Saturday, April 24, 2010

Alan Rich, 1924-2010

by Joseph Mailander

Nobody really knows what to make of the passing of Alan Rich on Friday. That's because the local classical community is very precious and Alan was the most precious member of it of all.

The community knows that Alan tried to hang on far too long, and it also knows that Alan likely deserved to try. It knows that Alan stabbed critics in the back and it knows that lots of critics acquired this behavior from him rather than more sensibly run away from it. Most of all, it knows that even in death as in life, Alan Rich remained bitter about something nobody beyond the sphere could really understand, and yet whatever it was, it was something that every classical critic also feels within, a nagging supposition that classical critics are mere custodians of something brittle and far bigger than themselves and mostly impossible to share with a larger world.

The best line I heard on him in later days was, "That was back when Alan still dressed to go to concerts." Alan was enormously uncomfortable for the last decade of his life, but music seemed to cushion his discomforts. He would groan and grumble until the first air of a performance and suddenly his body would relax, even slink on hearing some notes--any notes.

Last I saw him was at an LA Monthly party on Sunset Boulevard--though entirely out of his element with the hipster crowd and among people fifty years younger than he, he was game, he was alone, he was rocking, he was eating things that were bad for him, and he was sitting there with an insouciant scowl as though to say, "Either worship me or don't talk to me at all." I did neither, which displeased him, as we all have. Now that media are fumbling over what to say about him that might please the living, I'll venture this: all admired Alan's insouciance, because in that quality most of all, the difference between criticism and publicity is measured. If anything, the local classical community could use more, not less, insouciance; more, not less, real criticism. And at bottom, Alan was a real critc.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So Sad.

I loved reading Alan Rich in the LA Weekly. His column was one of my favorites. I was very upset when they canceled it - in fact, I stopped reading the Weekly.

When I went to LA PHil concerts and later read his reviews, they always echoed my thoughts. But, of course, his way of putting it was so witty,precise,and yes, sometimes cantankerous.

Never met him but always wanted to. I consider you lucky, Joe. Thanks for the great article.