally powerful. It has a thread that goes through it and you can recognize why he’s gotten to where he’s gotten. To me, it’s a very logical kind of progression of things. It’s a very personal voice, which I like.
Mari: Britten was someone who responded to various issues that he saw in the world through music, and I was wondering if there were life or world events that affected the way you think about music?
Miriam: To think of world events connecting to my attitude towards music I cannot say, but I think that there were times when certain things that were happening in my life and music had been very central to the emotional map of how I digested the events. I associate certain pieces with very specific events in my life and I notice that every time I hear or play the piece.
Actually, there was a really eerie experience—when my father died we were in Colorado. And when my sister called me to tell me, I was practicing the slow variation from the last movement of Beethoven's Op. 96 (Violin Sonata No. 10). So that was embedded in my head as somehow connected to my father. And when my mother had her stroke which basically killed her, I was teaching and the student was playing the same thing. I mean, I still can’t get over it. That particular variation is for me a very central thing. So I have these kinds of associations. Somehow my memory is more vivid when I have music attached to it. Another example—in 1956 when I was 10, there was a war in Israel, and my father was called to the army. I was at home with my mother and my sister who was 3 months old. There was an air raid in the middle of the night and I remember my mother woke me up and she was listening to the radio because that was how you got your information at the time. To this day I remember the song that they were playing—it wasn’t classical music, but that song is to me is connected with that event.
I don’t know why it is, but music becomes embedded in memory, attached to life events. I like to think of music as a refuge from political, world events, not a reflection of it. So I don’t know that world events have influenced my musical thinking but certainly my emotional connection to music has been completely affected by life events, I would say.
Mari: If you could ask Britten one question what would it be?
Miriam: I always wondered how the emotional impact of his various pieces is so completely different—I find that interesting. Because usually, after you know the whole body of work of a composer, you find a lot of common characteristics. In his case it’s totally different emotional landscapes. I guess the explanation might be that they were really connected to world events, and I’d be curious to know how.
Interviewed on July 30, 2018