Visiting A Musical El Dorado

Visiting A Musical El Dorado

The voice was gruff, impassioned, and avuncular: “When you’re in New York, let’s get together and you can look through my records.” It was Jerry Gladstein, the former publisher of FI magazine and former proprietor of G&A Rare Records Ltd. Jerry called me in August at the behest of Ron Rambach, the head honcho of Music Matters, a company based in Los Angeles that is devoted to reissuing Blue Note records. Gladstein, who is 83-years-old, retired from the real estate business at age 55. Today he serves on the board of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and gives weekly tours of Carnegie Hall.

Last week I traveled to New York to see him at his elegant and spacious Central Park West apartment, which he purchased from Barry Manilow in 1985. The visit turned out to be even more rewarding than I had expected. For one thing, Gladstein is a great raconteur. He regaled me with stories about running his record store, including his reminiscence that audiophiles often made up his most eccentric clientele. A customer once asked him if he had a certain rare record, and began to weep upon discovering it. Gladstein was worried that there might be an issue with the record, and asked what was wrong. The customer responded that the record was perfect, but he had been searching for the album for decades and couldn't bear the thought that the quest for it was over.

Still, it's very much the case that Gladstein is himself a passionate audiophile with an immense vinyl collection. He has a fine audio system, one centered around Lamm electronics, a VPI turntable and a pair of Verity Lohengrin loudspeakers, which I reviewed several years ago for TAS. We listened to an LP of Radu Lupu and Szymon Goldberg playing Mozart violin sonatas, one of my favorite recordings. Gladstein was also generous enough to bestow upon me more than a few Decca and other valuable LPs.

The ultimate highlight of the visit wasn’t accumulating rare LPs; it was surveying Gladstein’s breathtaking collection of signed photographs of everyone from Liszt to Horowitz, Casals to Heifetz. It’s his very own personal conspectus from the past century or so of classical music. I’ve truly never seen anything like it, and I doubt many other people have, either. Such a collection is a tribute to both collectors’ zeal and discernment. Gladstein’s immersion in the sound of music was a valuable reminder that this isn’t just a hobby—it’s a passion.