Clemens Kalischer: Six Decades of Marlboro Music
Marlboro Music is more than a school, more than a tourist attraction or a place of entertainment; it is a retreat for personal exploration of musical thoughts and the human spirit. This adventure is shared equally by experienced “masters” and young “professionals,” who put their technique to the service of music, probing the depths of the composers’ thoughts. But Marlboro is also about such mundane chores as setting tables, serving food, and cleaning up the napkin balls that are traditionally thrown at mealtime, as well as playing softball, basketball, and swimming at the nearby pond. Rehearsals—day and night—are not to impress the weekend audiences but to learn from each other and to penetrate more deeply the magic at the heart of each piece.
I became involved in Marlboro through an assignment for Vermont Life in 1956, and have developed a warm relationship with this musical community that continues to this day. It has maintained my love of chamber music from the roots of my European childhood in Germany, Switzerland, and France, where I first heard Rudolf Serkin, the Budapest String Quartet, and Marcel Moyse. My work provides me with a reunion to a precious past and constantly renews my faith in Marlboro’s future.
–Clemens Kalischer, Photographer
Clemens Kalischer, born in Germany in 1921, fled to Paris with his family when Hitler was elected in 1933. He attended a Parisian high school until World War II began when, as a German citizen, he was interned in eight French forced labor camps within three years. Miraculously reunited with his family, they were rescued by the Varian Fry Committee with the help of Eleanor Roosevelt’s list of endangered people and arrived in New York City in 1942.
Eventually, he studied art at Cooper Union, and briefly studied photography at the Fotoleague, where he met Beaumont Newhall, first curator of photography at the Museum of Modern Art. Newhall and his successor, Edward Steichen, both invited Kalischer to exhibit his work at MoMA. Early work at Agence France-Presse led to his first news assignment and a career as an independent photojournalist. In the 1950s, the then-editor of Vermont Life, Walter Hard, assigned Kalischer to “Marlboro Music”—the start of a lifelong relationship with Vermont and the Brattleboro area, in particular.
Preferring rural life, Kalischer moved to Stockbridge, Mass., in 1951, where he eventually opened the Image Gallery, exhibiting mostly paintings and sculpture of other artists. His photography has frequently taken him to work in Europe where he has had many museum exhibits. Having participated on the exhibition committee of the Brattleboro Museum, and travelled for SIT, he continues to stay close to Brattleboro with a dream to relocate to it one day.