Sunday, December 21, 2008

Larry Adler - A True Visionary

As a child, I remember going to a Larry Adler recital, and will not forget my experience:
Larry Adler, like George Gershwin, grew up in the streets of a large city (Baltimore, in this case), the son of immigrants, and with a vision.
He was extremely musical, with an overriding curiosity, of all instruments, of the lowly harmonica.
He began experimenting with this tiny instrument, spending years discovering the possibilities, then refining those possibilities, mostly through his transferring of many of the great classics to the harmonica, and ultimately became the reigning performer.
Adler gave recitals all over the world of both his transcriptions of the classics as well as music written by several distinguished composers who wrote exclusively for Adler.
During the McCarthy investigations, Adler was accused by the McCarthy entourage of being a communist, and was eventually forced to leave America for Great Britain. It was never proven that he was a communist; however, he chose England as his home, and lived there for the remainder of his life, continuing to perform throughout the world.
I will never forget that first recital. Adler came out onto the stage, with some sort of device that he wore around his neck, which held the harmonica in place before him. He seated himself in front of a concert grand (I discovered there and then that he was a superb pianist), and gave a recital for the harmonica and piano. The sounds he brought out of this tiny instrument, coupled with a wonderfully sympathetic piano performance , was a recital like no other I have ever witnessed, save for future recitals I saw this genius give.
Adler was one of the first of the geniuses that enhanced and widened the scope of my childhood.

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