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Why History Must Be Saved, Even When Nobody Wants It

June 17, 2010 |  1:29 am

June 15, 2010, Ernest Fleischmann

The death of Ernest Fleischmann, former executive director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, offers a nice point of departure for a few musings about how casually we treat the past.

About a year ago, I noticed a trash cart full of files next to a freight elevator at The Times. I’m nosy about discarded material and in looking at the folders discovered that they were the old biographical files on classical musicians once used by the Calendar  staff before the Internet made research easy. It was impossible to save everything, but I rescued about seven boxes worth of material that included newspaper and magazine clippings, press releases, programs, printouts, rough drafts and correspondence.

My first thought was to donate this material to the Huntington, but after reviewing the files, the library declined my offer. So the boxes have been sitting in my garage.

Today, I dug out the Fleischmann file. The first item I found was his controversial commencement address, reproduced above, delivered at the Cleveland Institute of Music on May 16, 1987. Evidently, the speech was reprinted in Musical America because it turns up in a Google search, so perhaps a typescript copy isn’t much of a loss.

What follows on the jump are excerpts from a discussion of the speech by a panel that included Fleischmann;  conductor Kurt Masur; Richard C. Clark, head of Affiliate Artists; and Tom Morris, executive director of the Cleveland Orchestra. Summarized online.

Next is an anonymous comedy sketch about Fleischmann, Times Publisher Otis Chandler and sports columnist Jim Murray filing a review of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Not online.

And finally, there’s a letter from Fleischmann to then-Times music critic Martin Bernheimer replying to a story on the orchestra's 1986-87 season. As you’ll notice, a comment penciled in the margin reads “bullshit.” Definitely not online.

I think Daily Mirror readers would agree that this material deserves a better home than my garage. I would happily donate these files to an academic library in Southern California that realizes their merit. You can contact me here.

As for the rest of these documents, copying and posting them in their entirety would be rather laborious but I’ll be willing to upload them if there’s enough interest.

June 15, 2010, Ernest Fleischmann

June 15, 2010, Ernest Fleischmann

June 15, 2010, Ernest Fleischmann