The annals of classical music are rich in anecdotes celebrating the colourful individuality of orchestral musicians. The recent passing of Isaac Melamed, the Russian born, Durban based, violinist and pedagogue, made me reflect on this.
Isaac was a founding Principal member of the Natal Philharmonic Orchestra, joining its First Strings section in the early 1980s, and for many years occupying the Orchestra's Associate Concert Master desk with distinction.
After his retirement, he continued performing ad hoc with the KZN Philharmonic, before concentrating on his long established other career as one of Durban's most sought after and respected violin teachers, both privately and at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
Isaac was held in great affection by his pupils - not least Pietermaritzbug born Marc Uys, one of this country's most distinguished cultural 'exports', now successfully established in the United States.
As a fellow audience member of the KZN Philharmonic's World Symphony Series concerts, I was happy to engage with Isaac before curtain up, or during interval, as he shared his pithy, usually appreciative, sometimes provocative, but invariably informed opinions regarding the evening's performance.
He did not tolerate bogus display for its own sake, but leavened his commentary with a dry, succinctly expressed wit all his own.
He would phone me from time to time, to discuss experiences such as Metropolitan Opera HD broadcasts at Cinema Nouveau. Or to ask my view about a new recording coming out, or whatever occupied his attention that day. I felt happy when he did.
One of a kind, he left his mark, and will be missed by many who knew and enjoyed him. Rest in peace, old soul.
Photos courtesy The Violin Connection of Southern Africa
Text by William Charlton-Perkins,