Dr. Carl Dolmetsch’s obituary in Wednesday’s Virginia Gazette offered a summary of his glowing accomplishments over a 94-year span.
It touched on his long affiliation as educator with the College of William and Mary, his Fulbright positions in Germany, as well as lectures throughout Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.
It mentioned his books, the notable being his best seller, “The Smart Set” and “Mark Twain in Vienna,” the latter for which he earned a Pulitzer Prize nomination and an interview with Barbara Walters on the “Today” show. And, to the point of this commentary, it touched on his involvement as a music critic in this country, Europe and Canada.
However, I felt it important to expand on his impact here, most importantly with the Gazette, for which he started the Soundings column.
It was in 1974, when I was covering the arts for the Daily Press in Hampton, as a freelancer, that he asked me to step in during his lengthy sojourns overseas and pick up the arts coverage, which ultimately led to our shared coverage of regional arts from Norfolk to Washington, D.C. He eventually handed off the Soundings column to me when he left the Gazette.
Although he more than occasionally ruffled editorial feathers through the years, Soundings is a legacy he crafted and nurtured, and one for which he should be remembered with thanks, additional thanks going, as well, to the Gazette for allowing Soundings to exist for well beyond 45 years, when so many newspapers around the country have ceased arts coverage. Bravo to both.
Carl was also instrumental in starting the William and Mary Concert Series which was, for many, many years, a premiere series here. He was nearly a one-man show, searching out world-class soloists and musical and dance groups and bringing them to Phi Beta Kappa Memorial Hall.
It was a first class series that was a significant part of the town’s cultural life and a prime example of the best type of town-gown collaboration. When under his management, his series filled PBK. Later, he stepped away from that and eventually, for myriad reasons, William and Mary ended the series.
Again, 32 years ago, he was one of the movers and shakers who supported the establishment of the Williamsburg Chamber Music Society, which has become a gigantic success on many levels, offering sold-out audiences chamber music from some of the best musicians on the world stage.
A fan of the arts but passionate about opera, Carl, literally until the very end, could list names, places and dates of international performances he saw, as well as relate fun stories about important singers, many with whom he was on a first-name basis. He was a virtual encyclopedia of all things operatic.
Although he gradually began to disappear from most public performances due to health issues, his interest in the cultural growth of our community never waned. In short, Carl Dolmetsch made a difference in the musical community, and for that we all should be grateful.
Shulson, a Williamsburg resident, has been covering the arts for more than 40 years. He makes a guest appearance in Margaret Truman's "Murder at the Opera."