Elaine Shaffer / Efrem Kurtz



Flutist, Elaine Shaffer (1925-1973), attended the Curtis Institute of Music as a student of William Kincaid. While at Curtis, she attended Tabuteau’s wind classes absorbing his musical ideas. Following her graduation in 1947, she maintained contact with the Tabuteaus. The letter below from Mme. Tabuteau was sent to Elaine and her husband, conductor Efrem Kurtz, five days after Marcel’s death. The summer before, they had spent 10 wonderful days with the Tabuteaus in Nice as described by Laila Storch in her Tabuteau biography (pages 494-495).

Nice,  January 9, 1966

Louise Tabuteau to Elaine Shaffer and (husband) Efrem Kurtz

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Translation by Michael Finkelman:

Nice, 9 January 1966

Dear friends,

Thanks for having responded so quickly to my telegram, and for understanding my pain.  I would like to have called you in Vienna, but it’s still impossible for me to speak about him without breaking down.  It’s easier for me to write you. Monday, the 3rd of January, he was again searching, as ever, for the solution to the eternal problem of perfection!  In the morning, he listened to his last recording of Bach on the tape recorder.  I took some notes and he said “I’ll call this some musical truths” or [English] Truth through music. Regarding a phrase [which apparently MT had previously discussed with Elaine] he said the A has to meld with the B-flat. 

In the afternoon, he had to run an errand, and left around 5 PM; naturally, the d— [devil] drew him to the Mediterranean [casino], and an 8:30 PM return and late dinner. Tuesday morning at 10 AM he didn’t feel well, and seeing him pale, I became afraid. His eyes had an ethereal look.  His doctor came and telephoned a cardiologist. He passed the afternoon quietly in bed, forbidden to budge.  The doctor returned at 7:30 in the evening.  A few minutes later, our penguin was seized with discomfort.  The doctor did everything possible to relieve him, jabs and heart massage  — but all of a sudden he told me “his heart has stopped.”   It was shocking.  Happily for him, I don’t believe he felt anything.  The expression on his face was serene.  In two seconds, our world had collapsed. Think of him often; that’s all I can tell you.

Louise Tabuteau