IN MEMORIAM 1932-2005

The Board, Staff, and Musicians of the American Bach Soloists mourn the loss of one of the world's most powerful exponents of early music, the most celebrated pioneer for early music in the western United States, board member of American Bach Soloists, founder of Philharmonia Baroque, founding member of Early Music America, founder of MusicSources, and dearest colleague.


If one woman were to be chosen as outstanding contributor to the Bay Area's musical life over the past 50 years, it would have to be Laurette Goldberg. Prominent among her achievements was her founding the Philharmonia Baroque in 1981 and guiding America's first full-time professional and leading early instrument orchestra through its first five seasons. At that point, in 1986, she gave birth to another original inspiration, MusicSources, a center for historical performance in Berkeley that contains a museum of early keyboard instruments, a library of historical performance practice documents and a school focusing on historically informed performance.

Her viewpoint embraced all aspects of the art of early music, with one dominant, overriding idea that these elements be brought together. Mrs. Goldberg insisted that the five ingredients—the devoted listeners, the scholars, the instrument builders, teachers and performers—were essential to an early music community. A founding member of the San Francisco Early Music Society, she was an activist, a magnet drawing the prominent harpsichord builders here, drawing aspiring harpsichordists to her studio at home and of course, through Philharmonia Baroque, creating the institution that made it possible for a corpus of skilled players to come here to work and stay.

Born Laurette Kushner-Cantor in Chicago, she began musical studies at four, and made her debut at 12 playing Beethoven's C major Concerto with a college orchestra. Her first great teacher was Rudolf Ganz at the Chicago Musical College, and later she was to study at Mills College with Egon Petri. Inspired by Wanda Landowska, she took up the harpsichord and by the 1960s, was teaching harpsichord on the instrument the Oakland Symphony's conductor, Gerhard Samuel, encouraged her to purchase. She was performing with the Oakland Symphony as its keyboard artist and accompanying the Oakland Symphony Chorus. Her next inspiring teacher was Alice Ehlers, then Ralph Kirkpatrick, America's first scholar/virtuoso harpsichordist.

The most critical influence was probably Gustav Leonhardt, with whom Mrs. Goldberg was to work at length in Holland, and through whom she developed close ties to the other Dutch leaders in early music performance, Frans Brueggen, Anne Bylsma and Jaap Schroeder, relationships that were to shape the nature and style of the early music circle that formed around her. The soprano Anna Carol Dudley recalled Mrs. Goldberg's passion about Bach during her Oakland Symphony days as a pianist, "learning to play the harpsichord because of that passion. It was wonderful to see the transformation of her keyboard technique when she came back from studying with Gustav Leonhardt." She was an accomplished player, but increasingly turned her attention and energy to teaching and promoting the cause of Baroque music performance. She wrote her own edition of J.S. Bach's preludes and fugues, J.S. Bach Open Score, The Well-Tempered Clavier .

Through all of her careers, she remained devoted to the audience and to youth. It was only natural then that she served as president of the Junior Bach Festival for several years. In later years she served the American Bach Soloists as advisor, and was still a board member at the time of her death. A former board member of Early Music America, she was awarded the Howard Mayer Award for lifetime achievement in the field of early music by that organization.

©2005 Robert P. Commanday, all rights reserved
reprinted with permission from San Francisco Classical Voice -

Contribute to the Laurette Goldberg Prize fund, from which will be awarded the First Prize of $3,000 at the American Bach Soloists' Henry I. Goldberg International Young Artists Competition.

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