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Rosemary Brown / Peter Katin: A Musical Seance (Various) - Philips 6500 049

$8.00 USD

Philips (LP)

Jacket VG / LP NM (Dutch pressing - red/silver label - stereo)

Brown's obituary in the 2 December 2001 edition of The New York Times:

Rosemary Brown, who as a middle-aged widow living in a London suburb in the 1960's said she had been in contact with history's most illustrious composers, offering as evidence hundreds of piano miniatures that she said Beethoven, Bach and others had ''dictated'' to her, died on Nov. 16 in London. She was 85.

The odd experiences she described -- which included shopping with Liszt (he was interested in the price of bananas) and watching television with Chopin (he was appalled) -- found a resonant audience in the era of the Beatles and flower power. More intriguingly, they attracted expert scrutiny and some approbation from such luminaries as Leonard Bernstein, along with tidal waves of more or less good-natured ridicule from most of the music establishment.

Mrs. Brown's credibility as a medium was buttressed by her own musical ignorance. She had just three years of piano instruction and could not play by ear or extemporize. There was no record player or radio in her home and she said she never went to concerts.

''I seemed to lose control of my hands; it was as though someone were guiding them,'' she said of the first time she received a piece of music from Liszt.

Peter Katin, an outstanding interpreter of Chopin, was pleased to record many of the piano works, while the composer Humphrey Searle published an essay noting the similarity of Mrs. Brown's Liszt pieces with his later official compositions. Mr. Bernstein suggested he could ''buy,'' meaning accept, a piece by Rachmaninoff, but not much else.

André Previn, then conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, said that if the newfound compositions were genuine, they would best have been left on the shelf.

But the British composer Richard Rodney Bennett seemed entirely convinced, at least at the time. He said that when he was having trouble with a composition of his own, Mrs. Brown passed along Debussy's recommendation. It worked.

''If she is a fake, she is a brilliant one, and must have had years of training,'' he said in an interview in Time magazine. ''Some of the music is awful, but some is marvelous. I couldn't have faked the Beethoven.''

Regardless of how much Western music may or may not have been enriched by posthumous contributions channeled by Mrs. Brown, there was scant doubt of her entertainment value. She set off waves of interest in several appearances on British Broadcasting Corporation radio shows, the first in 1969. In the United States, she played at Town Hall in New York and appeared on ''The Tonight Show'' with Johnny Carson, telling him that her sources said there was no sex in heaven.

She described the various composers in often humorous detail. Beethoven, she said, was no longer deaf and had lost ''that crabby look.'' Debussy wore ''very bizarre clothes'' and was ''a hippie type.'' Chopin kept screaming something in French; it turned out to be a warning that her bathtub was overflowing.

Later she enjoyed visits from the ghosts of other celebrated people, including Shakespeare, Van Gogh and St. Paul. All the visits, she contended, were intended only to prove the existence of an afterlife.

Rosemary Dickeson was born on July 27, 1916, in southwest London. Her father was an electrician and her mother a catering manager. The family's apartment was above a dance hall, and she won dance contests as a girl. But her father vetoed a dancing career.

The most significant event of her youth occurred when she was 7. She had a vision of an elderly man with long white hair, wearing a black gown. He said he was Liszt. ''He told me that when I grow up, he would give me music,'' she said.

''I've always had the ability, ever since I can remember, to see and hear people who are thought of as dead,'' she said in an interview with Newsweek.

In 1943, she contracted polio, which left her left side weak. When she was 15, she took a job as a clerk at the post office. When walking home from work one day, she said a voice told her to take a different route. A bombing raid struck her usual route.

In 1948, she got an upright piano and took lessons for the third time; as always, they lasted about a year.

In 1952, she married Charles Brown, a government scientist who had once worked as a gardener for King Farouk of Egypt. In 1961, her husband and her mother died. She began visiting spiritualists active in the emerging New Age thinking.

In 1964, she suffered an accident at the school kitchen where she worked and resumed playing the piano during her long recovery. That was when Liszt returned, as promised. She recognized him immediately, she said, and he arranged for the other composers to come, acting ''like sort of a reception desk.''

They took different approaches. Chopin told her what notes to play and pushed her fingers down on the right keys. Beethoven and Bach liked her to sit at a table and take dictation with a pencil. Schubert tried to sing his compositions, but ''he hasn't a very good voice,'' she said.

She was supported by contributions from people who believed in the occult. She wrote three books on her channeling, and made a number of recordings, some featuring her playing the easier pieces, the last in 1988. In the mid-1980's, the visits ceased as she fell into ill health. She is survived by a son and a daughter.

She always declined to ask her musical visitors the questions that outsiders thought would prove their existence. When Time offered her a list of 20 questions, she replied, ''I cannot push a button and call on the composers just like that.''

But when she needed notes for an album cover in 1970, Sir Donald Tovey, a musicologist, was pleased to provide them. ''It is the implications relevant to this phenomenon that we hope will stimulate sensitive interest,'' he said.

He had died in 1940.



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