Tag Archives: Rosalyn Tureck

Connected in time and space…epilog

Rosalyn Tureck died July 17, 2003. 

Although the connection in time and space has been broken, the memories remain; an amazing counterpoint to everyday life.  We have not returned to St Petersburg – hearing from some who have traveled there recently, that what we saw as an exotic foreign city is now much westernized – we are grateful for our experience.

We are left with a recording of the concert in the Philharmonia that we did not hear,


grateful and amazed by what we did experience – a connection severed in time, but occupying a space in our memories.

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Connected in time and space…part 17


Still haunted by the illusive Hidden Treasures – the French Impressionist paintings – brought to the Soviet Union after World War II, hidden away for the last fifty years in the Hermitage, we find ourselves again at the ticket window; the same response to our inquiry:  a vague wave of the hand toward the Jordan Staircase.   Again we walk the corridors of the vast former Winter Palace of the Tsars; this time we are more focused……..an easel in the hallway; poster board with the universal symbol for ‘no photos allowed’, and a few unidentifiable words…….  Entering, we find them:  the 74 masterpieces by – Renoir, Van Gogh, Monet, Pisarro, Toulouse-Lautrec, Gaugin, Cezanne, Degas and others.  All displayed on simple white background, they take our breath away, knowing these paintings have not been seen for fifty years, and before that by only a few when lent from private collections to public exhibitions.

the following examples taken from ‘Hidden Treasures Revealed’ published in 1995, speak for themselves…………










I was not to see Rosalyn again.  A brief good bye on the telephone – she still cannot understand why we cannot stay for the rescheduled concert.


From my travel journal Saturday, July 8:  “it is my nature to feel a finality each time I leave a faraway place; to wonder if I will ever return, to know that it will not be the same even if I do.  And so we lift off from Russian soil,  feeling as though the lens of our experience has zoomed in over field and roads, taken in the magic of an exotic city, and now pulls away leaving a sense of melancholy to replace the anticipation of arrival.”

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Connected in time and space…part 15

Having somewhat recovered from the initial shock of learning that we have traveled nearly six thousand miles to attend a concert that is now to take place on July 10, the day after our return home………..(see part 14),


I called Rosalyn.  Arriving at her room, I find her much diminished, wrapped chin to toe in a down robe with an ice pack under her arm.  In pain from being ‘brutalized by the masseuse’; distraught:  ‘I have always been able to go on’.  She seems lost in her robe and her misery.  The Russian sun, which will not set, slants in through the sheer curtains pulled across the window.  I make us each a cup of tea; we commiserate about her plight.  Since David is busy seeing to the rearranging of schedules made necessary by the what has transpired, she asks that I retrieve a menu from each of the six restaurants in the hotel.  She makes her dinner selection; I arrange, with some language difficulty, for delivery to her room, and at her request, sit with her while she eats.

Meanwhile, David has made contact asking us to meet him, along with Sergei, the translator assigned to Rosalyn, for cocktails in the hotel bar.  We meet, decide to have dinner in the Bierstube in the hotel……………wonderful comfort food, the vodka flows freely………….fascinating conversation regarding the state of the Russian nation post USSR.



Although devastated by the rescheduling of Rosalyn’s concert, we are consoled by the anticipation of our visit to the Hermitage.


The following morning we set out, walking through the triumphal double arch, we see the Hermitage in the distance –


 across the Palace Square, the Alexander Column – the tallest in the world – dwarfed by the monumentality of its surroundings.


The Hermitage – former Winter Palace of the tsars – is an incredibly impressive edifice – so hard to imagine that what lies within can compare to the building itself.  Inconceivably, my imagination is outstripped by reality…….artifacts of all kinds, jewelry, porcelain. gilded furniture, coaches of the tsars,


the huge Rembrandt – Abraham with knife raised to obey God’s order to sacrifice his son Isaac, his hand stayed by an angel – made me weep


and again the massive canvas by Rembrandt – Return of the Prodigal Son – more tears


(Rembrandt images via the internet)

After having inquired at the ticket window about the Hidden Treasures – again the language barrier – we are still looking for the promised exhibit of the Impressionist masterpieces brought to the Soviet Union after World War II……….  We’ve been sent up the Jordan Staircase,


my western mind expecting to find a high profile display – billed as a great revelation, another reminder of the Holocaust, an event in itself appealing to our sense of outrage and of the dramatic.   We expect to stumble upon a well identified area containing the exhibit.  We are sorely disappointed!  Saturated by what we have seen, and frustrated by what we have not seen – we decide to move on……..

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Connected in time and space…part 14

Anxious to explore St. Petersburg, we walk toward the Neva River on Nevsky Prospect, crossing over the Fontanka on Anichkov Bridge,


passing nameless buildings in need of attention and restoration,


as well as coming upon some of the most beautifully recognizable landmarks:

St. Isaac’s Cathedral



The Church on Spilled Blood


Our Lady of Kazan Cathedral


The Winter Palace / Hermitage


with its wondrous collection of art, and the current exhibition of the impressionist masterpieces being shown publicly for the first time since World War II

     –  we will explore here tomorrow  –


We return, with great anticipation, to the hotel in late afternoon to rest and dress for Rosalyn’s concert at the Philharmonia with festivities to follow later in the evening.  Unlocking the door to our room we find two envelopes pushed under the door…….


the first note reads:


why would she want us to call, when we have been instructed not to approach her before the performance????

the second envelope holds the explanation:


We are scheduled to leave St. Petersburg on the 8th,  with overnight in Stockholm, returning to Santa Barbara on July 9!!!

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Connected in time and space…part 13

Rosalyn Tureck’s performance, scheduled to be held in the Philharmonia, in St. Petersburg, July 5, 1995


as part of the annual White Nights Festival, an international arts festival held during the season of the midnight sun – May through July.


Arriving from the airport by taxi (a story in itself!!)


the first person emerging from the Nevsky Palace Hotel is Rosalyn.  Mindful of her admonition we do not approach, but she sees us…greeting us briefly with a hug before stepping into the car waiting to take her to rehearsal.

We settle in to our room and begin to plan for the next day. 


We have decided to breakfast early – an astounding buffet including of course the ever-present caviar.  We sit at the second floor window overlooking the Nevsky Prospect; the contrast between the opulence of the meal and the drab street scene with the ‘babushkas’ – little elderly ladies with brooms made of twigs, named for the scarves they all wear  – sweeping the gutters in this great city.


Returning to our room before setting out on foot – the taxi experience was harrowing and the public transportation crowded and antiquated –



a call from David:  Rosalyn has forgotten/misplaced her eyeshadow – would we please purchase brown eyeshadow, leaving it at the front desk before 1 pm.  We lay out our evening attire for the gala festivities ahead – afraid to send them out to be pressed – and make sure our tickets are secure.


Attempting to remain undaunted by this request/order, the hunt begins.  We ask for information about where we might purchase cosmetics at the front desk, but are unsure if we are understood, much less understanding the response.  Huge problem number one:  The Cyrillic alphabet gives no clue to even the root word on any sign of which there are very few.  Second problem:  there are no window displays of merchandise, even if you would happen to be in front of a store………..  Finally, on a side street some blocks from the hotel we find a tiny Nina Ricci boutique where we are able to make our purchase – $37 and change – we would have paid any price, so relieved are we to have been successful!!!!!!!!  The deadline approaches; we hurry back to the hotel, leave the package at the front desk, then set out to make the most of what remains of the afternoon………

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Connected in time and space…part 12

Arriving home from the Biltmore (see part 11), I break the news…………..!!!!!!!


Still absorbing the idea of a journey to Russia in less than six weeks, we set about planning our itinerary:

Santa Barbara – San Francisco – Seattle – Copenhagen (3 nights) – Stockholm – St. Petersburg  (4 nights) – Stockholm (1 night)

– Newark – Denver – Santa Barbara


We’ve enjoyed a great send-off from friends


and look forward to a few days in Copenhagen, before the final leg of the journey to St. Petersburg.


A drive north from Copenhagen, along the coast of Denmark closest to Sweden takes us to Rungsted, the hometown of author Karen Blixen, pen name Isak Dinesen.  The family home, her father’s 40 acre estate, Rungstedlund, is open to the public.

circa 1943





Karen Christenze Dinesen von Blixen-Finecke is buried on the estate.


While driving we are treated to idyllic scenery at every turn.


Cruising the canals in Copenhagen,


we came upon quirky houseboats,


and old waterfront warehouses, now luxurious condominiums.



In St. Petersburg, Rosalyn prefers that we stay at the Nevsky Palace Hotel where she will be….with the caveat:  if you see me prior to the concert, do not approach me – I go deep inside myself….’  With this directive in mind, we have scheduled our arrival for one day prior to the concert – we will be touching down in Russia on

the Fourth of July!!!!

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Connected in time and space…part 11

The Biltmore Santa Barbara………

(now the Four Seasons Biltmore)



In 1995, still quintessentially old Spanish luxe,





perched on the edge of the continent, at eye level with the Pacific.


Always de rigueur for cocktails, mixing locals and out-of-towners; offering a lounge with fireplace and seating to encourage conversation and conviviality.


On that Tuesday in late May, at the appointed time, under the chandelier hanging in the portal


through the entrance, down the steps into the lounge………..


………seated with Rosalyn, David and Hillary Hauser – a local journalist – drinks are ordered:

Rosalyn:  Virgin Mary – amended to Marguerita — Hilary:  Tequila – lots of lime — David:  Scotch and soda – amended to Scotch on the rocks — Susan:  Chardonnay – Sonoma

 In the midst of light conversation, Rosalyn abruptly turns to me, ‘I’d like to see the  pictures’, referring to my offer to bring pictures of George.  As David (dutifully) engages Hilary, Rosalyn and I peruse the pictures as she relates  (with much drama and gesturing with her petite hands) how she and George met, then fills in the months leading up to their marriage and his death so soon thereafter.

George proposed on New Year’s Eve 1963, in New York after dinner and the theatre, in Times Square as the ball dropped at midnight.’ Not feeling able to immediately give him an answer, she returned to London.  ‘He followed, took a flat around the corner from my home, pledging not to leave London until he had my answer.’  They were married in September of 1964 in London.  I put him on a plane at Heathrow in October to return to California where he was to sell his house and find one for us’……..she later saw it………a pink palace up on the hill in Pasadena’.  They were to have a pied-a-terre in New York and her home in London as well.  ‘We planned to rendezvous in New York for Thanksgiving.’  Instead she received an early morning phone call telling her that George had died the previous day, the eighth of November 1964.

As we continue to talk of George and our family, Rosalyn asks:  ‘Why don’t you come to my next concert, dahling?’  ‘I’d love to…where is it to be and when?’





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Connected in time and space…part 10

1995………..twenty-five years have passed…………..

Sipping my morning coffee while chatting with a friend on the phone, idly flipping through the pages of the Santa Barbara News-Press spread on the kitchen counter……her name jumped off the page…


I am stunned; she is here at UCSB – my alma mater…


 …in the audience at the master class…. then in line to greet her….

I am George’s niece…..’ I knew of you…..’ ‘will you come for tea?…..’  arrange with my assistant, David…………..’

[impressions:  commanding…. small…. riveting…. diva…. hyperbolic…. intense…. ]



David……‘Tea?  Perhaps Sunday, or Tuesday next.  She might call Sunday at 4:00 and come at 4:30………”

Prepared for tea on Sunday……..no call

Monday morning call from David…..‘We would like to come for ‘tea and a chat’ at about 5:30′.

George’s mother’s Limoges tea set,


her cut crystal bowl filled with strawberries, the platter she ‘hand carried’ from South Dakota to California in the ’30’s,

tea sandwiches and lemon bars…………….


  David again at 4:45:  Rosalyn not feeling well………….but ‘will you join us tomorrow evening at 5:30 for cocktails at the Biltmore?’…….

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Connected in time and space…part 9

the end of the beginnings…….

In the spring of 1964, George and his brother, Lemuel Joseph Downs (my father) and their older sister Evelyn Downs Piper were reunited at our home – the last time the three surviving siblings would be in the same space… the last time we would see George.


Arriving in his white Bentley, with his ever-present bow tie, and charming demeanor, he told us of his plan to take a pied-a-terre in London – to divide his time between it and his home in Pasadena.  Always interested in my education (I was just finishing my junior year of high school), he and I talked of college and his promise to send me to the school of my choice – although he made his desires known!  Then there was the tantalizing promise of a trip ‘around the world’ upon graduation that I had been hearing about since I was a small child.

I was shy; he a bit awkward with his 17 year old niece….how I wish now for more time with him (see part 1)


Although we heard nothing of the prelude, we learned in late summer of 1964 that George and Rosalyn had married in London…



…on November 8, 1964 George Wallingford Downs, Jr. died at the age of 53.


George was in Pasadena, dining with friends…

Rosalyn was in London, about to embark on a concert tour…


Rosalyn briefly re-appeared in our lives in 1970 to play at the dedication of the Downs Laboratory of Physics (see part 1) on the Caltech campus.





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Connected in time and space…part 8


The marriage – Rosalyn Tureck to James Hainds – was soon dissolved.


Life went on in Pasadena…for a time.  George, serving on boards of several companies, maintaining his affiliation with Caltech and several professional societies; with Beatrice, enjoying the cultural life offered by their chosen community.


The Independent Star-News noted their attendance at a Coleman Chamber Music Association event


a post-concert reception for Rosalyn Tureck.



Beatrice Olney Watson Downs died in August of 1963 at the age of 75



Again, reported in the Independent Star-News in October of 1963, Rosalyn was featured in two concerts for the Coleman Chamber Music Association. George was in attendance.



life went on………….

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