About Ira F. Brilliant (1922-2006)
Ira Brilliant was born on September 8, 1922, in Brooklyn, New York. He received a Bachelor of Textile Chemistry from Lowell Textile Institute (now the University of Lowell) in 1943. During the Second World War, he served in the chemical warfare division of the Army in Europe, working on chemicals that could be impregnated in American soldiers' uniforms to protect them from gas attacks. He married his wife Irma in 1947 and worked in a textile business run by his family. In 1963 the family moved to Phoenix and Ira began working in commercial real estate in Scottsdale. He formed a company, Southwest Commercial Realty, with a partner that same year. He retired from beginning new projects in the late 1990s.
Ira always respected and loved Beethoven's music, evidenced by his decision to take the woman who would become his wife on their first date to a Beethoven concert. In the 1970s his interests in the composer deepened and he began collecting Beethoven manuscripts and first editions in 1975. Before he actually began collecting, he read the essential Beethoven literature for several years. Beginning in the 1970s, Mr. Brilliant formed relationships with the most important antiquarian dealers in Europe to build his collection, and with their help assembled the finest collection of Beethoven first editions in private hands by 1983. Resolved that the editions should be used by students to enrich their understanding rather than sitting in the special conservation closet he had had built for them, Mr. Brilliant first attempted to give the collection to Arizona State University, which declined the gift. He next spoke to Arlene Okerlund, then the Dean of the College of Humanities and the Arts at San José State University, and the collaboration to build the only center devoted to Beethoven in the Western hemisphere was immediately launched with great enthusiasm on both sides.
Remembrances of Ira Brilliant
submitted by friends and members of the American Beethoven Society
Ira was a model of Beethoven appreciation. No Beethoven project was too small to attract his sincere interest and support. Any friend of Beethoven was a friend of Ira's. He saw the need for a vital American Beethoven Society and he acted with imagination, generosity and a genuine affinity for the inexhaustible subject. He saw the value in collecting everything possible on Beethoven because he knew that Beethoven was a man for the ages. He knew that Beethoven's significance and the implications of his music would inevitably grow for all persons who care about the destiny of the human spirit. Ira Brilliant was a Beethoven heavyweight.
Luigi Bellofatto Italy
These are my words to remember Ira Brilliant:
"IRA BRILLIANT SEI STATO UN GRANDE APPASSIONATO DI BEETHOVEN CHE CI HA FATTO SCOPRIRE, AMMIRARE E CONOSCERE MEGLIO IL MUSICISTA TEDESCO E LE SUE OPERE. TI RIGRAZIAMO E NON TI SCORDEREMO MAI".
A little memory of Ira Brilliant came to mind when I read [Bill Meredith's] letter. One Thursday afternoon, docent Emily Lorraine and I were at the Center. Ira was there studying one of the collection's manuscripts. Emily and I played Mozart Sonata for Four Hands, K. 358, on the fortepiano that the Brilliants had commissioned in memory of their daughter and then donated to the Center. Ira stopped and listened. When we were finished, after a few words about the music not being Beethoven's, he said "it's always good to hear Mozart." Music was his love and he leaves a legacy.
François Payette, a member from the province of Québec
It is not without a shock that I read the letter informing the members of the death of Mr. Ira Brillant. I would like to offer his family and all who knew and loved him my sincere condolences.
I live quite far from San José and do not have the chance to know any or the members there, but I know that Mr. Brilliant was one of the founder of the ABS and that makes his disappearance a sad event for me.
I had the chance to see Mr. Ira Brilliant in a documentary about the theory of the lead poisoning of Beethoven. I was touched by his comments on Beethoven's music, especially when he talks about "Les Adieux". I remember this with emotion.
To the family of the late Ira Brilliant,
Please accept my deepest sympathy in the loss of your beloved husband, brother, father, father-in-law, and grandfather. Ira Brilliant was an inspiration to all people who love Beethoven. I personally feel very fortunate and thankful that we have the Ira Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies and can't imagine my life without it. It is such a tremendous gift to America!
May rich and beautiful memories of music and discovery comfort you at this time, and may you know that he is remembered by all as a great person who shared the larger gifts of humanity in a kind and unselfish way.
Lisa Cox, Lisa Cox Music Ltd.
My first meeting with Ira was just a week or so after Princess Diana died, though we had been corresponding and I had been selling him Beethoven material for several years. We had lunch in London in a typical English hotel where we ate smoked salmon and roast beef. It was a happy occasion, where we talked about Beethoven and the business of Beethoven as well as many other numerous subjects. Since that time I enjoyed so much keeping in regular touch with Ira on a personal and business basis.
He will be sorely missed in the antiquarian music field. His passion for Beethoven achieved so much and the Ira F. Brilliant Center owes much to him for its outstanding international reputation. I am proud to have known and worked with him.
Bonnie Jo Dopp
I'm just now reading the thoughtful obit of Ira Brilliant, posted to the MLA e-list. I offer here my deep sympathy to the staff of the libraries at SJSU, especially the Brilliant Center. I had the privilege of reviewing the video, "Beethoven's Hair" for Educational Media Reviews Online recently and I watched it so many times I felt like I got to know Mr. Brilliant-and certainly got to recognize how much he gave us all by donating his 'stuff' and his passion for Beethoven to SJSU.
I hope his wife and family will feel some comfort by recognizing that there are many of us who never met them but still deeply appreciate all Mr. Brilliant, with Irma at his side, did for the world of music scholarship.
Joan and Paul Kaufmann
Ira's foresight and energy brought Bill Meredith to the Beethoven Center. His legacy will live on through Bill and many of you who have worked so very hard to make the Center nationally and internationally renowned. It was our pleasure to get to know Ira and Irma, and we will forever be grateful for our introduction to Bill Meredith and the Beethoven Center.
Roberta Pili, Italian pianist
With these few words I would like to express my close participation with the family and with the Beethoven Center in San Jose for the tragic loss of Mr. Ira F. Brilliant. As a pianist and interpreter of Beethoven's music, I had the pleasure to share with Mr. Brilliant the passion for one of the greatest classical composers.
Unfortunately, I had only one single opportunity to get in touch with Mr. Brilliant last year. I wrote him a message, congratulating him for his great devotion and support of the Beethoven Center in San Jose, and expressing my thanks for this tribute to Beethoven and his music.
Mr. Brilliant wrote me with great enthusiasm: "All your thoughts concerning Beethoven's value extending much beyond his music runs very parallel with mine. It creates strong bonds with people all over the world."
He encouraged me to visit the Beethoven Center in San Jose. I was unfortunately not able to come until today, and I am very sad about this, because I will not have the privilege to meet him and share with him personally my infinite passion for Beethoven.
Mr. Brilliant's work in supporting and maintaining the truthful message of Beethoven was extraordinary. The American Beethoven Society lost a unique person.
My deepest condolences go again to his family and to the Beethoven Center in San Jose.
Toutes mes condoléances pour ce grand ami , qui, par son lien marqué avec Beethoven, me met en sympathie totale avec lui.
A son tour il aura été rejoindre l'étoile chaude de ce musicien, non pas comme on va, tout entier, rejoindre quelqu'un à l'instant T de sa vie à lui mais comme on va rejoindre quelqu'un tout entier, à l'instant T de sa vie à soi.
Cette sympathie qui le conduisait , de lui à Beethoven , a été un lien, puissant conducteur entre des hommes de bien.
Puisse votre Centre Beethovénien à SJSU briller encore longtemps du feu de ces génies
I was greatly saddened to hear of Ira's death. Ira was a lovely man, whose goodness and generosity touched so many lives, including my own, and he will always hold a place of warm affection in my heart. His contribution to our understanding of Beethoven was immense, and the Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies will stand as a lasting and living memorial to him. My deepest sympathy and condolences to everyone at the Center, and to Irma and all his family.
Dominique Prevot, chairman, Association Beethoven France et Francophonie
I and all the ABF members are deeply touched by the saddest news we have received. Our warmest thoughts go out to his family and his friends.
All Beethoven's "lovers" are mourning.
Didier Durand-Bancel, Directeur du Patrimoine et du Musée
To Mr. Brilliant: We always will remember your dedication and passion to our beloved Beethoven. You are said to have passed away while listening to the 7th Symphony. Well, I think that you can talk with him about the interpreters, now. Beethoven's life was difficult but ultimately, his music will always bring us fraternity and belief in a better life.
Thank you, Mr. Brilliant, to have been such a dedicated person to Ludwig's fame and studies.
May God be with your family today. I know you are with Him now.
From France,again, a warm "thank you."
Decades ago Ira Brilliant put into motion his extraordinary vision that has had a profound effect on countless lives and will continue far into the future. He shared his passion with infectious enthusiasm. Ira was an exceptional man, loved and revered by all who were blessed with his presence in their lives.
A force of nature has just left us--much as Beethoven himself was a force of nature and Ira's passion. Ira had as his model a man who could persevere in composing sublime and cosmic music that he could only hear in his brain, and Ira could continue his work for the Center while his own body was failing him. We shall all miss him.
Please [accept our] condolences on the passing of the founder of the famous Center for Beethoven Studies, our esteemed friend and passionate patron Ira F. Brilliant. Annette and I received this sad news after a very long absence from Bonn, returning from a sojourn in France, sequenced immediately by a longer stay in Bavaria. And it affected the two of us deeply. Our warm thoughts go to his wife Irma, who has to suffer this great loss, and their son Robert and his family. And we sincerely hope they will bear it with faith and confidence. Please tell them of our affection and condolences, particularly to Irma Brilliant, of whom I have the most exquisite remembrances, meeting the Brilliant couple personally at last during the international conference in honor of Lewis Lockwood at Harvard in 1996. It was a great pleasure for me to see both of them in "Beethoven's Hair", which has been a fabulous tribute to both Ira and Beethoven. That Ira saw this documentary in his last days was really an appropriate pleasure for him (and Irma) ... We all have to be most grateful to him because of his passion for the composer and the help he was able to offer us with his appointed engagement. I am very pleased that the institute set a memorial service for him on the campus. In this context I offer you my modest contribution: a re-edition (Titelauflage: Wien, bei Tobias Haslinger / VN. No. 2581) of the original edition of Beethoven's Sonata for Violin and Pfte, Op. 96 (cf. Kinsky-Halm, S. 270, below) - as a donation in memory of Ira F. Brilliant.
with our most affected greetings and grateful for your transmission of our condolences.