The Other Alan
Alan Warhaftig

I met Alan Rich through Sue Knussen, with whom I was working on Music for Educators, a Los Angeles Philharmonic professional development program for K-12 teachers. Alan barely acknowledged my existence. I loved music but knew little about it compared with Alan, Sue and pretty much everyone else around them.

Alan and I had a breakthrough several years later when Sue fell critically ill in London. We were both, after all, denizens of the World of Sue. Sasha Anawalt had asked me to fill in for Sue as moderator of two sessions – with Alan Rich and fellow critic Mark Swed – for the Getty Annenberg program for midcareer arts journalists. I was invited to a reception for the participants at the Museum of Contemporary Art, and when Alan arrived, a somber expression on his face, he made a beeline for me. He told me that Sue had taken a sudden turn for the worse and would not recover.

The loss of a friend, especially a friend like Sue, can bring people together. I hadn’t been sure how Alan would react to having his Getty Annenberg session (on The Flying Dutchman) moderated by a nonprofessional, but Alan was cooperative and charming that afternoon.

In the years since, he was unfailingly friendly as I saw him at concerts, dinners and his New Year’s Day party. When Cynthia came into my life, and we married, he developed a particular fondness for her, and we always looked forward to seeing the man who signed his e-mails “The Other Alan.” Cynthia and I will miss Alan’s impish humor and sharp insights.

The loss to the musical world, of course, is far greater. For more than sixty years, music had been the center of Alan’s life. He’d seen every performance he could and listened to every recording. He had become a musical compass and steward of our collective cultural memory, pointing us northwards as well as calling balls and strikes.

Los Angeles, particularly, is impoverished by his loss, a city that too often believes its own publicity and needed Alan to remind the city of its traditional hospitality to serious music.

Perhaps Alan’s passing, like the premature loss of Sue Knussen, will bring his friends closer to each other – that would be a fortunate outcome. Alan had a good, long run, and those of us who are saddened by his departure would do well to honor his memory by deepening our own commitment to musical culture.