A critic of character has died

The death is reported of Harris Goldsmith, piano teacher at Mannes College and, after Harold Schonberg, Manhattan’s polymath of the instrument. He was 77. Starting with Guido Cantelli in the 1950s, he was an indefatigable searcher of talent for Musical America and other outlets. Here’s a recent Harris report:

Yuja Wang, piano

At age 17, Yuja Wang played an astonishingly mature and technically finished interpretation of Schubert’s late CMinor Sonata, D. 958, in Weill Hall on April 12, 2004. And—from the sublime to the ridiculous—at a Rockefeller University recital on February 2, 2007, she tossed off an unexpected encore, Arcadi Volodos’s indulgent paraphrase of Mozart’s Rondo alla Turca. Volodos had given her the music

only a week earlier. “It’s not so hard,” she shrugged. Most important is Wang’s self-proclaimed ideal: “For me, conveying the music through the piano is more important than the instrument itself. The music is what interests and intrigues me.”  After substituting for several of the most celebrated pianists Argerich, Perahia, and Lupu, to name a few), Wang at 23 has amassed a repertoire of by now over 35 concertos and has two spectacularly successful recordings for Deutsche Grammophon to her credit. What particularly endears me to her playing is the inviting warmth and touching vulnerability in tandem with her fiery brilliance. •

Harris was no mean artist himself and a well-known face about town.

harris goldsmith

Allan Kozinn adds: I knew Harris pretty well in the 1980’s when we both wrote for High Fidelity and Opus, and I commissioned him to write a piece for a booklet the New York Philharmonic published in connection with a Beethoven festival – one of my few editing projects. More recently, I used to run into him periodically at concerts – mostly piano recitals at Carnegie. Harris knew everything there was to know about the piano repertory, and particularly Beethoven, and he was a sweet man with an interesting, sometimes peculiar, and usually groanably pun-encrusted sense of humor.

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  • Very sad news, much too soon to pass on. His memory is a blessing.

    To all fans of Yuja Wang: you are in good company! I would underscore this remark of HG’s:

    “What particularly endears me to her playing is the inviting warmth and touching vulnerability in tandem with her fiery brilliance.”

    I’ve always felt the same about her playing, and I have said so many times on this blog. The devil take her detractors!

  • A very nice person, witty and brilliant in his writings. I first met him many years ago in New York, when he used to be one of the main critics in High Fidelity Magazine. He really loved music and was always looking out for new talent. RIP, my friend.

  • I read Goldsmith’s many reviews in High Fidelity with great pleasure, particularly those of piano music. He never attempted to intimidate the reader by couching his knowledge in fancy terminology, but wrote directly and succinctly.

  • I followed High Fidelity for many years (including back issues) and never once was I steered wrong by any of his recommendations and was always enlightened by his criticism. A sad loss.

  • Clarinet players of a certain age will also know that he was the pianist in what was long considered one of the great renditions of the Brahms clarinet sonatas, with the legendary Harold Wright.

    • Very sad about Harris’s passing. We met and had exchanges over past 25 years and he was always witty, knowledgeable, a humble and talented pianist and on of the most fair and balanced reviewers a performer can wish for. He will be missed!

  • I was very impressed by Harris Goldsmith’s deeply felt interpretation of Beethoven’s Sonata op. 110. Finally, a critic who could not only talk the talk but also walk the walk. Does anyone know other of critics like him?

  • I knew Harris for more than 30 years, and I always found his opinions worthy, even when I disagreed with them. He was at turns Incisive, acerbic, irascible, hilarious and sweet. We had dinner together numerous times, mostly at the IKIF festival, and hearing him speak of a concert that we had just heard was always stimulating. His health was poor for many years, subsequent to a stroke he suffered in 1997. A fixture on the NY music scene for so long, he will truly be missed my many people, not the least myself.

  • very sweet man. knowledgeable to a fault – opinionated yes – but thats a good thing

    he will be missed

  • I was so saddened to read of Harris’s death. I valued his opinion greatly and read him for years. There wasn’t anything he didn’t know about the piano. I will greatly miss seeing him at concerts. I hope there is a service for him. I would like to attend.

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