Maxim Gershunoff since his very beginnings as an artists manager has consistently fostered young, emerging talents. As examples, while as a Vice-President of Hurok Concert Artists in the 1960’s, he launched the careers of a 16 year-old cellist by the name of Yo-Yo Ma, pianists Alexander Slobodayanik and Gregory Sokolov and revived that of pianist Alexis Weissenberg. In the ‘70’s he was responsible for setting off the short-lived but meteoric rise of pianist Youri Egorov. Those are but a few instances in which he mentored both the youthful and exceptionally talented.
Now in the 21st Century, Maxim Gershunoff continues his efforts on behalf of such talents. Recent and newly added artists to the roster come from all areas: Pianists: Max Barros was born in the US and raised in Brazil; Javier Clavere hails from Argentina while his duo-pianist wife Lindsay was born in Utah; Christian Leotta who has performed (and recorded) the complete Beethoven Sonata repertoire world-wide comes to us from Italy; Petronel Malan whose recordings elicit raptures from critics now resides in Texas though she comes to us from South Africa; and Oleg Marshev Russian born and Moscow Conservatory trained now lives in Italy recording for Danacord to acclaim comparing him to the likes of Richter and Ashkenazy. Singular pianist/composer James Adler a product of Rudolf Serkin’s mentoring at the Curtis Institute of Music is American born and raised in Chicago.
Our international array continues with violinists: Wolfgang David’s birthplace was Austria where he lives in Vienna; Chin Kim born in Korea and trained in the USA (a Curtis Institute of Music alumnus) is on the faculty of the Manhattan School of Music; and Frédéric Pélassy comes to us from France with many recordings having already performed world-wide as a French cultural ambassador.
Our most recent addition is worthwhile noting separately because youthful Frenchman 21 year-old classical concert accordionist Dimitri Bouclier is already a European sensation. He truly stands out from the crowd as a serious musician whose artistry, good looks and platform charisma win him plaudits in any venue in which he appears. It all adds up to a fascinating concert experience, as his varied programming includes Vivaldi, Scarlatti, Bach, and Rachmaninoff.
Vocalist and legendary soprano Marni Nixon continues to enthrall in all of her appearances. Her recently published autobiography I Could Have Sung All Night has enlarged her fan base even more.
Summing up: Maxim Gershunoff, another alumnus of the Curtis Institute of Music, finds musical talent from around the world. He is renowned for his ability in selecting artists who appeal to audiences both in artistry and communicative skills.
The current economic situation is a matter of concern to all. Presenters and orchestra managements will certainly encounter an air of cooperation when working with artists’ managers to present excellent artistry at fees accommodating limited budgetary circumstances.
REVIEW - BOOKS
The unsung, frequently maligned hero behind every successful musician is an agent -- or, in the loftier language of the trade, an artist's representative. Maxim Gershunoff is one such individual with a greater claim than most on Angelenos' attention.
Art agent provocateur
Fans of classical music and dance will find Maxim Gershunoff's new memoir absorbing.
By Chris Pasles
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
November 18, 2005
He collaborated with Stravinsky and Franz Waxman to create the Los Angeles Music Festival at UCLA in the 1950s, helped James A. Doolittle launch successful seasons at the Greek Theatre and worked with Sol Hurok in bringing dance companies such as the Bolshoi, the Kirov and the Moiseyev to the Southland during the Cold War.
His friends and clients included Bolshoi prima ballerina Maya Plisetskaya and cellist Mstislav Rostropovich. He also launched the career of a cellist who was then 16, Yo-Yo Ma.
Now Gershunoff, 81, has written his memoirs, "It's Not All Song and Dance," with Leon Van Dyke, and the book reveals not only a lost golden age in the performing arts but also some artists with feet of clay. (He'll be at Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena this evening and at Dutton's in Beverly Hills on Sunday afternoon to sign books and take questions.)
The son of Russian emigre musicians who were brought to the U.S. by Hurok in 1923, Gershunoff came to arts management indirectly. He first studied trumpet at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where Leonard Bernstein and Samuel Barber were among his classmates. He then played under Fritz Reiner and Arturo Toscanini but grew increasingly bored by the repetitive aspects of the job. So, with encouragement from conductor Dimitri Mitropoulos, he went into arts management, ultimately serving for 12 years as vice president of Hurok Concerts Inc. He remains active in the field, representing, among others, soprano Marni Nixon and conductor José Serebrier.
Doolittle, who died in 1997 at 83, may be a hero to Angelenos. But not to Gershunoff. The impresario, he claims, finessed him and two other founding associates, Eleanor Peters and William Westcott, out of the Greek Theatre Assn. after its first successful summer season in 1951.
"We were naive," Gershunoff said in a recent phone interview from his home in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. "The role Jimmy played was 'Help me, help me, because I can't do it myself.' We dove in, not thinking for ourselves."
Their efforts paid off, but later Peters, Westcott and he discovered that Doolittle had omitted their names from the association's founding charter, then manipulated them into resigning so he could take all the credit.
"We didn't speak for 40 years," Gershunoff said.
Readers who followed the drama of Soviet-era Kirov dancers Valery and Galina Panov struggling to emigrate to Israel will find similarly disappointing news. The Soviets didn't jail Valery Panov for being a
freedom fighter, Gershunoff writes, but because he beat up his wife's mother. Moreover, after emigrating to Israel, Panov hated living there and worked to get out as quickly as possible.
"Panov was simply an opportunist, with no ethics whatsoever," Gershunoff said.
There are also gossipy stories about Howard Hughes' fascination with Ballets de Paris star Renée "Zizi" Jeanmaire and about Robert F. Kennedy's and Warren Beatty's interest in Plisetskaya.
Though no one is likely to want a return to the days when the Soviet agency that booked artists internationally took the bulk of performers' earnings, Gershunoff said that, for a promoter, there's a downside to the freedom that Russian artists enjoy today.
"It's less interesting to bring those huge, wonderful companies now that the stars can come in and be a guest with some other company," he said.
And the world has changed. Hurok's strategy was to invest his own money and build careers patiently if he had to.
"He figured if he lost on something, he'd make it another time. He brought the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo on the last boat that left Europe before the war," he said.
Though American audiences were unfamiliar with the company, Gershunoff said, Hurok "made it known little by little. He also made the guitar be a classical instrument by booking recitals over and over again."
Still, Hurok had far more venues available to him than promoters have these days, when the demand for classical artists has fallen off sharply at colleges and universities and the community concert associations that brought culture at low cost to so many people have almost vanished.
For those conditions, Gershunoff faults lack of music education and insufficient government sponsorship of the arts.
"Other countries invest money in their artists," he said, "and one sign of that sponsorship is the number of Finns on podiums around the world and the winners in the recent Cliburn competition, none of whom were Americans."
He also sees many of today's presenters as wrongheaded.
"They are basically unartistic marketing people. So they have to go the safe road, engaging and reengaging the same artists, blowing up their series with the image of somewhat faded names.... This is leading into a dead-end, one-way street."
If all this makes Gershunoff sound like a curmudgeon, he's not. He's cultured, direct and amusing, and not worried about remarks about, for instance, the Panovs that might seem libelous.
"That doesn't concern me at all," he said. "We have an attorney who was more worried about the Kennedy family and Warren Beatty. When we talked about being sued, he said, 'You should be so lucky.' "
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Maxim Gershunoff: Experience as a professional musician (Trumpet), Etc.:
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra – Fritz Reiner, Conductor
Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra (PSO Summer Engagement)
NBC Symphony Orchestra 1944-46) – Arturo Toscanini, Conductor
Oklahoma Symphony Orchestra
Portland (OR) Symphony Orchestra
Ojai Music Festival
Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra
Los Angeles Music Festival – Franz Waxman & Igor Stravinsky, Conductors
Radio City Music Hall Symphony Orchestra
Royal Danish Ballet – On US Tour
Royal Ballet – On US Tour – Contractor and Performer
New York City Ballet – On US Tour in LA’s Greek Theater
Ballet de Paris – On US Tour
Robert Joffrey Ballet – Contractor and Performer – On Tour
Bolshoi Ballet Company – Contractor - On US Tour
Kirov Ballet Company – Contractor - On US Tour
Moiseyev Folk Dance Company- Contractor – On US Tour
Stuttgart Ballet – Contractor – On US Tour
Virsky Folk Dance Company – Contractor – On US Tour
Australian Ballet Company – Contractor – On US Tour
Mazowsze Folk Dance Company – Contractor – On US Tour
Annie Get Your Gun – Greek Theater, Los Angeles – Starring Martha Raye – Contractor and Performer
Finian’s Rainbow - Greek Theater, Los Angeles - Starring Ella Logan and David Wayne – Contractor and Performer
Olson & Johnson – On B’way NYC
Chauve Souris Revue – On B'way NYC – Featuring Lou Holst MC w/ Jane Froman
Magdalena – Villa Lobos musical Pre-B’way Tour – Starring Ira Pettina / Jack Cole, Choreographer Assisted by Gwen Verdon
Fuji Opera (Mme. Butterfly) – Greek Theatre – Contractor and Performer
RADIO and TELEVISION:
Death Valley Days – Ronald Reagan as host – Bugler
Life With Luigi
The Celanese Radio Hour – CBS Radio w/ Jan Peerce. Jean Tennyson and Mario Lanza
Lux Radio Theatre
Lux Video Theatre
September Affair – Paramount w/ Joan Fontaine & Joseph Cotton, Wm. Dieterle – Director 1949
Greatest Show on Earth – Partamount – w/ Betty Hutton & Cornell Wilde, C.B. DeMille – Director 1952
Stalag 17 – Paramount w/ William Holden, Billy Wilder – Director 1953
Lili – MGM w/ Leslie Caron, Mel Ferrer – Bronislau Caper – Music Composer 1953
Children’s Theatre of America – 1960-63
Gene Marinaccio’s American Concert Ballet – 1965
Two For Three (Recital Series) – Alice Tully Hall, NYC – 1979
Youri Egorov – Piano Recitals at Alice Tully Hall & Carnegie Hall – 1978/79
Curtis Symphony Orchestra, Carnegie Hall – 1984 – Sergiu Celebidache, Conductor
Moscow Stars on Ice – Alice in Wonderland / The Nutcracker – 1996/98
Hurok Concert Artists, Inc. – Vice-President/Artists Manager
Columbia Artists Management, Inc. – Artists Manager
Gershunoff Attractions, Inc, – Artists Manager
Gershunoff Artists, LLC – Artists Manager