Jim Farber

Who are you?’ said the Caterpillar.

The first time I met Alan Rich was rather like that.

It was a long time ago during a press conference to announce the upcoming summer season at the Hollywood Bowl. We were all a lot younger, except Alan, who had already had attained a certain august status that (he felt) placed him above lesser mortals.

I remember going up to Alan, introducing myself and complimenting him on a review he had written— I believe it was about the Chicago Symphony. I also remember how Alan, like the Caterpillar, took one condescending look at me and dismissed my observation out of hand with a tart response along the lines of, “Of course it was a good review! How dare you bother me.” That was that.

It was not until several years later, when I appeared on Betty Freeman’s doorstep for one of her famous musical gatherings in the company of John Adams and Charles Shere that Alan looked at me with an expression that seemed to say, “Well, perhaps you are someone after all.”

I don’t think Alan ever did entirely respected me as a music critic; my credentials never were as rock solid as his. But he did come to accept me, both as a colleague (who was not entirely dim) and as a friend.

Over the years we attended many a concert together and shared long drives on the 405 to and from Orange County. It was during these drives that we explored a wide range of experiences related to classical music and opera. But we also discovered our mutual delight for things unmusical, whether it was a favorite restaurant, a classic film, or the way the British actor Jim Dale could make the “Harry Potter” books come to life.

If there was a Golden Age in our relationship, it had to be those Sunday afternoons at Betty Freeman’s when the dynamic trio of Alan, Betty and Betty’s robust, pasta-preparing husband, Franco, held forth. Those gatherings represented a Who’s Who of contemporary composers, musicians and music lovers. It was a joy and a privilege to be included.

Sure, Alan Rich could be a total schmuck. But he could also be a joy to be with and a real friend. I’ll miss him.