composer who began his studies at the Peabody Conservatory in his home town
of Baltimore before moving with his family to New York, where he honed his
skills at Julliard from 1932 to 1937.
While at Julliard, Alan became a member of the Kreiner
String Quartet, with whom he would perform until 1938.
That very same
year, he and his brother Sylvan, a violinist, started their own group, the Stuyvesant
String Quartet, which specialized in playing contemporary works. A good example of their repertoire
was their 1941 premiere of Dmitri Shostakovich’s “Piano
Quintet”, which they performed at Carnegie Hall and subsequently
recorded on the Columbia label.
Alan’s own “Theme and Variations for Viola and
Orchestra” was premiered the same year by Emanuel Vardi
and the NBC Symphony Orchestra.
Alan was a founding member of the NBC Symphony Orchestra, and performed
with them from 1937 to 1942, when Uncle Sam called him away and he enlisted
in the United States Maritime Service.
While serving his country, he taught a very famous pupil, Nelson
Riddle, how to orchestrate.
Needless to say, that turned out pretty well.
another one of Alan’s compositions, “Suite on American Folk
Songs”, was premiered at Carnegie by pianist Vivian Rifkin and
violinist Eudice Shapiro. An excerpt of the suite appears on The Heifetz Collection, Vol. 35. The same year, Alan’s brother
Sylvan premiered his “Pastorale and
Dance” on ABC radio.
After the war,
the brothers re-formed their string quartet and hooked up with Benny
Goodman, who wanted them to perform an excerpt from Mozart’s
“Clarinet Quintet” on his radio show, but the Shulmans were much more interested in modern and
original works, so instead Alan wrote “Rendezvous with Benny”
for Goodman, which aired in August of 1946 on WEAF radio.
the NBC Symphony Orchestra in 1948 and continued to enjoy success as a
composer: The orchestra
premiered his “Waltzes for Orchestra” in 1949 and the NBC
String Quartet premiered “Threnody”, a piece commemorating the
lives of Israeli soldiers who died in combat, in 1950.
The same year,
Leonard Rose and the New York Philharmonic, under the baton of Dimitri
Mitropoulos, premiered Alan’s most ambitious effort to date,
“Concerto for Violoncello and Orchestra”. In 1952, the Philharmonic premiered
another Shulman original, “A Laurentian
Overture”, which was dedicated to Talullah
Bankhead, of all people.
A year later,
the Stuyvesant String Quartet laid down their final tracks on vinyl, and
Alan co-founded Symphony of the Air, which was more or less a new
incarnation of the NBC Symphony Orchestra. Alan also tried his hand at writing
pop songs, with comedian Steve Allen, and arranging, for Skitch Henderson and Felix Slatkin.
In 1956, he
helped co-found Violoncello Society, Inc., eventually serving as its
president from 1967 to 1972. He
performed with a variety of ensembles in the ‘60s and ‘70s, including
An Die Musik, the Haydn Quartet, the Philharmonia Trio, and the Vardi
Trio. He also found time to
teach, if you can believe it, at Johnson State College in Vermont,
Juilliard, Sarah Lawrence College, SUNY-Purchase, and the University of
In 1987, Alan
retired, partially due to health problems. His music, however, endured. Richard Stoltzman
covered his “Rendezvous with Benny” in 1989 for RCA. In 1997, Indiana University dubbed
him Chevalier du Violoncelle. He passed away on 10th
July 2002, due to the after-effects of a stroke.
Bridge Records, a retrospective of his orchestral works, simply titled The Music of Alan Shulman,
is now available on CD.
Van McCoy recordings
The Shuffle (Van McCoy)
That’s the Joint (Richard Harris/Van McCoy)
Frank Sinatra recordings
That's What God Looks Like To Me (Stan Irvin/Lan
49233 (XNY2101S) (US 45)
Theme from "New York, New York" (Fred Ebb/John Kander)
RPS49233 (XNY 2103 S) (US 45)