« May I be given the strength to bear what cannot be changed, and the courage to change what can be, but also the wisdom to distinguish one from the other.
IN MEMORY OF
8 MAY 2020
Chapelle des Rois, Geneva
Tribute by Nelson Goerner
Pianist and professor of piano at the Haute école de musique de Genève
There are beings whose intense radiance intrigues us, fascinates us, but above all, touches us. People who possess in their soul a deep human dimension, an intelligence of the heart, I would say, that speaks to us. Dominique, you were undoubtedly one of them.
You were one of the most honest people I have ever known. Uncompromising, one would say, but gifted with an immense tenderness, and capable of letting yourself be touched by a face you met, by an image or an object that spoke to you.
Music, and the art of its transmission, was your life. You gave yourself to it with the humility and nobility of those who, far from seeking a worldly, futile fame, or any kind of brilliance, know how to let themselves be guided in their mission by what is true, because they are inhabited by the essential.
I will never forget your proverbial fidelity in friendship, the laughter – or rather, uncontrollable fits of laughter – that we had together, those delicious evenings around a good table with Akiko – one of our rituals was to go and eat perch fillets in Corsier – and with our very dear friends Yolande and Pierre-Alain Perrot.
Thank you, dear Dominique, for enriching our lives in this way. Have a beautiful and peaceful journey, my friend.
Tribute by Brenno Boccadoro
Professor of Musicology at the University of Geneva and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne
There are critical points, in life as on stage, where the plot turns in the opposite direction to what is expected to produce dramatic coups of heightened violence.
It would take the deformed faces portrayed by Francisco Goya in the darkness of the walls of the Quinta del Sordo to describe the shadows that invaded my mind at the news of Dominique’s unexpected departure. They are still there, but at this time I will push them back into the backstage of my imagination to paint, by way of praise, the light that I saw emerge from him in the years I spent time with him.
I was very close to him for some thirty years – enough to entrust him with being godfather to my son. We spent whole evenings raising a glass to the Gods and philosophising, elbows leaning on the sofa. He could choke with laughter like a child and in the next minute reveal his deep insight into the tragedy of life. He was one of those beings that Nature had endowed with intense sensitivity, which made him both vulnerable and exceptional.
This sensitivity had spiked his blood. It had sharpened in him a particular sharpness of vision, which led him to separate the outlines of objects of the mind with a greater than normal acuity, both emotionally and intellectually. In the picture of his imagination both forms and emotions were drawn with chromatic contrasts above the norm, traced by a considerable intensity that had made him an uncompromising man with an intransigent analytical mind.
This nature immediately attracted him to art. By virtue of his qualities, Dominique belonged to a family of artists well known to those who do the same job as me, that of the children of Saturn, star of misfortune and genius, who have produced the highest peaks in Western music.
In the world of sounds, this nature gave him a view of the darkest abysses as well as the most sublime heights, making him the most poignant interpreter I have ever heard. Dominique had not been to university, but the habit of applying the sharpness of his mind to penetrate the alchemy of harmony had developed in him a remarkably deep philosophical knowledge of the logical mechanisms involved in his art, an experience inaccessible to most musicographic boasters.
It is often said that in his eyes the sublime of a performance lay in a critical point suspended on a razor’s edge where the opposing ingredients of the composition are knotted together in an unstable equilibrium torn by antagonistic forces that are impossible to measure. Recently, in a telephone message, he used the same metaphor about his soul, in a state of, and I quote, “weighty suspension” in this world. Music and life as tension between antagonistic forces.
This is what makes me say that, in a way, he lived as he played and that his life was that of a work of art, governed by an innate sense of the sublime. I also say to myself that such an existence could not have ended otherwise than by a departure in keeping with his art, in a dazzling litotes, heroic and sublime at the same time. An artist’s death.
Dominique suffered in body and soul, but in exchange, as a remedy and viaticum for all his pain, heaven gave him the incarnate grace of an angel of heaven who loved him, understood him, followed him; a wife whom he described in a message of December 24 as a light in the night, the summit of an island in the ocean to which to cling.
I wrote to Akiko, who spoke to me about accompanying him in his flight, which the ancient authors, who I sometimes spend time with, claim that only the soul of the impure wanders here on earth, weighed down by the heaviness of matter, unable to fly away. Dominic was a just man; he had purified his soul in the fire of pain, and I am convinced that it has already put on its wings for a better world. Now all the questions our friend asked about our existence have been answered and I see his childlike face laughing at us as he sees us crying over his fate.
The ancient authors that I happen to read claim that men die because their trajectory of life is a straight line whose beginning and end, they do not know how to unite; whereas that of the gods is a circular orbit that turns endlessly around itself in the harmony and peace of Olympus. They also claim that in musical harmony there are notes that attract each other according to their affinity and they say that sounds are like the souls of friends after death.
If this is so, I like to believe, dear Dominique, that there will come a day when we find ourselves leaning on our elbows on a couch of clouds, drinking ambrosia and discussing, in the company, who knows, of Schumann, Chopin and all our loved ones who have left us. For my part, I prefer to believe it because the contrary would be absurd, absurd to believe that the Gods would have condemned us to spend a lifetime wondering about the reasons for this existence, only to leave without the answer.
Dear Mr Weber,
A short note from your class.
We all feel an inconsolable sadness when we think of all the marvellous music that has flown with you, all the music you transmitted with as much passion and freshness as precision and intelligence.
The teaching you gave us will remain for each of us an immense source of musical inspiration. Your indications “et là”, “glisse”, “oooh”, “prêt”, noted in our scores with your tiny pencil will allow us to keep in our memory the clarity, intelligence, and sensitivity with which you guided us in our interpretation.
The way you beat time and accompanied us on the second piano made us feel the rhythm of each piece, the internal pulse, the harmonic tensions. Like a conductor, you led us through the marvellous universe of the composers with immense respect.
It is hard to say to ourselves that you will no longer be there to listen to us, to advise us, and to shake us up in our habits. Because yes, being your student was not always easy, sometimes you said words so true and sincere that we had to face them for several days, several weeks after the lesson. You tried hard to know what we were missing, but also how to pass it on to us in a constructive and intelligent way.
Above all, we want to thank you for all that you have taught us over the years. What you liked most of all was to put the students on paths, to teach us to become more intelligent, more developed through your vision of music, which has deeply marked us all.
You were a teacher, with what there is of the most beautiful and noble. This allowed an immeasurable complicity with each of your students, in music, but also outside of it. An immense closeness, an unwavering support.
We all feel so sad to have lost you, but we must trust you. You loved your class deeply, and if you decided to leave, it is because you knew that each of us is on a path.
Thank you, we will try to make ourselves worthy of what you taught us, and you will remain a role model for the rest of our lives. Perhaps one day we will be able to transmit the beauty of this world more accurately through music, in your image.
Tribute by Béatrice Zawodnik
Former student of Dominique Weber and director of the Haute école de musique de Genève
My dear Dominique,
To write a tribute to you in a few words, my friend of more than 20 years, who counted so much in my life as a musician and as a teacher of course – but also much more than that, in my life simply as a human being, is not an easy thing to do, so painful is your passing.
I remember exactly the first class I attended, when I was preparing for the piano entrance exam at the Geneva Conservatory of Music. It was in 1996… I don’t remember the piece you were making your student work on, but I was immediately amazed by the way you approached the problems, how you made the student progress, like an alchemist who transforms matter into gold. I came out of that lesson transformed and happy, with only one objective, to work with you.
You always started from the music to solve the technical problems; each exercise had to make sense to serve THE music. And above all, you always had the ability to bring out the best in each of your students, to start from what they are to transcend them. Since that day, I have felt privileged to know you and to have received a huge gift in my life.
From our already rich teacher-student relationship, a deep friendship and trust developed over the years. How many late-night discussions we had to put the world to rights, to try and understand it a little better, curse the idiots and the incompetent, to have laughs that never stopped… In addition to being an extraordinary musician, prevented from fully realizing your potential as a performer due to your dystonia, you are a magnificent man, whole and uncompromising, intransigent but fair, a magician as a teacher, making each of your students unique, because of the exclusive privileged relationship you created with each person having the chance to know you.
In the last message you wrote to me, you said you preferred intimacy rather than groups… And that’s why today I feel a bit like an orphan, as is certainly the case for all those you have accompanied along the way, and for whom you have been so important, I can even say that you have transformed generations of musicians and human beings.
And today, even if my heart cries, I respect your choice, as violent as it was, to leave after so many years of suffering, but you are now part of me forever, from the person I have become today, as is certainly the case for many friends, some of whom are gathered here today to pay tribute to you. Never to forget you so that you remain alive in our hearts, to honour all that you have given us so that we can pass it on in our turn.
And for you, dear Akiko, know that you can always count on my friendship and support. The love and friendship that we have for Dominique – who allowed us to create invisible but very strong links between us – will help us get used to his absence little by little.
Tribute by Berdj Papazian
Friend of Dominique Weber
At this time, I shouldn’t let emotion get the better of me and drown my words, I will have to clench my teeth, as Dominique often had to do with his fist in his pocket. From laughter to tears, or the art of juggling between the devil and the deep blue sea. Crime and punishment, or guilt and self-punishment. Screams and whispers, or rather whispered, often hidden screams.
A long-fingered pianist, it is his mind that dances on the keyboard. It is also his fist that sometimes hits the table. And so on, a contrasting sequence, but what constancy, what valour.
A lively, agile mind, quick to respond, at times unconstrained, at times committed, at other times even cutting. A memory as sharp as the first day, nothing that matters will ever have lost its details, the facts are engraved and, if necessary, would serve as evidence.
The body, still and always the body, is perhaps the heart of the matter. Dominique, I have always known him to be in an unstable balance between humour and pain. Pain had attached itself to him very early, too early for him to be able to neutralise it as a child. The pain of childhood grew with him, demanding its daily ration of hardship and tensions.
Music was undoubtedly his medicine, a sublime antidote but not inexhaustible. Exhausting.
And humour as another musical form, petulant, light, even in its Belgian accents.
Pain, however, a tenacious and execrable companion, caught up with him from bedtime to dawn as if to monitor his dreams, haunting his body like an unforgettable childhood. An irremissible injustice, a trial without witnesses in the antechamber of life. I imagine that this inner court was the moral crucible of his demands, in all things. Crippled or as a recluse, we know Dominique for his uprightness, even on the ground he still stood in his truth, a model of integrity. Heroic.
Who has not once come up against his law, the inflexible expectation that the other be as true as he is. From gentleness to a summons, the discussion could tip over without warning, by reflex for ever, by reflection temporarily.
The link is tense, the risk of breaking gives it its strength and meaning. Hard pain, hard on himself, Dominique was able to be hard when he felt disappointed or betrayed. Because the hardest thing was, from beginning to end, between himself and his tormenting intimacy.
The merciless pain took so much from him that what he could save and preserve, he gave away, his love of music, his friendship, his trust in the innocent beauty of life.
Dominique’s life seems to me like a perfectly unequal struggle, unfair to the point of incomprehensibility.
In the end, is it not life itself that exists only in the measure of death?
Is it not worth living one’s life rather than fighting and struggling against all sorts of evils?
Of course, but Dominique, unlike most people, had little respite, and his struggle never ceased to wear him down. For sure, the love he had for his wonderful Akiko gave him the strength to continue this fight.
With Dominique, our humanity gained in amplitude as rarely, often the air vibrated with his presence.
Each time during our shared moments, a shudder whispered his mass to life. This quality of exchange vibrates in me and will certainly vibrate for a long time to come in each of us.
Thank you, Dominique, for all that you have given us. You have left us, but the jewels of your personality remain in our hearts.
Tribute by Philippe Dinkel
Former director of the Haute école de music de Genève
These are not at all the words I was about to write for the celebration of 22 June, to which you had justly consented, no doubt more to please us than out of any thirst for homage and recognition that was so foreign to you. And by the way – was it a sign that we couldn’t read? – you had just retracted, telling us that, all things considered, a meal with close friends was exactly what you needed to mark the symbolic milestone of retirement, a word so meaningless for an artist and teacher of your calibre.
Instead of this festive moment, here are Akiko and your close friends gathered to say goodbye to you and try to find a meaning to this great mystery which leaves us bewildered and as if orphaned. I don’t know if there is an answer to this ‘why’, if we can understand what happened in your mind and in your body during the night of Wednesday to Thursday, but I believe that we must first simply accept and respect your decision which hurts us so much but that we were not able to counteract. This “we” is of course firstly Akiko, whom we surround as best we can and with whom we will share your memory; it is this chosen family that you built up around you, gathered here today remembering the incomparable friend, sensitive, modest, discreet, attentive, and exacting, who hated banality, mediocrity, and falsity.
They are also all your students and former students, who often use the word “father” when they talk about you, as I have heard them over the last few days when I asked about them and trie to comfort them: not because you ever confused the roles of teacher and psychologist, but because you captivated them with your listening skills, your artistic integrity and the generosity of your teaching – in a word, as a master endowed with the authority that your charisma and your musical and pianistic heritage gave you.
This ‘we’, finally, is this institution that was yours far beyond the doors of your classroom, in the sense that you were for me part of the small number of artists and teachers who gave it the “la”, one of those secret, but unquestioned compasses for the initiated, to which to refer in case of momentary doubt about its fundamental human and artistic values. There are so many occasions where one can feel disoriented in the world of today, where the artificial is disguised as the authentic and where the loud and coarse media fuss drowns out individual voices! The mission of a school like ours is to lead young musicians, sometimes immensely gifted but almost always with their heads in the stars and their feet barely on the ground; through the many pitfalls of learning until they have made their vocation, their know-how and their self-awareness coincide, in short to make them autonomous and responsible artists: you have never spared your support for this vision, for this firm requirement.
Dear Dominique, I remember hiring you almost at the beginning of my directorship and after the death of your teacher and friend Eduardo Vercelli and having to convince the Conservatory’s Board of Trustees that there was no other serious choice. History stutters, because one of my predecessors had to use the same rhetoric to hire Dinu Lipatti, a musician we both adored and to whom the New York Times compared you when you made your debut in 1982 after your Young Artists Award.
I remember your rare and memorable recitals at the Place Neuve where we had the impression of hearing the works of the great repertoire, so often repeated in conservatories, for the very first time. You played this music of the soul – Schumann, Brahms, Janácek and so many others – like few pianists, even among the most experienced.
I remember exchanging enthusiastic text messages with you after a Sokolov recital where we tried to put into words the inexpressible and obvious nature of the music given and received. I remember the joy we shared when we were finally able to invite Leon Fleisher to Geneva.
I remember your e-mails, so attentive to the situation of such and such a student, to such and such a detail of the curriculum, that you would send me, apologising quite unnecessarily for disturbing me.
I remember going to you confidentially to ask for so many opinions and advice on this or that pianist to invite or to avoid, always given with fairness and that one could follow with one’s eyes closed.
I remember your ritual New Year’s text messages, the first ones I received at the stroke of midnight – those precious haikus in which you used all your vivacity and humour to bring me your wishes.
I remember our no less ritualistic end-of-year meals together, during which we would rethink the world and during which you cultivated a subtle balance between friendship and the form you considered appropriate for relations between a professor and a director.
I remember that I looked forward to your retirement, because these ritual forms between us would give way to a relationship that was as respectful as ever, but freer and more relaxed.
I remember the modesty and clinical precision with which you described your illness and the sometimes-unbearable pain it caused you, apologising for having to leave your students temporarily for such and such a treatment or operation, and the meticulousness with which you organised your replacements.
Finally, I remember that all your e-mails – all of them – ended with the same polite formula, the meaning of which is now magnified beyond your death, and with which I would like to end now: with all my friendship.
IN MEMORY OF
17 OCTOBER 2020
Haute École de Musique de Genève | Studio Ernest Ansermet
“The death of Dominique Weber painfully surprised us in the spring of 2020, at a time when the confinement imposed by the Covid-19 deprived us of the possibility of mourning and saying goodbye to him.
The tribute evening of October 17, 2020 organized by the Haute Ecole de Musique de Genève was intended to fill this gap and to allow everyone – close and distant friends, colleagues, students and alumnae – to express their gratitude for all he gave us and for the human and artistic values he bequeathed to them […]”