Deep sorrow at the sudden death of a musical searcher

Deep sorrow at the sudden death of a musical searcher


norman lebrecht

June 07, 2020

I am distraught at the death of Allan Evans, prolific pianophile, record producer and friend, a man who could bring wit and life to the dustiest corner of keyboard history. Allan was 64. I do not yet know the cause of death.

A man of exotic family background, Allan released more than 200 lost or forgotten recordings on his exquisite Arbiter label, among them Busoni and Schnabel with their students, Mahler’s associate Oskar Fried and the Cairo piano master Ignace Tiegerman. The sleeve notes alone are collectors’ pieces.

Allan wrote biographies of Ignaz Friedman and Moriz Rsenthal, and taught at Mannes College.

I never spent a dull moment with him.

Tim Page writes: Allan Evans, wonderful friend, scholar, biographer, record producer, family man, aesthetic philosopher, delighted conversationalist, truth seeker, lover of good food and wine, passionate influencer and so much more, has died.

I’m grateful to have known him from his teens, when we discussed old piano records at the counter of the Skyline Restaurant and our eyes would brighten. Thanks for all the kindnesses and good lessons, my friend. There is a void in a lot of worlds tonight — but you’ve left us so much.

My condolences to Beatrice and Stefan. May his memory be blessed.


  • He was a cosmopolite, a connoisseur of all things rare and excellent, yet his demeanor was also so kind, approachable and generous. Allan carried himself with an earthly affability, and he had a brilliant sense of humor. He loved the world of sound, all sound, and everyone he touched was enriched by the passion with which he shared that. His loss is a profound one for all musicians and music lovers, and his many friends and fans will mourn as I do, deeply.
    (Sara Davis Buechner)

  • Una says:

    That is very sad and unexpected news.

  • Edgar Self says:

    Melomanes and pianophiles owe a incalculable debt to Allan Evans for his books and Arbiter historical issues, especially Tigerman, Feinberg, &tc. Je jad a geat love for the continuum of pianistic history, It showed in everything he did His early death is a great and shocking loss.

  • Jed Distler says:

    Allan and I met in 1978, and we were roommates for a year when I first moved to New York. He completely corrupted my musical tastes and opened so many aesthetic doors for me. Our 42-year friendship endured so many life changes, challenges, joys, births, deaths and always an undiscovered archival recording, a long-lost-document, an obscure restaurant, a limited edition olive oil, or the DVD release of an arcane film noir over which we were irrationally obsessed. Allan played down his serious health issues in recent years, at least in my presence, and always showed up with positivity and perpetual curiosity. Whenever I write a booklet note, or review a historical reissue or put together an episode of my radio show Between the Keys I automatically celebrate Allan’s life.

  • Edgar Self says:

    Bravo to Jed Distler, who shares credit for this and so many things from his grateful raders. You and Norman are ortunate to know Allen Evans over so many years.

  • Greg Bottini says:

    Arbiter is one of the great classical (and traditional world music) record labels, perhaps lesser known than DG or EMI, but equal to and often surpassing them in the quality of restoration of old recordings, and certainly surpassing them in the quality of the program notes.
    Allan Evans will certainly be missed by we collectors of recordings of the past. My sympathy goes out to his family and friends.

  • Triphonola Archives says:

    We’ve had our differences and arguments over the years, but he loved (many) fine artists, and we found things to agree on.


  • Joshua Taylor says:

    I’ve known Allen since before memory. We were cousins, and grew up together as children, along with my brother Adam. He and his father Sam were at our home frequently, including around the Passover table. Sam Evans sang beautiful haunting melodies from an earlier era of life. Allen followed his passions, and turned his musical brilliance and endless energy into an exceptionally unusual life. He reveled at traveling to the far corners of Europe to uncover pianists who were taught by students of the great masters.

    We were supposed to speak in February and took a rain check.

    Born in South Africa, his mother passed when he was quite young.

    It’s hard to believe Allen’s gone. Such a painful loss.

    • Beatrice Muzi Evans says:

      Dear Josh,

      It’s sweet to see your comment and your precious memory as children!

      You know, Allan’s mother, Lillian Burstyn, was born in Poland. South Africa was only a painful parentheses of six months soon after her passing.



  • F. Sharp says:

    I was introduced to Alan’s work through Sarah Cahill’s radio show on KALW in San Francisco. I am listening to one of his re-released records now, very beautiful, thank you.

  • J Methuen-Campbell says:

    I knew Allan from about 1979. He came to London and I took him to meet the Leschetizky pupil Frank Merrick, who played a Schubert Sonata for us. We shared an interest in historical piano recordings and had kept in touch ever since. His enthusiasm and scholarship were terrific, but then he was also a wonderful friend and a genuinely good and thoughtful person. He didn’t age at all, despite having conquered serious illness some years ago. I won’t forget him.

  • Edgar Self says:

    And I cannot forget James Methuen-Campbell’s book on Chopin playing and assessment of Alfred Cortot, one of the best in print, or his reviews and articles for “Gramophone” and other periodicals and reviews.

    The calibre of a man can be gauged by his friends. Jed Distler and James Methuen-Campbell attest to Allan Evans’s high standing. They were already there.