"THE LAST IMPRESARIO: The Life, Times, and Legacy of Sol Hurok" by Harlow Robinson

"THE LAST IMPRESARIO: The Life, Times, and Legacy of Sol Hurok"

Email this review


An exhaustive account of Hurok's life (1888-1974) and career that disputes the ballet/music presenter's own version (S. Hurok Presents, 1953). Robinson (Sergei Prokofiev, 1987) wants to show a lonely, self-important man: Hurok's family life as pictured here was notable for the distance Hurok kept from wives (the first was discarded for being too ""old country"") and daughter (Isaac Stern seems the only friend who really liked Hurok). But no one can dispute the career: the ""humble boyhood in the oppressed Old Country,"" as Hurok portrayed it, through ""enterprising youth in opportunity-rich America, prosperous and useful adulthood."" Hurok started out in the 1920's as a ballet presenter to an uninitiated US public. Anna Pavlova was one of his first big artists, and Robinson interjects his own prejudices into that relationship: ""that a deeply spiritual, frequently prudish, and rigorously circumspect woman like Pavlova would ever have entered into a sexual liaison with a squat, ill-spoken, and nearly illiterate Jewish immigrant like Hurok seems highly improbable."" Robinson follows Hurok's development as a musical presenter even as his ballet work floundered -- his total dismissal of American dance led to ongoing feuds with Agnes de Mille and Lucia Chase. Robinson seems reluctant to give Hurok credit (indeed, he often doesn't seem to like his subject), but he does admire the publicity and pressure tactics leading to Marian Anderson's historic concert at the Lincoln Memorial. Hurok's last big triumph was importing Soviet acts during the cold war; it led, however, to the 1972 bombing of his New York office by the Jewish Defense League: friends and associates agreed that this was the beginning of Hurok's physical decline. He died two years later, in his 80s. Hurok was the last of his kind; and Robinson does shed a lot more light than earlier quasi-autobiographies. A sometimes wobbly accounting but, overall, worthwhile.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1994
Page count: 544pp
Publisher: Viking