The Art and Life of Rudolph Schirmer

An Artist and a Gentleman, Rudolph Schirmer left a rich legacy of creative works - poetry, fiction, non-fiction, music - and me, his only child. This chronicle is a collaborative celebration of his life and imagination.
Liane Schirmer, 2009

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Tuxedo Park

A favorite summer destination for young Rudolph. Following is an excellent article on this idyllic location, home of the "tuxedo".,_New_York

Friday, March 13, 2009

Los Angeles - Part 3 - "The Music Center"

Los Angeles Music Center, Dorothy Chandler Pavillion.

Today, in 2009, Los Angeles is a world-class city.  For almost 100 years, it has been the capital of the film industry (at least in the Western world).  As of the millenium, L.A. is at the forefront of new media, creating novel ways of creating and disseminating art, music, video and live performance. 

 But there was a time when the rest of the country considered Angelenos to be second-class cultural citizens.   Transplants from New York kept missing the idea of Broadway, where major theaters clustered around the fabled street.  They pined after Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and the Metropolitan Opera.   To be sure, we had the Hollywood Bowl, and the Shrine Auditorium and UCLA's Royce Hall, but the far flung nature of our performance venues, nestled, as they were in a series of suburbs, contributed to the prevailing notion that Los Angeles had no center, and therefore, no concrete evidence of a centralized arts scene. 

It wasn't merely an issue of East vs. West. San Franciscans had long lorded over us Angels to the south, rubbing the excellence of their beloved opera in our noses. Pasadena, our genteel neighbor, reeked of refinement and culture and had several notable venues in which to enjoy it, such as the Pasadena Civic Auditorium and the Ambassador.   No wonder, as Pasadena had been populated by transplants from the Midwest and the East.  We, her slightly flashy, slightly trashy cousins, were forced into seedy second place.  But not for long.

Enter Dorothy Buffum Chandler, wife of L.A. Times magnate Norman Chandler, whose passion and determination to create a "West Coast" center for the performing arts downtown was not only welcome, but legendary in its largesse.  However, she wasn't the only one who dreamed of building a monument to the performing arts. 

Rudolph, an adopted Angeleno, envisioned that very thing, elaborating his novel concept in a memorandum to the Board of Directors.  Interestingly enough, this was most likely written in the mid-fifties, when he was sent to Los Angeles to oversee Schirmer retail operations in the greater metropolitan area.  Surely, while he there, he would have inserted himself into the classical music scene, and was no doubt privy to discussions on the future of the arts in L.A. Who knows, perhaps at a dinner party one evening, Buff sat next to the handsome heir to the publishing firm and listened to his vision for our fair city.  I would love to imagine that very thing.

Following is an excerpt from MEMORANDUM TO BOARD OF DIRECTORS RE THE LOS ANGELES STORES  [G. SCHIRMER, INC.] by Rudolph Schirmer, circa mid-1950's

"...In the time I have been in Los Angeles I have perforce given considerable thought to our branch stores in this area. I have been concerned not only with improvements  that might be made within the framework of the present operations, but also, and more importantly, with the various ways by which the nature and scope of this operation might be transformed so as to yield a firm financial return while at the same time promoting our name and product together with the general cause of music in the West. 

Just as Los Angeles itself has been likened to a group of towns in search of a city, so might the musical world within it be compared to a band of performers in search of a conductor - or, to elaborate the comparison, to an orchestra of soloists locked in separate and non-communicating chambers.   Only in a few instances has this local "autonomia" been overcome and a landmark provided which captured the allegiance of the joint community and the recognition of the outside world. 

I refer of course to the Hollywood Bowl, Disneyland and the Famers Market.  If nothing else, these institutions have proven that it is possible in Los Angeles to create focal centers.  We may therefore explore with some confidence the possible creation of a general music center which could be subsequently - or simultaneously - allied with a cultural development on the order of Lincold Center in New York. If we are thinking in terms of ultimate solutions and not of temporary remedies this is the direction our thinking will have to take.

...Construction of an all-inclusive music center, either one large building or a complex of small buildings around a court, housing salesrooms for the leading companies in all music fields and an all-purpose auditorium, to be known tentatively as "SCHIRMER'S WEST COAST MUSIC CENTER."  A leasing corporation would be formed.  Schirmer's would have the master lease and lease out the various concessions.  At the end of ten years, the building would belong to Schirmer's, with a small percentage of the stock reserved for the building company....

...To the question, should we withdraw from Los Angeles altogether, my answer is emphatically no.  No one will contest that this is rapidly becoming the second largest American city and within 10 ears it is bound to be the second in importance as well.  The population is currently augmenting at the rate of 20,000 a month.  I happen to know that concrete forces are already at work to provide Los Angeles with musical facilities commensurate with its size.  The Universities, the Hollywood Bowl Association, the Philharmonic and the Los Angeles Conservatory (whose board I have been asked to join) are responding to the inarticulate but quite perceptible pressures of the whole Southern California populace."

*Footnote:  It will be noted that Los Angeles in the 40's and 50's actually did boast world class musicians, many of whom fled Europe during the war and contributed classic scores to films. Indeed, Schoenberg, Heifitz and many others lent their talents to our educational institutions, no doubt influencing hundreds of young composers, vocalists and instrumentalists.  

As a matter of fact, Los Angeles, beginning with the latter part of the 19th century, had an incredible system of music education in the schools, where every classroom was equipped with a record player and a supply of musical classics.  Indeed, there were music schools in every neighborhood, and our radio stations, unlike the narrow theme-casting of today, played an ecclectic mix of popular standards and classical music, ensuring that Angelenos from all walks of life were incredibly well-versed in the classical music repertoire.

Today, arts programs have been virtually eliminated from the public school system and musical training is available only to those with the economic means to afford private lessons. We really are in danger of becoming culturally - and especially musically - illiterate, not to mention economically marginalized.  It is both astonishing and amazing that we as a city have allowed this misfortune to occur.  And how insulting to the very real, and very rich musical heritage that was present for so long in our fair city.  

Perhaps it is not too late to reclaim our legacy and honor those many gifted musical artists and teachers that have at one time lived, worked and taught in Los Angeles.  Perhaps Rudolph's vision of a real "music center", a vibrant city that teaches, listens to and creates beautiful music - is yet to be built.  Perhaps it is up to those of us who value such things, to see to it that it comes to pass.

I'm sure Buff would agree!
For more information I highly recommend:

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Iris Flores - The Second Mrs. Schirmer

A stunning young Latin, IRIS FLORES, steps out of a taxi, hatbox in hand. Peering out through her black lace veil, she glances upwards at the towering city. It's a long way from the Coast. Fresh off of a string of Hollywood films, this rising star is bent on conquering a new galaxy, Gotham City.
RALPH, the driver, waves at her impatiently.
Hey, Sweetheart, ain't you forgettin' somethin'?
Iris turns back to him, oblivious to his request.
They're so ...tall...aren't they?
(aside) Fresh off the boat. I can spot 'em a mile away.
Tell me, Driver, do you ever get tired of looking at them?
No, silly. The buildings. I could spend all day just wandering around, staring up at them.
Not me, Sister. That'd give me a headache.
Iris turns to him, suddenly, and with a charmingly earnest smile, bats her eyelashes.
How unfortunate!
Say, wait a minute! Ain't you the girl who was in "Song of the Sierra" with Fernando Ramos?
You mean "was". On both accounts. Tragic really.
Sorry, kid. Yeah, them's the breaks. I read all about it in Screen Gems Magazine. (he waves his copy in the air)
All that's behind me now. I'm going to start a new life. Right here, in Manhattan.
(a bit sarcastically) That's the spirit, Sister!
(sweetly) You don't believe me.
Me? ...I didn't say nothin'...but in my line, I sees a hundred of youze gals every day, gettin' off of a bus, or a train, or the subway, coming here, to Manhattan, to meet Prince Charming and take the world by storm. You gotta admit, after a while, it gets a little stale.
Am I right?
I have absolutely no desire to take over the world. Who would want a job as complicated as all that? And as for Prince Charmings, I've had quite enough so-called Princes in my day, thank you. I'll stick to my career. (aside) At least that hasn't cheated on me....(dramatic pause) yet. Now, how much do I owe you?
(waving her away) Nah. This one's on the house.
Oh, that's so sweet of you, but I couldn't....
Iris searches the contents of her purse.
What's your name?
Iris, with an "I".
"Iris with an I". Go buy yourself a sandwich at the Automat instead. You're gonna need it.
(smiling sweetly) You know, Driver, you may very well be the closest thing I get to to a Prince in my lifetime. (turning to him, hushed) But if you do happen to see a tall, dark, handsome man, have him wait for me right here, right by this fountain. And don't you let him get away!
Will do.
Bartholemew. From Brooklyn. You can call me Benny. (hands her a card) You need a cab, you call.
Thank you, Benny!
Go get 'em, kid.
(to herself, still looking up) I think I'll make it after all!
SFX: Horns honking. Traffic.
Ralph almost crashes into a paying customer. He slams on the brakes. A tall, dark, handsome man, RUDOLPH SCHIRMER, knocks on the window.
Driver, say, are you free to take me up to 625 Park Ave?
Rudolph, oblivious, gets in. Bartholomew sees him in the rear view mirror and does a double-take.
Uh...pardon me, but...
Sure thing, Mac. But first, wait right here. I got somethin' for ya!
Bartholomew runs up the street, after IRIS, calling after her.
Hey, Miss....Miss Iris....
Rudolph looks on in puzzlement.

40 Ways to Sunday

Rudolph and Iris. Nevada, 1958. The happy couple enjoy the fresh desert breezes as Iris eagerly expects the arrival of the Wee Schirmer. Rudolph, always a fan of the wide open spaces, no doubt suggested this vacation spot in order to research his new musical, a lighthearted look at divorce, Reno style, entitled "Forty Ways to Sunday".
I know understand how it was that I came by my fondness for the arid expanse, not to mention musicals!

Crossing the Atlantic

Rudolph and Iris go mid-Atlantic, June, 1965, aboard the Dutch ship Nieuw Amsterdam. The posh couple were accompanied by daughter Liane, and her governess, Miss Doucette. Rudolph's sudden fear of flying resulted in this adventure on the High Seas, where the Schirmer's perfected their shuffleboard and indulged in the favorite sport of deck chair napping. The crossing was blissfully uneventful, with the exception of dressing for dinner and the lifeboat drill. During this little exercise, Rudolph panicked and Liane gave in to her morbid fascination with disasters at sea.

The Continent eventually proved to be their undoing, and they sailed home late that November (narrowly missing an "incident" involving the "Rafael", sister ship to their homeward vessel, the "Michelangelo"), only to land in New York in time to enjoy "GrandMama" and subsequently, the great Blackout of '65. While Rudolph and Iris were busy catching up on a round of furious socializing, they somehow forgot to attend to Liane's education. Fortunately, for Liane at least, she got to miss two months of the Westlake School for Girls, and spent days enjoying room service and the Hall of the Middle Ages at the Met. During this period, she often lunched in the Stanhope dining room with Alla Auersperg (daughter of the late Sunny Von Bulow) who was also the victim of peripatetic parents.

Shortly after the blackout, Iris and Rudolph decided to return to sunny California, where, at least, if the lights went out, you wouldn't have to climb up and down 15 flights of stairs.
Caption: S.S. Nieuw Amsterdam, Holland America Line