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David and Claudio: A Mysterious Friendship

Martino Chieffo Remembers David Horowitz

(Originally published in Il Sussidiario, April 8, 2020)

Album cover for "Come la rosa"

Perhaps the most beautiful thing I could do would be to remember David with music, with the musical piece dedicated to him, the piece Claudio dedicated to him, "Il dono” ("The Gift"). In fact, my first instinct after shedding so many tears for the loss of so a dear friend was to sit for an hour at the piano and improvise sweet melodies, like lullabies. But I am not a composer, and I am a very bad piano performer as well. So I have written a few words to share my sorrow.

My dearest David, now you are no longer on the other side of the sea with your beloved Jan, as the song “Il dono,” the one dedicated especially to you, says. Last night you found yourself “at that last bridge, with time behind you and life in front of you” (from the song “Favola,” "Fairy Tale"), and this makes me deeply sad. I had the honor of driving you around the Romagna region when Claudio was no longer able to do it. I had the honor of singing while you accompanied me at the piano--you, who played the keyboard for my father during his last days on earth. . . So many sweet memories come back to me in my sadness, and I have no words to describe the sorrow of your passing. I will forever keep you and your family in my heart, with gratitude and love. A big hug to Jan, Mara, and Jesse and to the family. Bon voyage, David XOXO.

David’s son Jesse, in commenting on a post in which he had published an original musical piece from his father, described David in a few words: “Among the many talents he had, Dad was able to perfectly grasp with his music a sentiment, often his own. . . He knew how to do the simple things well. His music never said 'look at me' unless this was the real intent.”

He was a real man--curious, shy, discreet, modest, humble. A great composer. Obviously, what he did together with Claudio was, in a certain way, just a small episode in Horowitz’s professional career. But at the personal level, it was certainly a moment of extraordinary friendship between two great men who, each one in their own way, found in music an expression of their humanity.

Of course, my point of view is limited and partial, but also personal; I was the one who had the pleasure and the honor of driving David around the Romagna region in my wreck of a car when Claudio was no longer able to do it. We ate, we drank, and we talked a lot. We even went grocery shopping together. My memories are laced with the stories that Claudio told the family concerning his relationship with David and the time I had spent with him.

First of all, the memory of the first meeting between the two of them--which, given Claudio and David’s different accounts of it, seems almost comical. Claudio was elated by the fact that he could share some songs with David, played on the other side of a partition of the Rimini Meeting hall. [In his recollection, they were] like two confidantes: they talked to each other and immediately understood each other. David, on the other other hand, told me years later that he had remained there to listen with curiosity to that man with a guitar and then had gone back to his hotel to meet his wife Jan, who had spent all morning at the beach. “I have met a guy," he told her, "and I have understood almost nothing of what he was trying to tell me, but I have the feeling that I must do something together with him.” And Jan thought, He met another wacko, but a special one. But she told him: “Well, I can see that this man has impressed you, and I am glad. If you have the feeling that you must do something together with him, you are going to do it.”

Then, there is the memory of David coming to Romagna, where he stayed for a month as a guest in the country home of one of our dearest friends, Mr. Ghetti--who, besides being the greatest fan in Italy and probably in the entire world of the Italian singer Mina, had a great affection for Claudio. David immediately became a member of the family (and obviously, David and Jan developed a great affection for [Mr. Ghetti], as it was impossible not to).

The memory of how, every day before they began to play together, Claudio would show David around the places where his songs were born. Long trips to the hills, to the old, decaying, country houses seen in many pictures, to places made up of people. It happened because he wanted to get to know how the songs were born, before starting to work on their arrangements. And since, for Claudio, the songs were born by encountering people, little by little, David got to know these people. People like Fabrizio from Faenza, who had for many years accompanied Claudio and helped him more than anybody else to bring out the musical qualities of his songs. People like Stefano, a Sangiovese wine producer from Rivaldino in Monte, the official wine provider for the Chieffo family (David loved Italian cuisine and wine). People like Novella and Giuliano from Biancanigo, who opened their family to hospitality. Friends from the early days, like Laura and Agnese. And every friend, near and far, that Claudio could introduce him to. And, of course, my mother Marta, who is at the origin of every song (Claudio signed his will as “a father who would have become nothing without a mother”).

Miraculously, David met these people--“miraculously,” because the translator was Claudio, whose English was raw and broken--and, in fact, David mostly learned words in the local dialect, like “Sta’ zet!” ("Quiet!”) that, in a funny way, could be the most appropriate translation of the song “Basta con le parole” (“Enough with Words”). David observed, listened, and, with the complicity of the simple vocabulary of Professor Chieffo, went straight to the heart of these stories, entering the songs and composing arrangements that enabled the songs to flourish in a new and unforeseen way, without in any way marginalizing all the other great friends and musicians who had worked with Claudio.

Then again, the memory of Claudio embarking on probably one of the most expensive productions he had ever undertaken (we are still thanking all the friends, some known and some anonymous, who helped support it) and going to New York to do the recording in David’s studio on Park Avenue. A fantastic experience for Claudio. Incredible musicians who Claudio would work with and who [all] performed in the recording session. David and his beloved wife Jan, who took care of the finances, gave a huge discount to Claudio because “some things are done for the food, some are done for the soul.” I can say for myself there are certain parts of the CD “Come la rosa” (“Like the Rose”) that bring me to tears as, for example, the first notes of “Canzone di Maggio” (“May Song”). Above all, I should mention “Canzone del destino" (“Destiny Song”), dedicated to all of us children (Martino, Benedetto and Maria Celeste), in which David inserted a theme played by a cello and by a violin. The two instruments speak to each other the whole time like a father and a son, only at the end uniting and playing together the same notes, melting into a single voice (I, like Claudio, am a self-taught musician, and must ask your forgiveness for my musical lack of precision).

The legend goes that at the end of the recording session, the sound technician praised the violinist Charles Libove (a musician friend of David) for the sound that the violin was making that day. “Yeah, I knew that today was special for David, so I brought the Strad.” Everybody in the studio knew that Charles owned a Stradivarius violin, but he had never used it to record the movie soundtracks or commercial music that David composed. To think that the very violin that plays the voice of the son in the recording was a Stradivarius sends shivers down my spine. And to think of this old musician going around the New York subway carrying a Stradivarius! Only Sandro (another musician who had accompanied Claudio and later had become a composer himself) has succeeded in moving me in this way, with his arrangement in “Canzone degli occhi e del cuore” (“The Song of the Eyes and of the Heart”) for guitar, oboe, violin, viola, cello, bassoon, and chorus.

The memory of David coming back to Italy for the launching of the CD. And how he keeps meeting “the friends of the past, the friends of the future. ” The memory of David, who, when the Calvary of Claudio’s disease began, came back to Italy to spend a few days with him. The memory of David, who, when Claudio was closer to the end, returned to that remote place in Italy, a place forgotten both by God and by the citizens of Forli’ (where Claudio lived), a place called Forlimpopoli--that David actually happens to know because it is the town where Artusi (a famous Italian chef) was born! It is there that Claudio was committed to hospice care.

Every morning David, like a member of the family, came to the hospice, bringing croissants for everybody, asking to play for Claudio, taking turns with Flavio (another musician who had played with Claudio and had brought along a keyboard), playing for Claudio and accompanying him to the last days. And when Claudio breathed his last, David was there with us, with Jan, who had joined him with other musicians who had come to perform at the Rimini Meeting, the place where Claudio and David had first met. It is true that when Claudio died, there were about thirty people around, people who were privileged to be there: and the very thought that the friendship between the two of them had brought David all the way “from the other side of the sea” to a remote spot like Forlimpopoli to stay with [Claudio] during the two last weeks of life made it clear to me that their friendship was out of the ordinary. It was really a gift. David came back several times to Italy to remember Claudio. Just yesterday, April 6, a merciless Facebook reminded me of a visit by David and Jan to Forli’ in 2011.

So, I think with gratitude of David and of his family, who had to place him in an ambulance because of his sudden downturn due to the coronavirus complications from which he seemed to have recovered and only a few hours later had to bid him goodbye on a videocall, thanks to a nurse. His family accompanied him and manifested all its love to him while he was “at that last bridge, with time behind you and life in front of you.”

Jan wrote to me: “We were able to say goodbye to him and have him listen to music. At a certain point, we even spoke of Claudio.”

P.S. I must make a confession. When Claudio was trying in every way he could to meet David, I was angry. It seemed to me that he was demeaning himself. I kept thinking, why does he want to associate himself with a guy who composes music for soundtracks and commercials? Maybe I even reprimanded my father, complaining in a loud voice with the arrogance of a twenty-year-old. Usually reality is much bigger than what we imagine, and, with time, it painfully teaches us sweet lessons. From that point on, one of my mantras has been “Sta’ zet!” – “Quiet!”

And I can see David smiling.

Translation courtesy of Renzo Canetta.


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