My Date with Jury Duty

By Sedgwick Clark

Next week, for the first time as a citizen of New York County, I shall descend to the lower depths of Manhattan and perform my solemn rite of jury duty without the concomitant joy of combing through the record bins of J & R Music. J & R closed its classical department early last year, leaving Academy Records and CDs on 12 West 18th Street as the sole remaining retail store for New York’s serious classical-music record collectors. For shame!

The closing of a treasured book or record store is no less indicative of mortality than an obit page. Last week the esteemed Berkshire Record Outlet announced that it would close its retail store at the end of this month and henceforth operate solely as a fulfillment operation. A record-collector mecca since 1974, the BRO was a “must visit” whenever I went to Tanglewood in the summer (an increasingly rare pleasure in the past two decades). One saw Boston Symphony players, visiting soloists, concert-going friends from New York, Boston, and the outlying area, and, above all, bins of recordings on various labels that rarely reached these shores.

It was shocking when Discophile, on Eighth Street in Greenwich Village, went out of business in 1984, not long after Tower Records blew into town from the West Coast. Discophile’s owner, Franz Jolowicz, angrily prophesied that it would wipe out all the City’s specialized record stores because they couldn’t compete with Tower’s huge stock and markdown prices. He was right, of course. And I was a turncoat customer because Lincoln Center’s Tower branch claimed to carry every record currently in the catalogue—and it was only a block from my apartment! How could I resist?

When Barnes & Noble opened a vast, four-story branch across the street from Tower in 1995, Lincoln Square seemed perfect. I was in pig heaven for a fleeting decade. But Tower bit the dust in late 2006 as the record industry faced its own customer crises. A Raymour and Flanigan furniture store currently occupies the building. The Barnes & Noble at Lincoln Center had the same problem, bookwise, but its downstairs was a decent record and video department, and I spent a fair amount there in lieu of Tower. It closed in February  2011, destined to be a Century 21 department store. I avert my eyes when I walk by those stores.

Looking Forward

My week’s scheduled concerts (8:00 p.m. unless otherwise noted):

3/20 Carnegie Hall. St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and Chorus/David Robertson; Katie Geissinger and Theo Bleckmann (vocalists). Debussy: Nocturnes. Meredith Monk: Weave (New York premiere). Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 4.

3/21 at 8:30.  Iridium. David Chesky’s Jazz in the New Harmonic.

3/24 at 7:30. Avery Fisher Hall. New York Philharmonic/Alan Gilbert; Inon Barnatan, piano. Salonen: Nyx. Ravel: Piano Concerto in G. Debussy: Jeux. R. Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier Suite.

3/26 at 7:30. Avery Fisher Hall. New York Philharmonic/Alan Gilbert; Leila Josefowicz, violin. Lyadov: The Enchanted Lake. Stravinsky: Petrushka (1911 version). John Adams: Scheherazade.2 –Symphony for violin and orchestra.

3/27 at 2:00. Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center, Philadelphia. Philadelphia Orchestra/Gianandrea Noseda; Carol Yantsch, tuba. Michael Daugherty: Reflections on the Mississippi, for tuba and orchestra. Mahler: Symphony No. 5.

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