Quarter Notes: Alan Rich

. I didn’t know Mr. Rich personally; we never shared conversation over a drink, or wondered about musical subjects together. But, I did know Rich’s writing. His contribution to arts journalism will be missed.

Rich’s words can be found throughout the classical music world. His handiwork is on display in Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra’s Brahms cycle for Sony. Rich was the long-time classical music critic/columnist for the LA Weekly. Once a week, Rich would weave a compelling narrative through a week worth of music.  In “American Pioneers: Ives to Cage and Beyond,” Rich zealously tells the tale of American music in the middle part of the last century. In recent years, Rich had taken to putting his thoughts on the Internet on his blog

If you’ve never had the chance to read Rich’s work I encourage you to visit his blog. With Rich’s passing, it is hard to know how long Rich’s columns will remain online. Read them while you can. I’ve excerpted Rich’s final column for the LA Weekly – written a few weeks after he was fired from the Weekly – below.

Beethoven, Bloomberg, Blog

Some of the happiest moments in a critic’s life come with discovering music you should have known long ago but didn’t. At Midori’s recital in Disney Hall, a week ago Sunday, there was a Beethoven Violin Sonata – A major, Opus 30 No. 1 – that I swear I had never heard before, or at least never paid attention. It had an ordinary, perky first movement. Then came an adagio straight out of heaven: a melting, embracing slow theme and a middle section that stood on a threshold and welcomed me with one arm and Franz Schubert with the other. Oh my, Midori plays wonderfully these days; so does Robert McDonald, her excellent collaborating pianist. A couple of weeks before, I had heard her in an unpublicized USC concert, before a paltry audience, performing a big, dramatic Penderecki sonata from 1999, very long and very intense; that work deserves to be brought out in a public performance now that she is located in Los Angeles and draws big crowds – as she did last week. I had gone to her Disney Hall concert out of curiosity for John Corigliano’s Sonata, but that turned out to be an early work, highfalutin Americana, not worth the carfare. It was Beethoven who made the evening.

Beethoven was my first love – the “Pastoral” Symphony, or what remained of it in Walt Disney’s Fantasia butchery. The Eighth Symphony figured in my first published review: Boston Herald, Thanksgiving Day, 1944, a Boston Symphony Youth Concert – and on that day, I abandoned my premed ambitions forthwith, breaking my mother’s heart, for a couple of years anyhow. (It was repaired when I introduced her to Leonard Bernstein.) Sue Cummings hired me as music critic for the Weekly in March 1992, and I got a nice note from her this week on the occasion of this, my final column. It was Cummings who thought up the title “A Lot of Night Music.” I wanted “A Little Night Music” in honor of two favorite composers (guess!), but I had no idea I’d be writing such a lot. Sixteen years! with the most cooperative local management and – honest! – the best readership any serious music critic could ever ask for. My lord! the outburst over my termination has been as gratifying as 10 Marriage of Figaro performances over a single weekend.

From this week, I’ll be writing regularly for bloomberg.com. My own blog, soiveheard.com, will be starting up any day now; there’ll be announcements on KUSC and elsewhere. I’ll also be keeping one foot in the door here at the Weekly; in fact, I’ve already got an assignment.
So, you see, it’s not so bad.

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4 thoughts on “Quarter Notes: Alan Rich

  1. Am I hallucinating, or has there not been an obit in the NYTimes? I’ve scoured each paper since Sat., and if one hasn’t shown up yet, one probably won’t. WTF?!?!?!?!?!?!?

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