Missed Opportunities

by Sedgwick Clark

Soon after I moved to New York in the fall of 1968, Charles Munch brought the Orchestre de Paris on tour to Carnegie Hall. He programmed three of his favorites: Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique, Barber’s Medea’s Meditation and Dance of Vengeance, and the second suite from Daphnis et Chloé. The next afternoon, Jean Martinon led the orchestra in Bartók’s Miraculous Mandarin Suite, which he had recently recorded for RCA with the Chicago Symphony. Having money for only one concert, I figured that I could hear Munch do those pieces anytime. Two weeks later he dropped dead of a heart attack. 

I’ll never forgive myself for missing my one opportunity to see and hear Munch in the flesh, even though I am glad to have heard Martinon’s Bartók, which turned out to be the only time I would hear him live.

These concerts come to mind as I think of my friend Andrew Kazdin, who died on Monday after a four-year battle with cancer. I didn’t know he was ill and hadn’t seen him or spoken with him since running into him a couple of years ago at Lincoln Center. Like his protégé at Columbia Records, Steven Epstein, who wrote an affectionate appreciation of Andy and his work for MusicalAmerica.com on Wednesday, I knew and admired several Kazdin recordings before I met him. Many were by Pierre Boulez and the New York Philharmonic. Boulez spoke highly of Andy, and indeed they were a perfect team, for they were both fanatical about clarity of detail and ensemble perfection.

Andy let me attend many Boulez recording sessions at Manhattan Center. Foremost in my memory is the mind-boggling sonority conjured in the ballroom’s immense acoustic in Stravinsky’s Firebird, Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé, and Varèse’s Arcana, superbly captured by Andy’s army of microphones. His multi-miking technique was controversial, to say the least, and the golden-ear crowd consistently panned his productions. Andy didn’t mind bad reviews as much as he did critics who claimed to know how he had achieved his results. He did not suffer fools gladly, for he knew his craft absolutely—and an extraordinary range of other subjects as well.

One of those subjects was pizza. Wherever Andy went to make a recording—Cleveland, Israel, Los Angeles, Marlboro—he first scoped out the town’s best reputed pizza parlor. He had to have pizza on Friday nights. In all his travels he thought Grimaldi’s, underneath the Brooklyn Bridge, was the tops. We had planned to go together one Friday night for years but, I’m very sorry to say, never got around to it.  

Looking Forward

My week’s scheduled concerts:

12/1. Avery Fisher Hall. New York Philharmonic/Daniel Harding. Mahler: Symphony No. 10 (Deryck Cooke performing version).

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