Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Palmengarten - My Experience There

When I was in the military, I was immediately assigned to Special Services for the purpose of performing , primarily in Europe.
When I was informed that I would be stationed in Frankfurt (Germany), which would serve as my central location for practice and preparation for live and radio concerts, I was further enthralled with my being given the Palmengarten as a central headquarters, which had a wonderful Bechstein piano there for my performance preparations.
I knew that the Palmengarten was a place which had hothouses containing countless plants and trees from around the world, including a number of palm trees.
This place was created in, I think, 1868, by the people of Frankfurt, as a kind of haven or escape for any of its residents. And it was, and is a beautiful area of repose.
And so I could practice on this magnificent instrument, which was in a large room with huge windows, looking out at a huge expanse of tulip and other displays during the summer months I spent there.
Even though this room was assigned to me for my work, it remained open to the public, and so as I worked at the piano, visitors would come in and out; some sitting, for a brief period, to listen to what I was doing.
It was a rather unique experience for me, as this was the only time in my life that I practiced before various audiences - how many of you out there practice in front of people??
All this was arranged through the cooperative workings of the American Armed Forces and the Amerika Hauser organization, a kind of "think-tank" out of Berlin to foster contacts between German and American intellectuals and artists. I would hope that this group may still be doing its work in Germany.
It was an item of irony for me that I was informed at one point during my time there that the Palmengarten served as the Frankfurt headquarters for Hermann Goering, the number two Nazi and the head of the Luftwaffe during the Second World War. I never delved into that aspect, but I would surmise that this indeed did happen, as I was told by some high-ranking military people about this issue.
What remains for me are the many pleasant memories of the Palmengarten, the piano, and the many truly interesting people I got to know during this time in my life.

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