“For me, chamber music is the epitome of civilization.” - Olga Bloom
In 2008, I wrote about one of my many visits to Bargemusic: the floating concert hall that's been moored at the foot of Old Fulton Street in Brooklyn Heights for over 35 years. The founder and indefatigable leader of this improbable home for chamber music was the inimitable Olga Bloom: a fixed and feisty presence at the barge up until a couple of years ago. During one of my visits, I remember Olga complaining to me about the water taxis, whose careless wake would mercilessly rock the barge while a young pianist or string ensemble was trying to make their way through Beethoven or Brahms. "(former City Councilman) David Yassky said he'd help me take care of it," she told me. I didn't doubt her for a second.
Olga passed away yesterday at her Manhattan nursing home; she was 92. The barge is now in the safe and able hands of violinist Mark Peskanov, who's already been running the show at Bargemusic for much of the past decade.
But, there will never be another Olga. Anyone who ever got one of her brochures in the mail - prefaced with one of Olga's quirky, carefully worded blessings - knows we've lost something unique and precious in New York music.
"Today our cargo is beautiful music, our audience and supporters are the good, brave, strong towboats pulling us along our destiny — as are the fine artists from all over world who perform here, and the good, brave, strong captain Mark who programs our mystical endeavor."