Harold Shaw, Manager of Major Classical Artists, Dies at 90
Harold Shaw, an artist manager whose clients included some of the most famous performers in classical music, died on Tuesday at his home in Manhattan. He was 90.
The cause was pancreatic cancer, said his son, José R. Cifuentes.
During his career Mr. Shaw’s starry roster included the guitarists Julian Bream and John Williams, the violinist Nathan Milstein, the cellist Jacqueline du Pré and the singers Jessye Norman and Janet Baker. A friend of the pianist Vladimir Horowitz and his wife, Wanda, Mr. Shaw was instrumental in persuading Horowitz, who suffered from depression and stage fright, to return to regular performances in 1974 after a long absence.
Mr. Shaw, who began his career working with the celebrated impresario Sol Hurok, founded his own agency, Shaw Concerts, in 1969. He was outspoken about perennial issues in the classical music industry like arts education and funding, and was critical of the tradition of hiring big names no matter the cost.
In 1986 he told The New York Times that concert presenters “ought to be paying for the artists they can afford,” adding: “Instead they book someone on the hope that they can find funding for it. Their deficits grow, their boards become exasperated by making it up; the institution ends up closing.”
Mr. Shaw was one of the first managers to see the potential for classical music in East Asia, organizing tours there for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra and soloists like the pianist Van Cliburn.
Mr. Shaw retired in 1996 and closed his company. He left the business, Mr. Cifuentes said, in part became he was tired of having to “babysit” the artists he represented.
Francis Harold Shaw was born on June 11, 1923, in Hebron, N.Y. His mother, Leslie, was a homemaker, and his father, Robert, worked in the livestock industry. He attended Ithaca College but was drafted before completing a degree.
During World War II he joined the Army Air Corps and worked as a fitness instructor and as an actor in a traveling troupe that entertained troops. After the war, he had a brief stint at the play publisher Samuel French, but left after becoming tired of “reading five bad plays a day.” He moved to the artist management industry soon afterward.
Mr. Shaw had lived in the Apthorp on the Upper West Side since 1961. In addition to Mr. Cifuentes, he is survived by a sister, Lorraine Gould; two brothers, Stanley and Walter; and a grandson.