NEW YORK (CelebrityAccess MediaWire) — Herbert Barrett, a towering figure in the business of classical music for over 50 years died on Monday afternoon. The official cause of death is heart failure. He was 97 years old and had only in January of 2006 stepped down as president of the company he began in 1940 and incorporated in 1957, Herbert Barrett Management. He remained chairman until his death.
Mr. Barrett graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Cornell University in 1930. Beginning in 1933, and continuing for the next seven years he provided public relations counsel to individuals and organizations including impresario Sol Hurok, dancer Martha Graham, Benny Goodman, the Museum of Modern Art, the Symphony Orchestra of Mexico and the Brooklyn Academy of Music. During that period he also coordinated press coverage for national radio programs, first for Cadillac Motor Car Company and then General Motors. In this connection, he worked with a number of musical luminaries of the day including George Gershwin, Jascha Heifitz and Arturo Toscanini.
He began managing musicians directly in 1940. His keen ear for talent and his capacity to build such careers as those of Sherrill Milnes and John Browning established Herbert Barrett Management as a classical music institution. It is currently the largest private management company of its kind and continues to represent a unique and talented roster of artists.
"I can't imagine the opera and concert business without Herbert Barrett," said Milnes. "He was a major player in our industry for more than half a century … and was constantly my loving friend and sage adviser. All of us who benefited from his presence will miss him immensely."
Over more than half a century, Mr. Barrett managed the careers of some of the finest performers of the modern era, including the Bach Aria Group, Joseph Szigeti, Carlos Chavez, Ralph Kirkpatrick, Zara Nelsova, the American Opera Society, Wilhelm Backhaus, Eileen Farrell, Benno Moiseiwitsch, Jennie Tourel, Guiomar Novaes, Ruggiero Ricci, the Goldovsky Grand Opera Theater, Shirley Verrett, The Negro Ensemble Company, Martha Argerich, the Little Orchestra Society, Sir Michael Tippett, Grace Bumbry, John Houseman's Acting Company, Dr. Billy Taylor, Tatiana Troyanos, Kenneth Schermerhorn, Ravi Shankar, and hundreds more.
Mr. Barrett was instrumental in the founding of the Great Performers Series at Lincoln Center's Philharmonic Hall (now Avery Fisher Hall), and managed the inaugural series in 1965. He served on many boards and committees including the Advisory Committee for Town Hall, the Recommendation Board for the Avery Fisher Artist Program, the Executive Board of the International Association of Festival and Concert Managers, the National Advisory Board for the Van Cliburn International Quadrennial Piano Competition, and the Committee to Save Carnegie Hall. He was manager of the Little Orchestra Society and served as treasurer in 1970. In 1997, Mr. Barrett received the Patrick Hayes Award for outstanding service to the International Society of the Performing Arts Foundation. In 2005 he received a lifetime achievement award from the same foundation.
In 1937, he married artist and sculptor Betty Palash who died in 2001. The couple is survived by daughters Nancy Barrett and Katherine Barrett Greene; son-in-law, Richard Greene; five grandchildren, Wendy, Andrew, Sarah, Benjamin and Sandy, two great-grand-daughters, Emily and Charlotte, and a sister Eleanor. The family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Young Concert Artists (250 West 57th St., Suite 1222, New York, NY, 10107; 212-307-6655). – CelebrityAccess Staff Writers