INTERVIEW / Matthias Kadar
In this and following newsletters, a series of short conversations and memories with friends from Romain’s professional and private life.
Today we are talking with Matthias Kadar. Trained as a composer, but also performs as a singer and musician, he is multi-talented and constantly involved with both on going and new projects. It was inevitable that Matthias and Romain’s paths would cross sooner or later.
How did you meet and can you tell us something about your first meeting with Romain?
As a musician in Amsterdam it was inevitable that I would at some time or another meet Romain. Either privately, as a performer or as a member of the audience. The first time, as a composer, I was a member of the audience. My girlfriend, or in Romain's’ words ‘my wife’, Hester Cnossen together with Karin Leutscher (flute) and Jaap Brackman (piano) were playing one of my own pieces. Karin already knew Romain so introduced me. After the performance, followed by the famous ‘cheese buffet’, Romain made us his unforgettable Pasta with tomatoes sauce. I will never forget the delicious parmesan cheese and the cheese grater !! Right from the start there was this wonderful mix of music, excellent conversation and delicious food.
What did you mean to each other,- what did he mean to you ? What bound you together ?
His open mindedness and curiosity towards everything is what struck me the most and will always remain an example for me. I immediately felt his exuberance. There was always a strong current of positive energy radiating from him which was especially apparent when organizing house concerts. It was a peculiarly unique form of energy - I would call it a true life force! It went hand in hand without any expectations or demands from the musicians he had invited. I felt such an enormous feeling of gratitude that I wished to help. He of course, never thought the help necessary, but it was often useful! Music was welcome at all times in his home. For Romain, music was as important as food and drink. That goes for me too !!
It became apparent, during the course of our friendship, that we shared each others views which further strengthens our relationship.
The piano was another binding factor. Everyone who has ever been to one of the concerts knows the magnificent old Erard Grand piano which has its home on the Keizersgracht. Our love of Grand Pianos and their mechanical workings was another shared common ground.
Of course I eventually also gave him piano lessons. He was so grateful that he tried to convince everyone around him to take lessons from me. Once during one of these lessons I was giving him, his cleaning lady was present and he insisted that his lesson was given over to her - and it was! Everything that made him feel good he wanted to impulsively - immediately- share with everybody.
This phenomenon remained with Romain until he drew his last breath - and I was party to that too.
Music did him good. I am a musician. I did him good. This in itself was a wonderful and beautiful gift.
You speak personally and concisely about your friendship with Romain. Did you share things together other than music?
Oh Definitely! Romain liked to relax and introduced me to a sport which up until then, I knew nothing about - Squash. So we were often to be found on the Squash Court - especially on grey miserable Mondays. He was fanatical and remorseless in his manner of play and had me running unmercifully all over the court. In due course I became better at the game and could give him a run ‘for his money’. I still have a physical reminder of our Squash Days, my collarbone has suffered from the many squash sessions. So I have Romain to thank for my only sports injury! Of course after the game we had, over a glass of orange juice, many enlightening and wonderful discussions.
Still after all this time and his passing whilst arranging music or studying I often think of all his ’sayings’ and there were so many…..
“There are no bad pupils only bad teachers”
“Don’t think – Do!”
“If this is what makes you tick -do it!”
Then came Italy...
Yes eventually it happened: The move to Italy Romain had wanted for years to make this step. Once the decision had been made I became very involved in the process. Mostly in the planning stage and in ‘brainstorming’ as Romain called it, regarding the selling of his house. I kept every Monday free for this.
Sometimes he would forget the appointment - he was always so busy with a thousand and one things - nevertheless as a ‘man possessed’ we would continue - what energy he had.
For me he is a star - somewhere way up there,- still with all his charm and energy,- someone I can wave to -singing laughing and alive.
Tell us in length- Who and what was Romain?
I always found that he lived for what he believed in. With total conviction. Wise, grateful and helpful. This and so much more. A strong sense of honour yet also phlegmatic in his own way.
Exceptional and important landmarks in both my personal and musical lives I owe in part to him. I like to think back on the innumerable music rehearsals that I held with him, where he - and this was what was so wonderful about him - in his own unique way would just continue to work on all that he was busy with, I should add it was an exceptionally huge space. Photography, hanging out the washing, cooking, shopping, etc etc etc.
Music was just such a natural part of life for him. By the way one never, but then never, lacked for food and drink !!!
He personally took me in - when for personal reasons - I had nowhere else to go. Despite my difficulties at the time I look back on this time with pleasure. He was perhaps the only person who found it quite normal that I arrived on his doorstep with no suitcase full of clothes and other personal items but only carrying a huge heavy catalogue of the Complete works of Leonardo da Vinci !!!
Thanks to him I recorded a CD of all my songs. The cover was a photograph he took of me and which I still use all these years later. The guitar I played which accompanied me on these recordings was specially made for me but I still like to say built for US as this literally and physically played such an important role. As always he supported me in this adventure as well as in all other adventures.
‘Practice carefully and play like a lion!’
Maybe Romain did not play as a virtuoso but for me he was and will always be a virtuoso of the mind, the senses, emotions pleasure and life. ‘Practice carefully and play like a lion - a creed not of his but fits him so well. But in this case maybe better translated as ‘play like an owl’ both he and my oldest son were crazy about owls!
He had wonderful and unique friends and it was always such a pleasure to meet them. What struck me mostly was how diversified they were. I would suggest that if you wish to understand his open mind and personality - then go and visit and talk with his friends.
Now to his unique and special partner his wife - Dominique, whom I would like to thank for giving me the opportunity to tell this story. Moreover to sincerely thank her for the energy and force she is putting into the legacy left by Romain.
What did you learn from Romain and will you share it with others? How is he living on in your mind? What would you say to him if you had the opportunity?
I have learnt so much from you Romain. I miss your voice, the curiosity in what you saw and heard. I most certainly miss his energetic acceptance and tolerance. His wisdom, being egotistical I miss what he alway gave- the art of giving.
I was allowed to musically accompany him to the door which only the dead can unlock. Just before he passed I wrote a song. After listening to it whist on his sickbed he said "This needs to be thought through ! "
Every song that I sung deeply touched him.
One more thing. Several days before he died I experienced a really wonderful sensation. As weak as he was, despite all the poison flowing into and through his veins,Romain remained himself. Whilst I sat next to him gently strumming the guitar and singing it was as if a bright light went through his whole body. He blossomed like a flower.
I sincerely hope I have not and never have ’sold him short’ and that I guided him along the right path.
Oh how I can miss him - most awfully !