Allow me introduce you to my esteemed former flute professor Johannes von Kalckreuth. He was a legendary flute professor at the Conservatory in Klagenfurt, and he had the most decisive influence on my career. Noble and gentle by nature, he always taught from the piano (that he played fantastically well!), and flute playing was always about the music first and foremost. His kindness fostered a closely-knit group of students that harbored no unnecessary competitiveness. Always deeply religious, he spent almost all his salary on charity, living in a small council apartment filled with the remaining paintings and antiques from former family splendor. Our daughter Marianna, then aged 4, once asked to go “back to that museum” after visiting him.
During the last two years, his mental health has slowly, but surely started to decline, and as of last year, he can no longer live on his own, but is now housed in a room at a Caritas Home. Forgetful of the presence, living ever more in the past, his sweet and charming nature make him a favorite to everyone.
I took the opportunity to visit him just after Christmas. My former flute class colleague, the brilliant and incomparable Lorenz Pichler, is still well known to him because of his frequent visits. He did not recognize me, but remembered my name and my career, I suppose he was expecting somebody at least 15 years younger… What struck and touched me is that the core of his personality is completely unchanged, and while his constant disorientation could anger a less temperate man, he seems to have accepted his illness and asks about facts in his own life with amused interest, is delighted by good news, even if he does not remember it minutes later, and continues to be the delightful and lovable man we all remember.
As dementia-research often points out that musical memory stays on very long, I am sure that he still remembers a lot of flute music – his 80th birthday is coming up this summer and we will fill his home with his favorite melodies for the day, putting on a concert with many of his former pupils.