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Ruth Samsonov Cooper

There was no order to life with the Wolpes. Day and night were undifferentiated. Things were done when they had to be done. I came to them on Friday for my lesson and stayed overnight in their house. I would return early Sunday and go to work Sunday morning. I had little money. When I left money for my lessons on the Wolpes' piano, I would get a letter in the mail with the money returned. I was lucky to get a half-hour alone with him. It was always a group lesson. On Friday evenings all their students would gather at the Wolpes' place and there would be much music and discussion. I studied piano with Irma and harmony with Stefan. They would call each other in to comment on something here, something there: "Liebchen, komm schon!" But I heard from Josef Marx that there was difficulty in their marriage, an affair of some kind. He must have been a difficult man to live with.

Josef Marx took me to Emil Hauser of the Conservatory. He listened to me play the Italian Concerto of Bach and was very interested in a mistake I made. Not a bad mistake, but a mistake of reading that betrayed my upbringing in Palestine. He was very interested in this and talked about it for some little while. [...]

Wolpe was full of protests against the injustices of capitalism against the workers and wrote songs with texts that expressed his Communist sympathies. He wrote beautiful Hebrew songs for the alto Anna Hirsch. Stefan had a studio not far from their apartment, where he would go to work. He would shut himself up there until his composing was done. Stefan went to great trouble to help Hindemith when he came through Palestine as a refugee, getting clothing and shelter and money for him. He worshipped Hindemith. The Wolpes made a one-hour detour to say good-bye to me on their way to the airport in 1938, when they left. We cried when we parted.

Ruth Samsonov Cooper (1918-1992) was born in Israel, where she studied piano. Her teachers included Stefan Wolpe. She subsequently studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London, and obtained the LRAM in 1944 with specialties in piano, voice, and conducting. Among her teachers were Harold Craxton and Sir Henry Wood. Following the war years, she returned to Israel and pursued an active performing and teaching career. In 1954 she moved to Toronto, where she continued to teach piano and became a highly regarded Jewish music educator. Interview: AC, Toronto, 14 October 1980.


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