Celebrating Harris Goldsmith (1935-2014)

The piano world – in fact, the whole classical music community – lost one of its most articulate, opinionated and vibrant voices this past April when the noted critic, pianist and teacher Harris Goldsmith passed away.

While a previous commitment prevented me from attending last night’s memorial for Harris at the Mannes School, the event’s host Sedgwick Clark asked me to prepare a brief written remembrance for the program. Trying to express my affection for this remarkable man within a 150 word limit was not easy. Still, I thought it fitting to share my brief thoughts with you.

“Harris changed classical record reviewing forever. His prose was direct and accurately descriptive, literate, passionate and witty, informed by his deep working knowledge of the so-called standard repertoire and beyond. One could say the same about his provocative pianism and his inspired teaching. He could be devastatingly succinct and spot-on, nailing Alfred Brendel’s Chopin disc in two words flat (“Occupied Poland!”). On the other hand, when I’d phone Harris with a Toscanini or Cantelli question, he’d respond non-stop for about 45 minutes, citing chapter and verse. I miss our concert encounters, our chance meetings at Academy Records or the Lincoln Center Library that inevitably led to a meal where we’d lock horns over the latest Beethoven cycle or competition winner, or riff into the night about nerdy discographical minutiae. And although thousands of great past performances lived and breathed inside that amazing database of a mind, Harris always looked ahead, supporting and encouraging new talent. He taught us all.”

Jed Distler, December 18 2014

Please share your personal memories or thoughts about Harris here.


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