Acclaimed flutist and longtime Woodstock resident Alan Braun died at home on May 16th.
Alan Braun was the middle of three brothers born to Leo Braun, a well-known voice coach of German-Jewish descent, who married the lyric soprano Helen Donohoe. When Alan’s Irish grandfather died, the boy asked for and was bequeathed the old man’s mahogany flute. In a few years Alan had taught himself to play it so well, he soon accompanied his older brother Robert in piano recitals, substituting flute for voice in famous lieder.
Alan was introduced to a musical cosmos at Queens College by the composer and Polish émigré Karol Rathaus, whose hatred of Nazi Germany incubated what Alan called “enlistment fever.” The young man had “joined up” and was anxiously awaiting America entering the war even before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Fortunately, an impressive audition for the US Navy insured that Alan would serve his country in bands not on battleships, causing him to fondly recall: “the flute likely saved my life.”
Alan first used the GI bill to earn a teaching degree in Music from Columbia University, but impressed important émigré giants not associated with his graduate schools, including Julius Baker, America’s foremost flute teacher, who taught at Juilliard, Vittorio Giannini and the eccentric composer and theorist, Fritz Rothschild. Alan’s participated for three consecutive summers as a founding director of Music Camerino, an international chamber music festival in Italy.
Sometime in the later 1940’s Alan married Margaret (Peggy) Cunningham, who worked at the UN. The two lived a very public “Upper East Side” life. As a much-sought flutist, he was named National Music Director for “Young Audiences, Inc.” and “Special Assistant to the Board of Examiners of the NYC Board of Education.” He was on the faculty of: Long Island University, Greenwich House Music School, Creative Arts Academy, and specifically taught flute at the Mannes Preparatory School starting in 1968, where he would serve as director from ’80 thru ’85.
Alan lost his wife Peggy to cancer.
Alan later met and married Woodstock artist Ann Roberts. They became members of the Maverick Concert series, where Alan frequently performed with the Maverick’s vast selection of musical groups.
When Alan and Ann married circa 1990 he also formalized yet another unexpected pleasure in adopting—and being adopted by–Ann’s four grown children: Mike, Tara, Steve, and John Roberts…and in time two grand-children. Shortly before his death, in fact, Alan admitted to Tara’s husband, “I never realized that I would have another chapter of my life, so full of love and joy.”
Through the nineties Ann painted in the country, Alan joined her for weekends, and the two indeed enjoyed an idyllic marriage.
Alan finally retired fully from his cosmopolitan life on May 4th 2017, when he was the soloist in Mozart’s Concerto in G Major for Flute and Orchestra. His last performances in New York were at Steinway Hall and the National Opera Center in 2019 before the pandemic hit.
Alan Braun was an icon and he leaves an enormous void in the flute world and in the lives of those who loved and revered him.
Alan is survived by: Ann Braun (spouse), Margaret Braun (niece), Joe Braun (nephew), Mike Roberts (step-son), John Roberts (step-son), Tara Sullivan (step-daughter), Shirin Khosravi (grand-daughter), and Annie Sullivan (grand-daughter).
— Tad Wise, May 2021
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