Albert Falkove, violist, died at the age of 99 on Sunday January 27, 2013, four months short of his 100th birthday Born to immigrant parents, the son of Isaac and Rose Kivitinos Falkove on May 24, 1913, Albert spoke only Yiddish , the primary language of his household, until he entered elementary school. He had a younger sister, Blanche, who died at age 3 during the great influenza in 1918, and a younger brother, Sidney. He never shared much about his childhood, He graduated from Overbook High School and also attended Settlement Music School throughout his time growing up. His father, a friend of Golda Meir, abandoned the family when Albert was 14 years old to start a chapter of Farband, a labor Zionist organization in Pittsburgh. His mother, Rose, struggled to raise her two sons, sewing men's ties day and night, and returning with the boys to live with her parents.
Albert was a serious student, but music was the center of his life. Throughout his youth, Albert studied violin at Settlement Music School. Following graduation from Overbrook High School in 1929, Albert enrolled at Temple University and studied music for several years, where he met a teacher who convinced him that he would go farther playing viola than violin. She told him that orchestras did not have a sufficient pool of violists to choose from, while violinists were in great supply.
Due to lack of funds, Albert was forced to end his studies at Temple University. Determined to master the viola, he continued his music studies privately with Leonard Mogul, a violist in the Philadelphia Orchestra while working in his grandfather’s dry cleaning store at 27th and Girard. Basically, he practiced all day long, in between the customers.
The practice paid off with an admission to Curtis Institute of Music, where he was in the class of 1941. He studied orchestration with Randall Thompson, director of Curtis at the time, and was a classmate of Leonard Bernstein and Herschel Kay among others. He is the last surviving alumnus of his Curtis class.
As a young violist, Albert was invited to join the Leopoldo Stokowski youth orchestra and traveled with them to South America. This trip was a highlight of his young career. He married Sylvia, an artist, in 1942 and was drafted the same year. During the service, he went into intelligence work, serving as a translator because he was fluent in French. He never served overseas.
Following the Second World War, Albert could not find work locally because there were no openings for him in the Philadelphia Orchestra. He and Sylvia decided to go west, and he played with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, where he was first and second violist for many years until he retired in his mid 70's. He also occasionally took jobs with the larger film studios. Albert played the scores of many westerns, and some famous movies. He worked on Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho score by Bernard Herman’s and directed by Alfred, the Godfather movies, Turning Point, among them. He also organized Monday Evening Concerts which were on the radio in Los Angeles for many years and founded Albert Falkove Ensembles.
Albert had some difficulty adjusting to retirement, and sadly, after 42 years of marriage, Albert's world fell apart. After a divorce and 7 years of being alone Albert decided to restart his life by returning to Philadelphia. His niece, Rachel, helped him plan his return in 1989, when he moved into Logan Square East, now Watermark Continuing Care retirement Community.
Albert met his friend Esther Wideman at Jacobs Music, a store on Chestnut St, where Esther was working part time for the holidays and where Albert came searching for music after not touching his viola for several years post retirement. Esther invited Albert to join her in performance at Arch Street Presbyterian Church. And they started practicing together. Esther, her husband Jim Wideman, and Albert became dear friends, They ate together every Sunday evening and practiced together throughout the week. He played viola with her until his 98th year.
Esther and Albert organized several concerts each year and strengthened their friendship over music. According to Esther, "they had a special bond over music- nothing is like that bond." After Jim's death, the bond deepened, with Esther serving as Al's primary caregiver.
Albert loved travel, music and art. He was an avid reader of several liberal magazines, the Nation, New Republic, the Progressive. He often tired of "stupid people" who did not share his views. His walls are covered with art treasures and an impressive African mask collection. No wall space is empty. He showered his niece, Rachel, and friend, Esther, with interesting pieces of jewelry. In later years, he enjoyed getting to know his great nieces and nephews.
Albert is survived by nephew Dr. Michael Falkove, niece Rachel Falkove (Masch) 6 great nieces and nephews and their families as well as his dear friend, Esther Wideman.
Services will be Thursday, January 31, 2013, 11:30 AM at TERRANOVA FUNERAL HOME, N.W. Cor. Broad & Wharton Sts., Phila. Interment with Military Honors to follow at the Woodlands Cemetery.