Friday, April 22, 2011

Strauss and the Death of My Mother

I am originally from Philadelphia.  In late August 1979, at age 25, I moved to Spokane, Washington to attend Gonzaga University Law School.  I transferred to Temple University Law School a year later, in August 1980, and earned my J.D. from Temple in May 1982.

I returned to Philadelphia from Spokane in December 1979 to spend Christmas break with my family.  In early January 1980, at the end of Christmas break, my mother drove me to the Philadelphia Airport, where I took a flight back to Spokane.

I remember that was a Sunday afternoon.  I remember that because I can recall listening to the weekly broadcast of the Philadelphia Orchestra during the automobile ride.  Philadelphia classical music radio station WFLN (now defunct) used to broadcast Philadelphia Orchestra concerts from 2:00 to 4:00 PM every Sunday afternoon.

I can still remember the music that comprised that Philadelphia Orchestra broadcast.  I remember the Orchestra performed Tchaikovsky's Manfred Symphony, a tragically mournful piece.  Uncannily, I had the premonition, listening to the music, that something terrible was about to happen.  In fact, my mother died a few days later.  My ride to the Philadelphia Airport that Sunday afternoon in early January 1980 was the last time I saw my mother.

I suppose my sense of foreboding, occasioned by listening to the Manfred Symphony, was related to the fact that a few years earlier I watched a PBS broadcast of a dramatization of Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, a series that featured music from the Manfred Symphony.  In the novel the character Anna Karenina commits suicide by throwing herself in the path of a train.

I remember that the Philadelphia Orchestra also performed a late piece by Richard Strauss: the oboe concerto that Strauss wrote at age 81.

I was not particularly affected by my mother's death.  I continued my law studies without any difficulty and completed my first year of law school in the top 15% of my class.  I think Temple Law School only accepts about two transfer students each year.

Coincidentally, my sister worked as a legal secretary at Temple Law School in the 1960s while she was an undergraduate at that university.  Also, I have a cousin, Bruce Lapenson, who currently teaches in the Intellectual Heritage Program at Temple.