That's MTV Award Winner Ruth Bader Ginsburg by the Forward

A month before her death, RBG made a (virtual) concert appearance

Image by Getty Images

When Lewis Kaplan emailed Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s family, asking if she wanted to take part in a pandemic-era music festival, he didn’t know what would happen.

What he didn’t expect was an immediate response from the justice’s daughter, Jane Ginsburg, telling him that the Notorious RBG was all in.

No, this isn’t an exposé of Ginsburg’s hidden cello prowess — she contributed words, not notes. But her brief cameo at the Bach Virtuosi Festival, which took place on YouTube in August, has taken on a new significance since it was one of her last public appearances. To Kaplan, the experience now seems “prophetic.”

“Her manner and what she says were so simple, brief, and so her,” he said.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Brotherhood/Sisterhood from Brian Kaplan on Vimeo.

Founded by Kaplan, a senior professor of violin at Juilliard, the Bach Virtuosi Festival normally takes place in Maine. But like the rest of the cultural world, it migrated online after the pandemic put an end to in-person events. Inspired by what he sees as a political climate of “dishonesty and distrust,” Kaplan decided to shake things up: Instead of staging traditional concerts, he created a program called “Brotherhood/Sisterhood,” which fused solo performances with teachings on equity and understanding from luminaries as varied as Aristotle and John Lewis.

That’s where Ginsburg came in. Beaming down from a home office stuffed with family photos that deserves a 10/10 Room Rater score, she recited remarks she’d made during a 2015 MSNBC interview.

“I try to teach through my opinions, through my speeches, how wrong it is to judge people on the basis of what they look like, the color of their skin, whether they’re men or women,” Ginsburg said as Emi Ferguson performed two movements from Bach’s Partita in A minor.

Kaplan, whose wife Adria worked with Jane Ginsburg at Columbia Law School, had met the justice several times. “She was totally in charge,” he recalled of chatting with the justice, who shared his love for classical music and was notoriously knowledgeable about opera. “She knew all the librettos, she knew the music, she knew the singers.”

Kaplan saw the late justice’s contribution to an online experiment as emblematic of her legacy of understated generosity.

“There’s no pomp,” he said. “It just is what it is, and what it is is perfection.”

A month before her death, RBG made a (virtual) concert appearance

A month before her death, RBG made a (virtual) concert appearance

Irene Katz Connelly is an editorial fellow at the Forward. You can contact her at Follow her on Twitter at @katz_conn.


Irene Katz Connelly

Irene Katz Connelly

Irene Katz Connelly is a staff writer at the Forward. You can contact her at Follow her on Twitter at @katz_conn.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s last concert appearance

Your Comments

The Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. All readers can browse the comments, and all Forward subscribers can add to the conversation. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Forward requires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not and will be deleted. Egregious commenters or repeat offenders will be banned from commenting. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and the Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Recommend this article

A month before her death, RBG made a (virtual) concert appearance

Thank you!

This article has been sent!