Emanuel Balaban

Maestro Balaban lived on 73rd and West End Avenue when I took private conducting lessons from him about 40 years ago. Our lessons were from 3-5pm on Mondays and afterward we would walk down Broadway, stop and get a bite to eat and go to the conducting class he taught at Julliard at 7.  Afterward, the class would usually retire to O'Neals across the street from Lincoln Center for a beer and home he would go - frail, elegant. 

I search Google here and there for references to him and this one popped up:

Britten - Matinees Musicales Suite in 5 MMTS after Rossini Op 24.
Commissioned for the American Ballet Co. Choreographed by George
Balanchine. First performance 27 June 1941, Teatro Municipal, Rio de Janeiro. American Ballet Company, Emanuel Balaban cond.
He was a prodigy at the turn of the century and made his mark as an accompanist for some of Europe's great singers.  He spent the time before the war in South America - Rio mainly and was back in Paris married to a Russian Countess at the outbreak of WWI. She left him to go back and didn't live through the revolution. He want with the Ballet Russe to Monte Carlo where he was the conductor/music director.  His life took him through all the major capitals and big time orchestras and ballet companies including the United Nations Symphony when the UN was founded after WWII and had a symphony orchestra.
His apartment was amazing - with all the pictures on the wall of hot shots in the music world.  He was well regarded and completely unassuming - almost humble.  I think of him today because 40 years ago he left or Jenny Lake Lodge for two months and I never saw him again.  He wrote his address in a musical score I was studying and he was teaching me.  He came back sick and went somewhere another to recover and died instead.
I'm thinking Rio, turn of the century, the part of the world that we learned in school was in a country that had the Amazon River and rain forests, snakes and remote tribes - a place where the jungle met the sea. Of course not true but that's what we were taught. I was Balaban's age when he was in Rio doing his first important musical work.  I wasn't born yet when he was there again just before WWII conducting this. Hitler was in Poland. We were dithering. London was being bombed and Balaban was in Rio.


  1. Uncle Manny, as he was known in our family, is my mother's uncle, my great uncle. My mother's maiden name is Norma Balaban Slatoff. She is now 91 and Norma Gordon, and was thrilled to hear your personal memories of your relationship w/ him. If you have anything more you can add to what you have written, she would love to hear more. My email is ellengpearlman@gmail.com and I can forward anything you care to share to her. Many thanks for this posting. It brought great pleasure.

    Ellen Pearlman


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