Although Barry Richman pursues most of his musical passion behind the scenes, you may have spotted him, more than 20 years ago, playing percussion with the Albany Symphony Orchestra. “I graduated with a performance major from the New England Conservatory of Music,” he explains, “and studied with Vic Firth,” a renowned Boston Symphony percussionist.
Although the performing bug bit when Richman’s cousin Bernard (better known as “Buddy”) Rich gave the youngster a set of drums, Barry’s musical ear was forever realigned by a recording of Beethoven’s “Eroica” Symphony aka the Symphony No. 3, a now-rare version with Erich Leinsdorf conducting the Rochester Philharmonic.
This passion for classical music pursued him even as he took over a family business after graduation, and he lives a kind of dual life as the owner of Pearl Grant Richmans in Stuyvesant Plaza (and the nearby Crabtree & Evelyn store) and a music promoter who has served on the boards of local orchestras and is now embarking on the role of concert presenter.
Renaissance Musical Arts was established by Dr. Richard Balsam, a cardiologist with his own passion for music, and concerts were presented first in his own music room, later at the Colonie Country Club. With Richman now involved, a larger audience will be sought as concerts are presented at the College of Saint Rose’s new Massry Center for the Arts on Albany’s Madison Avenue.
“I’ve always wanted to be able to bring in world-class musical talent,” says Richman. “Richard had already been doing these concerts over the years and wanted to bring in more ambitious groups, and I’d just seen this new concert hall, so I suggested we work together. Now, having made a commitment to the Massry Center, I’m doing the fundraising.”
Richman already has fundraising experience from his stints on the boards of the Empire State Youth Orchestra and, more recently, the Albany Symphony. As for attracting an audience in an economic climate that hardly favors classical music: “I’m a believer in the ‘If you build it, they will come’ theory.”
He points to a concert he and Balsam presented last year featuring the Borromeo String Quartet and Friends—enough friends, in fact, to perform Mendelssohn’s Octet and Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll, in performances that Richman describes as among the best he’s ever heard.
This season kicks off at the Massry Center on March 21 with a performance by the Boston Symphony Orchestra Strings in which Auschwitz victim Pavel Haas’ Study for String Orchestra is the centerpiece, along with works by Mozart, Tchaikovsky and Barber. On June 12, the venue switches to the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall in order to contain the New England Conservatory Orchestra with Benjamin Zander conducting Mahler’s Symphony No. 9 and Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 (with George Li). Back at the Massry, pianist Yuja Wang gives a recital Oct. 15, the New Century Chamber Orchestra of San Francisco is conducted by violinist Nadia Salerno Sonnenberg on Nov. 12, and the season concludes with a return by the Borromeo Quartet, again with friends in tow, on Apr. 29, 2012.
“I feel like I’m living two lives,” Richman says. “I have this one life in the arts, the other with my business and family. And I like the way it’s working out.”