Monday, April 13, 2009

Saying Farewell to Patelson's Music

For more than six decades, Joseph Patelson Music House (a.k.a. Patelson's) has provided a place for musicians, famous and not, to find music, friendship, comradeship, and expertise. In fact, Daniel J. Wakin of the NY Times calls it "a living room for the classical music world." After 1992 when founder Joseph Patelson died, the business began a slow decline and the current recession seems to be the final straw. Patelson's is closing. Marsha Patelson, the daughter-in-law of Joseph, said she planned to close the store and sell its home, an 1879 carriage house that sits across 56th Street from the Carnegie Hall stage door. Ms. Patelson told the NY Times that she has no specific closing date, but will shut the door by the end of April after selling off as much stock as she can.

You know, ladies and gents, we have no one to blame for this but ourselves. We have chosen to give into our world, where the power of digital retail has made places like used record stores, bookshops and sheet-music dealers nearly obsolete. These days, numerous web sites offer sheet music for sale, either by mail or download and publishers like G. Schirmer sell directly online.

This is really a travesty. Studying music of any kind in New York meant knowing Patelson’s. Scores that were once on Patelson's shelves can be found on the shelves of numerous musicians in the city. I always knew that if I needed an opera or vocal score, piano reduction or orchestral, I could always find it at Patelson's.

Patelson's has a very rich history. The store’s official history says shoppers have included Isaac Stern, Aaron Copland, Beverly Sills, Maria Callas, Van Cliburn, Kurt Masur, Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, Diane Keaton, Bette Midler, Frank Sinatra, Paul McCartney, and Kevin Kline - to name only a few.

Another end to another era. Let this be a lesson to us - please support your local merchants.

[Photos - Right: Marsha Patelson at Joseph Patelson Music House. Left: Some of the wares inside the Joseph Patelson Music House on West 56th Street in Manhattan. Both by Chester Higgins Jr./The New York Times]

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