Herbert Barrett, classic music business maven for more than 50 years died, Monday in New York of heart failure. He was 97.
He stepped down last year as president of Herbert Barrett Management, the company he began in 1940 and incorporated in 1957, and remained chairman until his death.
He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Cornell U. in 1930, and beginning in 1933, 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 news coverage for national radio programs, first for Cadillac Motor Car Co. 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. Among those he nurtured were Sherrill Milnes and John Browning.
Over more than half a century, Barrett managed the careers of Joseph Szigeti, Carlos Chavez, Ralph Kirkpatrick, Zara Nelsova, the American Opera Society, Wilhelm Backhaus, Eileen Farrell, the Negro Ensemble Company, Martha Argerich, the Little Orchestra Society, Michael Tippett, Grace Bumbry, John Houseman’s Acting Company, Tatiana Troyanos, Kenneth Schermerhorn, Ravi Shankar and hundreds more.
He was instrumental in the founding 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 and the executive board of the Intl. Assn. of Festival and Concert Managers, to name a few.
In 1937, he married artist and sculptor Betty Palash who died in 2001. The couple is survived by two daughters, five grandchildren, two great-grand-daughters and Barrett’s sister.