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    Shulman, Alan (4 June 1915 – 10 July 2002)

    Cellist and 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. 

     

    Incidentally, 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. 

     

    In 1944, 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. 

     

    Alan rejoined 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 Maine. 

     

    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. 

     

    Thanks to 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 O'Kun)

    Reprise RPS 49233 (XNY2101S) (US 45)

     

    Theme from "New York, New York" (Fred Ebb/John Kander)

    Reprise RPS49233 (XNY 2103 S) (US 45)

     

    Sources:

    1. http://www.capital.net/com/ggjj/shulman/
    2. http://www.sai-national.org/phil/composers/ashulman.html
    3. http://query.nytimes.com
    4. http://www.arkivmusic.com/classical/album.jsp?album_id=79386
    5. http://www.amazon.com/Stuyvesant-String-Quartet-Goodman-clarinet/dp/B0000UJLJ6

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     



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