"Albert had a precognition of his own death," Jeff von der Schmidt recalled. "He told me in November, 'When I die, I don't want you to change a program. I want something that lifts people up. I don't want a bunch of adagios.' "
Pianist Albert Dominguez, who co-founded the Southwest Chamber Music Society in 1987 with horn player Von der Schmidt and violist Jan Karlin, did die, Thursday of pancreatic cancer, exactly one week before a scheduled program at Chapman University in Orange.
The program will go on and, in keeping with Dominguez' wishes, Von der Schmidt said it will go on just "as it was planned," with Milton Babbitt's "Groupwise," Mozart's Flute Quartet in D, K. 285; and Brahms' Piano Quartet in A major, Opus 26. (The same program will be played Friday at the Pasadena Library).
The society itself will go on as well, Von der Schmidt continued, though he was quick to add that Dominguez had been "the glue that held (it) together.
"The chemistry between the three of us was ideal," Von der Schmidt, the group's artistic director, said Sunday after a memorial service. He, Dominguez and Karlin had been playing together in various programs throughout the Southland since 1981. The society--which came to include 11 musicians--resulted from a decision "to start organizing ourselves so what we were doing could happen in a more significant way."
They ran into trouble almost immediately. "One musician had a flat tire on the way to a concert, and we had to cancel the program," Von der Schmidt remembered. From that moment on, Dominguez told the others he would always have sheet music in the car, and would hold all concert dates open even if he wasn't scheduled to play, so he'd be able to fill in if the need arose. "Imagine," Von der Schmidt said, "what that does to your peace of mind!"
Von der Schmidt was a freshman at USC when he met Dominguez in 1973. "At that time, he already had a big reputation. He was doing 'Music of the Hispanic World' on KUSC, had just finished working with Heifetz and was still big with the Los Angeles Master Chorale. He was really a hot item."
The horn player and the pianist were brought together professionally in the late '70s when Anthony Vazzana, a composer based in Los Angeles, wrote a piece for them to play. Because each had other professional commitments, Von der Schmidt said, "we had to rehearse with great economy. We got to know each other very well, very quickly."
Von der Schmidt recalled that after Dominguez left USC, he took a part-time clerical job at the Veterans Administration "to keep the wolf away from the door. He did not like to teach, and that way he would have his personal finances secure and plenty of time to arrange rehearsals."
"You just don't build a big, worldwide career in California," Dominguez told The Times Orange County Edition in 1988. "Most people make their home base in New York. I never did. I guess I was not willing to take the bull by the horns."
Nonetheless, he made a big impression in the Southland. At the memorial service, in Pasadena, letters of condolence were displayed from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the American Youth Symphony, the Los Angeles Master Chorale, KUSC radio, the USC School of Music and the Seal Beach Chamber Music Festival, among others. The church was full.
Tuesday, on a motion by Michael Antonovich, the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors adjourned in Dominguez's honor.
Dominguez's final illness occurred rapidly. In fact, he had been released from the hospital three days before he played his final concerts with Southwest in February. "Typically, he did not want us to make any announcement about his being ill," Karlin said. "He didn't want that taken into consideration."
"It's going to be a tough week of rehearsals and concerts," she added. "It's very difficult emotionally. But we're going to keep going. Albert wouldn't have wanted us to stop. Everybody associated with our group has really pulled together. We are not going to let him down."
"He taught us so much that we are able to go on without him," Von der Schmidt said. "But we're always going to be thinking of him. It's terribly ironic for us that our first CD--his last recording--was debuted on the radio--for his memorial."
Profile: Albert Dominguez
The pianist was a regular at the Seal Beach Music Festivals and was one of three founding members in 1988 of the Southwest Chamber Music Society. * Born in Indio, one of four children of a rancher who wanted his children to have musical educations.
* Studied at USC, where he became accompanist to violinist Jascha Heifetz, cellist Gregor Piatigorsky, and sopranos Maralin Niska and Lily Pons.
* Played for 27 years for the Los Angeles Master Chorale and the Roger Wagner Chorale.
* Initiated the "Music of the Hispanic World" programs on KUSC radio.
* Died of pancreatic cancer last Thursday at age 48.
* His last concerts with the Southwest Chamber Music Society were Feb. 20 at Chapman University in Orange and Feb. 21 at the Pasadena Library. He played Mozart's G-minor Piano Quartet. He was to have played with the Society at Chapman this Thursday.