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Fanfare Contributor Bio

Gary Lemco

My relation to classical music began at age six, when Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite replaced anything else musical in my consciousness. While a number of pieces came my way via the radio, it was moving to New York City in my early teens that exposed me to WQXR and to WNYC, of which the latter’s Masterwork Hour introduced me to Wachet auf and to the Beethoven Choral Fantasy with Andor Foldes and Fritz Lehmann. At 13 I met the single most powerful, sustained influence in my intellectual and musical development, pianist and choral conductor Carmine Arena, a former pupil of Fritz Jahoda and Paul Victor Wittgenstein. Arena, over the course of our association—which lasted until his death in 2018—guided my intellectual development, even beyond studies with Philip Friedheim at SUNY and my fateful tutorials with Emanuel Winternitz, Curator of Musical Instruments at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. At SUNY, Binghamton, I took a Piano Literature survey with Jean Casadesus and began my serious reviewing career while attending concerts by the Guarneri String Quartet (and their rehearsals) and writing for the Colonial News. I also began the first broadcasts in 1966 of The Music Treasury on WHRW, my program devoted to “rare and historic performances of classical music,” which came to the attention of Henry Fogel, who at the time ran WONO in Syracuse.

When I returned to SUNY, Binghamton in 1970, I continued my radio broadcasts and extended my reviewing by attending concerts by the Syracuse Symphony. I covered concerts at SUNY by the Lenox Quartet and by pianist John Covelli. While taking a Master’s degree program in Philosophy. I could glean the wisdom of conductor Stefan Bauer-Mengelberg, in residence as part of the Advanced Technology Division. I moved to Atlanta in 1975, and I worked for WGKA-AM and WRFG-FM, and I wrote for various publications, covering all the major venues, such as the Atlanta Symphony, the Emory University concerts, and the various junior college venues. I earned a second Master’s degree in English, with my thesis devoted to Ben Hecht. I started my Ph.D. program in Philosophical Foundations of Education, which led to the book publication, Nietzsche as Educator. My interest in film did bear fruit when I published a major paper on Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man (in the Utah English Journal) that explored the cinematic and musical allusions with which the novel abounds.

I came to San Jose, California in 2000 to teach Advanced Placement English. Unable to secure any radio work, I wrote for various publications; but fate had intervened when John Sunier, in 1998, recruited me for Audiophile Audition. I have since written some 3,000 reviews for that internet magazine. I began to work with the Steinway Society as a commentator and lecturer; I did the narration for Beethoven’s Egmont for the Stanford Symphony Orchestra. In 2010, a random question to me from Dr. Lorrin Koran led to my obtaining a radio show on KZSU-FM, Stanford, where The Music Treasury re-emerged. The show has received fine attention and attracted many on-air personalities: Agustin Anievas, Gary Graffman, Carlo Grante, JoAnn Falletta, and many guests of the local Music@Menlo Festival. Only the COVID crisis has interrupted the program, which, hopefully, will resume some day soon. Meanwhile, we fill in for our listenership and mailing list with weekly recommendations of major artists available through YouTube videos and recommended recordings.

 

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