A Short (heavily edited) Autobiography

Published by Legacy of Matanya Ophee on

By Matanya Ophee

The really good stuff is private, right?

Photo by Studio Atar, Tel Aviv, 1964.

And that’s my gorgeous Fleta!
which I don’t have anymore 🙁 . . .
Tel-Aviv, 1999.

On the occasion of my grandson
Ophir Mardan’s bar-mitzvah.
The ceremonial Cohiba is unlit…

I was born in Jerusalem on June 15, 1932. Spent some years on a kibbutz tending horses, picking fruit, and then driving 18-wheeler trucks down to the Dead Sea, working as a printing press operator, (talk of heavy metal . . ) selling books from door to door and other delightful occupations. In 1952, I enlisted in the Israeli Air Force as a cadet in its flying school, graduating on August 13th, 1953. We started the course with 100 cadets, give or take a few. Only ten of us made it all the way through. We started flying on the old bi-plane, the Stearman PT-17, and finished on the Harvard AT-6 (the SNJ in US Navy parlance). Here is a picture of one, taken by Ze’ev Sharon, one of my flying students when I worked as a flight instructor.

Used by permission.
(I am indebted to Arie Fredilis for sharing this picture with me, 45 years after our graduation).

I began my guitar studies (1955) with Esther Bromberger, a pupil of Luigi Mozzani. Took further lessons from José Pelta and Menache Baquiche. In 1960-62 I studied with Richard Pick in Chicago. Further studies in music theory were taken under Gérard Le Coat at the Conservatoire de Lausanne in Switzerland (1963), and in composition with Eli Yarden in Israel (1964).

In 1965 I emigrated to the USA and became a naturalized American citizen in 1970. I am still here. Teaching the guitar in the mid-60s was not a good way to pay the rent and buy groceries, so I got a job flying airplanes commercially, beginning with Mohawk Airlines, which then became Allegheny which then became Usair now known as US Airways.

Cannot recall the name of the co-pilot who took this picture.

The guitar was always there. I am never forrrget the day . . . (pace Tom Lehrer . . . ) when the chief pilot took a strong exception to my carrying a guitar on my trips. We don’t need them Beatniks around here, he said. (How do you immitate a Southern drawl in HTML?) So old Ignacio Fleta made for me a rectangular guitar case. Looked like a small coffin, but the chief stopped complaining. It did not look like a guitar case and that was good enough. (I still have the damn thing.)

In the early 1970s I joined a small chamber music group in Concord, New Hampshire, playing lunch time concerts in various locations. Boccherini quintets, the Schubert-Matiegka, the Kreutzer Trio and the rest of those things with a green cover from Zimmermann. That was not quite enough, so I started looking in libraries for more. And the rest, as they say, is history. (One of these days, in a moment of great weakness, I just might sit down and tell the long version of all that. Unfortunately, my web site does not have enough disk space for all the stories.) Since then, I have had the good fortune to discover a great deal of unknown music, a lot of information about some composers guitarists never heard of and by the sheer force of perseverance, I learnt from my mistakes as I went along. I discovered, in the writings of Blaise Cendrars, one small saying which changed my life: (I paraphrase) “One does not need much talent or knowledge. All that is required is a love for that which is true, a deep curiosity and a sense of being.” I became a historian-musicologist. My many articles have appeared in leading guitar journals throughout the world and in many languages. My research into the repertoire of chamber music with guitar and the history of the guitar in Russia have been notable contributions to public knowledge. I am recognized, among others, for bringing to light the biography and accomplishments of François de Fossa, Jan Bobrowicz, Antoine de l’Hoyer, Andrei Sychra, Ivan Padovec, Leonhard Schulz, and a few other.

In 1978 I established, while still in New Hampshire, the publishing company Editions Orphée. Eventually it moved with me to Boston and later to Columbus, Ohio, where it has been based since 1984. The company is recognized internationally as a leading publisher of guitar music and books. In 1988 I retired from aviation, and now devote my full time to music and the guitar.

Copyright © 1997 by Editions Orphée, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.