Arthur Rubinstein’s producer has died

Arthur Rubinstein’s producer has died


norman lebrecht

January 23, 2017

We have received sad news of the death last Friday of Max Wilcox, who worked in the record industry for half a century and was Arthur Rubinstein’s producer at RCA for 17 years. Max, winner of 17 Grammy awards, was 88.


He would conduct orchestras in studio from time to time. Rubinstein heard about it and arranged for Wilcox to be his conductor at a concert with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.

Having secured him the date, he found the producer had nothing to wear. So the pianist took him to his tailor in Rome, the celebrated Caraceni, to order a beautiful set of tails.

You can listen to an interview with Max Wilcox here.


  • Cubs Fan says:

    Wilcox made some great recordings to be sure – he’s about the last from the golden era of classical recording. I had no idea he could conduct. Someone, NL, needs to write a book about all of these men and women: Max Wilcox, Walter Legge, John Pfeiffer, Charles Gerhardt, Wilma Cozart and others who worked to hard to bring great music to us. I’d like to know more about the men behind the scenes working for Szell, Ormandy, Bernstein, Solti, Boult and the gang.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      I did.

      • Mr Oakmountain says:

        That sounds great. Which one is it, please? I could not guess from the book titles.

        • Cubs Fan says:

          It’s “Maestros, Masterpieces and Madness: The Secret Life and Shameful Death of the Classical Record Industry”. Came out about 10 years ago. Well worth reading – but missing the deep biographical info that I would like. Of course, it covers a lot of people over a long period of time and can’t be that detailed, such as the two books by John Culshaw and the bio of Walter Legge.

    • Wolfgang Amadeus Museart says:

      Really a great man! RIP. Also DG had many staff producers who were conductors, e.g. Hans Weber (Kubelik, Karajan, Kleiber, Bernstein, etc.), Otto Gerdes (Fricsay, Wunderlich, etc.), Cord Garben (Karajan, Michelangeli, Rostropovich etc.), Christian Gansch (Boulez, Levine, Ozawa, Maisky, Shaham, etc.), also a violinist.

    • Robert H Wilkins says:

      How about Joanna Nickrenz, Marc Aubort, Jay Saks, John Culshaw, Howard Scott, Goddard Liberson, Judy Sherman (Max’s former wife), John McClure, Paul Meyers, Victor Olof, Andrew Keener, et. al.????

    • JENNIFER WELLS says:

      Hi, I am his daughter and thanks for the kind words!! Ask me any questions you may have…

  • Andrew says:

    Thanks to Max. Wilcox we have the only recording of the Richard Strauss oboe concerto with John de Lancie who , after all, was the reason the work was written but do to various reasons neither gave the world premiere or even the American first performance.

    • Gene Gaudette says:

      Max was also the conductor of that recording – and podium-wise, he was the real thing. I frequently ran into him at BMG Classics in the 1990s (and before that at the legendary Tower Records at W 4th and Broadway in Manhattan). Max was candid and opinionated, yet always warm, congenial, and a superb wit on top of it all.

    • JENNIFER WELLS says:

      Thank you from his daughter…

  • Amos says:

    As I recall Max Wilcox introduced Rubinstein to the Guarneri Quartet. The Brahms & Schumann recordings are imo superb.

  • Willi Stivelman says:

    I’m saddened by Max Wilcox’ death—he was a great guy. I corresponded with him on the subject of many RCA recordings he engineered both of Rubinstein and many other musicians. He was free-lance later in his life, not bound to BMG/Sony.

    I’m amazed that the British continue to refer to Mr. Rubenstein as Arthur Rubinstein. His given name was Artur. Would we call Frans Bruggen Franz? Would we call Sir Alec Guinness Sir Alex Guinness?

    I just looked at all my Rubinstein LPs and my Rubinstein CD boxes of Chopin. There isn’t one Arthur among them. It just amazes me. Someone writing the article deserves a gentle, but pointed dope slap.

    • David Marr says:

      Sad to hear of the Alzheimer’s suffering and death of Max Wilcox. As far as Arthur Rubinstein is concerned, you can look at early signed photographs to clearly see Arthur. His son John has said on film that the name is Arthur. Arthur also mentions in an interview that his name is Arthur, Artur was invented in America by a publicist to make him sound more exotic, the idea stuck and an appropriate version of Arthur/Artur etc was used as he travelled around the world. This includes record sleeves.

    • Dave Marr says:

      Hi Willi, It is indeed sad to hear of Max’s death and the Alzheimer’s leading up to it. As far as Arthur Rubinstein is concerned, Arthur is the name signed on early photographs. His son John has said Arthur is correct and Arthur said in an interview that Artur was invented by a publicist in America (for a Carnegie Hall recital?) and it stuck. Arthur used his real name in UK and Artur in the USA, including record sleeves etc. He used an appropriate version of Arthur around the world.
      Max certainly helped to make Arthur’s playing sound extra special.

  • Jonathan Elvey says:

    A lovely interview. He captured Rubinstein’s inimitable sound beautifully. They all seemed to in those days. Why is it so difficult to do so these days? Is it that they don’t care? Or that they don’t have the understanding? Or is it that today’s pianists don’t really have their own sound?

  • Jonathan Cable says:

    Max was a good friend. He lived in the same apartment building here on the Upper West Side in Manhattan for decades, right below the apartment I live in – he was on the ground floor, I’m on the first. We met every day, talked all the time, so many great memories, and of course his five Grammy Awards. He moved to Seattle at the end of 2015 to be close to his family, the last time I saw him was the evening before he left. RIP dear Max, you won’t be forgotten!

    • Jennifer Wilcox Wells says:

      Hi, it’s Max’s daughter. Didn’t Max used to own that apartment with Judy? Thanks for your lovely comments. He died in peace with love around him…

  • Jennifer Wilcox Wells says:

    Hi, I am Max’s daughter Jennifer. He died of a stroke after years of Alzheimers. He was just like Gene’s description of him. I remember meeting Rubenstein. He told me that playing the piano was like making love. He also bought me a winter coat when I was cold one day waiting for a cab with him. He gave dad $100 and we went to Lord and Taylors. So many memories. If you have any questions about Max or his last days, let me know. Thank you for all your lovely tributes.

    • JENNIFER WELLS says:

      opps, misspelled Rubinstein, stupid spellcheck. 🙂

      • Gil Gross says:

        I actually saw your dad conduct at Bill Masselos monster concert at Carnegie Hall where they did the Chopin 1st. Amazingly it was recently released on CD on the Yves St. Laurent label which is available from Norbeck Peters. He did a great job. I admired Max’s work though I only met him once. He helped bring a lot of beauty into the world.

      • norman lebrecht says:

        For years I have been trying to find information about some RCA recording sessions in London during the 70’s, produced by the late Max Wilcox. On your Slipped Disc site in January 2017, the article concerning Max’s death was responded to by Max’s daughter Jennifer, inviting any questions about her Father. I suspect Max would have kept logs and diaries over the years and if they exist wonder if she could help. Could you please forward this email to Jennifer? Many thanks.

        Kind Regards
        David Marr

    • Louis Weiner says:

      Jennifer, I have cherished memories of your father. I worked closely with him in the 80’s when I was with the Westminster Choir as singer and as Joe Flummerfelt’s assistant. He did our recordings and enjoyed showing us the new (then) digital technology. His mic placement was always perfect, of course. He came to Spoleto, Italy, to record us there and we had fun days and nights there. I’ve thought of him often over the years. I’m deeply sorry for your loss.

    • Angela Boyd says:

      I am not sure if you will receive this, Jennifer.. but I think I met you once at Max’s apartment, many years ago. I worked for RCA’s Red Seal office in London, doing all the bookings and more for the recordings made in London.. and several were produced by Max, ie those with Rubinstein and Jose Serebrier. Sorry to hear that he had Alzheimers for several years… but was well cared for, anyway. He is the last of the old crew of producers to go on.. from those days at RCA, i.e Richard Mohr, Peter Dellheim, Jack Pfeiffer, Chuck Gerhard, George Korngold, but Jay David Saks is still working for the MetOpera broadcasts…. Angela Boyd – in UK

      • DAVID MARR says:

        Hi Angela, rather than hijack this page, I have sent a note on Facebook Messenger to you about RCA, Rubinstein and Max Wilcox, the icon suggests you have not received the message, hoping this message reaches you. Regards Dave.