The Last Impresario: 2the Life, Times, and Legacy of Sol Hurok

Harlow Robinson, Author
Harlow Robinson, Author Viking Books $26.95 (544p) ISBN 978-0-670-82529-5
Reviewed on: 02/28/1994
Release date: 03/01/1994
Paperback - 560 pages - 978-0-14-011620-5
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The day Sol Hurok died he had lunched with Andres Segovia, met with Rudolf Nureyev and was on his way to see David Rockefeller when he collapsed of a heart attack. Hurok (1888-1974), who was born in an obscure Ukrainian village, traveled a long way to become probably the greatest impresario ever, a promoter of world-class ballet, performing companies, opera stars and musicians for some 50 years. Robinson's ( Sergei Prokofiev ) highly entertaining, fair-minded and closely researched biography is infinitely superior to the ``authorized'' studies of Hurok (even a movie) that were products of his publicity machine. For as Robinson shows, Hurok was as much a creation designed to dazzle the crowds as were the stars, who ranged from Pavlova and Chaliapin in the early years to Isaac Stern, Van Cliburn and the Moiseyev Dance Company later, all of whom he proudly offered under his ``Sol Hurok Presents'' rubric. Cunning, evasive, vain and often bullying, he had a star's temperament without the talent, and many thought he was a follower rather than a leader of popular artistic taste. He nevertheless was instrumental in building an American audience for ballet, promoted opera stars and concert musicians into celebrities and kept doors open between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. even in the darkest days of the Cold War. Robinson's book, aided by the impresario's only (much neglected) daughter, Ruth Hurok Lief, is full of good stories and is in itself a potted history of the arts in the U.S. during its subject's lifetime. Photos not seen by PW. (Mar.)
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