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Albert Goldberg; Former Times Music Critic

February 06, 1990|BURT A. FOLKART | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Albert Goldberg, the venerated music critic of The Times in an era of growing arts appreciation in Los Angeles, died Sunday in Memphis, Tenn., where he had been visiting a niece.

Goldberg had nominally retired in 1965 but continued to contribute his distinguished critiques on a periodic basis until shortly before his death. He was 91.

In 1947 Goldberg, a pianist and conductor in the Midwest, came to Los Angeles from Chicago where he had been music critic for the Tribune and the old Herald-Examiner.

He became this paper's first full-time music commentator at a time when the Los Angeles Philharmonic shared space with a downtown church and the local opera season consisted of a brief visit from the San Francisco Opera Company at Shrine Auditorium.

And ballet came primarily from across the Atlantic--Sadler's Wells and the Ballet Russe.

Goldberg was considered the first of the serious commentators in the city, ruffling arts establishment feathers on a routine basis in the process. He was regularly vilified in the letters columns of the paper but the clarity of his writing and objectivity of purpose paved the way for the commonly accepted and higher standards of today.

Born in Shenandoah, Iowa, Goldberg studied at Chicago's Gunn School of Music and in 1935 became Illinois state director of the Federal Music Project, a Depression-era program under the auspices of the Works Project Administration.

From 1935 to 1943 he and Izler Solomon were co-conductors of the 90-member Illinois Symphony, which played music of the masters for audiences who paid 25 cents a seat at Chicago's Great Northern Theater. Goldberg and Solomon earned from $90 to $100 a month for their efforts, the pay sliding up and down commensurate with budget cutbacks.

For that they rehearsed six times a week under federal guidelines that required the exclusive use of unemployed musicians.

In his Los Angeles years Goldberg became known not only for his commentaries but also for his recollections. In a weekly Sunday column he called "The Sounding Board" he often would write of both the genius and idiosyncrasies of such contemporary musical giants as Igor Stravinsky, Lauritz Melchior, Arnold Schoenberg and Josef Hoffman.

He remained alert until a few weeks ago when he fell and injured his neck. His final reviews--of the Israel Philharmonic and London Symphony--appeared last March.

A memorial service will be held Feb. 18 at 3:30 p.m. at Kehillath Israel, 16019 Sunset Blvd., Pacific Palisades.

He leaves no immediate survivors.

LOSING A FRIEND--Martin Bernheimer remembers his predecessor. F1

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