Saturday, June 07, 2014

Dangerous Harmonies: The Memoir of Harold Coletta

My friend Seymour Barab gave me his copy of the memoir Martin Goldman wrote with Harold Coletta (1917-2001) in 2004, and I just finished reading it. The introduction to the book ends with a tribute from Seymour:
We met at the first rehearsal of the orchestra in Atlantic City. The picture of Harold that is most memorable, is of his appearance at the swimming pool aboard ship. He was extraordinarily handsome and I was envious. (Still am.)

Over the years we have frequently worked together in recording studios and chamber music ensembles. We have been amicable friends but have not endured any crises together. As most of our situations together have been in conjunction with music, I must add the obvious; that he is exceptional, reliable, sensitive, etc. His viola playing is exemplary. He is an artist and as one, defies comparison. as for the nitty-gritty, he has always remained competitive, because that is the nature of the profession. But he was never drawn into any overt unpleasantness, as is all too common.

I don't know if he is religious, believe no, but his philosophy is certainly Christian in the best sense of the word. I admire him enormously for his intelligence, talent, personality and humanity. I might think of him in the animal world as a lion.

Here is an anecdote. My first job in New York was a Frank Sinatra recording session, around 1948. Harold was sitting next to me. This was my first recording session ever and I was in awe of the proceedings. Standing against the walls around the studio were about a dozen rough looking guys in black raincoats. I asked Harold who the guys were. He gave me a knowing look and said, "Why don't you ask them?"
This is but one of hundreds of quotations from the book that I would love to put on this blog, but since the book is ostensibly still in print I don't want to get in any kind of trouble.

Coletta dictated the memoir to Martin Goldman, and though there are some repetitions (as all dictated memoirs have) and some typographical and grammatical errors (including one that refers to his friend "Paul Child's" home, and mentions that his friend's wife was a gourmet cook, which would lead any reader to think he was talking about Julia, but a later reference reveals that it must have been a misplaced apostrophe since Coletta was clearly talking about the violinist Paul Childs), it is a delightful look at the musical world of 20th-Century New York with stories and portraits that should not fall into oblivion.

Unfortunately 2004 was a lousy year to use a print-on-demand publisher because the Amazon price for the book is OUTRAGEOUS ($329.07 for a new copy and $71 for a used copy), and it is only available through third-party sellers.

I hope that it is possible for Goldman to re-publish this memoir so that it can have a more reasonable price. This book is a prime example of what is wrong with the publishing business. Something of value can be listed in catalogues and be inaccessible at the same time. (You can, however, click on the "look inside" feature and read segments of the book for free, but it will just make you want to read all of it.)

While I'm at it, I heard a CD re-issue of an LP recording of Lowndes Maury's Sonata in Memory of the Korean War Dead played by violinist Myron Sandler with Maury at the piano. It's a spectacular piece, but it was published by Protone Music, which no longer seems to be in the business of selling music. There are two copies of the score listed in the WorldCat: one is at USC and the other is in the New York Public Library. Two copies.

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