“Thirty-Onederfuls” Are Coming!

Being a series of reflections and snapshots of 31 years of reviewing…and a lifetime of listening


Any of my regular readers who have been signed up for about a year and a half or so may remember that I touted a new series of posts collectively titled “Thirty-Somethings.” November 1, 2018 was the 30th anniversary of my first published review in the Los Angeles Times, and I thought it would be fun to look back and share memories of the most memorable concerts, artists and venues from my musical life.

Of course, the busy-ness and unpredictability of life (ok, I’ll admit, to some degree my lack of expert time management) made me miss the deadline by enough that I shelved it. But here we are again, with another November 1 upon us, so I’m ready to try, try again. Since I even have the first one drafted and all but ready to post, I think I’ve got a shot at it…

For anyone who missed the erstwhile preview in 2018, the series will explore, with no logical order or plan that seems apparent to me, the memories that stick in my mind and heart after 60 years of listening to, and being involved in, classical music and jazz. The first posting—which will indeed pop up in your inboxes this Friday morning, is “How It All Began,” the story of how one thing led to another which led to my meeting Martin Bernheimer. He is the Pulitzer prize-winning critic who, in true Hollywood fashion, “discovered” me at a time when I had no idea or ambition to be a critic or writer. The rest, as is so often said, is history, but the events (and the man) make for fun reading.

Later you can look forward to my recounting some of the unforgettable performances I’ve heard, some of them pre-dating my days as a critic; e.g.: A Tristan und Isolde at the Metropolitan Opera in 1972 with Birgit Nilsson; Bernstein, in one of his final appearances at the Hollywood Bowl with the Vienna Philharmonic in 1989; the first Ojai Festival I covered in 1992; Jon Vickers as Peter Grimes in 1984 as part of the “Los Angeles Olympic Arts Festival;  sitting maybe 20 yards from Ella Fitzgerald at the estate of Jackie Robinson in the late 1970s; Georg Solti guest conducting the Boston Symphony in 1978 or ’79; Kiri Te Kanawa at the end of her debut run at the Met in Otello

Does that whet your appetite? Then there are the close encounters with the famous performers of our time: The day I sat in on a recording session with Esa-Pekka Salonen, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the pianist, Yefim Bronfman; an unexpected cordial encounter with Andre Previn—and a frosty one from Zubin Mehta; three unforgettable encounters with Frederica von Stade; playing “second globe carrier” in Otello at Los Angeles Opera, while Placido Domingo warmed up backstage; and even memories and a meeting with a famous author that had nothing to do with music per se, but coincided with my musical studies and beyond.

There might even be some musings about the peripherals, such as the first LPs that hooked me on classical music, and the indelible memories of later vinyl. I can only hope that you will enjoy reading them with even a fraction of the joy I will have in writing about them.

But if you read my blog principally for the live and media reviews (aka CDs and DVDs) fear not. The “Thirty-Onederfuls” should take up most of the 31st year of my writing career, but they will be interspersed with plenty of current reviews. Since I was so spotty in my postings for much of the year, I feel I should share what’s on tap, at least in the near term:

November 1: posting of “How It All Began”; November 2: review of Madison Opera’s La Traviata; early next week, a new batch of three CDs from the Naxos family of labels; the next Madison Symphony concerts, November 8-10; a review, shortly after November 13, of Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra; and November 17, the local debut of the latest piano phenom, Maxim Lando (he played with Lang Lang at Carnegie Hall over a year ago).

Gee, I guess I’m still busy…hope the bus driving schedule does me some favors! Happy reading…

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